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Mar 16 2014

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Daily Digest, weekend edition: San Joaquin Valley irrigation districts continue to pump and sell groundwater as levels drop, San Joaquin levee study may be divisive, Exchange contractors plan rally and much more news and commentary

Daily DigestIn California water news today, San Joaquin Valley irrigation districts continue to pump and sell groundwater as levels drop ; San Joaquin levee study may be divisive; Exchange contractors plan rally in Firebaugh; Landowners celebrate ruling, but state says it won't delay the BDCP; Restore the Delta holds forum on water quality impacts of the BDCP; Scripps study sees more dry years ahead; Firefighters, residents brace for a long fire season; California drought spawns investment opportunities; Waterless car washing on the way? and much more news, plus failed leadership, not drought, source of water problems, says Sunne McPeake

In the news this weekend …

  • Bee Special Report: San Joaquin Valley irrigation districts continue to pump and sell groundwater as levels drop:Irrigation districts provide water that’s key to agricultural prosperity in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, but some of those districts also have been cashing in on the region’s water resources.  They’ve sold nearly $140 million worth of water to out-of-district agencies during the past decade. At the same time, they’ve pumped nearly 1.5 million acre-feet of groundwater – that’s 487 billion gallons – from the region’s aquifers. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here: Bee Special Report: Continuing to pump, San Joaquin Valley irrigation districts selling surplus
  • San Joaquin levee study may be divisive:  “We may be in the midst of drought, but the state this month is launching what will likely be a controversial study of Delta levees – specifically, which ones should receive public funds to make them more resilient in the face of future floods.  Officials want to prioritize the levees to determine which ones get the money, and, by extension, which of the low-lying agricultural islands protected by those levees are most important.  It's a scenario that will end with winners and losers, which might explain why a recently released description of the study acknowledges that the results will be controversial and “sensitive.” … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  S.J. levee study may be divisive
  • Exchange contractors plan rally in Firebaugh:  “Exchange contractor officials are rallying residents to protest against potential reduction or outright cessation of water deliveries to thousands of land owners on the West Side. …  “There is a crisis,” said Steve Chedester, executive director with the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority, also known as the Exchange Contractors. “The water board is trying to take the water. It’s being done on a state board level.”  … ”  Read more from the Merced Sun-Star by here: Exchange Contractors rally at emergency meeting in Los Banos
  • Landowners celebrate ruling, but state says it won't delay the BDCP:  “Property owners in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are celebrating a legal victory involving a controversial proposal to build two giant water diversion tunnels, though state officials say the ruling is unlikely to delay the project significantly.  A California appellate court in Sacramento ruled Thursday that the California Constitution bars the state from entering private land to do environmental studies unless it first condemns the affected land through its powers of eminent domain, and pays landowners accordingly. The court also upheld an earlier ruling in the same case that requires eminent domain before engaging in soil testing studies. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Landowners celebrate ruling on Delta tunnels, but delays not likely, state says
  • Restore the Delta holds forum on water quality impacts of the BDCP: “While Restore the Delta hadn't held an event in Contra Costa County since Over Troubled Waters premiered there nearly two years ago – the organization came back in full force on Thursday night, as members of the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) took notes in the audience.  Maybe they were pondering, how do we stop Restore the Delta? With 17,000-members and counting and only four paid members on staff – it requires a great deal of work to be responsible for 20,000-plus print, radio, online and television stories. Restore the Delta's media campaign has been flawless, and BDCP just can't seem to figure out how to emulate that marketing genius. … ”  Read more from the River News-Herald here: Restore the Delta holds forum on west Delta water quality impacts from tunnels
  • Scripps study sees more dry years ahead:  “As Californians contend with three years of drought, a team of Scripps scientists is here to tell them that the rain barrel is half empty. And it may get emptier still.  The study, published last week in Nature Scientific Reports, found that the number of days without rain is likely to increase dramatically in some global regions by the end of the century. Areas such as the Amazon, Central America, Indonesia, as well as all Mediterranean climates may see 30 fewer days of rain … ”  Read more from the U-T San Diego here:  Scripps study sees more dry days ahead
  • Firefighters, residents brace for a long fire season:  “Parched hillsides, a dwindling supply of fresh water and summerlike temperatures have many worried. But for California firefighters, the drought means one thing: a very long and potentially lethal fire season.  Typically, fire season starts in June, but the Bay Area this year saw its first warning about potential high fire danger in January, about the time a Southern California blaze forced thousands of residents to flee, destroyed five homes and burned almost 2,000 acres of land.  “That's something that has never ever happened in all of my career,” said Avery Webb, deputy chief of the Berkeley Fire Department, who has been a firefighter for more than 20 years. … ”  Read more from the Contra Costa Times here:  California drought: Firefighters, residents bracing for long fire season
  • California drought spawns investment opportunities:  “The California drought has investors wondering if there's money to be made in the crisis.  “We have been getting calls from around the world about the drought in California,” says David Parker, a water utilities analyst with W.R. Baird. … The “politicization” of the drought “could be the inflection point” that gets investors serious about water, says Simon Gottelier of Impax Asset Management in London, which specializes in environmental investing. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  California drought spawns investment opportunity
  • Waterless car washing on the way?  ” … As water became an increasingly precious resource, carwashes like Classic's chain of four South Bay locations began implementing rigorous recycling systems in the early 1970s.  Even those efficiencies, which have reduced the industry's water usage to a comparative drop in the water bucket — an estimated one-tenth of 1 percent of the 350 billion gallons of fresh water used daily by Americans — pale by comparison to the plans of a scrappy startup to use California's worst drought in 150 years as a marketing tool for its “waterless carwash .” ... ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Waterless car washing on the way?
