Daily Digest: Biggest storm in nearly ten years heads towards California, House passes drought bill, but Senate approval unlikely, scientists debate NOAA’s finding on the drought and more …

Daily DigestIn California water news today, Biggest storm in nearly ten years heads towards California, How many superstorms will it take to end the drought?, House passes GOP California drought bill, but Senate approval unlikely, Emergency drought relief money still unspent, California’s drought declared natural by NOAA, but some scientists are calling the report limited in perspective, California drought amounts to mixed blessing for winemakers this harvest, Cities look to farms for help in Colorado River drought, and more …   

In the news today …

Biggest storm in nearly ten years heads towards California:  “The strongest storm so far this season and perhaps in several years for California will bring drenching rain to hard-hit drought areas, along with the risk of damaging winds, flooding and mudslides later this week.  The train of December storms will continue to roll along over the Pacific Ocean and into the West Coast of the United States this week.  Rainfall from this single storm could approach the average rainfall for the entire month December in some areas. In some cases, this has the potential to be biggest single rain-producer about 10 years. ... ”  Read more from Accu-Weather here: Biggest Storm in Nearly 10 Years for Northern California to Cause Flooding, Mudslides

How many superstorms will it take to end the drought?  “Weather officials expect a “storm of the decade” to wallop California Wednesday night with hurricane-force winds and torrential rainfall. While that should be good news for a state starved for water, experts have said that one storm will just not offer enough rain relief.  California has essentially lost “a winter season’s worth of rain,” due to its three-year drought, said Richard Seager, a climate scientist from Columbia University. … ”  Read more from The Atlantic here:  How many superstorms will it take to end the drought?

House passes GOP California drought bill, but Senate approval unlikely:  “Legislation addressing California’s drought reached an inconclusive high-water mark Tuesday, passing the House on a largely party line vote before trickling off to a bleak fate in the Senate.  While the Republican-controlled House approved the California water bill by a 230-182 margin, California’s two Democratic senators oppose it with varying degrees of severity.  The Senate resistance and the bill authors’ inability to reconcile competing state interests effectively renders the stand-alone California Emergency Drought Relief Act a Capitol Hill orphan. Last-minute efforts to add similar language onto a separate spending bill continue. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  House passes GOP California drought bill but Senate approval unlikely

House approves California drought bill that faces Obama veto:The U.S. House on Tuesday passed a California drought bill, despite a veto threat from the Obama administration and its expected demise in the Senate in the final days before Congress adjourns.  The 230-182 vote was largely a symbolic gesture in the years-long effort by House Republicans to weaken endangered species protections that have restricted water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to San Joaquin Valley agribusiness and urban Southern California. … ”  Read more from the Los Angeles Times here: House approves California drought bill that faces Obama veto

House moves to bring relief to farms:  “The House approved on Tuesday a bill designed to give state and federal agencies authority to move more water in coming months to California’s drought-stricken farm belt.  GOP lawmakers used their majority to pass the bill by a 230-182 vote. Six Democratic lawmakers joined Republicans in supporting the legislation. However, the Senate is not expected to take up the measure before adjourning for the year, meaning lawmakers will likely have to start over on the issue next year. … ”  Red more from KFBK here:  House moves to bring relief to farms

Once in 1200 year California drought bears signs of climate change: Recent peer-reviewed studies strongly support the view that California’s epic drought was made considerably worse by human-caused global warming. A new report from NOAA seeking to cast doubt on that assertion omits some of the latest science and is deeply flawed, as three leading climatologists told me.  A recent Geophysical Research Letters paper, “How unusual is the 2012-2014 California drought?” by researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution examined two paleoclimate reconstructions of drought and precipitation for California. They found that the soil moisture deficit in the state is truly unprecedented as measured by the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI): … ”  Read more from Think Progress here:  Once in 1200 year California drought bears signs of climate change

California’s drought declared natural by NOAA, but some scientists are calling the report limited in perspective:The last several years have left California facing a series of water emergencies, as the usual winter rainfall hasn’t materialized. The drought has been associated with a ridge of high-pressure air off the Pacific Northwest coast, which prevents storms from the Western Pacific and Alaska from reaching California. That ridge, in turn, has been associated with warm sea surface temperatures in the area.  Beyond the immediate causes, however, it’s reasonable to ask whether the drought is a symptom of a warming climate, and thus whether we should expect more of them in the future. Several papers have already looked into the matter, with mixed results. But now, NOAA has weighed in with a report that pins the blame on natural variability. But the report has come under criticism from some scientists, and it may have been finalized before some recent, relevant papers. ... ” Read more from Ars Technica here: California’s drought declared natural by NOAA, but some scientists are calling the report limited in perspective

California drought amounts to mixed blessing for winemakers this harvest: “When you walk around Tablas Creek vineyard in Paso Robles, there are few obvious signs that California is in one of its worst droughts on record.  “It actually looks less different than you would expect grapevines have evolved to grow well in climates that are dry” says Jason Haas who runs this vineyard. … ”  Read more from KCBX here: California drought amounts to mixed blessing for winemakers this harvest

Cities look to farms for help in Colorado River drought:  “As the Colorado River grinds into what could be its 15th year of drought, the West’s biggest water agencies are finalizing a major new agreement to boost water levels in Lake Mead, on the Arizona-Nevada border. Water bosses will likely announce the deal at the annual Colorado River Water Users Association conference, which begins this Wednesday in Las Vegas.  Under the so-called Pilot Drought Response Actions program, which would begin next year, urban water agencies in California, Arizona and Nevada hope to use a number of methods to add between 1.5 and 3 million acre-feet of water to Lake Mead over the next five years. ... ”  Read more from High Country News here:  Cities look to farms for help in Colorado River drought

