Daily Digest, weekend edition: Rain arrives, snow survey weaknesses, per capita water usage and more drought news and commentary

Daily DigestIn California water news today, rain arrives at last, courtesy of the Pineapple Express, drought exposes snow survey weaknesses, President Obama to visit Fresno on Valentines Day, who are the guzzlers and who are the sippers?, water storage drops dramatically, tough choices for farmers and ranchers, drought stalls controversial Kern County project, legislators push water bonds, and Stanislaus County farmers sued over groundwater wells, plus commentary on H.R. 3964, the drought, water bonds, and more …

In the news this weekend …

  • Rain arrives at last, courtesy of the Pineapple Express: The storms expected to finally bring Northern California a desperately needed deep drenching this weekend after the driest year in state history aren’t just random showers.  They are the result of a developing situation that scientists call “an atmospheric river,” and recent research has shown that they have played a significant role in breaking droughts in the past.  Sometimes known as “the Pineapple Express,” these rivers of rain are long, narrow bands of highly-concentrated moisture that are formed in the Pacific Ocean and barrel eastward until they hit land, bringing downpours and flooding. … ”  Read more from the Oakland Tribune here:  California Drought: Desperately needed rain, courtesy of “Pineapple Express” slamming into California
  • California drought exposes snow survey problems:  “High-country blizzards usually bury southern Sierra lake basins in late January, leaving lodgepole pine and red fir trees in snow drifts 15 feet deep.  But snow surveyors making their usual visit this year to Kings Canyon National Park found something most had never seen at 10,300 feet in January. Bare ground.  There are few snow measurements done up this high in the Sierra — a failing that this record-setting drought is exposing. So far, the biggest part of this season’s snowpack is up high, which means it is out of reach for conventional snow measurement.. … ”  Continue reading at the Fresno Bee here:  Calif. drought exposes Sierra’s weaknesses

