Daily Digest: “Exceptional drought” expands to more than half of California while wildfires continue to spread in tinder-dry Sierra, drought dredges up odd discoveries, and more news and commentary

Daily DigestIn California water news today, “Exceptional drought” expands to more than half of California while wildfires continue to spread in tinder-dry Sierra, Drought may mean we have to migrate people says academic climate expert, drought dredges up odd discoveries, work continues on federal drought relief legislation, and report says world faces water crises by 2040, plus Mark Cowin on the BDCP and Dan Nelson on water storage and plenty more news and commentary

In the news today …

  • “Exceptional” Drought Expands to More Than Half of California:  Exceptional drought conditions expanded this week to include more than half of California, marking a significant increase over just one week for a state in the middle of a third-consecutive dry year.  The most severe drought rating expanded to more than 58 percent of California, a 22 percent increase over last week’s U.S. Drought Monitor report. At the start of the year, no part of the state was under the “exceptional” category. But that figure increased steadily after the state completed its warmest and third-driest winter on record. … ”  Read more from NBC here: “Exceptional” Drought Expands to More Than Half of California  See also:  California breaks drought record as 58% of state hits driest level, from the Los Angeles Times
  • Wildfires continue to spread in tinder-dry Sierra:  “Two large wildfires in the Sierra — the El Portal fire threatening a Yosemite community, and the French fire mounting in the Sierra National Forest — continue to spread, scorching thousands of dry, mountainous acres.  As of Wednesday night, the El Portal fire had burned at least 3,900 acres with 34% containment. As of 7:30 a.m. Thursday, the French fire had burned at least 7,024 acres with 10% containment. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Wildfires continue to spread in tinder-dry Sierra
  • California drought: “May have to migrate people”:  “It’s going from worse to worst each week in California.  Suffering in its third year of drought, more than 58 percent of the state is currently in “exceptional drought” stage, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map. That marks a huge jump from just seven days ago, when about 36 percent of the state was categorized that way.  Exceptional drought, the most extreme category, indicates widespread crop and pasture losses and shortages of water in reservoirs, streams and wells. ... ”  Read more from CNBC here: California drought: ‘May have to migrate people’
  • Drought dredges up odd discoveries:  From NBC News:
  • Work Continues on Federal Drought Relief Legislation: “Members of Congress continue to work on merging competing pieces of drought relief legislation passed in the House and Senate earlier this year. … ”  Read more from ACWA Water News here: Work Continues on Federal Drought Relief Legislation
  • $11 million deal struck to conserve Colorado River Basin:  “Water providers from four western states and the federal government announced an $11 million agreement Thursday to fund projects meant to counteract critically low water levels in the Colorado River basin, which supplies water to about 40 million people in seven states.  The Interior Department said Thursday that local water providers in Arizona, California, Nevada and Colorado will take part in the deal. ... ”  Read more from the AP here:  $11 million deal struck to conserve Colorado River Basin
  • Report: World faces water crises by 2040:  “The world will face “insurmountable” water crises in less than three decades, researchers said Tuesday, if it does not move away from water-intensive power production.  A clash of competing necessities — drinking water and energy demand — will cause widespread drought unless action is taken soon, researchers from Denmark’s Aarhus University, Vermont Law School and the CNA Corporation, a nonprofit research and analysis organization, said in the reports.  “It’s a very important issue,” said lead study author Paul Faeth, Director of Energy, Water, & Climate at CNA Corporation. “Water used to cool power plants is the largest source of water withdrawals in the United States,” said Faeth in a press release on two new reports released Tuesday.  … ”  Read more from Al Jazeera America here: Report: World faces water crises by 2040

