Field under irrigation in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Photo by Chris Austin. All rights reserved.

Daily Digest, weekend edition: Groundwater legislation heads to the Governor’s desk, conservation conundrum: water use varies across the state, the drought, the water bond, the BDCP and more …

In California water news today … Lawmakers approve landmark groundwater legislation as it heads to the Governor’s desk, bipartisanship rules this year in Sacramento, Water bond receives mixed reviews in the Delta, Nottoli speaks to supporters in fight against tunnels, conservation conundrum: water use varies across California, race to save a drought-threatened species of salmon, study concludes chance of megadrought in the Southwest to 50%, will El Nino bring drought relief to California, and more news and commentary …

In the news this weekend …

  • Lawmakers approve landmark groundwater regulation plan (Los Angeles Times): Lawmakers approved Friday a package of bills that would lay the foundation for regulating California’s groundwater statewide for the first time in its history.  Supporters said the landmark proposal would bring much needed oversight to the underground water sources that more than three-quarters of the state’s residents rely on for some or all of their drinking water. … ”  Read more from the Los Angeles Times here: Lawmakers approve landmark groundwater regulation plan  See also: Legislature OKs state’s first plan for regulating groundwater, also from the Los Angeles Times
  • Groundwater bills headed to the Governor’s desk (Hanford Sentinel):With landmark legislation poised to require sustainable groundwater management statewide, reaction is already coming in from local area water users and managers. … Local opinion is split, with some water managers optimistic that it will give the southern San Joaquin Valley a chance to manage groundwater rationally rather than descend into a chaotic free-for-all as the valuable resources is rapidly exhausted.  Others in Kings County’s farming community felt the legislation was rushed and will harm growers’ ability to continue farming amid severe drought. … ”  Read more from the Hanford Sentinel here:  Groundwater bills headed to Governor’s desk
  • Landmark groundwater reform headed to Governor’s desk (KQED):In a move that some believed may never happen in California, state legislators approved three bills that would — for the first time — regulate the state’s vast underground water resources.  “These groundwater bills would be the most significant change in water policy in decades, maybe four decades,” says Lester Snow of the California Water Foundation. …. ”  Read more from KQED here: Landmark Groundwater Reform Headed to Governor’s Desk
  • For more on the passage of groundwater legislation, see also: Bill to regulate California groundwater passes in state legislature, from Reuters, Historic California groundwater regulation heads to Jerry Brown, from the Sacramento Bee. Historic groundwater legislation passed by California Assembly. from the San Jose Mercury News
  • Bipartisanship rules this year in Sacramento: Maybe Californians should start calling their Legislature the anti-Congress.  The legislative session that ended in the wee hours of Saturday morning proved to be one of the most bipartisan and productive in years.  Lawmakers struck bipartisan deals on a $7.5 billion water bond and a “rainy day fund” that will be put before voters in November; delivered a hold-the-line-on-spending budget that started shoring up the troubled teachers’ pension system; and passed ground-breaking insurance regulations that will encourage the growth of app-based ride-sharing companies rather than drive them out of business. And the bickering between the parties was kept to a minimum. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Bipartisanship rules this year in Sacramento
  • Water bond receives mixed Delta reviews: “On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown’s  $7.5 billion water bond AB1471 (Rendon) passed in the CA Senate with a historic 37-0 vote. Senator Lois Wolk thanked her fellow legislators for bringing a bond to the floor that meets the critical water needs of all regions of the state – focusing that it is tunnel neutral. She described, “the bond does a great deal of good for everyone. And it harms no one.”  “It gives a voice to the Delta community for projects that happen in the Delta,” said Wolk. … ”  Read more from the River News Herald here: Water bond receives mixed Delta reviews; passes with historic 37-0 vote
  • Nottoli speaks to supporters in fight against tunnels: District 5 Supervisor Don Nottoli knows something about fighting the good fight.  An elected official since 1994, Nottoli has been in the trenches for plenty of hotly-debated issues. When it comes to the proposed twin tunnels, though, identifying an analogous situation isn’t easy. After all, few issues in recent history have encompassed the interests of so many in such polarizing way. Everyone seems to have an opinion and everyone claims to be representing the greater good’s best interest. … ”  Read more from the River News Herald here:  Nottoli speaks to supporters in fight against tunnels
  • Feds critical of twin tunnels project:A pair of giant water diversion tunnels proposed for the Sacramento-San Joaquin 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 to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the EPA said its research found that by diverting freshwater from three new intakes proposed on the Sacramento River, the project is likely to increase concentrations of salinity, mercury, bromide, chloride, selenium and pesticides in the Delta. … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here:  Feds critical of California twin tunnel project
  • Conservation conundrum: Water use varies across California:Drive across city limits in virtually any part of California, and you will also cross another kind of frontier, one gaining more attention during the worst drought in a generation: The borders between cities also define different ideas about water. One city may have gutters coursing with wasted water, while its neighbor lives by the highest conservation standards.  The differences can be glaring, according to a Bee review of data submitted by water agencies ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Conservation conundrum: Water use varies across California
  • Racing to save a drought-threatened species of salmon in California:  “It was just past dawn, and a team of wildlife officials were already out wading into California’s Scott River, at some places just a murky creek trickling through a dusty patch of land.  The team is from the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, and they are on an unprecedented rescue mission, racing against the clock to net and evacuate as many of the fabled Coho salmon in the drought-parched streams as possible. … ”  Read more from ABC News here:  Racing to save a drought-threatened species of salmon in California
  • California drought threatens nation’s most productive farming valley: In the rich farmland of the San Joaquin Valley it’s summertime — peak growing season for many crops. But every sunbaked, scorching day brings another test of water reserves in a region running on empty.  The dearth of irrigation water from rivers or reservoirs has forced growers in the valley 80 miles north of Los Angeles to rely almost entirely on water pumped from wells.  “I’m worried from a couple of standpoints,” said grower Stuart Woolf, as he stood in a field of tomatoes at harvest time.  “One, I’m worried that we just flat run out of groundwater.” … ”  Read more from NBC LA here:  California Drought Threatens Nation’s Most Productive Farming Valley
  • Chance of a megadrought in the Southwest now 50%, study concludes:  “The chance of a “megadrought” gripping the Southwest for more than 30 years has increased to 50%, scientists say, which means bad news for California’s already parched landscape.  The odds of a 10-year drought afflicting the southwestern U.S. have increased to 80%, according to a new study by Cornell University, the University of Arizona and the U.S. Geological Survey. ... ”  Read more from the Los Angeles TImes here:  Chance of megadrought in the Southwest no 50%, study concludes
  • Will El Nino bring drought relief to California?  Climate Prediction Center’s Rich Tinker discusses how dryness and warmer winter temperatures have contributed to California’s drought. He speaks on “Bottom Line.” (approx. 5 min)