  • President Obama to visit Fresno on Valentines Day:  “The White House announced Friday that President Barack Obama will come to Fresno on Feb. 14 to discuss the drought and federal efforts to deal with it.  A White House official said further details about the president’s trip to the central San Joaquin Valley will be made public in the coming days. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: President Obama plans Feb. 14 visit to Fresno to discuss drought
  • Who are the guzzlers and who are the sippers?  State database tracks per capita usage:  “The historic drought is making average residents think twice every time they turn on the tap, despite the weekend rain. But there is nothing average about the way Californians consume water: A little-known state database that measures water use in every community shows huge — sometimes shocking — differences between California’s water sippers and guzzlers.  In steamy Sacramento, where half of the homes still don’t have water meters, residents use 279 gallons a day per capita — almost triple the 98 gallons that residents of foggy San Francisco use. Palm Springs, land of big desert lawns and verdant golf courses, gulps down a staggering 736 gallons a day per person, five times as much as residents of San Jose and Los Angeles. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  California Drought: Database shows big difference between water guzzlers and sippers
  • Water storage in Sacramento and San Joaquin basins drops dramatically in the past two years:  “The water stored in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins – including snow, soil moisture, groundwater and surface water – has declined precipitously over the past two years due to increased groundwater pumping because of the state’s dry conditions.  That’s the upshot of a report released Feb. 3 by the Irvine-based University of California Center for Hydrologic Modeling. … ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here:  Water Storage in Sacramento and San Joaquin River Basins Drops Hugely Since Nov. 2011.  See also this from the San Francisco Chronicle: California drought a ‘train wreck’ for Central Valley farms
  • Tough decisions for ranchers and farmers:  “It’s a pretty dire situation for ranchers right now and for farmers, too. Governor Jerry Brown declared an official drought emergency last month, and some municipalities are said to be already running short on their supplies. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is calling most of the state a “natural disaster area.”  Morris owns Morris Grassfed in San Juan Bautista, which is about 15 minutes south of Gilroy on California’s Central Coast. He says the long stretch of dry months forced him to cut his herd — it’s now half its usual size. Other ranchers across the state have been cutting their herds, too.  “Heart palpitations at 3 in the morning are kind of a fairly common experience for ranchers in this situation,” he said. … ”    Read more KQED here:  Drought Forces Tough Decisions on Farmers and Ranchers
  • Drought stalls controversial water project in Kern County: The drought has dealt a serious blow to a controversial desert water banking/solar project that had looked like it was on a fast track for approval.  Environmental documents for the so-called Fremont Valley Preservation Project, which would pump more than 114,000 acre feet of native groundwater a year from beneath the Mojave desert, just didn’t add up considering the state’s dire water straits, concluded Kern County Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here:  Drought pushes back controversial water project
  • Assemblyman Isadore Hall announces push for a statewide water bond measure:  “As California continues in the grips of a persistent drought, Assemblyman Isadore Hall announced Friday that he and Democratic colleagues will push for a statewide bond measure that would raise tens of billions of dollars for new water distribution infrastructure and groundwater cleanup.  At a news conference in front of the Edward C. Little Water Recycling Facility in El Segundo, Hall said the plan would build on Gov. Jerry Brown’s support for controversial underground “peripheral tunnels” designed to quickly ferry water from Northern to Southern California. ... ”  Did that article say ‘tens of billions of dollars?’  Eeesh, I hope that’s a typo …   Read more here from the Daily News:  Assemblyman Isadore Hall announces push for state bond measure to help combat drought
  • North Coast region expresses concerns over water bond:  “Before the California Assembly hearing in Eureka began Friday, Wiyot Tribe cultural liaison Cheryl Seidner summed up the important role water plays on the North Coast.  “Water is precious,” Seidner said. “We need every drop we can get. It feeds the rivers and the streams and the lakes, even those that are man-made.”  The informational hearing held by the California Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee focused on one of the five proposed water bonds slated for the Nov. 4 ballot — the Clean and Safe Drinking Water Act of 2014. … ”  Read more here from Willits News:  North Coast voices water needs: Concerns raised about region’s share of proposed $6.5B bond
  • Stanislaus County farmers sued over groundwater wells:  “Environmental advocates filed a lawsuit Thursday against more than a dozen Stanislaus County farmers seeking to shut off the water to about 60 recently approved wells for agricultural irrigation.  The legal action seeks an environmental review of the impact those groundwater wells will have on Stanislaus’ aquifers. Attorneys contend county officials violated state law by authorizing the drilling of those wells without first determining whether they might harm the environment by depleting the water basin. … ”  Read more here from the Modesto Bee:  Stanislaus farmers sued over environmental concerns about groundwater wells

