Daily Digest: Kern Water Bank ruling, flows increase briefly in the American River, is Sacramento meeting its 20% conservation target and more plus 10 lakes that can survive a drought

Daily DigestIn California water news today, Judge rules ecological impacts of Kern Water Bank not considered, cattle ranchers face tough decisions in a drought, bees feeling the effects of drought, ten recreation lakes that can survive a drought, American Canyon may face severe water restrictions, flows increase (briefly) in the American River, Sacramentans not meeting 20% conservation target, Eastern Sacramento generates the most water wasting complaints, storms boost Stockton-area reservoirs, Turlock Irrigation District sets historic low irrigation cap, drought has southern Santa Barbara County searching for options, water bond and drinking water program discussed at ACWA legislative symposium, Cadiz looks to tap desert aquifer, Poseidon’s Huntington Beach desal plant in process but challenges remain, and ranchers and tribes reach deal on Klamath water, plus climate analyst clarifies the science behind our water woes

In the news today …

  • Judge rules ecological impacts of Kern Water Bank not considered:  “A state judge ruled Wednesday that California water managers failed to consider the environmental impacts of running one of the nation’s largest water banks.  The Department of Water Resources never looked at the ecological effects of running the Kern Water Bank when the state transferred the bank to private hands in 1997, Judge Timothy Frawley ruled.  A nearby water district sued in 2010, saying that the state did not study the bank’s potential effects on its neighbors, including causing wells to run dry or groundwater levels to drop in drought years. … ”  Read more from The Republic here:  Judge: California water managers didn’t consider ecological impacts of running huge water bank  See also: State failed to analyze effect of water bank, judge rules, from the LA Times
  • Cattle ranchers face tough decisions in a drought:  “Conditions for cattle ranchers are very similar to what they were in the drought of mid 1970s, said Holly Foster, who runs cattle in Butte County with her family. Her father has shared stories from back then, and now it’s her turn for the experience.  Ranchers tend to keep their animals in the Sacramento Valley during the fall and winter, and move them to higher elevations in the summer.  Yet, this winter there wasn’t the rain to fill stock ponds and underground streams, she said. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise Record here:  Cattle ranchers face tough decisions in a drought
  • Bees feeling the effects of drought:  “The drought has left honey bees without their normal supply of wildflowers to feed on. Beekeepers have supplemented their diet, but that lacks nutrition that keep hives healthy. CapRadio’s Amy Quinton tags along with a local beekeeper to learn more.”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  Bees Feeling Effects of California Drought 
  • Ten recreation lakes that can survive a drought:  Apparently, not all reservoirs are mud puddles, according to Tom Steinstra, so read this article before you plan your next vacation:  “On a trip through California’s Gold Country last week, we drove over the dam at Lake Tulloch near Sonora, and like most, had a provocative response: Look at all that water!  Tulloch, as are a few recreation lakes across Northern California, is kept full or close to it year-round, even when other reservoirs are drained to puddles.  In the next two weeks, brilliant sunshine, blue skies and temperatures in the low 70s will arrive across the valleys and foothill country, according to forecasts. It is the start of spring, and with it, the boating and lake recreation season in Northern California. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  10 recreation lakes that can survive a drought
  • Groundwater studies can begin in Mendocino County:  “A local entity recently stepped up to monitor groundwater in the Ukiah Valley to preserve the valley’s access to state grant funding for drought relief, and urges local well owners to volunteer to have their groundwater levels monitored.  A state Department of Water Resources representative told the Mendocino County emergency drought ad-hoc committee last week that Ukiah Valley could lose out on state funding if an entity couldn’t be found to do the monitoring, which is required as part of the California Statewide Groundwater Elevation Monitoring program. … ”  Read more from the Ukiah Daily Journal here: Drought: Groundwater studies can begin under Mendocino County Water Agency
  • American Canyon may face severe restrictions: The severity of California’s drought raises the possibility of a statewide water system breakdown, American Canyon Public Works Director Jason Holley told City Council members Tuesday.  In response, the city must decrease reliance on the State Water Project, Holley said, and conservation must become a way of life.  In an update to the council following their declaration last month of a stage one water emergency — a call for a 20 percent voluntary usage reduction — Holley said water availability this year from the state remains uncertain. … ”  Read more from the American Canyon Eagle here:  American Canyon may face severe water restrictions
  • Flows increase (briefly) in American River:  “The American River is flowing higher through Sacramento today, part of a federal effort to help young salmon at risk during the drought.  The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation doubled water releases from Nimbus Dam from 500 cubic feet per second to 1,000 cfs. The increase began Wednesday night and is expected to reach 1,000 cfs before returning to 500 cfs just before midnight today. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Flows increase in Sacramento’s American River
  • Sacramentans not meeting 20% conservation target:  “Many people in the Sacramento region responded to calls to conserve water, using less last month than in the previous two Februaries. Many cities have not met conservation goals. Conservation efforts in the City of Sacramento saved 200-million gallons of water last month but Sacramentans failed to meet the City’s 20-percent water-conservation target for the month of February.Jessica Hess with the Department of Utilities says demand did decrease by 8-million gallons a day. … ”  Read more here from Capital Public Radio:  Twenty-Percent Conservation Is A High-Water Mark
