Daily Digest: Farmers brace for bad news, historic drought getting worse, drought could make your beer taste bad, a plan to split CA into 6 states, and more drought news & commentary

Daily DigestIn California water news today, Governor Brown’s response to drought follows two paths, historic drought getting worse, grass-fed beef industry reeling from drought, concerns over Folsom Lake levels, stiff fees for overuse of water in San Benito County, drought could make your beer taste bad, Temperance Flat, water bonds, and more, plus a ballot initiative to split California into six states and plenty of commentary …

In the news today …

  • Farmers brace for bad news:  “San Joaquin Valley farmers are expecting devastating water news Friday — the worst-ever forecast for federal water delivery, reflecting the landmark dry season.  Federal Central Valley Project leaders are expected to announce an unprecedented zero allocation for more than 2 million acres, spanning both east and west sides of the country’s most productive farmland. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Valley farmers brace for ‘devastating water news’
  • Historic drought getting worse: It seems “the worst drought that California has ever seen” has become even worse.  It has been a month since Gov. Jerry Brown said the state was facing perhaps “the worst drought that California has ever seen since records (began) about 100 years ago.”  New numbers released Thursday are painting an even dimmer picture. ... ”  Read more from CNN here:  Historic California drought getting worse
  • Governor Brown’s response to drought follows two paths:  “Governor Jerry Brown, joined by state water and emergency managers and Democratic leaders, proposed yesterday to spend $US 687 million this year to help California communities endure the state’s worst drought in the last half millennium. Roughly 80 percent of the money will complete unfinished water projects and build new facilities that treat and reuse water.  The governor’s emergency funding is one path the state is taking to respond to three years of dramatically below average precipitation that have put the water supply for the nation’s most populous state in a precarious position. Reservoirs are sandboxes, wells are spitting air, and farmers are struggling to keep citrus and nut trees alive. ... ”  Read more from Circle of Blue here:  Governor Jerry Brown’s Response to California Drought Follows Two Paths
  • Grass-fed beef industry reeling from drought:  “California’s devastating drought is taking a toll on the state’s grass-fed beef industry, forcing at least one large-scale producer to switch to grain feed.  Marin Sun Farms, a popular brand with Bay Area consumers who want their beef fed on 100 percent grass, not corn or other grains, can no longer sustain its model. There just isn’t enough grazing land because of the lack of rain, said the company’s founder, David Evans. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  California drought: Grass-fed beef industry reeling
  • Concerns Folsom Lake could drop to low to draw water:  “Federico Barajas is keeping a close eye on water levels on Folsom Lake.  “We continue to hope for the best, but plan for the worst under the circumstances and the drought we are in today,” he said.  That’s why the man who oversees water deliveries at Folsom Dam is keeping a close eye on Folsom Lake. It provides water for Folsom, Roseville and Granite Bay. … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento here:  Drought Could Leave Folsom Lake Levels Too Low To Pump To Residents

