Daily Digest, weekend edition: Delta’s water mysteriously missing; Whose water is it, anyway?, Changes to habitat restoration could endanger tunnel plan, Big north-south transfer dries up, and more …

In California water news this weekend, Delta’s water mysteriously missing; Whose water is it, anyway?  California water rights, explained; Major changes to environmental restoration could endanger Brown’s water plan; Deal made in Stanislaus River water conflict – again; Big north-to-south water deal dries up; Beyond Almonds: A Rogue’s Gallery of Guzzlers In California’s Drought; Feds ask for input on Delta barriers; What Record-Breaking Drought Means for California’s Future; A guide to California’s water crisis – and why it’s so hard to fix; Gov. Jerry Brown’s rural excursion underlines his support for farmers; Every day is fire season in drought-era California, experts say; Drought pushes residents, cities to seek water-saving strategies; Moving levees can help groundwater supply, say UC Researchers; Drought and conservation’s Waterloo is fairness; Drought or not, water has long reigned in the Imperial Valley, and more …

In the news this weekend …

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Also on Maven’s Notebook this weekend …

Here’s Monday’s Daily Digest …

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Delta’s water mysteriously missing:As California struggles with a devastating drought, huge amounts of water are mysteriously vanishing from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta – and the prime suspects are farmers whose families have tilled fertile soil there for generations.  A state investigation was launched after complaints from two large agencies that supply water to arid farmland in the Central Valley and to millions of residents as far south as San Diego.  Delta farmers don’t deny using as much water as they need. But they say they’re not stealing it because their history of living at the water’s edge gives them that right. Still, they have been asked to report how much water they’re pumping and to prove their legal rights to it. … ”  Read more from the AP via Durango Herald here:  California delta’s water mysteriously missing

Whose water is it, anyway?  California water rights, explained:  ““I have a headache,” muttered the man beating a path out of the Roberts-Union Farm Center on a foggy Friday morning in late February. As he jumped into his black Sierra pick-up and peeled down Howard Road toward Stockton, the meeting room he fled remained packed. Inside, the mood was tax-day-bad. Groups of farmers huddled on banquet chairs as they pored over state water-use forms. A March filing deadline loomed. The farmers were being asked to produce proof of property rights dating back to the 19th century. The reason? If their properties adjoin natural rivers or streams in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta, an estuary draining half of the state of California’s fresh water streams and rivers, they enjoy some of the oldest, and therefore the most generous, water rights in a big dry state. … ”  Read more from KCET here:  Whose water is it, anyway?  California water rights, explained

Delta tunnels: Major changes to environmental restoration could endanger Brown’s water plan:  “Gov. Jerry Brown has billed his $25 billion plan to build two massive tunnels under the Delta as a way to not just make it easier to move water from north to south, but also increase the reliability of water supplies and bring back salmon and other endangered species.  But now the Brown administration is proposing a major and politically risky change: dropping a 50-year guarantee to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta’s environment. A centerpiece of the project, the environmental plan included $8 billion to preserve 100,000 acres of wetlands and dozens of other restoration efforts. ... ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Delta tunnels: Major changes to environmental restoration could endanger Brown’s water plan

Deal made in Stanislaus River water conflict – again: First there was a deal. Then there wasn’t. Now the deal is apparently back on.  It was that kind of week in south San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, where the struggle over scarce water intensified, with two agricultural water districts going so far as to briefly defy a federal order to provide flows for fish.  This all started in late March, actually, when the South San Joaquin and Oakdale irrigation districts said they had reached a tentative deal with federal agencies that would prevent Lake Tulloch from being drained until after the summer tourist season. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  Deal made in Stanislaus River water conflict – again

Big north-to-south water deal dries up:  “When the water supply is tight in California, the product often flows to where the money is. Typically, that means north to south.  In the record-breaking drought of 2015, however, practically no one has a drop to spare. That means the buying and selling of water can grind to a halt, even with jaw-dropping prices on the table.  That appears to be the case with a mammoth deal engineered by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and a group of Sacramento Valley rice farmers. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Big north-to-south water deal dries up

