Daily Digest: Water bonds advance, Clean water advocates call proposed recycled water rules ‘permissive” and wildfires on the rise, plus how to reconcile a drought with 124 desert golf courses

Delta Babel Slough #In California water news today, water storage bond clears committee; Three Water Bond Bills Advance in Assembly; SB 1250 Put Over Until May 13; Clean Water Advocates Call Proposed Recycled Water Rules ‘Permissive’; How to reconcile a drought with 124 desert golf courses; Farmers forecast less rice and higher prices due to drought; Groundwater Mining in California Creates Farming Hub but Land Sinks by Feet; Israel’s Solution to America’s Droughts: Seawater; Wildfires in the Western U.S. Are on the Rise, Posing Threats to Drinking Water; Dozens of extra firefighters already busy in Northern California, and more news and commentary …

In the news today …

  • Water storage bond clears committee:  A $9.25 billion state water bond that would fund two water storage projects — one in Colusa County — moved out of an Assembly committee on Tuesday.  The Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee voted 11-1 to move the Clean, Safe, Reliable Water Supply Act of 2014 (AB 2686) on to the Appropriations Committee. That was a margin of approval that bill authors said bodes well for future support.”We have a ways to go, but of all the water bonds, this one probably has the best chance to end up on the governor’s desk,” said Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Loma Rica, a co-author. “It will be an uphill fight for any bond, but we have a pretty good bipartisan coalition on this — more than any other bill.” … ”  Read more from the Appeal-Democrat here:  Water storage bond clears committee
  • Three Water Bond Bills Advance in Assembly; SB 1250 Put Over Until May 13: “ACWA-supported AB 2686 is among three water bond bills to clear the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee on Tuesday. The measures are now headed to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for consideration.  AB 2686 by Assembly Member Henry Perea (D-Fresno) would replace the $11.14 billion water bond currently on the November 2014 ballot with a new measure authorizing more than $9 billion, including $3 billion continuously appropriated for water storage; $2.25 billion for Delta sustainability; $1.5 billion for protecting rivers, lakes, streams, coastal waters and watersheds; $1.5 billion for regional water management projects; $1 billion for clean and safe drinking water; and separate chapters for water recycling and groundwater. ... ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here:  Three Water Bond Bills Advance in Assembly; SB 1250 Put Over Until May 13
  • More on the water bonds:  Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Alert sums it up here:  California water bond fight in flux
  • Clean Water Advocates Call Proposed Recycled Water Rules ‘Permissive’: “When California Governor Jerry Brown first declared a drought emergency at the beginning of the year, the California State Water Resources Control Board started drafting a new process so more household wastewater can be recycled for irrigation. Scott Couch is with the water quality division at the State Water Board. “It is a valuable resource,” Couch says. He says the new permit is a blueprint regional water managers can use to speed up approvals for reclaimed water – what is now an involved process.  “We encourage recycled water used for beneficial use and it aids in conservation of potable water supplies.”  … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here: Clean Water Advocates Call Proposed Recycled Water Rules ‘Permissive’
  • How to reconcile a drought with 124 desert golf courses:  “The part of the Coachella Valley often referred to as the Palm Springs area, east of Los Angeles, is carpeted in green, 124 irrigated golf courses, many with lakes, in an otherwise parched landscape.  It is said to be the greatest concentration of golf courses in the world, situated in a desert, in a state besieged by what the National Weather Service describes as an exceptional drought, now in its third year. How does this square?  “The drought has almost no impact on the Coachella Valley,” Craig Kessler, director of governmental affairs for the Southern California Golf Association. “It doesn’t rain here anyway.” ... ”  Read more from Golf Digest here:   California: How to reconcile a drought with 124 desert golf courses
  • Farmers forecast less rice and higher prices due to drought:  “At Montna Farms near Yuba City, huge drag scrapers level a rice field in preparation for planting.  The rice grown in the Sacramento Valley is primarily medium grain rice. Nicole Van Vleck with Montna Farms says the high gluten sticky rice is perfect for sushi.  “If you’re eating sushi rice in New York, or in Florida or San Francisco you’re most likely undoubtedly going to be eating California rice, which we refer to as Calrose,” says Van Vleck.  … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here: Farmers Forecasting Less Rice, Higher Prices Because of Drought
  • Groundwater Mining in California Creates Farming Hub but Land Sinks by Feet:   “Mining groundwater for agricultural use in the San Joaquin Valley has not only created one of the most productive agricultural regions in the United States, but it has also simultaneously altered the surface of the land causing noticeable subsidence or sinking in the region, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.  “The maximum subsidence, near Mendota, was more than 28 feet,” USGS reported, citing a 1970 comprehensive survey.  Overall subsidence has slowed since the 1970s due to reductions in the pumping and recovery of groundwater, as well as the use of other types of surface water irrigation. … ”  Read more from Accu-Weather here: Groundwater Mining in California Creates Farming Hub but Land Sinks by Feet
  • Israel’s Solution to America’s Droughts: Seawater:  “California, I hear, has a big water problem,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently said on Bloomberg Television. “How come we don’t have a water problem? Because we use technology to solve it.”  The technology is Israeli’s four seawater desalination plants. The Middle Eastern nation, which sits on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, is 60 percent desert and has been struggling with drought for most of its existence. But with a fifth desalination plant set to open this year, Israel doesn’t have a water problem anymore. That’s because once the new plant comes online, more than 80 percent of Israel’s water will come from desalination. … ”  Read more from Emergency Management here:  Israel’s Solution to America’s Droughts: Seawater
