Daily Digest, Mother’s Day edition: State plunges ahead to build twin tunnels, parched state braces for fire season, medical marijuana grows sucking watersheds dry, start ups aim to solve water woes, and more …

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In California water news this weekend, State plunges ahead to build twin tunnels; Despite extreme drought, water restrictions rare; California drought: Parched state braces for fire season; Startups aim to solve California water woes; California drought afflicts new almond farmers; Study shows medical marijuana grows drying local watersheds; Drought’s latest effect? Sacramento Valley farmers fallow rice land; Delta Independent Science Board tour, part 2; Solano officials to review the twin tunnels plan; Drought hits California’s Capitol Park; On the Central Coast, some blame marijuana farmers for water thefts; Water woes and advice shared with Stanislaus County planners and officials; Riverside County: Pipeline leak prompts emergency water restrictions; and Judge rejects environmental challenges to Mojave groundwater project, plus commentaries on groundwater, dams, and the proposed new CWA rule

In the news this weekend …

  • State plunges ahead to build twin tunnels: “The California Department of Water Resources is plunging ahead with setting up a design and construction office to oversee building two massive twin water tunnels to suck fresh water from the Sacramento River before it can flow naturally into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and divert it to the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.  The decision is revealed in a memo to DWR employees from department Director Mark Cowin, a copy of which was obtained by CVBT. … ”  Read more from the Central Valley Business Times here: State plunges ahead to build twin tunnels
  • Despite extreme drought, water restrictions rare:  “Even before the White House sounded the alarm on climate change this week, scientists reported that most of California is experiencing an extreme or even “exceptional” state of drought. That’s the highest designation offered by the federal government. That means communities up and down the state must be cracking down on water wasters, right? Well, not exactly.”  More from the California Report here:  Despite extreme drought, water restrictions rare
  • California drought: Parched state braces for fire season: “Al Gray got an unexpected knock on his door this week.  Two state fire inspectors wanted to talk to him about the height of the grass and the size of the trees on his property just outside Napa. While such fire-safety visits are not uncommon in rural areas, the number taking place this year – and how early in the spring they’re occurring – is unprecedented.  As part of a statewide ramping up of fire suppression, hundreds of inspectors are fanning out to make sure homeowners like Gray are preparing for a potentially historic season of flames. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: California drought: Parched state braces for fire season   See also this AP story from The Republic: As fire season opens in Northern California, officials urge homeowners to be ready for worst
  • Startups aim to solve California water woes:  “California’s drought is far from over — but high-tech companies are stepping in to help.  The state is facing its driest year in decades, following an unusually rain-free winter. California’s central valley, the fruit and nut basket of the world, is suffering the consequences. In response, startups are offering solutions such as drones, aerial imagery and data analytics to help deliver water to only the parts of farmers’ fields that need it. ... ”  Read more from Mashable here:  Startups Aim to Solve California’s Water Woes
  • California drought afflicts new almond farmers: Reporting from Patterson — This town calls itself the “Apricot Capital of the World,” but the slogan is out of date. Nowadays, it’s almond orchards that dominate the landscape in this part of Stanislaus County, along with much of the rest of the San Joaquin Valley.  Almonds have become California’s miracle food. Growing consumer demand has driven up prices and created a profitable $4 billion-a-year crop. In dollar terms, almonds are California’s leading agricultural export, leaving the state’s exalted wineries in the dust. So farmers have planted hundreds of thousands of acres of new trees in the past 20 years.  But drought has brought big problems to the almond industry, perhaps more than any other segment of California agriculture. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  California drought afflicts new almond farmers
  • Study shows medical marijuana grows drying local watersheds:  “While illegal marijuana grows often catch the blame for causing environmental damage, results from a four-year state study show that outdoor medical marijuana grows are diverting enough water to suck local watersheds dry.  The study examined flow rates and the number of medical marijuana grows in three Humboldt County watersheds — Salmon Creek and northern and southern Redwood Creek — and Outlet Creek in Mendocino County from 2009 to 2012. … ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Herald here: Study shows medical marijuana grows drying local watersheds