Beyond Almonds: A Rogue’s Gallery of Guzzlers In California’s Drought:California is parched. Wells are running dry. Vegetable fields have been left fallow and lawns are dying. There must be some villain behind all this, right?  Of course there is. In fact, have your pick. As a public service, The Salt is bringing you several of the leading candidates. They have been nominated by widely respected national publications and interest groups.  There’s just one problem: Not all of these shady characters live up to their nefarious job description. Let us explain. ... ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here: Beyond Almonds: A Rogue’s Gallery of Guzzlers In California’s Drought

Feds ask for input on Delta barriers:Plans by the California Department of Water Resources are moving ahead for three salinity barriers in the California Delta — a move described by the department as an “emergency measure” to protect the Delta from salt water intrusion and to protect salmon habitat upstream.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is evaluating a Department of Water Resources permit application to build the barriers and is asking for the public’s input by April 22. … ”  Read more from News 10 here:  Feds ask for input on Delta barriers

What Record-Breaking Drought Means for California’s Future: ” … The Golden State is experiencing the most severe drought on record, and research suggests the conditions will only worsen in the coming decades.  “Climate change is going to lead to overall much drier conditions toward the end of the 21st century than anything we’ve seen in probably the last 1,000 years,” said Benjamin Cook, a climatologist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City. But despite the drier conditions and the apocalyptic headlines, California is unlikely to become a parched, uninhabitable hellscape, experts say. … ”  Read more from Live Science here: What Record-Breaking Drought Means for California’s Future

A guide to California’s water crisis – and why it’s so hard to fix:  “California saw this drought coming. Even if people in the state didn’t know it would be this bad — now the worst in recorded history — they’ve known that dry years are inevitable and had all sorts of ideas for how to deal with them.  But for all that planning, California’s current drought has been a total disaster. Reservoirs are drying up. Crops are wilting in the fields. For the first time ever, towns and cities will face a mandatory 25 percent cut in their water use.  The problem isn’t that no one foresaw the drought. The problem is that no one has been able to solve an underlying issue that is simultaneously less scary and also much harder than a dry spell: California’s convoluted water system and intractable water politics. … ”  Read more from Vox here:  A guide to California’s water crisis – and why it’s so hard to fix

Gov. Jerry Brown’s rural excursion underlines his support for farmers: “As California continues reeling from the drought, Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday headed into the farmlands north of Sacramento, where concerns about the state’s parched spell are mounting after a dry winter.  The official reason for the governor’s trip was to help judge a cooking contest with his wife at a western festival. But it was also an opportunity for him to emphasize his support for farmers, who have faced increasing scrutiny for the amount of water they use. ... ”  Read more from the Los Angeles Times here: Gov. Jerry Brown’s rural excursion underlines his support for farmers

Every day is fire season in drought-era California, experts say:  “In drought-era California, does “fire season” mean anything? Traditionally, the scorching, parched autumn was the period of greatest concern about wildfires, but experts say that after four desiccated years almost every day in the Golden State can be considered fire season. Fire agencies in Santa Barbara County and other parts of the Central Coast are moving next week to increased levels of staffing and greater numbers of fire engines, bulldozers and air tankers available for dispatch. … ” Read more from the Los Angeles Times here: Every day is fire season in drought-era California, experts say

Drought pushes residents, cities to seek water-saving strategies:  “Cambria resident Bill Seavey has turned conserving water into a science.  He has installed a rainwater harvesting system on both his home and vacation rental to catch and store more than 2,000 gallons of rain to water his landscaping. Typical of many Cambrians, he takes a bucket into the shower with him to collect water that can be used to flush toilets.  He even uses bottled water when he brushes his teeth to save a couple of extra gallons. … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here:  Drought pushes residents, cities to seek water-saving strategies

Moving levees can help groundwater supply, say UC Researchers:  “By now most people are aware that California’s groundwater supply is in a state of emergency – cities and farms use more water than is available. But University of California researchers have an engineering solution that may help replenish groundwater supplies and fisheries.  The answer, according to Josh Viers, a watershed scientist at UC Merced, is in flood control. Moving levees away from riverbanks to make room for floodwaters during wet years can refill aquifers and provide some relief during drought years. ... ”  Read more from the Merced Sun-Star here:  Moving levees can help groundwater supply

