Daily Digest: Ag groups worry about water rights as Californians appear ready to spend big on drought, State Water Board on webcast today, and more …

Daily DigestIn California water news today, water wars take a fearful turn as ag groups worry water rights could be suspended; Californians appear ready to support big spending in response to drought; Drinking water reorganization and transfer plan released; No free pass for tunnel project tests; State aims to ease water storage efforts; community input, drought conditions spur policy change; North Central Valley farmers may sue for more water; City of Merced tightens water usage rules; Solar desalination shows promise

On webcast and conference call today …

  • The State Water Resources Control Board will meet this morning beginning at 9AM.  On the agenda, consideration of a resolution on financial incentives for recycled water projects, an  an update on the drought and the transfer of the Drinking Water Program.  Click here for the agendaClick here for the webcast.
  • California’s Drought: Lessons from Australia’s Biggest Dry:   Join Circle of Blue journalists and California and Australia water experts Tuesday, March 18 at 10 am for an interactive conference call.  Add your voice: Bring your perspectives, ideas, expertise, and be ready to participate in this special MaestroConference call.  Take part and help sort out the seminal trends that are shaping water’s future, from Los Angeles to Melbourne.   Click here to register.

In the news today …

  • Water wars take a fearful turn as ag groups worry water rights could be suspended:  “Is this spigot for agricultural water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta going to be turned off until 2015? That’s what anxious agricultural leaders in Kings County and up and down the Central Valley are wondering as the state considers unprecedented measures to conserve what little water is available for health and safety.  At issue is something called a Temporary Urgency Change Petition issued Jan. 31 by the State Water Resources Control Board to reduce pumping from the delta down to 1,500 cubic feet per second — a level deemed necessary to meet the minimum health and safety needs of municipal and industrial users who rely solely on delta exports. … ”  Read more from the Hanford Sentinel here:  Water wars take fearful turn
  • Californians appear ready to support big spending in response to drought:  “State legislators and Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, are considering nearly a dozen proposals to spend $7 billion to $9 billion in taxpayer-backed bonds to produce, transport, and store adequate supplies of fresh water. In contrast to the $2 billion in disaster relief aid, the proposals echoing in the labyrinthine halls of California’s Capitol offer something rarer: a chance not to react but to prepare.  Among the steps that lawmakers are vigorously debating are developing new practices and equipment to clean contaminated groundwater for use as drinking water, building new wastewater recycling plants that can recharge underground reservoirs, fixing leaks in canals and community water systems, and even building new dams and surface reservoirs. … ”  Read more from the Circle of Blue here:  Californians, In a Departure, Appear Ready to Support Big Water Spending to Respond to Drought
  • Hatcheries and drought: Where will the fish go?  “There are over 1.5 million fish at the San Joaquin Fish Hatchery at the base of Friant Dam, which holds back Millerton Lake on the border of Fresno and Madera Counties.  Greg Paape runs the hatchery for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Today he’s inspecting the health of rainbow trout that he and his team have watched grow from eggs to four to six pounders. … ”  Read more from Valley Public Radio here:  Voices Of The Drought: Hatcheries, Where Will The Fish Go?
  • Drinking water reorganization and transfer plan released:  “The California Secretary for Environmental Protection and the Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency on March 14 released the drinking water reorganization transition plan which outlines the proposed transfer of the Drinking Water Program from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board).  ... ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here:  Agency Secretaries Release Drinking Water Reorganization Transition Plan
  • No free pass for tunnel project tests: California must buy land before conducting suitability tests for a massive tunnel project that will divert water south to thirsty farms and residents, a state appeals court ruled. The Department of Water Resources wants to build two 30-mile tunnels to send fresh water under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to Central and Southern California. Before work on the $25 billion project can start, however, the state needs to run geological and environmental suitability tests on hundreds of properties to determine the exact route for the tunnels.  But landowners balked when the department said it planned to do the tests without buying the properties first. The state then petitioned a San Joaquin County Superior Court for entrance to the affected properties to make the precondemnation studies. ... ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here:  No Free Pass for Water Tunnel Project Tests
  • State aims to ease water storage efforts; community input, drought conditions spur policy change:  In an effort to promote water conservation during the state’s ongoing drought, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife joined the State Water Resources Control Board in a decision Monday to speed the approval of domestic water storage tank installations.  Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Jordan Traverso said that the decision is one of many “necessary steps to conserve water and help fish during an unprecedented drought.” ... ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here:  State aims to ease water storage efforts; community input, drought conditions spur policy change
  • North Central Valley farmers may sue for more water: Farmers in the northern Central Valley said Monday they may sue the federal government for failing to provide the minimum amount of water they said a 50-year-old contract requires.  The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced last month it planned to provide farmers along the Sacramento River with 40 percent of the water they normally receive.  “It came as a surprise,” said Larry Maben, who owns an 800-acre rice farm near Willows. … ”  Read more from KCRA Channel 3 here: North Valley farmers may sue for more water
  • Ag conservation in Salinas varies:  “Every last drop of water is precious in California and here on the Central Coast, most of it goes to our multi-billion dollar agriculture industry.  But on Monday, we checked out one area some of you said may not be using water wisely.  During this devastating drought, we’re taking a close look at how communities are trying to conserve, including in our fields.  We found out why some are wondering if growers need to conserve more water. … ”  Read more from KION here:  Water conservation on ag fields varies in Salinas Valley
  • City of Merced tightens water usage rules:  “In response to the driest year on record in California, Merced City Council voted Monday to move forward with tightening water restrictions.  The unanimous vote came after a study session examining recommendations from the city’s water officials as well as council members. … ”  Read more from the City of Merced here: Merced City Council moves ahead on tightening water usage rules
  • Solar desalination shows promise:  “Quietly whirring away in a dusty field in the Central Valley is a shiny solar energy machine that may someday solve many of California’s water problems.  It’s called the WaterFX solar thermal desalination plant, and it has been turning salty, contaminated irrigation runoff into ultra-pure liquid for nearly a year for the Panoche Water and Drainage District. It’s the only solar-driven desalination plant of its kind in the country. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  California drought: Solar desalination plant shows promise

Precipitation watch …

  • Nada.  Just wind.

Also on Maven’s Notebook 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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