  • Eastern Sacramento generates the most water-wasting complaints:  “Far from being spread out evenly across Sacramento, complaints about wasteful use of water have been clumped into a handful of neighborhoods.  That is according to data obtained by KCRA 3 from the city’s utilities department, which indexed the complaints according to zip codes.  The 95819 zip code, which includes most of East Sacramento, has generated the most complaints, 246, since the start of the year.  ... ”  More from KCRA here:  East Sacramento generates most water-waste complaints
  • Storms boost Stockton-area reservoirs:  “Stockton-area reservoirs bumped up as a result of storms over the past week, but most remain well below normal.  New Hogan Lake was storing 98,052 acre-feet of water this morning, about 64 percent of normal. That’s an improvement from about 62 percent last week. The reservoir has climbed about 1 foot. Hogan is a primary drinking-water source for Stockton. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  Storms give area reservoirs a bump
  • Turlock Irrigation District sets historic low irrigation cap:  “The growing severity of California’s drought has resulted in one of the lowest water allotments for irrigation purposes in Turlock Irrigation District’s history. Starting the irrigation season on March 27, local growers serviced by TID will see a 20-inch cap water allotment, with little to no carryover in the Don Pedro Reservoir for 2015 – an unprecedented decision by TID staff. ... ”  Read more from the Ceres Courier here:  TID sets historic-low irrigation cap
  • Drought has southern Santa Barbara County scrambling for options:  The Santa Maria Sun talks to rancher Ken Doty:  ” … In a normal year, the ranch typically gets 18 inches of rainfall, but that average isn’t the same across every acre of the property. Less rain accumulates in the orchard closest to Goleta, and more inches fall as the groves reach the western slopes of the Santa Ynez Mountains. The story’s similar for the water that underlies much of the property.  The location and volume of the liquid depends on the geology of rock formations—and those formations differ depending on where you’re standing. Doty said the water basin beneath those roots isn’t like the aquifers of the Midwest, where one single gigantic bathtub of an aquifer can stretch for square miles on end; it’s more like pockets of water interspersed within the rock formations under his property. … ”  Read more from the Santa Maria Sun here:  The drought has Southern Santa Barbara County scrambling to find water options
  • Water Bond and State’s Drinking Water Program Explored at ACWA’s Legislative Symposium:The importance of passing a water bond and keeping a public health focus within the state’s drinking water program were highlighted by several speakers Wednesday at ACWA’s 2014 Legislative Symposium in Sacramento.  Several speakers said the state’s current drought has elevated California’s water needs to the forefront of the public eye, which could make it easier to explain to voters why a water bond should be passed in November. … ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here:  Water Bond and State’s Drinking Water Program Explored at Legislative Symposium
  • Ranchers and tribes reach deal on Klamath water:  “A deal to share scarce water between ranchers and the Klamath Tribes has cleared another hurdle on its way toward becoming part of a bill in Congress to overcome a century of fighting over water in the Klamath Basin.  Parties announced Wednesday they have finished negotiations to overcome last summer’s irrigation shut-off to cattle ranches in the upper Klamath Basin after the Klamath Tribes exercised newly awarded senior water rights to protect fish.  The deal still must be voted on by the tribes and ranchers. If approved, it becomes part of Oregon Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden’s effort to pass legislation authorizing removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River to help struggling salmon, and another that gives farmers on a federal irrigation project greater assurances of water during drought. That legislation has been stalled by House Republicans. ... ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Ranchers, tribes reach deal on Klamath water
  • Cadiz project looks to tap desert aquifer: This Bloomberg article poses the question, where will California find the water it needs?  ” … Scott Slater is convinced the solution lies underneath the Mojave Desert, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its March 10 issue. His company, Cadiz Inc. (CDZI:US), wants to tap an aquifer beneath 34,000 acres of the eastern Mojave and sell the water to suburbs and subdivisions in the Los Angeles Basin.  Cadiz, whose only mission is to sell the desert water, has teamed up with a public water agency in southern Orange County in an audacious proposal to pump 16.3 billion gallons a year toward the coast. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Businessweek here:  California Looks to the Desert as Cadiz Proposes Tapping Aquifer
  • Poseidon’s Huntington Beach desalination project in process, but challenges remain:  ” … In Carlsbad, a large scale desalination factory is within two years of delivering 50 million gallons of drinking quality tap water from the ocean every day, according to the plant’s developer.  One county to the north, the Orange County Water District is considering committing financial backing and a long-term water purchase agreement to enable a sister plant to be built in Huntington Beach, though the project is not without opposition and has yet to obtain a final permit from the California Coastal Commission.  … ”  Read more from NBC LA here:  Orange County Tries for “Drought-Proof” Desalination Plant
  • Los Angeles to build water wheel:  “The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday gave its approval to build a 70-foot steel water wheel in the Los Angeles River north of downtown as both an art project and practical way to hydrate the area. … ”  Read more from the Daily News here:  Los Angeles Council approves water wheel on L.A. River