In commentary this weekend …

  • New groundwater rules shouldn’t punish success, says John Woodling of the Sacramento Regional Water Authority:  “Clearly, it was past time for the Legislature and the administration to tackle groundwater management in California. As the state experiences the worst drought in a generation, groundwater problems that developed over decades are being greatly exacerbated in some parts of the state as water users turn increasingly to the aquifers under their land.  The Legislature moved Friday to enact and send to Gov. Jerry Brown a set of groundwater management bills that are seen by many as the most significant changes in water law in a century. … However, lost in this sweeping, one-size-fits-all legislation, were lessons learned from regions like ours that have successfully managed groundwater for years. … ” Continue reading from the Sacramento Bee here: Viewpoints: New groundwater rules shouldn’t punish success
  • Richard Howitt and Jay Lund: 5 myths about the California drought:California is experiencing its third-worst drought in 106 years, resulting in idled cropland and soaring water prices. Since the state produces almost 70 percent of the nation’s top 25 fruit, nut and vegetable crops, California’s pain could soon hit the rest of the country through higher food prices. Will conservation and new water-saving technologies be enough to weather this dry period? Let’s consider five myths about the California drought. ... ”  Read more from the Washington Post here:  Five myths about the California drought
  • Central Coast benefits from water bond, says Senator Bill Monning:  “Last week, the Legislature united to pass a water bond, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed, to guarantee its placement on the November ballot. While the legislation had bipartisan and near unanimous support, the pathway to the final agreement was fraught with uncertainty. Fortunately, the will to advance solutions to better manage California’s precious water resources amidst the continuing drought outweighed partisan or regional posturing.  … ”  Read more from the Monterey County Herald here:  Sen. Bill Monning: Central Coast benefits from water bond
  • David Mas Masumoto:  Water wisdom: He writes: “Can the current drought make us smarter? Many are feeling the pain of a dwindling supply of water: Farmlands sit idle, jobs are lost, cities are forced to make conservation efforts and politicians grope for solutions. Beyond the rhetoric of who stands first in line for this fluid treasure and how best to allocate a scare resource, the reality is that we live in an arid land and climate change will force us to live and work differently. But are we wiser? … ”  Read more from David Mas Masumoto here:  Water wisdom
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In regional news and commentary this weekend …