  • Drought’s latest effect? Sacramento Valley farmers fallow rice land:  A number is written in red marker on a white board in Ed Sills’ office in Pleasant Grove. It marks the day, May 5, when the last rain fell on the 3,000 acres where Sills grows organic rice, beans and popcorn.  In a normal year, Sills gets allocated 2 acre-feet of water per acre from the South Sutter Water District. This year he is getting half that. He has responded by switching 190 acres of his rice land to popcorn and dry beans, which will require less water.  “I’ve increased my popcorn growing by 30 percent,” he said. ... ”  Read from the Merced Sun-Star here: Drought’s latest effect? Sacramento Valley farmers fallow rice land
  • Delta Independent Science Board tour, part 2:  “This is the second part of the Delta Independent Science Board’s tour of the South Delta. In the prior article, places visited included the Port of Stockton, Lathrop’s River Islands development and the Head of Old River Temporary Fish Barrier. This report will include Paradise Cut, Clifton Court Forebay and UC Davis Fish Conservation and Culture Lab.  Paradise Cut earns its name from being a beautiful slough that acts as a spillway for the San Joaquin River, across the freeway from the River Islands development near Lathrop. ... ”  Continue reading at the River News-Herald here:  Delta Independent Science Board tour, part 2
  • Solano officials to review the twin tunnels plan:  “A water plan proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown will significantly impact agriculture in Solano County, county officials say.  Tuesday before the Solano County Board of Supervisors, staff will continue its presentation of issues related to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and related Environmental Impact Report/Statement. The presentation will focus on governance of the BDCP, continued discussion of environmental and economic impacts to agriculture as well as impacts to the Suisun Marsh. … ”  Read more from the Times Herald here:  Solano officials to review the twin tunnels plan
  • Drought hits California’s Capitol Park:The lush grass that normally carpets downtown Sacramento’s Capitol Park is turning into a blotchy green-and-brown rug this spring because state officials have decided not to water the lawn.  “What we’re trying to do is set an example in our front yard for people to follow in their front yards,” said Brian Ferguson, spokesman for the Department of General Services. The department handles grounds maintenance for the park and other state-owned properties. ... ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Drought hits California’s Capitol Park
  • On the Central Coast, some blame marijuana farmers for water thefts: “During California’s deepening drought, water has seemed to disappear from the sky. It now seems to be disappearing from local storage tanks, too.  In recent months, Summit Road-area neighbors have noticed valuable stores of water depleting faster than normal. Whether due to drought or thieves is the subject of neighborhood conjecture, but there is anecdotal evidence — misplaced hoses or ajar tank lids — suggesting skullduggery is afoot.  Mary Madden, who owns Summit Veterinary Hospital and Kennels with husband Anthony, said she knew something was amiss when her tank-replenishing well failed last Labor Day, forcing her to truck in water. … ”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel here: Water: Precious enough to steal?
  • Water woes and advice shared with Stanislaus County planners and officials:  More than 75 planning commissioners and officials from throughout Stanislaus County spent Saturday morning learning about the water issues facing their communities.  “The Coming Age of Water Supply” workshop painted a sometimes bleak picture of problems city water systems must overcome to continue providing Stanislaus residents with enough safe, reliable and affordable water.  Everyone in Stanislaus now drinks groundwater, but cities need to diversify their water supplies, advised Nick Pinhey, Modesto’s former public works director who now teaches at California State University, Stanislaus. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Water woes and advice shared with Oakdale leaders
  • Riverside County: Pipeline leak prompts emergency water restrictions: “A growing and potentially dangerous leak on a high-pressure pipeline of the State Water Project prompted an emergency, 52-hour ban on outdoor irrigation across a wide swath of western Riverside County on Friday.  To reduce pressure on the system while repairs are made, Metropolitan Water District had to shut down its Henry J. Mills treatment plant in Riverside, spokesman Bob Muir said. ... ”  Read more from the Riverside Press-Enterprise here: RIVERSIDE COUNTY: Pipeline leak prompts emergency water restrictions
  • Judge rejects environmental challenges to Mojave groundwater project: “In a one-page ruling, an Orange County Superior Court judge last week swept aside environmental challenges to Cadiz Inc.’s plans to pump groundwater from beneath the Mojave Desert and sell it to Southern California suburbs.  The May 1 decision by Judge Gail Andler cleared one set of obstacles to the controversial project. “We’re grateful for that result,” Cadiz Chief Executive Scott Slater said. “We’re going to keep our head down and keep going about things the right way.”  But opponents vowed to appeal the ruling, and Cadiz still has several other hoops to jump through. … ”  Read more from the Los Angeles Times here: Judge rejects environmental challenges to Mojave groundwater project

In commentary this weekend …

  • State needs to monitor use of underground water, says the San Francisco Chronicle:The change is noticeable to anyone who has driven California’s Central Valley over the past decade. Neat row crops of tomatoes, sunflowers and cotton and wide fields of alfalfa are giving way to almond and pistachio orchards and vineyards. It’s a straightforward tale of economics – nuts and grapes produce higher profits than hay. But these permanent crops are much more dependent on groundwater. To find out how this story of a changing landscape might play out in California’s future, we need to look deeper. We need to go underground. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: State needs to monitor use of underground water
  • Don’t build dams; stop sending water to poisoned land, says Nick Di Croce with the Environmental Water Caucus:  He says increasing water storage is not the answer:  “There is a less risky and less expensive way of dealing with the fact that California promises more water than is normally available –retiring much of the selenium, boron, mercury and arsenic contaminated farmland in parts of the south Valley and west side currently served by the Federal Central Valley Project.  Retiring those lands would bring two benefits: freeing up a significant amount of water that could be put to better use, and reducing the amount of highly polluted agricultural waste that now finds its way back to the San Joaquin River and, ultimately, the Delta. ... ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Don’t build dams; stop sending water to poisoned land
  • Commentary: Farmers, ranchers will urge agencies to ‘ditch the rule’:  “There seems to be a never-ending list of government proposals that would make routine agricultural practices difficult or impossible to perform—and the latest from two federal agencies could bring a raft of new requirements on California family farmers and ranchers.  On April 21, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a proposed rule that would redefine and expand the scope of waters protected under the federal Clean Water Act. If EPA and the Corps finalize this proposed rule, virtually every area of ground that gets wet or has flow during rainfall could be regulated. Here’s how: … ”  Continue reading at the California Farm Bureau Federation here: Commentary: Farmers, ranchers will urge agencies to ‘ditch the rule’

Check out the most popular posts and out-clicks for last week …

Also on Maven’s Notebook this weekend …

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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:  Princess Hanako rose by flickr photographer T. Kiya.

Maven’s Notebook
where California water news never goes home for the weekend

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