Daily Digest: EPA says proposed Delta tunnels would harm environment, water theft from hydrants suspected in Lemoore, drought may drag on – El Nino or no, how big data helps solve the drought and more, plus will Assembly pass groundwater legislation … ?

Daily DigestIn California water news today … EPA says proposed Delta tunnels would harm environment, Water theft from hydrants suspected in Lemoore, underground water war, drought may drag on – El Nino or no, how big data helps solve the drought, groups shun Hetch Hetchy lawsuit despite their own concerns, fracking may endanger groundwater, California Senate approves bill requiring oil industry to detail water use, and more news and commentary …

On webcast today …

  • Groundwater legislation … will it happen?  All eyes are on Sacramento as the Assembly has until the close of this session – theoretically, that would be Sunday – to pass groundwater legislation.  Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Alert predicts they’ll go late tonight in order to avoid having to come back over the weekend.  Click here to watch on CalChannel. The Assembly session is scheduled to start at 10 am. Click here for the Assembly’s agenda.  And stay tuned … I’ll be posting any news as it occurs … !

In the news today …

  • EPA says proposed Delta tunnels would harm environment (Los Angeles Times):In a sharp rebuke of state plans for a massive water tunnel system in Northern California, federal environmental officials say that the project would violate pollution standards and could worsen conditions for imperiled fish species.  The comments by the regional office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency echo concerns that have dogged the proposal to change the way Northern California water supplies are sent to the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. ... ”  Read more from the Los Angeles Times here: EPA says proposed Delta water tunnel would harm environment
  • EPA says Bay Delta Conservation Plan could violate federal law (SacBee story, ICYMI):The pair of giant water diversion tunnels proposed in the Delta could violate the federal Clean Water Act and increase harm to endangered fish species, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which released its formal comment on the project Thursday.  In a 43-page letter sent Tuesday to the National Marine Fisheries Service and released publicly on the EPA’s website Thursday, the EPA said its research found that by diverting freshwater from three new intakes proposed on the Sacramento River – further upstream from existing intakes – the project is likely to increase concentrations of salinity, mercury, bromide, chloride, selenium and pesticides in the estuary. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: EPA says California’s Delta water tunnel project could violate federal law
  • Water on the black market?  Lemoore officials suspect water theft from hydrants:  “It used to be that thieves would steal brass caps off the city’s fire hydrants and sell them for cash. Now, with drought clamping down tighter on Kings County, water may be the target. Dave Wlaschin, Lemoore public works director, suspects water rustlers are pulling up with a plastic tank in the back of a pickup, filling up in a few minutes and taking off. Somebody recently told Wlaschin that they’d seen somebody tanking up at a fire hydrant on the southern outskirts of Lemoore. … ”  Read more from the Hanford Sentinel here: Water on the black market?
  • California’s Underground Water War: California has been the only western state without groundwater regulation—but now that looks set to change:Grape vines march across wires strung along rolling hills, their little trunks improbably supporting heavy black fruit. Cindy Steinbeck’s family has been farming this land since 1920. They grow Zinfandel, Viognier, Cabernet, Merlot, and Petite Syrah grapes but are best known in this area of Central California for a blend called The Crash, named after a remarkable incident in 1956, when a B-26 crash-landed 200 yards from the family home. Four of the five Air Force men aboard survived, bailing out in the nearby fields. Now a new crash threatens, as groundwater levels beneath the vineyards plummet. ... ”  Read more from The Atlantic here: California’s Underground Water War
  • Drought may drag on, El Nino or no: “As temperatures warm up this weekend and with no real chance of rain in sight, even the high possibility of an El Ni?o later this year may not be enough to help ease drought conditions on the North Coast.  The chances of an El Ni?o — the phenomenon where ocean waters warm, often bringing wet winters to California — developing by next fall are now 82 percent, up from 78 percent last month and 36 percent since November — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced on Thursday. … ”  Read more from the Pasadena Star-News here:  Drought may drag on, El Nino or no
  • More reliable than a rain dance:  How data helps solve the drought:  “California is facing its worst drought in over a century.  This is the driest year since records began, 119 years ago. And with over 80% of regions and municipalities facing “extreme drought” conditions, California has been under a state of emergency since January.  … In addition to officials’ urgent pleas for water conservancy, state agencies and local water districts are harnessing the latest generation of technology to help conserve and manage water resources.  ... ”  Read more from Forbes Magazine here:  More reliable than a rain dance: How data helps solve the drought
  • Groups shun Hetch Hetchy lawsuit despite their own concerns:Environmentalists mostly dismiss as politically motivated an advocacy group’s lawsuit seeking to force the National Park Service to comply with environmental laws in its regulation of the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, this city’s primary water source located in Yosemite National Park.  The plaintiffs, including a group whose founder has ties to the Westlands Water District, claim in a federal suit that the more than 90-year-old water project has been allowed to skirt environmental laws while farm irrigation in the Central Valley has been drastically reduced because of imperiled fish. … ”  Read more from the Capital Press here: Groups shun lawsuit despite own Hetch Hetchy concerns
  • Fracking may endanger groundwater:  “Fracking for oil in California happens at shallower depths than previously realized and could pose a risk to precious groundwater supplies, according to a federally commissioned report released Thursday.  The report found that half of the oil wells fracked in the state lie within 2,000 feet of the surface, close to aquifers. Hydraulic fracturing uses a high-pressure blend of water, sand and chemicals to crack rocks containing oil or natural gas. Those cracks can sometimes extend as far up as 1,969 feet – not far from the surface. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chroncile here:  Fracking may endanger groundwater in California
  • California Senate approves bill requiring oil industry to detail water use: The California state Senate on Thursday unanimously approved a bill requiring oil companies to report how much water they use in their drilling operations and the water’s source, a move that comes amid a severe statewide drought.  Oil well operators used more than 80 billion gallons of water in California last year in “enhanced” oil recovery techniques such as steam injection and water flooding, which help bring heavier, thicker crude to the surface. … ”  Read more from Reuters here: California Senate approves bill requiring oil industry to detail water use