Colorado shielding water with uncertain future in drought-stricken states:  “With demand increasing across the West, Colorado is drawing up a strategy to keep some of the trillions of gallons of water that gushes out of the Rocky Mountains every spring – most of which flows downstream to drought-stricken California, Arizona, Nevada and Mexico.  Colorado wants to ensure its farms, wildlife and rapidly growing cities have enough water in the decades to come. It’s pledging to provide downstream states every gallon they’re legally entitled to, but not a drop more. … ”  Read more from CBS News here:  Colorado shielding water with uncertain future in drought-stricken states

In commentary today …

Congress must help California deal with the drought, says the U-T San Diego:  He writes: “For years, the California Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown squabbled over what should be in a multibillion-dollar water bond. Finally, this summer, they agreed on a $7.5 billion measure that won landslide approval in November.  The state’s long drought made lawmakers and voters alike realize the importance of getting something done. Now Congress needs the same epiphany on water legislation meant to help California. … ”  Read more from the U-T San Diego here:  Congress must help California deal with the drought

Farmers must engage in new groundwater plans, says Jack Rice:  He writes:  “”I don’t know what oughta happen, but I know something’s gotta happen.”  That’s how one Central Valley rancher explained his perspective on the groundwater legislation that was brewing last summer. His point was that in certain parts of California, the status quo was not working. But, as he so concisely stated, recognizing the problem was a lot easier than finding the right solution.  Unfortunately, taking time to find the right solution was rendered moot when the Legislature rushed through the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014, otherwise known as SGMA, at the end of session. ... ”  Read more from the California Farm Bureau Federation here: Farmers must engage in new groundwater plans

In regional news and commentary today …

Here comes the storm: what you need to know:  “Wind speeds of 70 mph could batter the area and up to three inches of rain could fall between today and Friday evening, according to the National Weather Service.  Forecasters are saying this storm could be the strongest to impact Yuba-Sutter since a storm in January 2008 caused flooding and knocked out power.  Local agencies were out Tuesday clearing debris from roads and waterways in hopes of reducing localized flooding. … ”  Read more from the Appeal-Democrat here:  Here comes the storm: what you need to know

Despite rain, coho salmon still struggling:  “State fisheries biologists recently reported some disturbing news: the coho salmon that typically spawn near Muir Woods had vanished. Recent rainstorms may be helping the endangered salmon, but habitat degradation and the persistent drought are taking a major toll. We’ll discuss the plight of coho salmon in the Bay Area.  Host: Michael Krasny; Guests: Doug Karpa, legal program director for the Turtle Island Restoration Network, involved in the Salmon Protection Watershed Network (SPAWN), which does restoration work at the Lagunitas Creek, and Gordon Becker, senior scientist at the Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration”  Listen to the radio show here:  Despite rain, coho salmon still struggling

EBMUD approves 14% hike for water: The price of water is going up next month for 1.3 million customers of the East Bay’s largest water supplier.  The East Bay Municipal Utility District board on Tuesday agreed to impose a 14 percent surcharge starting in January to pay for an emergency water supply that will be pumped from the Sacramento River. The district is preparing for another increase in July if the drought persists. ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  EBMUD approves 14% hike for water

Oakdale Irrigation District postpones decision about paying farmers not to water:  “A proposal to pay Oakdale farmers to voluntarily fallow their land has been postponed to January.  The Oakdale Irrigation District is considering paying some landowners not to irrigate next year. OID then would sell that water to outsiders for an estimated $400 per acre-foot and give district farmers most of the proceeds to finance water conservation projects on their land. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Oakdale Irrigation District postpones decision about paying farmers not to water

Metropolitan board adds $40 million to conservation budget as drought persists: “The Metropolitan Water District’s board of directors added $40 million to its conservation budget Tuesday and revised its water allocation plan in response to California’s continuing drought.  The additional funding marks the second increase in the district’s rebate budget this year, taking it to $100 million from $60 million. The funds come out of a separate $232-million water management fund and go toward rebates for residents and businesses that replace turf with drought-tolerant landscaping and install water-efficient fixtures. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Water board adds $40 million to conservation budget as drought persists

Bill would force HOAs to allow fake grass:  “California homeowner associations would be required to allow artificial turf in front yards under a bill recently proposed by the San Diego County Water Authority.  The bill, or a version of it, is likely to be championed by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego.  Only a fraction of the state’s 47,000 HOAs permit synthetic grass on front lawns, with many saying its out-of-place look is a threat to property values. ... ”  Read more from U-T San Diego here:  Bill would force HOAs to allow fake grass

If you live in the path of the storm, be prepared!  Click here for emergency information from the Delta Protection Commission.

If you live in the path of the storm, be prepared! Click here for emergency information from the Delta Protection Commission.

Precipitation watch …

  • From the National Weather Service:The much-advertised storm system is now right on our doorsteps. This storm still looks like it could be the strongest storm we’ve seen in several years. Our biggest concerns continue to be the potential for widespread power outages and flooding, along with whiteout conditions over the Sierra Cascades. Precipitation begins along the far Northern Valley this afternoon, and will spread southward tonight through Thursday. Today is the day to prepare (if you haven’t already). Make sure your gutters are clear, leaves raked, and have an emergency kit at home just in case!

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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