  • Wildfires in the Western U.S. Are on the Rise, Posing Threats to Drinking Water: With new research showing that fires in the western United States are getting larger and more frequent, water managers need to mitigate the impacts of fire in their source watersheds, as well as prepare for the consequences.  In a study published online in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, Philip E. Dennison of the University of Utah and colleagues analyzed a database of large wildfires (those greater than 1,000 acres, or 405 hectares) in the western United States over the period 1984-2011 and found a significant increase in the number of large fires and/or the area covered by such fires.  Specifically, in the region stretching from Nebraska to California, the number of large wildfires increased by a rate of seven per year over the 28 years of study, and the total area burned by these fires increased at a rate of nearly 90,000 acres a year – an area the size of Las Vegas. ... ”  Read more from National Geographic here: Wildfires in the Western U.S. Are on the Rise, Posing Threats to Drinking Water
  • Dozens of extra firefighters already busy in Northern California:  “Cal Fire this week added firefighters to the state payroll in preparation for an early fire season and Tuesday they were already putting out flames with a small blaze in the hills above Cazadero and flames burning several acres and a building near Kelseyville.  Two of the three engines that went to the Cazadero fire on Bohan-Dillon Road and three of the four engines that went to Cole Creek Road in Lake County all were staffed as of Monday, said Cal Fire Capt. Amy Head.  “This is definitely a sign of what the season could bring us,” Head said of the April fire activity. “We’re just trying to be as prepared as we can.” ... ”  Read more from the Press Democrat here: Dozens of extra state firefighters already busy in northern California counties
  • Yuba City looks to store river water:  “As the third straight dry year for California continues into the summer, much has been made of the state’s above-ground storage, or lack thereof.  But to combat future droughts, Yuba City is one of only a handful of California communities looking into storing water not above ground, but beneath it.  The concept is simple — take water from the Feather River during times of high winter flow and store it in the ground to be used in the summer, when Feather River allocations to the city could be curtailed. … ”  Read more from the Appeal-Democrat here:  Yuba City looks at storing river water
  • Jump in well permits in Stanislaus County triggers calls for moratorium:  Stanislaus County’s groundwater drilling boom continues.  Five times more new irrigation wells have been approved since January than were issued during the same four months last year, drilling permit data obtained by The Modesto Bee show.  At least 170 new agricultural wells were authorized from Jan. 1 through April 23 this year, compared with only 34 approved during that period in 2013. ... ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Jump in well permits in Stanislaus County triggers calls for moratorium
  • Benicia council passes resolution urging residents to cut water use:   The City Council on Tuesday night unanimously urged residents to cut water use by 20 percent as the city launches a public outreach campaign and considers tougher measures to achieve conservation goals.  The approved resolution formalized the council’s call for voluntary conservation in February as California faces one of its most severe droughts on record.  Officials who operate the State Water Project, which typically delivers 85 percent of Benicia’s water supply, announced in January that zero supply would be provided this year. ... ”  Read more from the Times Herald here:   Benicia council passes resolution urging residents to cut water use
  • Livermore approves emergency water conservation rates to address drought: Residents who use city water and don’t cut back on consumption by at least 30 percent will pay more on their bills under new emergency rates taking effect Tuesday.  Livermore became the East Bay’s first city to raise water rates in response to ongoing drought conditions and shortages when the City Council voted unanimously Monday to enact the third stage of the city’s conservation plan.  City officials said the move — implemented in three tiers and aimed primarily at higher-volume users — comes not as a punitive measure, but as a motivator to get residents to conserve. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Livermore approves emergency water conservation rates to address drought
  • Water conservation a priority for Solano County:  “Even with recent rains in the region, Solano County continues to take steps to conserve water.  After Gov. Jerry Brown declared the state’s drought situation state of emergency, Solano County took it upon itself to voluntarily reduce water by 20 percent.  Even though Solano isn’t in a desperate situation as some areas in the state, the effort to conserve continues even when it’s not a critical need, according to Perry Sauro, facilities operation manager in the General Services Department.  “We do our best to save water all the time,” he said. … ”  Read more from the Reporter here:  Water conservation a priority in Solano County
  • “Like the bald man with a full beard, water production in California is good, but we have a problem when it comes to distribution”:  “Larry Dick, a member of both the Orange County Water District board and the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, speaks with Greening of the Great Lakes host, Kirk Heinze, about water allocation and usage efficiency in Southern California. …  “The problem in California is that the majority of the people reside south of Santa Barbara, and the majority of the water falls north of Santa Barbara,” Dick says. “Our job is to see what we can do about answering the thirst of the 19 million people in the metropolitan service area down south.” ... ”  Read more from MLive here: Conservation and environmentally friendly infrastructure improvements key to Southern California’s water future