  • Santa Benito County Water District imposes stiff fees for overuse: “As California deals with one of its worst droughts in history, local water districts are doing what they can to conserve what little water they have, even if it means imposing stiff fees for those who use too much water.  That’s what the San Benito County Water District did Tuesday evening when its water board unanimously approved a resolution declaring a water shortage emergency.  “This is the worst situation that we’ve seen in San Benito County in the last 150 years,” water district manager Jeff Cattaneo said. … ”  Read more from KSBW:  San Benito County Water District imposes stiff fees for overuse
  • Drought could make your beer taste bad:  “In California’s Sonoma County, Lagunitas Brewing Company, founded in 1993, has grown into one of the largest craft breweries in the nation. Like several other smaller local breweries, Lagunitas makes its beer with water from the Russian River, a 110-mile waterway that provides drinking water for more than half a million people.  But in the wake of 2013, the driest year ever recorded in California, Lagunitas’ owners say they’re nervous about shortages that could mean a switch from the river water to not-as-tasty well water.  “If [the county] shifts us over to groundwater, we’d have to sacrifice our nice water supply — that unique, signature, clean Russian River water,” says Jeremy Marshall, head brewer at Lagunitas. … ”  Read more from OPB here:  California Brewers Fear Drought Could Leave Bad Taste In Your Beer
  • Assemblymember Lorena Gonzales introduces legislation to lift bans on drought-resistant landscapes:  “Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has reopened a turf war in the Capitol over whether homeowners association should have the right to require green lawns and lush flower gardens even in a drought.  The San Diego Democrat on Thursday introduced legislation that would make it clear that those who live in “common interest developments” can plant yards with drought-resistant landscaping without fear of fines. … ”  Read more from U-T San Diego here:  Should bans on drought-resistant yards be lifted?
  • Temperance Flat dam pencils out, according to report:  “For nearly two decades, supporters of a new dam above Millerton Lake on the San Joaquin River have touted its potential benefits.  They got new ammunition this week as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation issued a study concluding that the Temperance Flat project would provide multiple economic and environmental benefits and is technically and financially feasible. … ”  Read more from the Hanford Sentinel here:  Study: San Joaquin River dam proposal pencils out
  • Officials pitch for Temperance Flat at water bond hearing:  “Now is the time for a ballot measure to fix the state’s aging water system, nurture the ecosystem and help rural communities get healthy drinking water, the experts said. A new dam on the San Joaquin River must be part of the equation, most said.  A panel of state lawmakers listened to the testimony at a hearing at Fresno City College on Assembly Bill 1331, which would put a $6.5 billion bond on the November ballot. A vote on some version of a water bond bill is expected in the next several months. ... ” Water experts pitch for Temperance Flat Dam
  • Yet another water bond introduced:  “California Republicans are out with their own version of a statewide water bond. A Democratic version is on the November ballot but is being tweaked in the Legislature.  The GOP says its version provides competitive funding for water storage, groundwater, Delta restoration, water quality, and drought relief projects statewide.  “California’s painful drought conditions are hurting families, farmers and business owners,” says Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway of Tulare. “Real people are suffering through higher water rates, mandatory rationing orders and reduced water deliveries in part because the Legislature has failed to act for too long.” … ”  Read more from the Central Valley Business Times here: GOP offers its version of a water bond
  • Water bonds call for storage: “It’s said that major water legislation only moves forward during droughts and floods, and the current stretch of historic dryness is no exception.  Four water bonds are moving through the Legislature, proponents of each hoping they land on the November 2014 ballot.  The funding allocations of the bonds vary, ranging from surface storage projects, to Delta and other habitat restoration and conservation, to water quality and infrastructure upgrades, to groundwater enhancements. … ” Read more from the Appeal-Democrat here:  Read more from the Appeal-Democrat here:  Water bond consensus calls for storage
  • Water conference explores California’s water future:  “Water conservation, multi-agency collaboration and diversification of water supplies were touted by several speakers at a water conference in Sacramento on Thursday as ways California can grapple with its current – and long term – water needs.  The conference, sponsored by Capitol Weekly and UC Center Sacramento, featured several panels where speakers explored the economic, ecological and social issues surrounding some of California’s long-standing water disputes. … ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here:  California’s Water Future Explored at Sacramento Water Conference
  • Coming to the front of a grocery store near you: a plan to split California into six (as in 6) states:  “California has reached the breaking point, says Tim Draper. The Silicon Valley venture capitalist is pushing a proposal to crack the nation’s most populous state into smaller pieces — six of them.  California has grown so big, so inefficient, it’s essentially ungovernable, according to a ballot initiative that could reach voters as early as November.  It has to go, he says. … ”  Read more from USA Today: Plan to split California into 6 states advances