  • Ranchers grudgingly accept Klamath water sharing pact:  “Many ranchers in Oregon’s Upper Klamath Basin appear to grudgingly accept a water-sharing settlement between irrigators and the Klamath Tribes that was finalized earlier this month.  Rancher Roger Nicholson, a harsh critic of water calls by the tribes and federal government that led to a shutoff of Upper Basin irrigation pumps last summer, says the deal is the best that ranchers could hope for and predicts it will be agreed to by a vast majority of affected landowners.  “This at least allows some usage, and in some years quite a bit of usage probably,” said Nicholson, who was involved in the talks. “The only other alternative is years more of litigation.”  … ”  Read more from the Capital Press here:
  • Groundwater topic of the day at Northern California water conference:  “Is Northern California at the “tipping point” for a balanced groundwater system?  Nobody can know for certain, but Maurice Hall of The Nature Conservancy's California Water Program said we are close to the edge.  Hall spoke at the Northern California Water Association annual meeting at Sierra Nevada brewery Friday. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Groundwater topic of the day at Northern California water conference
  • Sacramento County approves plan to restore Rancho Cordova creek:  “A graffiti-ridden drainage channel running through the American River Parkway in Rancho Cordova is poised for a major makeover that will transform it into a cleaner and greener creek where recreational and educational activities abound.  The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a contract assessing the environmental impact of the Cordova Creek Naturalization Project – a rehabilitation effort that has been in the works for nearly a decade. The approval is a major milestone in a plan that involves breaking up and burying the channel’s concrete walls and rerouting its water through a new creek, which will be surrounded by native vegetation and walking trails. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Sacramento County approves plan to restore channel to natural creek state
  • Delta Asparagus Growers Have Rough Start To Harvest Season:  “Growers in one of the key asparagus growing regions are seeing tough competition from Mexican growers just as their harvest season is beginning.  Shoppers are seeing store specials on asparagus, but much of the product comes from Mexico.  The asparagus season usually starts in late November in Mexico, but their season has been extended just as warm weather in California is causing shoots to sprout.  “The warm weather down there has spurred their growth. So they’re producing at their max right now,” said Delta grower and California Asparagus Commission Chair Marc Marchini. … ”  Read more from KTXL here:  Delta Asparagus Growers Have Rough Start To Harvest Season
  • SFPUC makes plans to tap two reservoirs:  “The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is in a much better position than most other California water agencies as the state stares down its first full year of drought: Its Hetch Hetchy Reservoir remains 51 percent full, and its customers use far less water than most others.  But if the bone-dry conditions persist, it won't be. So the agency, which serves 2.4 million Bay Area water customers, is making contingency plans to increase its drinking supply by using two existing reservoirs just northwest of its Yosemite crown jewel that the city hasn't tapped for drinking water since 1988. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chroncile here:  California drought: 2 reservoirs near Hetch Hetchy tapped
  • Calaveras County Water District officials wary of “Wild and Scenic” designation for the Mokelumne:  “The Calaveras County Water District’s board room was unusually full Wednesday as board members discussed whether to support a Wild and Scenic designation for a stretch of the Mokelumne River.  The item was brought to the board by Director Jeff Davidson, who said a representative from CCWD should have participated in the discussion the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors had on the issue Feb. 25. The supervisors unanimously approved a resolution supporting a state Wild and Scenic designation, which called for elected state representatives to present legislation to protect the Mokelumne. … ”  Read more from the Calaveras Enterprise here:  CCWD directors wary of ‘Wild and Scenic’ designation for Moke
  • Drought pushes houseboats out of Lake Don Pedro:  “Add “houseboats” to the growing list of drought casualties.  Within days, a flotilla of about 60 houseboats is expected to begin snaking from its decades-old home at Don Pedro Reservoir’s north end, which soon will be too shallow for big watercraft. A three-hour tour will lead to unfamiliar surroundings at the reservoir’s south end, joining some 200 others for what promises to be a big party – or the start of a cramped, chaotic summer at a lake accustomed to welcoming a half-million people a year. ... ”  Read more here: Drought pushes out Don Pedro Reservoir houseboats; fee hikes studied
  • Foothill communities discuss water rights and long term strategies: Around 400 people came out to hear about water rights and challenges to getting water projects done in the state. The Columbia College Foundation hosted the event, Focus on Foothill Water: Beyond the Drought. The keynote speaker was John Mills, a member of the Association of California Water Agencies, who was recently appointed to the Governor's Emergency Drought Relief Task Force. Mills is also a Tuolumne County native. He spoke about some of the tall mountains to climb, and what it would take, for Tuolumne County to go out and acquire water rights for additional permanent supply. … ”  Read more from My Mother Lode here:  Water Rights And Long Term Strategies
  • State quick to provide money to fix West Goshen's water problems:  “Next week’s groundbreaking ceremony for the start of construction to lay a mile-and-a-half water line connecting California Water Service Company water to West Goshen can’t come soon enough for Pricilla Gonzalez.  For about the past year-and-a-half, she and her family haven’t been able to drink from the taps at their home on Avenue 308, so they’ve had to depend on bottled water to brush their teeth, cook and drink. ... ”  Read more from the Tulare Advance-Register here:  Fast-moving water
  • Strife over groundwater boils over in Paso Robles:  “Zinfandel will flow like the water once did in Paso Robles this weekend. Bottles will pop open during a wine festival as rigs drill deep across the city to find a resource whose scarcity threatens Paso Robles to its core: water.How scant has the crucial underground water supply become around the San Luis Obispo County city? Sue Luft can tell you anecdotally. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  California drought: Strife over groundwater boils over
  • As drought and environmental laws dry up aqueducts, Southern California water managers look to aquifers and attitudes: With no state water project to look to from the north and reservoirs dropping low, Southern California water managers are looking down:  “Instead, managers must find salvation in vast, underground lakes holding billions of gallons of fresh water stretching from the San Fernando to the San Gabriel Valley, from Southeast L.A. County to the West Basin and the Santa Ana River into the Inland Empire.  Once the man-made reservoirs run low — say by this time next year — water managers will depend on their last resort, the basins.  In short, water managers say they have enough supplies to get us through a third year of drought and a dusty summer without pressing the crisis button. But “Drought 2015” will become a game of aquifers and attitudes. ... ”  Read more from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune here:  As drought and environmental laws dry up aqueducts, water managers look to aquifers and attitudes