In commentary today …

  • Taking stock of California’s water:  The Santa Rosa Press Democrat writes:  “For more than a century, policymakers have tip-toed around a seminal question about California’s water supplies: How many straws are in the cup?  The answer is astonishing.  On average, according to a new report by UC researchers, allocations of surface water are five times greater than average annual runoff. In other words, every drop is spoken for — five times over. … ”  Continue reading at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  Taking stock of California’s water
  • Earthquakes pose a hazard to much of California’s fresh water, say Scott Brandenburg and Johnathan Stewart:  They write: “We dodged a bullet this time.  Had Sunday’s magnitude 6.0 Napa earthquake been located a few miles to the southeast, it could have caused a severe shortage of fresh water felt up and down California, exacerbating the effects of our historic drought. … ”  Continue reading at the Los Angeles Times here:  Op-Ed: Earthquakes pose a hazard to much of California’s fresh water
  • Sierra leaders cheer water bond’s recognition of mountains as a water source, says Kerri Timmer of the Sierra Business Council:  She writes:  “Well, it happened. The Governor and the Legislature did what many of us thought was impossible – they agreed on a water bond proposal to replace the one on the November ballot. The new bond, known as Proposition 1, totals $7.5 million and was authored by Assemblymember Anthony Rendon, a Democrat from south of Los Angeles. After months of debate, the new bond passed both the Senate and Assembly with only two “no” votes. The Governor signed the bill that same night, placing the new bond on the November 4 ballot for voters to decide.  ... ”  Read more from the California Economic Summit here:  Viewpoints: Sierra leaders cheer water bond’s recognition of mountains as water source
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/28/6662668/epa-says-californias-delta-water.html#storylink=cpy
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/28/6662668/epa-says-californias-delta-water.html#storylink=cpy

