Daily Digest: Drought news and commentary, plus an El Nino later this year?, water bond hearing on webcast and the outlook for further precip this week

Daily DigestIn California water news today, reservoirs are now just bigger puddles, how much did dent did all that rain put in the drought?, storms allow boost in Delta pumping, drought could impair water quality, storms bring relief to vineyards, extreme drought threatens coho salmon, harvesting rainwater down to the last drop, State gives town of Willits $250,000 for water system, California drought could rival Texas drought of 2011, and retire westside farmland, says Restore the Delta

On webcast today …

In the news today …

  • Reservoirs are now just bigger puddles:  “The gully washer that swept through California left a heaping of powdery snow in the Sierra, but it fell far short of filling the state’s depleted reservoirs.  The downpour was a good thing, but California is still in the midst of a drought and the water supply situation is abysmal, according to water officials. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  California’s reservoirs now just ‘bigger puddles’  See also: Northern California gets a big drink, but state still thirsty, from the Los Angeles Times
  • Five feet of snow dumped in the Sierras:  “Sierra ski resorts and drought-stricken farmers are rejoicing after a weekend storm dumped up to 5 feet of snow on top of the mountains and brought near-record rainfall to Lake Tahoe. A winter storm warning expired Monday morning at Tahoe, where Incline Village schools were delayed by two hours.  The level of Lake Tahoe had risen an estimated 4 inches by Sunday — a total of 13.7 billion gallons of water, or enough to cover 65 square miles a foot deep, the National Weather Service said.  … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Sierra storm brings much-needed snow, rain
  • So how much dent did all that rain put in the drought?  “Anyone who dares discuss our weather, climate or California’s drought seems to take it as a moral duty to remind everyone that, despite anything you might have seen or heard during the storm of the past few days, we’ve still got a major water problem on our hands.  Craig Miller, an editor in our KQED Science unit, talked about the storm’s impact with Jeff Mount, co-founder of the Center for Watershed Studies at UC Davis. The question, as Craig put it, was: “So, was this a ‘February Miracle?’  And the answer, according to Mount, is, “Not even close.” … ”  Read more from KQED here:  After the Rain: How Much of a Dent Did the Storm Put in the Drought?
  • Storms allow boost in Delta pumping:  “The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was able to take advantage of increased runoff from the wet weekend storms to boost water diversions from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  Reclamation tripled its diversions from the Delta on Sunday and expects to increase that pumping a little more on Tuesday. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Storms allow boost in Delta pumping

  • Drought could impair water quality: This weekend’s heavy rainfall was a welcome sight, but it wasn’t enough to end California’s record drought. State officials are still facing tough choices about how to make the low water supply last through the year.  But with little water in streams and rivers, declining water quality could be an even bigger challenge, potentially raising problems for drinking water and causing harmful algal blooms. … ”  Read more from KQED here:  Record Drought Could Hurt Water Quality
  • Storms bring relief to vineyards:  “Napa Valley’s wet weather this past weekend was a welcome reprieve for parched grapevines and dwindling municipal reservoirs, but officials and grapegrowers say more will be needed this year.  Areas of the valley saw between 7 to 10 inches of rain, with even greater amounts reported in some locations, during the three days of the storm. … ”  Read more from the Napa Valley Register here: Storm boosts reservoirs, brings relief to vineyards
  • Extreme drought threatens coho salmon:  “California’s drought is making life hard for the state’s salmon population and may soon claim at least one entire species as victim.  The California Coast coho salmon relies on the small creeks and streams flowing into the ocean along the coast for its life cycle. With most of these outlets depleted and with sandbars growing at the river mouths because of lack of runoff from the snow packs in the mountains to the east, the tiny hatchlings cannot get to the ocean nor can the adults make their way back upstream to spawn. … ”  Read more from the Christian Science Monitor here:  Extreme drought threatens central California coast’s coho salmon
  • Harvesting rainwater down to the last drop“Twenty-one billion gallons of rain fall on Stockton any given year, and most of us are content to let it green up our lawns and then swirl down our storm drains.  Not Eric Firpo, who has connected a series of improvised rain barrels to the roof of his midtown Stockton home.In a series of storms like we just experienced, Firpo has the ability to collect upwards of 1,000 gallons of water in just one or two wet days. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  Every last drop
  • State gives town of Willits $250,000 for water system:  “California public health officials approved emergency funding for the town of Willits in Mendocino County after the city’s water supply dwindled dangerously low. … ”  Read more here:  California drought: State gives Willits $250K for water upgrades
  • California’s drought could rival Texas’s 2011 drought:  “The worst drought ever to hit California could rival the historic 2011 drought that devastated Texas, says a Texas A&M University professor.  John Nielsen-Gammon, professor of atmospheric sciences who also serves as Texas’ State Climatologist, says the current in California is so far comparable in many ways to the 2011 Texas drought, the worst one-year drought in the state’s history that caused more than $10 billion in damages and led to numerous wildfires and lake closings. … ”  Read more from PhysOrg here:  Worst drought ever to hit California could rival the historic 2011 Texas drought
  • 75% chance of an El Nino next year: There’s a 75 percent chance that an El Nino will develop late this year, improving the prospects that Southern California will pull out of a deep drought, scientists say in a paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  The forecast was made by an international team of scientists who said they’ve developed a model that enables them to make such a prediction about one year in advance, rather than the 5 to 6 months that is common for spotting an El Nino, a natural periodic climate change that can strengthen Pacific storms. … ”  Read more from the U-T San Diego here:  El Nino likely late this year
  • Retire westside farmland, Restore the Delta says:  “California’s water woes could be eased if some of the farms on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley were fallowed, say environmental groups Monday.  The farms grow permanent crops, such as almonds and pistachios, on land that cannot be properly drained and for which there is not adequate ground water or senior water rights, the groups say.  Restore the Delta says there has been a virtual explosion of permanent crops being grown on the west side of the Valley, sucking up large quantities of water exported from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. … ”  Read more from the Central Valley Business Times here:  Retire westside farmlands, environmentalists say

In commentary today …

  • On Fresno visit, Obama will learn that California water issues are tough to unravel, says the Fresno Bee:  “When President Barack Obama visits Fresno on Friday to talk about the historic dry year in California, what should he know?  Farms, fish, cities, mountains, industries, rivers and even air quality have suffered, say many touched by state water problems. Recent storms have taken the edge off, but the intense dry year still is cutting a wide swath of damage in many ways.  … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: In Fresno, Obama will learn that California water issues are tough to unravel
  • California’s severe drought exposes thin veneer of civilization, says political commentator David Horsey:The severe drought in California and much of the West is a reminder that civilized life is a paper-thin veneer that overlays the deep upheavals of nature. Humans carry on blithely, holding fast to the illusion that the natural world can be tamed and exploited with no unavoidable consequences, and then we get slammed by a hurricane, a flood, a tornado, a wildfire, a drought or a freezing polar vortex that lets us know how wrong we are. … ”  Read more from the Baltimore Sun here:  California’s severe drought exposes thin veneer of civilization

Precipitation watch …

  • From the National Weather Service:  “For the rest of the week: another atmospheric river has set up over the Pacific! This time around, the Pacific Northwest will bear the brunt of the rains, with only the far northern portions of California receiving precipitation. More widespread precipitation will be possible across NorCal this weekend.

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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.

Maven’s Notebook
California water news.  It’s just what I do.

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