People in the news …

  • The legacy of John Muir celebrated in upcoming symposium:  “In thousands of letters, one of the few references John Muir ever made to Stockton was to mention how thick the clouds of mosquitoes were here.  The famed naturalist held many places sacred. Stockton does not appear to have been one of them.  But today – as we approach the 100th anniversary of Muir's death – one small room in this city may be considered sacred to Muir scholars. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here: The legacy of Muir
  • Bay Nature talks to Colin Bailey with the Environmental Justice Coalition for water:  “In these days of scarce water, the supply of organizations talking about water policy seems to exceed the supply of the precious liquid itself.   But alongside the economically powerful giants duking it out for their share of the dwindling supplies, there’s  The Environmental Justice Coalition for Water (EJCW), which  focuses on the inequitable allocation of water to low-income communities and urges legislative reform. I recently spoke with Colin Bailey, a Bay Area native who is now executive director of EJCW, to find out what got him involved in the contentious world of California water policy … ” Read more from Bay Nature here:  Water, Water Everywhere…?

In commentary this weekend …

  • Failed leadership, not drought, source of water problems, says Sunne McPeake: She writes: “While California’s current drought is the providence of Mother Nature, the severity of the impacts is the consequence of decades of failed leadership by state administrations. Water supplies for everyone and everything – families, fish, farms and factories – are unreliable because state officials have repeatedly ignored and delayed implementation of a succession of broadly supported plans that would work for all regions.  There would be enough water to go around in most years if the state had sufficient facilities to capture, convey and store a lot more water in wet times than is physically possible today. Hydrographs for the last century show that only about three years out of every 20 are “average” with the balance being either “wet” or “dry.” … ”  Continue reading at the Sacramento Bee here:  Failed leadership, not drought, source of water problems

Precipitation watch …

  • Not much to look forward to hear, but continued warm temperatures: Dry and warm weather will continue today with strong high pressure centered just off the California coast. A weak trough will pass by our north tonight and into early Monday, which may bring the far northern CA mountains a few light showers. More noticeable however will be the breezy winds that will develop Monday and continue into Tuesday. Expect north winds of 10-20 mph, with local gusts up to 35 mph…strongest along the western Sacramento Valley.

Check out last week’s most popular posts and out-clicks …

Also on Maven’s Notebook  …

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About the Daily Digest: The Daily Digest is a collection of selected news articles, commentaries and editorials appearing in the mainstream press. Items are generally selected to follow the focus of the Notebook blog. The Daily Digest is published every weekday with a weekend edition posting on Sundays.

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