In regional news today …

  • Almond growers bought and drilled for water to bring in a strong crop:  “It looks like business as usual in the orchards this week. Almond harvest is well underway, with walnuts soon to follow.  However, the story of how farmers have grown a normal crop during a drought year is far from normal.  Growers who receive water from the Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority are in one of the worst water positions in the northern Sacramento Valley. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Almond growers bought and drilled for water to bring in a strong crop
  • Storm Drain Detectives test Lodi Lake, Mokelumne River water: Students from Tokay High and Vinewood Elementary schools got an up-close, first-hand look at water quality in Lodi Lake and the Mokelumne River on Wednesday afternoon.  The students — this year’s team of Storm Drain Detectives — tested a handful of sites along the lake and river, performing water quality tests, visual assessments and toxicity tests to analyze the effects storm drain run-off has on the river. ... ”  Read more from the Lodi News-Sentinel here:  Storm drain detectives test Lodi Lake, Mokelumne River water
  • Fresno County lakeside communities counter drought with creativity:  “Looking out across now-puny Edison Lake in high country Fresno County, an “eerie” feeling comes over Jim Clement.  The lake’s capacity is just 5% of its 125,000 acre-feet of water — a troubling statistic for the 60-year-old owner of Vermilion Valley Resort. His rustic mountain lodge rests beside the lake at about 7,600 feet in elevation.  For many carefree vacationers, visiting this dwindled body of water has become their first up-close-and-personal glimpse at the state’s historic drought, Clement said. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Fresno County lakeside communities counter drought with creativity
  • Leaky Pipes Lose Billions of Gallons of Water Every Year in the Bay Area:California seems to be experiencing one water disaster after another. On top of the drought, last month a 90-year-old water pipe ruptured on the UCLA campus leaking an estimated 20 million gallons of drinking water. On Sunday, a magnitude 6.0 earthquake damaged dozens of water pipes, leaving hundreds of Napa and Vallejo residents without water. These major incidents beg the question: how strong is our water infrastructure?  … ”  Read more from KQED Science here: Leaky Pipes Lose Billions of Gallons of Water Every Year in the Bay Area
  • California drought: Livermore winemakers see lighter crop yields, smaller fruit: With an early harvest just around the corner, Wente Vineyards’ Kevin Zollinger is optimistic one of the state’s worst droughts in recorded history won’t leave the winemaker’s precious grapes high and dry.  But there’s still cause for concern. Zollinger, an executive with the Livermore Valley’s largest vineyard, anticipates a lighter crop yield and smaller fruit than in previous years. And while he’s worried about getting enough water for the next growing season, more alarming is the effect of lower-quality water — caused by a lack of fresh rain to filter minerals from the San Joaquin Delta — on the sensitive plants. ... ”  Read more from the Contra Costa Times here: California drought: Livermore winemakers see lighter crop yields, smaller fruit
  • What’s next for the Paso Robles Basin Water District:  “Now that Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian’s AB 2453, a bill to help form the Paso Robles Basin Water District, has passed both houses of the California Legislature it is waiting to be signed by Governor Jerry Brown. For a complete look at the legislation, follow this link: AB 2453.  What is the next step for the Paso Robles Basin Water District?  PRO Water Equity, a group of landowners who support the bill, created flow charts which are helpful in understanding the local process options and steps related to this legislation should it be signed by the governor. ... ”  View the flow chart here: What’s next for the Paso Robles Basin Water District?
  • California drought report: Thunderstorms bring slight relief to desert: Over the last week, the only spot in California to see improved drought conditions was — of all places — Mojave Desert, officials reported.  The area benefited enough from recent showers and thunderstorms for it qualify for a one-category improvement from “extreme” to “severe” drought, according to the latest statewide assessment released Thursday.  “Otherwise, conditions in California remained unchanged on the map,” wrote David Simeral, author of the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report. ... ”  Read more from the Los Angeles Times here:  California drought report: Thunderstorms bring slight relief to desert


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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