In commentary today …

  • California should rethink it’s water management practices, says Kathryn Phillips of the Sierra Club:  ” … If climate scientists’ predictions continue to come true, communities throughout the state must find a way to generate water locally on a scale that has not been necessary since the State Water Project came online. Moving water long distances to quench the thirst of distant communities will not be a reliable option in the future. Instead, every corner of this state must take aggressive steps toward regional resilience and water self-sufficiency.  The intensity of this year’s drought is a reality check that has left policy makers scrambling, but it should not have come as a surprise. We have watched water reserves drop steadily in recent years. … ”  Continue reading at the Riverside Press-Enterprise here:  OPINION: California should rethink water management practices
  • Lois Henry: Epic drought calls for epic answers: Backward flow:  “I’m talking about water in the California Aqueduct, which was specifically built to bring water from the north to the south.  But if flows out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are reduced to a trickle, local agricultural water districts are preparing to move banked groundwater from Kern County back up the system to reach growers in the Lost Hills, Berrenda Mesa, Belridge and Dudley Ridge districts.  That’s a 47-mile trek in the opposite direction.  While the physical aspects of this plan — moving water backward in the aqueduct — seem difficult, it’s actually the logistics that are more daunting. … ”  Read more from Lois Henry at the Bakersfield Californian here:  Lois Henry: Epic drought calls for epic answers: Backward flow

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.

Photo credit:  Babel Slough, Delta, by Maven … who is posting pics from recent travels through the Delta, just because I can … 🙂

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