Drought and conservation’s Waterloo is fairness:  “Walking down the pedestrian path of the Wescom Credit Union, I witnessed three gardeners, one wielding a hose directly into the hole where a palm tree grew.  Hmm, I thought. That is an effective way to water. No broadcasting of water hither and yon. No overwatering on the sidewalks. No puddles. Instead, laser-like water bursts into the roots of a tree that was brown.  Five minutes later, my eyes followed a different kind of water use. ... ”  Read more from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune here:  Drought and conservation’s Waterloo is fairness

Drought or not, water has long reigned in the Imperial Valley:  “A framed copy of the Imperial Press front page from June 8, 1901, hangs in a prominent spot at the Pioneers Museum here.  The newspaper’s motto says boldly: “Water Is King, Here Is Its Kingdom.” The lead story details the latest of what proved to be many advances in bringing water from the Colorado River to make the desert bloom.  Modern irrigation — aided by the Hoover Dam and the All-American Canal — transformed the Imperial Valley from a hostile desert into an agricultural marvel: a testament to generations of farmers and their use of cheap and plentiful water. Crops bring an annual harvest of more than $2 billion. ... ”  Read more from the Los Angeles Times here:  Drought or not, water has long reigned in the Imperial Valley

In commentary this weekend …

Court ruling could wash away incentives to conserve, says the LA Times: The rich, it turns out, use more water than the rest of us. The Times reported last week that residents of wealthy cities such as Beverly Hills use up to four times as much water, on average, than residents of neighboring Los Angeles, even during the current drought.  Those folks in the 90210 might well respond, “So what? We pay for it.” And of course they do, at higher rates per gallon as their usage increases. So is it their water and none of anyone else’s business, or everyone’s water and everyone’s business?  There is plenty of room in law, history and politics to support many different answers to those questions, and more to the point, to answer the even more basic question: What is water in California? ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Court ruling could wash away incentives to conserve

Sorry Californians: No more lawns – but you can take showers, says Ellen Hanak:  She writes, “When California Governor Jerry Brown announced a sweeping set of policies to address a fourth year of severe drought, he stood on a bare mountain meadow that most years would have been covered in five feet of snow. But the dry winter, combined with record heat, means the state has almost no snow in reserve. No snow in April is a big deal for California. Like many western states, California relies on mountain snowpack for a large share of annual water supplies — in California’s case, about a third. The snow melts into rivers and streams just as the long, dry summer rolls in. ... ”  Read more from TIME Magazine here:  Sorry Californians: No more lawns

Farmers do share in drought sacrifices, says Richard Waycott:  He writes, “When things get tough – and the fourth year of a historic drought is certainly tough – it’s natural to look for someone to blame. But finger-pointing rarely solves big problems, and recently there has been an effort to blame farmers – and almonds – for our state’s historic drought.  Based on recent news reports, you might think almonds are taking over most of California’s agricultural land and driving up water use (“State’s ag water supply needs realignment”; Forum, April 5). Actually, almonds use less than 12 percent of irrigated farmland and about 8 percent of the water going for agricultural use. Put another way: about 90 percent of irrigated farmland in California produces other crops. And, according to the Department of Water Resources, the state’s total agricultural water use has declined over the decades. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Farmers do share in drought sacrifices

Voters spoke on water, and now will have to speak again, says the Chico Enterprise-Record:  They write, “It’s not often that voters give a green light to spending billions of dollars to build reservoirs. So why is the California Water Commission treating it as a yellow light?  That question is just one of many surrounding the state water bond, Proposition 1, that had us skeptical from the beginning.  Proposition 1 passed by an overwhelming percentage in November, with two-thirds of voters approving. The bond promised $7.5 billion in spending for water projects, including $2.7 billion for water storage. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Voters spoke on water, and now will have to speak again

