Daily Digest: Water usage in U.S. lowest in decades, tomato harvest breaks record while citrus growers assess impact, Numerous parties line up in support of Delta smelt petition, Sites Reservoir backers seek to reduce costs, and more …

Daily DigestIn California water news today, Water conservation efforts pay off: Water usage in U.S. lowest in decades, Drought-defying tomato harvest breaks California record, Orange growers assess drought impact on crop, State craft brewers fear drought could alter business and beer, Numerous parties line up in support of petition in Delta smelt case, Sites Reservoir backers seek to reduce costs, Enviro groups fear Prop 1 will lead to more dams, and more …

In the news today …

  • Water conservation efforts pay off: Water usage in U.S. lowest in decades:  “Americans recently passed a milestone when federal officials reported that water use across the nation had reached its lowest level in more than 45 years: good news for the environment, great news in times of drought and a major victory for conservation.  What was surprising in the U.S. Geological Survey report released last week was how little of the 13% decline in national water usage was due to the public cutting back. … ”  Read more from the Los Angeles Times here:  Water conservation pays off: Water usage in U.S. lowest in decades
  • Drought-defying tomato harvest breaks California record: “Not even an epic drought could stop the familiar convoy of agricultural trucks hurtling down Central Valley freeways this year, brimming with freshly harvested tomatoes.  Defying the state’s devastating water shortage, California farmers produced a record tomato crop. The harvest came in at an estimated 14 million tons of processing tomatoes. Those are the type used to make sauce, salsa and other products, and represent about 96 percent of all the tomatoes grown in California. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Drought-defying tomato harvest breaks California record
  • Orange growers assess drought impact on crop:  “This is one of those years that drives citrus farmers nuts, said Rod Radke, who grows navel oranges in Fresno County. Early harvest reports indicate good-quality oranges in terms of shape and sweetness, but the drought and lack of irrigation water are being blamed for slow and uneven fruit sizing.  “It’s hard to figure out how much crop is going to make it to market, because there are so many variables,” Radke said. “It’s not simple arithmetic.” … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  Orange growers assess drought impact on crop
  • State craft brewers fear drought could alter business and beer: When Lagunitas Brewing Co. fills its beer bottles, Northern California’s Russian River provides the main ingredient.  Lagunitas has become one of the fastest-growing stars of California’s booming craft beer scene. But the Russian River is shrinking after three years of punishing drought.  “We are at the maximum growth threshold here in California because of water,” said Leon Sharyon, chief financial officer for Lagunitas, which uses nearly 2 million gallons of river water a year at its Petaluma brewery. … ”  Read more from the Los Angeles Times here:  State craft brewers fear drought could alter business and beer
  • Numerous parties line up in support of petition in Delta smelt case:  “As we reported here, on October 6, 2014, a number of public water agencies and other entities that represent agricultural and municipal water users in California filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.  The petition was filed after a divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision affirming a biological opinion issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with respect to continuing operations of the federal Central Valley Project and State Water Project. The panel held that the biological opinion and accompanying reasonable and prudent alternative do not violate the Administrative Procedure Act and Endangered Species Act.  The deadline to file amicus briefs in support of the petition was November 6, 2014. … ”  Continue reading at JD Supra here:  Numerous parties line up in support of petition in Delta smelt case  (article does contain links to the briefs filed)
  • Sites Reservoir backers seek to reduce costs:  “With the resounding passage of the $7.5 billion state water bond, Sites Reservoir supporters are confident the storage project will be erected in Colusa County, although its completion could still be imperiled by competing projects and environmental backlash.  The Sites Joint Powers Authority (JPA), a local group of Sacramento Valley leaders and water districts, is working on preliminary planning and financing documents for what it says is a cheaper, locally-preferred alternative that meets the valley’s needs. ... ”  Read more from the Appeal-Democrat here:  Sites Reservoir backers seek to reduce costs
  • A Sticky Proposition: Environmental Groups Fear Prop 1 Will Lead to More Dams: “Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion water bond that 67 percent of California voters approved last week, will provide millions of dollars for projects everyone likes.  It sets aside funds to strip pollutants from valuable urban aquifers; it will bring in money to repair aging pipes that leach pollutants into drinking water. Locally, the Salton Sea could get part of the $500 million the measure authorizes for restoring damaged ecosystems.  So what about it makes many environmental groups so mad? … ”  Read more from the Coachella Valley Independent here: A Sticky Proposition: Environmental Groups Fear Prop 1 Will Lead to More Dams