In commentary this weekend …

  • California needs a balanced approach to water, says the Mercury News:  “The Central Valley’s thirst for water to irrigate its fields has already decimated its own aquifer. It’s made a 60-mile stretch of the once-majestic San Joaquin River run dry, devastating an area where wildlife once flourished.  It appears California’s Republicans in the House of Representatives won’t be satisfied until they’ve drained the entire Delta, and perhaps the Sacramento River as well. … ”  Continue reading this editorial from the Mercury News here:  Mercury News editorial: California needs a more balanced approach to water
  • Extraordinary times call for extraordinary responses, says ACWA’s John Coleman:  “Nearly every day brings fresh signs that California is in a drought of epic proportions. Whether it’s the historic announcement of zero deliveries from the State Water Project or the latest survey confirming the lowest Sierra snowpack on record for the date, it’s clear that we are entering uncharted territory.  If the dry conditions are unprecedented, so, too, are the actions in response. Citing a need to preserve what water remains in key reservoirs, state officials told local water agencies to expect zero water from the project this year. Officials also laid out a series of steps to preserve supplies and provide flexibility to maintain operations and meet environmental needs. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Viewpoints: Extraordinary times call for extraordinary response
  • Officials wise to close fishing to protect species, says the Sacramento Bee:  ” … Don’t be fooled by the weekend rain, welcome though it is. California’s reservoirs remain at historic lows, as do the rivers.  State officials are wise to be calling on us all to abide by extreme measures brought about by the drought, difficult though they may be.  As the drought radiates throughout our state, Californians are being asked to take inconvenient steps to save water, and also fish and wildlife.  In recent days, the California Fish and Game Commission requested that anglers stop fishing on many of the premier waterways. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Editorial: Officials are protecting future runs by restricting fishing now
  • Nature handed us this drought, but bad water policy will make it worse, says Ben Boychuk:  ” …We’ve had bad droughts before, but never quite like this.  For the first time in 54 years, the California Water Project forecasts “zero allocation” for agencies serving 25 million residents. That means scarcity and rationing are real prospects this summer. Barring a miracle, the effects – economic and political – would be felt well beyond our borders.  Let’s stipulate “government can’t make it rain.” While we’re at it, let’s enter that phrase into the Great Book of Clichés and banish it from public discourse forevermore. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Ben Boychuk: Nature got us into this drought, but bad policy will make it worse
  • Putting the water back in the water bond, says Senator Cannella:  ” … we must take action now to ensure we do not revisit the situation we faced four years ago, when a quarter-million acres of productive farmland was fallowed, communities experienced unemployment rates of over 40 percent, and the state had to provide emergency food distribution.  That’s why I have been, and remain committed to, taking an active part in placing a new water bond on the ballot, recently announcing new legislation with Senator Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) for a new water bond package that will increase our state’s water storage and access to clean water. This bill, SB 927, prioritizes storage, clean drinking water and Delta sustainability.  What’s more, this bond decreases the original $11.1 billion bond by $2 billion, eliminating billions of dollars of earmarks that do not provide additional water. … ”  Read the full commentary at the Salinas Californian here:  Putting water back into the water bond
  • Assemblyman Dan Logue says his bond is all water and no pork:  ” …The primary reason this year’s drought is so bad is a lack of forward thinking from Sacramento.  California’s current water infrastructure is outdated and overwhelmed. It was built more than a half century ago to meet the needs of a 1960’s population of 10 million people instead of the 38 million who now reside in California. This is woefully inadequate to meet the needs of our growing state. Had we acted to build additional storage, both above and below ground, people would be feeling less pain today.  That’s why I have proposed legislation — Assembly Bill 1445 — to place a $5.8 billion statewide water bond before the voters. … ”  Read the full commentary here:  Dan Logue: My all-water and no-pork bond solution for our state
  • The LA Times apparently has something to say about the water bonds at least from what I can tell, but alas, no tokens for me.  If you have some and want to read, go here:  California needs a water measure that works

Precipitation watch …

  • Drop in the bucket

    Rain to continue today, although it sounds like the bulk of this storm has blown through:  From the National Weather Service, Sacramento, issued Sunday morning at 4:09 am: “A shortwave trough moving through northern California this morning will be followed by the passage of another shortwave this afternoon. A batch of moisture now approaching 130 west will enhance as in interacts with this afternoon shortwave bringing continued precipitation over northern California into the night time hours. Snow levels will remain high today as this moisture of warm origin moves through the area but will drop a little tonight as cold air associated with the shortwave moves through. Models indicate that the greatest amount of precipitation will continue to be over the northern Sierra where orographics are favored most. An additional foot or more of snow is forecast above 7000 feet between now and Monday morning. Will therefore leave winter storm warning now in place over the northern Sierra as is but may tweak snowfall amounts a bit. West coast upper ridge pumps up a bit by Monday afternoon so should see a brief break in this extended period of precipitation Monday night and Tuesday. Airmass warming and a slight clearing trend will allow daytime temperatures to climb back up from near normal today to several degrees above normal Monday and Tuesday. West coast upper ridge forecast to flatten again by Wednesday of next week as yet another Pacific shortwave rides into the Pacific Northwest and NORCAL.” Get the latest forecast by clicking here.


Get the Notebook blog by email …

  • Sign up for daily emails and get all the Notebook’s aggregated and original water news content delivered to your email box by 9AM. Breaking news alerts, too. Sign me up!

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.

Maven’s Notebook
where California water news never goes home for the weekend

Print Friendly, PDF & Email