Daily Digest: Drought draining pocketbooks, drying up wells, and forcing sale of cattle, the insanity of California water policy, and more …

Daily DigestIn California water news today, a thirsty California puts a premium on water; Little help for a million Californians on wells in historic drought; 5 dramatic ways California is tackling drought; California drought: El Niño probability raised to 78 percent for next winter; Water technology conference focuses on drought; Paramount Farms official says drought forcing groundwater regulation, fewer farming acres; Most fruit growers expect to weather drought short term; California rancher: Worst drought in a lifetime forces slaughter, sale of cattle; Drought tech: How solar desalination could help parched farms; AB 1331 advances out of Senate Committee; Water levels dropping, Fresno weans itself from groundwater; Paso Robles groundwater district gets support from state water foundation; and Central Basin appoints previously fired Arnold Alvarez-Glasman as attorney

In the news today …

  • A Thirsty California Puts a Premium on Water:Santa Cruz, California:  The municipal water utility in this city, home to wide beaches, sun-kissed weekend getaways and evocative alternative scholarship, just got tough. Last week it started rationing water – for nonfarmers, the most draconian response to date to California’s debilitating drought. The message to customers: Use more than your allotment, and it will cost you. A lot. Water bills below the allocation run $40 or so. Go above it, and fines pegged to the amount of excess water used will quickly double, triple or quadruple that bill. “We live in a state where water supplies that are there 100 percent of the time, with 100 percent of reliability, don’t exist,” said Toby Goddard, the administrative services manager for the Santa Cruz Water Department. “It would be shortsighted of a utility to sell all it has to you now and not have anything for you a year out.”  … ”  Read more from ND TV here: A Thirsty California Puts a Premium on Water
  • Little help for a million Californians on wells in historic drought: “Michael Holmes got by at his rural home near California’s rugged northern coast on a disability pension and water from a decades-old well — until the well dried up.  Holmes, 65, is among an estimated million Californians who rely on private wells, many now threatened by the state’s historic dry spell and with no direct access to a multi-million dollar state drought relief program.  “When this place was built in the 1950s, the water was three feet below the ground,” Holmes said, pointing a flashlight down the well’s long, empty shaft. “Now, the pump is down 26 feet and we’re still running out.” … ”  Read more from Reuters here:  Little help for a million Californians on wells in historic drought  See also: Drought photo gallery
  • 5 dramatic ways California is tackling drought:  “California’s current drought is not the state’s driest spell on record in terms of total precipitation. If the state feels this drought as a particularly severe one, says Peter Gleick, the blame may fall partly on humans.  “The severity of the drought has been compounded by poor planning, poor management, and population growth putting pressure on already overcommitted resources,” says Gleick, president of the Oakland, California-based Pacific Institute, a nonprofit that conducts interdisciplinary research on water issues. “It is the third year of the drought, and we did not act in the first two years as though anything was abnormal.” … ”  Read more from National Geographic here: 5 Dramatic Ways California Is Tackling Drought
  • California drought: El Niño probability raised to 78 percent for next winter: “Drought-weary California, heading into a long, hot summer of water shortages and extreme fire risk, received some potentially good news Thursday: Federal scientists announced there is now a 4-in-5 chance of El Niño conditions developing by the end of the year.  El Niño events — when warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean at the equator affect the jet stream — can lead to wetter winters in California.  Citing a huge mass of warm water that continues to move east toward South America, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration increased its probability for El Niño developing next winter to 78 percent, up from 66 percent last month, and 36 percent in November. … ”  Read more from the Mercury News here: California drought: El Niño probability raised to 78 percent for next winter
  • Water Technology Conference Focuses On Drought: More than 300 farmers, businessmen, and local and state leaders gathered in Clovis today to talk about drought and how to use water more wisely at the 2014 Water Technology Conference.  “Water is a shared resource for the state and we’ve moved water long distances to meet water needs, but also we’re trying to make sure that locals have a lot of say in their water future,” says David Zoldoske is the director of the International Center for Water Technology at Fresno State that put the event together.  The center hopes the event brings state and local leaders together to solve California’s water issues. … ”  Read more here: In Clovis, Water Technology Conference Focuses On Drought
  • Paramount Farms official says drought forcing groundwater regulation, fewer farming acres:  “A top official with Paramount Farms, the world’s largest grower and processor of almonds and pistachios, said California’s historic drought is forcing two likely outcomes: regulation of ground water and fewer acres being farmed.  Bill Phillimore, executive vice president for the farming company giant, was the keynote speaker at the 2014 Water Technology Conference in Clovis on Thursday. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Paramount leader: Drought forcing groundwater regulations, fewer farming acres
  • Most fruit growers expect to weather drought short term:Despite California’s continuing drought, most grower-shippers of fruit say they’ll make it through using surface water — if they receive any — and groundwater.  The situation varies from water district to water district and from grower to grower, even within the same water district.  Grower-shippers in the Arvin-Edison Water District, for example, will receive 100% of deliveries this season because of groundwater banking started during the state’s last prolonged drought from 1997-2003. … ”  Read more from The Packer here:  Most fruit growers expect to weather drought short term
  • California Rancher: Worst Drought in a Lifetime Forces Slaughter, Sale of Cattle: When it’s over, it’ll rain a sunny day for cattle ranchers from Texas to California seeking a release from the dry, withered grip of persistent drought strangling the nation’s top cattle-producing states.  However, recovery from years of less than substantial rainfall has contributed to a drastic decline in cattle numbers nationwide, which will have long-lasting impacts on the industry, according to cattle ranchers and industry officials. ... ”  Read more from Accu-Weather here: California Rancher: Worst Drought in a Lifetime Forces Slaughter, Sale of Cattle
  • Drought Tech: How Solar Desalination Could Help Parched Farms: Farmers on the western side of the San Joaquin Valley can count on two things: sunshine and water that’s polluted and salty where minerals have built up in the soil. Now a Northern California entrepreneur is using one to clean up the other in the Panoche Water and Drainage District near the little town of Firebaugh, about 50 miles northwest of Fresno. … ”  Read more from KQED here: Drought Tech: How Solar Desalination Could Help Parched Farms
  • AB 1331 Advances Out of Senate Committee: Water bond bill AB 1331 by Assembly Member Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) cleared the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality on Wednesday.  Committee members approved AB 1331 with amendments on a 5-2 vote. The legislation would put a $8 billion bond measure on the November 2014 ballot, replacing the $11.14 bond that’s currently scheduled. … ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here: AB 1331 Advances Out of Senate Committee
  • Water Levels Dropping, Fresno Weans Itself from Groundwater: “In the Great Drought of 2014, aquifers – the saturated soil and rock layers that are California’s largest stock of fresh water – are an object of ardent and exhausting affection.  Farmers love groundwater because recently it has been more reliable than the boom-and-bust river flows that pour off the Sierra Nevada come spring. Policy wonks are infatuated because aquifers are increasingly unreliable. Groundwater levels across the state are at record lows, thanks to decades of ravenous pumping, particularly in drought years. Groundwater reform is a top issue in Sacramento this legislative session. … ”  Read more from Circle of Blue here:  Water Levels Dropping, Fresno Weans Itself from Groundwater
  • Report: Kings ground zero for deepened wells:  Kings County is in the middle of an area with some of the worst groundwater overdraft problems in the state, according to a report from the state Department of Water Resources.  The 51-page report singles out the Kings River and Kaweah River sub-basins as having the greatest number of deepened wells. It lists the two sub-basins as among the highest priority areas for groundwater management.  “We must work together to control groundwater overdraft to avoid impacts such as land subsidence, sea water intrusion and migration of poor quality water,” DWR Director Mark Cowin said in a written statement. … ”  Read more from the Hanford Sentinel here:  Report: Kings ground zero for deepened wells
  • Paso Robles groundwater district gets support from state water foundation: The proposed Paso Robles groundwater district got a boost this week from a state water advisory group that recommended that local communities should have more authority in managing their dwindling groundwater supplies.  Earlier this week, the California Water Foundation released a report to Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration that outlines steps that should be taken for improving groundwater management in the state.  Lester Snow, the foundation’s executive director, said that local water districts are an effective way of managing groundwater. … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here: Paso Robles groundwater district gets support from state water foundation
  • Central Basin appoints previously fired Arnold Alvarez-Glasman as attorney: Controversial attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman, who was fired more than a year ago as the lawyer for Central Basin Municipal Water District, was rehired Thursday on a 3-1 vote of the board of directors as its interim attorney.  Director James Roybal was the lone dissenting vote. Director Leticia Vasquez was absent because she’s attending the Association of California Water Agencies conference in Monterey. … ”  Read more from the Long Beach Press Telegram here:  Central Basin appoints previously fired Arnold Alvarez-Glasman as attorney