In commentaries today …

  • Is Brown’s drought response something new or just spending? asks the San Francisco Chronicle:  “With the drought deepening, Sacramento is taking the first steps to soften the damage. A $687 million package boosts conservation and provides aid for those left jobless in farm country. But the moves will take months to take effect and barely touch the state’s long-term water woes.  The package was unveiled by the state’s top Democratic leaders, including Gov. Jerry Brown, indicating it will likely pass the Legislature within weeks. The hurry-up plan largely takes money from past bond measures and directs funds to ready-to-go projects that use the state’s shrinking water supplies more thriftily. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Is Brown’s drought response something new or just spending?
  • Broader statewide strategy badly needed, says the U-T San Diego:  “Gov. Jerry Brown’s emergency proposal to spend $687 million on drought relief projects and programs is welcome if overdue. But this can also be seen as still more short-term thinking about California’s water problems. Any serious drought relief proposal has to include increased water storage facilities. The Brown proposal does not.  With more storage, the state could take advantage of the occasional periods where water is relatively plentiful. Without more storage, during droughts, authorities have few options beyond pleading with the public to do even better with conservation. … ”  Read more from the U-T San Diego here: Broader state water strategy badly needed
  • Leaders need to pay attention to agriculture to save water, says the Sacramento Bee:  “Securing emergency drinking water supplies for the worst-hit communities is absolutely necessary. With no end in sight to California’s record drought, state leaders are right to focus most of the $687 million relief package they announced Wednesday on longer-term efforts to conserve and recycle water.  But if we’re really all in this together, leaders must pay far more attention to the biggest user – agriculture, which sucks up as much as three-fourths of available water in a given year. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Editorial: In record drought, state leaders can’t ignore agriculture to save water
  • A fishy drought in California, made worse by a smelt, says the Washington Times:  “President Obama’s traveling golfing circus and global-warming revival played California’s San Joaquin Valley last week, where he used the worst drought in decades as a backdrop to shill for his magic elixir guaranteed to cure warts, relieve irregularity, conjure water and expand government spending.  He correctly blames man for the drought, but it’s not the men in pickup trucks or astride John Deere tractors.  The San Joaquin Valley was one of the most fertile agricultural regions in the world until environmentalists created a dust bowl to save a three-inch fish called the Delta smelt. … ”  EDITORIAL: A fishy drought in California, made worse by a smelt
  • Days of dessication … Timothy Egan writes in the New York Times:  “The bathtub rings in the reservoirs that hold California’s liquid life have never been more exposed. Shorelines are bare, brown and bony. Much of the Sierra Nevada is naked of snow. And fields in the Central Valley may soon take to the sky. A Dust Bowl? Not yet. Though this drought will surely go down as the worst in the state’s recorded history. Until next year.  But something else is evident in this cloudless winter: when you build a society with a population larger than Canada’s, and do it with one of the world’s most elaborate plumbing systems, it’s a fragile pact. California is an oasis state, a hydraulic construct. Extreme stress brings out the folly of nature-defiance. … ”  Read more from the New York Times here:  Days of dessication
  • Group wants Wild & Scenic designation for the Mokelumne: George Wendt of O.A.R.S. writes:  ” ... every few years, a water agency from outside Calaveras attempts to build another new or larger dam on the Mokelumne, which would destroy the river as a local recreational and economic asset. Most recently, the East Bay Municipal Utility District proposed to raise Pardee Dam, which would have flooded the Mokelumne’s most popular recreation and whitewater boating section. Fortunately, strong community opposition combined with legal action by fishing and conservation groups protected the river, but only temporarily. We must protect the Mokelumne for good.  It is far too valuable a local economic asset to leave at the mercy of large, thirsty water agencies in other parts of our state. It’s time to act to secure its permanent protection. … ”  Read the full commentary at the Calaveras Enterprise here:  Protecting the Mokelumne River is good for the economy
  • How to increase Colorado’s water supply:  “President Barack Obama gave a speech last week in California, which is enduring the worst drought in its recorded history, and he called on the country to rethink how it deals with water.  “We’re going to have to stop looking at these disasters as something to wait for. We’re going to have to start looking at these disasters as something to prepare for,” he said.  “Water has been seen as a zero-sum game: agriculture against urban, north against south. We’re going to have to figure out how to play a different game,” he said.  “We can’t afford years of litigation and no real action,” he added.  Good points. So here’s a different way for Colorado to secure its water supply against the horrors of global warming: Build some seawater desalination plants.  It wouldn’t take very many of them to make a huge difference. .. ”  hmmmmm …. Read more here:  How to increase Colorado’s water supply

Precipitation watch …

  • weatherFrom the National Weather Service:The main forecast concern is the potential wet pattern that sets up over the eastern Pacific and West Coast mid to late next week. The decent precipitation that fell earlier in the month did little to replenish the water supplies in northern California reservoirs. For example, Shasta Lake only had a minimal water level rise. Even though these next couple systems may bring some significant precipitation, no significant change is expected with the overall California drought conditions.

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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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