In commentary today …

  • Column: Lester Snow is the answer man on the California water bond:  Patt Morrison writes: “Californians, you just voted yourselves a $7-billion-plus water bond measure. What happens now? Lester Snow can draw you the map of water needs and detail the money being spent. He’s navigated state waters for years in a multitude of jobs, among them head of the state’s Department of Water Resources and other agencies. He’s spent more time on water than Duke Kahanamoku. Today he heads the private California Water Foundation, which supported the bond measure that California now has to spend wisely. ... ”  Read more from the Los Angeles Times here:  Lester Snow is the answer man on the California water bond
  • ‘Disappointment’ in dam study understandable, says the Appeal-Democrat: They write: “Put any sort of water structure or policy or action on the table, and it’s easy for individual interest groups — private, governmental, commercial — to slice and dice and ready it for disposal because nothing is going to perfectly suit any one of them.  And so, any sort of progress is stymied. Water for fish? Stymied. Irrigation systems? Stymied. Supplies for municipalities? Plans to generate power? Plans to deal with drought or, conversely, prevent flooding? Recreation? Don’t expect much progress, generally speaking.  But when a coalition of groups — the more diverse in purpose the better — comes together and hashes out agreements, there can be progress. ... ”  Read more from the Appeal-Democrat here:  ‘Disappointment in dam study understandable
  • Are you an environmental enemy if you replace your lawn with fake grass? Kerry Cavanaugh & friends write: “How bad is California’s drought?  “Imagine a disaster movie in which 22 million people are told that they have only 12 to 18 months of water left. Unless Southern Californians pull together, we will be making that movie,” water scientist Jay Famiglietti wrote in a July op-ed article.  Given the severity of our drought and the calls to lower our water usage, it might make sense to replace our lawns with fake grass.  Not everyone agrees. … ”  Continue reading at the Los Angeles Times: Are you an environmental enemy if you replace your lawn with fake grass?
  • Watershed decision puts first-ever numeric limits on toxicity in LA’s water: Mark Gold writes:  “Last week, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board approved discharge permits for two Los Angeles County Sanitation District water recycling plants. That’s not news. The regional board approves discharge permits for industries and sewage treatment plants nearly every month. But these permits were different because they contained enforceable, numeric limits for toxicity to aquatic life–a first for sewage treatment plants in California.  … ”  Read more from LA Observed here: Watershed decision puts first-ever numeric limits on toxicity in LA’s water

In regional news and commentary today …

  • Contaminated groundwater wells close in South Lake Tahoe:  “Because of the drought, three wells in South Lake Tahoe have higher levels of contamination. Some wells have been shut-downs and the state of California is investigating. In a drought there is less groundwater to dilute contaminants. In South Lake Tahoe, that’s been a problem at three wells. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  Contaminated groundwater wells close in South Lake Tahoe
  • Sacramento closer to water meter mandate:  “As California looks at a potential fourth year of drought, the City of Sacramento is moving ahead on a project to keep closer tabs on water use. Fewer than half have meters now. But Bill Busath, with the Sacramento Department of Utilities, said that will change when the city finishes a three-year meter installation project. ... ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  Sacramento closer to water meter mandate
  • Pittsburg Unified School District finds new ways to save water: The Pittsburg Unified School District has found a new way to save tens of thousands of gallons of drinking water every day, which it is implementing in three of its schools with hopes to expand the program down the line.  In October, the PUSD board approved a plan to install recycled water irrigation systems at Pittsburg High, Ranchos Medanos Junior High, and Parkside Elementary, in partnership with Delta Diablo Sanitation District. The program will save millions of gallons of drinking water in the long run, and the rate for recycled water is 77 percent less than what the city is paying to irrigate those schools with potable water, according to a PUSD report. … ”  More from the Contra Costa Times here:  Pittsburg Unified School District finds new ways to save water
  • San Francisco: Poison being released into Mountain Lake to kill nonnative fish:Poison will be pumped into Mountain Lake early Wednesday, killing the last remaining invasive fish and clearing the way for ecosystem restoration.  The death of the former pet goldfish, bass and sturgeon dumped into the 4-acre Presidio pond comes after biologists tried for three years to remove the gilled intruders without using poison.  “We have done everything we could to get rid of the fish humanely,” said Terri Thomas, the director of conservation for the Presidio Trust, which oversees the lake. “Nobody likes to use pesticides. We tried everything that we knew we could do. It’s the last alternative.” … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Poison being released into Mountain Lake to kill nonnative fish
  • San Carlos to impose water rules during drought:  “San Carlos’ plan to impose water conservation measures during dry times like the current drought and fine violators is “unfair” because the city hasn’t first educated residents about how to improve their use, according to one councilman.  But Councilman Matt Grocott found himself in the minority Monday night when the council voted 3-1, with Councilman Bob Grassilli recusing himself, to give itself authority to declare a water shortage emergency and impose conservation measures once the state or local supplier California Water Company first declares its own. … ”  Read more from the San Mateo Daily Journal here:  San Carlos to impose water rules during drought
  • Stockton:  Sally-Save-Water urges: Save Every Drop:  “Every week or so, as former City Councilwoman Diana Lowery shops at the market or walks down the Miracle Mile near her home, someone will spot her and say:  “Hey, aren’t you Sally-Save-Water?”  They may be in their 30s and 40s, but who can forget Sally?  Dressed in a 50s-era polka-dot dress with a bow in her hair, white gloves and heels, Lowery was the very face of water conservation in Stockton for more than a decade. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  Sally-Save-Water urges: Save Every Drop
  • Water release to raise Lake Mead by a foot:  “From Monday until the end of next week, water from Lake Powell, which straddles the border of Arizona and Utah, will be released by the Glen Canyon Dam into the Colorado River.  A great deal of that water will make its way to Lake Mead and raise water levels there.  This is the third year for the water release. A study is underway to determine if the release is beneficial to the ecologies of Lake Powell, the Colorado River and Lake Mead. ... ”  Read more from KVVU here:  Water release to raise Lake Mead by a foot

weatherPrecipitation watch …

  • From the National Weather Service:A Pacific frontal system is forecast to move into Northern California late this evening and tonight bringing rain and higher elevation snow to much of the north state. Rainfall amounts will limited and snow levels will likely remain above 8000 feet through Thursday morning. Snow levels will lower to around 7000 feet by Thursday afternoon but too late to bring significant snowfall to pass levels.”

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.

hard_working_on_computer_anim_150_clr_7364Maven’s Notebook
The diary of a confessed obsessive-compulsive California water news junkie

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