In commentary today …

  • Column: The insanity of California water policy:  “… But today, California has released most of the SWP water, and is tearing down many of the dams in the water storage system.  California law allows the SWP to use water to “improve water quality in the Delta,” and “enhance fish and wildlife.” So over the past five years, California decided to release into the ocean 3 million acre-feet of fresh water (that’s 978 billion gallons) originally slated for farms in the Central Valley to supposedly benefit a baitfish called the delta smelt... ”  Read more from The Star Exponent here:  The insanity of California water policy
  • Tear down deadbeat dams, says Yvon Chiounard, founder of Patagonia:Of the more than 80,000 dams listed by the federal government, more than 26,000 pose high or significant safety hazards. Many no longer serve any real purpose. All have limited life spans. Only about 1,750 produce hydropower, according to the National Hydropower Association.  In many cases, the benefits that dams have historically provided — for water use, flood control and electricity — can now be met more effectively without continuing to choke entire watersheds. … ”  Continue reading at the New York Times here: Tear Down ‘Deadbeat’ Dams

weatherPrecipitation watch …

  • From the National Weather Service:Light showers linger along the Western Sierra slopes this morning and will dissipate later today. Daytime highs will be a little below normal today with valley highs in the mid to upper 70s. Showers in the mountains and northern Sacramento valley possible again Saturday between noon-8 pm with breezy north winds. Sunday starts the big warm up which will continue through much of next week.”

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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