  • Botulism kills thousands of ducks at Tule Lake refuge near Oregon, California border: An outbreak of botulism has killed thousands of ducks at Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Northern California.  The outbreak going on since July is not unusual, but it has been exacerbated by the drought, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Matt Baun said Friday.  The refuges along the Oregon-California border have not gotten any irrigation water since November, Baun said. … ”  Read more from the Oregonian here: Botulism kills thousands of ducks at Tule Lake refuge near Oregon, California border
  • Next steps detailed for Scott River water yield study:  “On Wednesday night, Siskiyou County residents were given an updated look at the Scott River water yield study that aims to determine how local forests affect the Scott River’s water balance. The goal of the study, as noted in its executive summary, “is to provide information to support evaluation of the potential to enhance water supply in the Scott River by managing upslope forest vegetation.”  Klamath National Forest Natural Resources Officer Dan Blessing put the study goal in different terms, asking the question, “Can you manage the forest to affect the watershed?” … ”  Read more from the Siskiyou Daily News here:  Next steps detailed for Scott River water yield study
  • Ukiah doing an ‘excellent job’ of conserving water:  “With actions city officials are calling “very responsible and impressive,” Ukiah residents have voluntarily cut back significantly on their water usage.  “You can drive around and see the dead lawns, and the city hasn’t even asked people to stop watering them,” said Public Works Director Tim Eriksen, addressing the Ukiah City Council at its last meeting Aug. 20.  Eriksen said city residents usually go through about 6 million gallons of water a day during the summer months, and can guzzle up to 7- or 8 million gallons a day when it gets very hot. … ”  Read more from the Ukiah Daily Journal here:  Ukiah doing an ‘excellent job’ of conserving water
  • Nevada Irrigation District dusts off 1926 plan for dam in Meadow-Colfax area:  “The Nevada Irrigation District is resurrecting a plan developed in the 1920s to tap into a meandering stretch of the Bear River between Meadow Vista and Colfax to boost water storage. The district’s Parker dam and reservoir project would provide 110,000 acre-feet of new water storage for the Grass Valley-based water purveyor. A dam would be located between the district’s Rollins and Combie reservoirs along six miles of the Bear River. The district estimates the cost at about $160 million. ... ”  Read more from the Auburn Journal here:  Nevada Irrigation District dusts off 1926 plan for dam in Meadow-Colfax area
  • The green stuff in the Delta might be perfectly safe – or not:  “San Joaquin County health officials on Friday warned the public to beware of potentially toxic algae in the Delta this Labor Day weekend.  The Record first reported in mid-July that algae growth might be particularly bad this year because of low flows in local rivers. While at least some growth is routine during the summer, the downtown channel took on a particularly greenish hue this year. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here: That green stuff in the Delta might be perfectly safe — or not
  • Ants invade Bay Area homes, a side effect of the drought:  “If you think you’ve seen more ants in your kitchen than usual this summer, you may not be imagining things. One of the lesser consequences of California’s drought is ants invading our homes.  Argentine ants are common in the Bay Area, and they don’t like weather that is too wet, which is why we often see them in our homes during the rainy season. However, it turns out they don’t like weather that is too dry either. ... ”  Read more from CBS here:  Ants invade Bay Area homes
  • Silicon Valley should lead the way in water recycling, says Brian Schmidt from Santa Clara Valley Water District:  He writes:  “In the middle of this extreme drought, recycled water can save us. Recycled wastewater in Santa Clara County has been treated to a level where people can drink it, and on July 18, we proved it — we drank it.  The Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center in Alviso had its grand opening with many locally elected officials and representatives from throughout the state, including Secretary of Natural Resources John Laird. Culminating the event, a dozen of us on stage were supposed to ceremonially water some plants. Instead, we had our own tea party moment and drank water produced by the facility, knowing the water is drinkable and that the state has yet to provide permission for us to distribute it as drinkable water. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Valley should lead the way in water recycling
  • Drought conditions cause record years for Southern California lifeguards:  “The endless summer. That’s what lifeguards are calling the past 12 months.  As the hot and dry weather parches the state, people are fleeing to the beach.  Southern California guards are rescuing swimmers at record levels. Beaches are hitting capacity. Unusually warm water and large swells have amplified the crowds and danger. Guards are manning the towers more, even during typically mellow months, and taxpayers must cover a burgeoning overtime bill. … ”  Read more from the Whittier Daily News here:  Drought conditions cause record years for Southern California lifeguards
  • Inland Empire: Worsening drought brings forth new restrictions: Eastern Municipal Water District’s (EMWD) Board of Directors officially moved into Stage 3a of its Water Shortage Contingency Plan last week, according to a press release issued by the agency. Under the move, customers face overage fees and fines for wasting water. The move comes about due to historic drought conditions currently being experienced throughout the state of California.  “This decision is not easy, but it is necessary,” EMWD President Phil Paule said in the press release issued late last week. “Our customers must view this as a call to action and take the necessary steps to reduce water consumption.” … ”  Read more from the Valley News here:  Worsening drought brings forth new restrictions
  • Coachella Valley:  Desert subdivision plans raise questions about water:  “In the desert on the outskirts of Coachella, a developer plans to build a new community of 7,800 homes nestled against the rocky hills. The frames of new houses are going up in places from La Quinta to Palm Springs, and developers are moving ahead with plans to convert vast expanses of desert and farmland into neighborhoods with tens of thousands of homes. … ”  Read more from The Desert Sun here:  Desert subdivision plans raise questions about water    

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.

Maven’s Notebook

no weekendswhere California water news never goes home for the weekend
(or the holidays, either …)

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