In regional news today …

  • Feds add north state to ‘exceptional’ drought classification: “The federal government’s weekly report on drought conditions released Thursday showed things in California have gone from bad to worse.  More than 58 percent of the state is now considered to be in an “exceptional” drought, the worst ranking in the weekly Drought Monitor prepared by the National Drought Mitigation Center. ... ”  Read more from the Oroville Mercury-Register here: Feds add north state to ‘exceptional’ drought classification
  • Yuba County: National Weather Service’s warning of dam failure disputed:  “The National Weather Service issued a flood watch advisory on Thursday about a dam’s potential imminent failure, but Yuba County Undersheriff Jerry Read called the report misleading.  The private, earthen dam along Little Dry Creek in front of a residential pond is deteriorating, Read said, but officials don’t believe it will break in the near future. ... ”  Read more from the Appeal-Democrat here: Weather Service’s warning of dam failure disputed
  • Calaveras County Supervisors still say Moke should be Wild and Scenic; Edson only opposing vote:Calaveras County supervisors this week discussed the fate of the Mokelumne River for the second time in six months and came to the same conclusion they did the first time: that they support protecting the river by having the state government designate it as “wild and scenic.”  This time, however, the vote was not unanimous. ... ”  Read more from the Calaveras Enterprise here: Supes still say Moke should be Wild and Scenic Edson only opposing vote
  • Woodland:  Geese fight for survival as drought dries up their home:  “A small flock of domestic geese is fighting for survival in an old retention basin along Interstate 5 north of Woodland.  Three years of drought have left the geese clustered around a small bog of drying mud on the south side of the basin, put in when Interstate 5 was being built in the early 1970s.  “They’re gonna be dead. It’s what, 105 today?” Katrina Lane said as she watched 26 geese clustered around the pond on Thursday evening. ... ”  Read more from News 10 here:  Geese fight for survival as drought dries up their home
  • Retail operation at Drakes Bay closes:  “It looked and sounded like business as usual a few days ago at Drakes Bay Oyster Company on Drakes Estero on the Point Reyes Peninsula.  Seventy or more people were crowded around the oyster farm’s eight picnic tables, shucking oysters and barbecuing them on portable grills, containers of butter and garlic, pesto sauce and mignonette close at hand.  “What I prefer about this place,” said Jim Carriere, “is the oysters are saltier. Because right here on Drakes Estero you’re that much closer to the ocean.” … ”  Read more from KQED here: Retail Operations Close at Drakes Bay Oyster Company
  • Palo Alto: New water use restrictions on the way:The Palo Alto City Council is poised Monday to enact water-use restrictions to comply with a new drought-related mandate.  At its July 15 meeting, the State Water Resources Control Board approved emergency regulations to ensure that water agencies, their customers and residents increase conservation in urban settings, with a specific emphasis on outdoor irrigation, according to a city staff report. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Palo Alto: New water use restrictions on the way
  • Federal agency determines Merced County groundwater sale has no significant impact: “The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Thursday approved the environmental report for a multimillion-dollar proposal to allow the transfer and sale of Merced County groundwater to buyers in Stanislaus County.  The federal agency issued a “Finding of No Significant Impact” report, which occurs when an environmental analysis determines that a project has no major impacts on the quality of the environment. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Federal agency determines Merced County groundwater sale has no significant impact
  • Fresno’s stricter twice-weekly watering rules begin on Friday:  “Fresno city officials said July 22 that, effective Friday, residents may water two days a week rather than the current three. The new rules are applicable to everyone from homeowners and schools to businesses and government. ... :  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Fresno’s stricter, twice-a-week watering rules begin Friday
  • Fresno City Council repeals water rate increase:  “The Fresno City Council has decided to go back to square one on water rates, sent there by an embarrassing kick from Doug Vagim.  The council on Thursday voted to repeal the same steep rate hikes it had approved with such grand hopes a year ago, deciding it wasn’t worth defending them in a grueling referendum campaign. ... ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Fresno council repeals water rate increases, avoids ballot fight
  • Wells in Tulare County going dry: For Ben and Lazara Luengas, their latest water problems began about seven weeks ago.  Lazara — or “Lala” to her friends — had just washed four loads of laundry without any problems, but then her husband heard that the well pump next to their north Tulare County home of 40 years didn’t sound right.  A check of the pump revealed that it was no longer drawing water from the private well under the property. ... ”  Read more from the Visalia Times-Delta here:  Wells in Tulare County going dry
  • San Benito County: Judge halts exploratory wells near Pinnacles: A Monterey County Superior Court judge has issued a preliminary ruling that San Benito County unlawfully approved an oil-development project near Pinnacles National Park that could result in hundreds of wells being drilled in important agricultural and wildlife habitat in the Salinas Valley watershed. ... ”  Read more from the Salinas Californian here: Judge halts exploratory wells near Pinnacles
  • San Luis Obispo: Group proposes plan to refill evaporating Atascadero Lake: “Atascadero Lake has nearly dried up, and a group of residents wants it back.  An official plan emerged earlier this month when Friends of Atascadero Lake sought and gained approval from the Atascadero Mutual Water Co., the nonprofit water utility that distributes water to Atascadero, to divert private well water to the withered lake bed. ... ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here: Group proposes plan to refill evaporating Atascadero Lake
  • Lawn Dude‘Lawn Dude’ says: ‘Don’t hose me’ in new anti-drought ads in Southern California:In order for Californians to take the drought more seriously, the folks at the Southern California Water Committee drew up a bright green cartoon character who will be mugging on billboards and on Twitter about water conservation.  Lawn Dude, a green Smurf-like animated character with two eyes and a tuft of grass-like hair, has already made a splash on social media with his own twitter account.  “Some Californians haven’t been taking this drought seriously, so I’m here to make sure people take steps to save water,” said @Lawn_Dude at a press conference at the Metropolitan Water District headquarters in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday. ... ”  Read more from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune here: ‘Lawn Dude’ says: ‘Don’t hose me’ in new anti-drought ads in Southern California
  • For Orange County: Ancient water pipes, costly problems: Water pipes laid beneath Orange County nearly a century ago could give way at any moment, unleashing floods big enough to close streets and force evacuations, city water officials acknowledged Wednesday. In the last year, there were 85 water main breaks in Fullerton alone along the city’s 400-miles of water pipeline, said city officials one day after a water main break in Los Angeles flooded streets, parking structures and buildings.  … ”  Read more from the O.C. Register here: For Orange County: Ancient water pipes, costly problems