In commentary today …

  • Drought busting: Conservation, recycling, new projects:  NRDC’s Steven Fleischli writes: “Even though California received heavy rains in the past week, officials say will still are experiencing an historic drought. We are not out of the woods. Far from it.  According to the California Department of Water Resources, 10 communities have less than 60 days of water, ranchers and farmers across hundreds of thousands of acres are scrambling to find water, and dozens of municipalities have ordered homeowners to reduce their water use by 20 percent or more. … ”  Read more from Capitol Weekly here:  Drought busting: conservation, recycling, new projects
  • Climate analyst clarifies the science behind California’s water woes:  Andrew Revkin writes in the New York Times Opinion Pages:  “There’s no question that residents of California and much of the West face a collision between high water demands driven by growth and outdated policies and a limited and highly variable water supply.  But that reality hasn’t stopped heated arguments from springing up in recent days over the cause or causes of California’s continuing epic drought. Is one of the drivers the growing human influence on the climate? Or is this drought something we’ve seen before, the result of natural variability?  In the wake of an unusual public debate on this issue between President Obama’s science adviser, John Holdren, and Roger Pielke, Jr., a longtime analyst of climate-related disaster losses at the University of Colorado, I received a helpful note from Martin Hoerling, who studies climate extremes for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. … ”  Continue reading at the New York Times here:  A Climate Analyst Clarifies the Science Behind California’s Water Woes
  • The U.S. and Mexico Partner to Save the Colorado River Delta: The Colorado River hasn’t reached it’s own Delta on a regular basis since 1960, but there’s reason for hope, writes Jennifer Pitt in National Geographic’s Water Currents:  ” … Now we are taking a major step to right the wrong that has been done to the Colorado River Delta. For the first time in history, the U.S. and Mexico will send a modest volume of water into the Colorado River Delta in the form of a temporary “pulse flow,” which will mimic the natural spring floods that once nourished the delta. Never before have we deliberately sent water below Morelos Dam, the last dam on the river just south of the U.S.-Mexico border, to benefit the environment. This month, water from the Colorado River will literally pulse through the border as a sign to the rest of the world of what we can accomplish through cooperation between nations. It feels like a triumph of human optimism over acquiescence. … ”  Read more from National Geographic here:  The U.S. and Mexico Partner to Save the Colorado River Delta

weatherPrecipitation watch …

  • From the National Weather Service in Sacramento: Scattered showers are expected over NorCal this afternoon, mostly over the mountains and north of I-80. There is a slight chance for a few thunderstorms as well, mainly north of Sacramento. Sierra passes may see minor snow accumulations. Looking ahead, dry and warm weather is expected Friday and Saturday, followed by another chance of precipitation by late Sunday.
  • Here comes El Nino, say forecasters:  “Federal forecasters predict a warming of the central Pacific Ocean this year that will change weather worldwide. And that’s good news for a weather-weary United States.The warming, called an El Nino, is expected to lead to fewer Atlantic hurricanes and more rain next winter for drought-stricken California and southern states, and even a milder winter for the nation’s frigid northern tier next year, meteorologists say. … ”  Read more here:  Here comes El Nino; good news for US weather woes

Also on the Notebook blog today …

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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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