In commentary today …

  • The status quo in the Delta isn’t working for California, says Mark Cowin:  The Director of the Department of Water Resources writes:  “The California Department of Water Resources and its federal and state partners on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan have a legal responsibility to protect threatened species and supply water to millions of Californians. It is important to correct serious misrepresentations of facts around those responsibilities.  Natural Resources Defense Council staff attorney Doug Obegi and Defenders of Wildlife program director Kim Delfino assert that DWR “has lost sight of the bigger picture and ignored the need for long-term solutions that work within real fiscal and environmental limits,” (“  ‘Tunnel vision’ would worsen health of the Delta, California’s fish stocks,” Viewpoints, July 29).  The opposite is true. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Another view: The status quo in the Delta isn’t working for California
  • Groundwater can’t be regulated without increasing surface supplies, says Dan Nelson: The Executive Director of the San Luis-Delta Mendota Water Authority writes: “Increased groundwater pumping is under growing scrutiny. The devastating consequences of a third year of drought, coupled with over-regulation of surface supplies, have increased momentum in Sacramento for state intervention in local groundwater management. The governor, legislators and others are calling for potentially far-reaching changes in the use and management of groundwater – new fees, new requirements and new bureaucracy to administer it all. … ”  Read more here:  Viewpoints: Groundwater can’t be regulated without increasing surface supplies
  • California needs to overhaul its protection of groundwater, says the LA Times:  They write: “There are many environmentally worrisome aspects of oil and gas production, and one is the injection of wastewater back into the ground. This process — a way of disposing of the contaminated water created during the drilling process — is done in conventional oil and gas drilling, and is even more common in fracking, which uses large amounts of water to fracture rock and release oil. The concern is that the injection process can end up poisoning the aquifers that provide drinking water. … ”  Read more from the Los Angeles Times here: Editorial: California needs to overhaul its protection of groundwater
  • Artful politics or sustainable water management, asks commentary:  Tony St. Amant writes: “There is increasing concern in the Northern Sacramento Valley that the dwindling well water supply that irrigates the valley’s vast fruit and nut orchards and provides water to the large majority of homes and businesses is at risk of being drained beyond recovery.  The threat comes from the agribusinesses of the western San Joaquin Valley where farmers no longer have enough local water. … ”  Read more from the Red Bluff Daily News here:  Increasing concern over Valley water
  • Who is stealing our groundwater? asks commentary:  Russ Waymire writes: “Who’s stealing the ground water right out from under your feet?  People ask this question when turning on the water faucet or water pump and nothing comes out!  How and why is it happening?  Our valley cities and economies grew and thrived over the last 60-plus years when landowners put their land up as collateral to build two massive water storage and water delivery systems, for doing so valley farms and cities were guaranteed by contract that water would be delivered. … ”  Read more from the Hanford Sentinel here: Who is stealing our groundwater?

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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