We can learn a lot from Southern California about water conservation, says the Sacramento Bee:  “Many of us in the rest of the state still see Southern California as the land of swimming pools and lush lawns. But that image is way out of date as we deal with the record drought.  Southern Californians, for the most part, are far ahead in conserving, recycling and reusing water. If the state is to reach the 25 percent mandatory reduction in urban drinking water use, residents and businesses elsewhere – particularly in well-off suburbs – have to catch up.  The State Water Resources Control Board is sounding the alarm and aiming the deepest water reductions at communities with the highest per capita use. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  We can learn a lot from Southern California about water conservation

State needs to set strategic goals for water: Q&A with Jeffrey Kightlinger: Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, visited The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board last week to talk about the state’s water issues. Here are edited excerpts of the interview:  Q: What should California be doing about its water shortage?  A: We’ve taken a good look at the California Water Action Plan that the governor has put out, and I think he has all the right elements in there. To my mind, the next step is coming up with a strategic prioritization of funding for it. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  State needs to set strategic goals for water

Coming soon – mandatory conservation, says Jeffrey Kightlinger:  He writes, “Thanks to careful planning and water conservation, Southern California has enough water to make it through this fourth drought year. But to make sure we are ready should this drought continue, it is time to find ways to make do with even less. The region’s provider of imported water supplies, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, is proposing to restrict wholesale supplies to agencies serving nearly 19 million residents in six Southland counties. And that means mandatory conservation/rationing in some local form or another.  Southern California depends on a water-saving ethic each and every year. … ”  Continue reading from the Daily News here:  Coming soon – mandatory conservation

Column: Recovery from energy crisis provides lessons on drought:Come this Wednesday, California will end any control over a gas-fired power plant at the southeast edge of Fresno, shedding a final vestige of our last really big crisis.  That transaction says something about our current crisis.  Painful though it may be, remember the energy crisis of 2000 and 2001. Energy buccaneers seized control of the newly deregulated electricity market, manipulating the power grid and driving the price of electrons to historic highs, though no one fully grasped the magnitude of the fraud at the time. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Recovery from energy crisis provides lessons on drought

Districts won first river fight, says the Modesto Bee:  They write, “The issue never was just about more water for farmers. It was as much about how much water would be left for salmon when they need it most next fall.  South San Joaquin and Oakdale irrigation districts defied the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and National Marine Fisheries Service on Wednesday by blocking water released from New Melones Reservoir before it could reach the Stanislaus River. In the midst of negotiations over how much of he scant Sierra runoff the districts would get, the NMFS ordered a release to help push juvenile steelhead trout down the river. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Districts won first river fight

Column: The wrong way to think about water:  Michael Hiltzik writes, “Water is complicated. Nowhere is that more true than in California, and never more than during a major drought.  That may be why so much of the debate about how to manage California’s scarce water supply is misguided.  The national press brims with photographs of emerald-green Palm Springs golf courses fenced off from sandy desert. Would-be presidential candidate Carly Fiorina blames the drought on “liberal environmentalists” blocking reservoir construction. Easterners gibe about the folly of growing thirsty almond trees in a dry climate. … ”  Read more from the Los Angeles Times here:  The wrong way to think about water

Drought is the result of regulations, lack of infrastructure, says Neil Derry:  “For nearly three decades, policy experts in California have been warning about the state’s failure to invest in infrastructure. Our current drought is a reality, not just because we are in a cyclical weather cycle where droughts have always happened. Much of California is desert. Californians have successfully manipulated and modified our environment to fit our needs, just as humanity has done since the advent of agriculture caused us to abandon the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of primitive man. … ”  Read more from the Daily News here:  Drought is the result of regulations, lack of infrastructure

In regional news and commentary this weekend …

Drought dries up business for contractors in Sacramento Valley rice industry:  “On a sun-dappled airplane runway, it is not hard to spot the cracks and holes on the 3,100-foot asphalt strip owned by professional crop duster Chris Taylor.  On a normal rain year, the cracks would be sealed and the holes filed. But in the fourth year of California’s severe drought, the runway repairs will have to wait.  “Our business has been down 50 percent since 2012,” said Chris Taylor, owner of Sunrise Dusters in Robbins in Sutter County. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Drought dries up business for contractors in the Sacramento Valley rice industry

Suburban Roseville emerges as area leader in water conservation: The “gold star” list projected on a big screen at last week’s meeting of California’s State Water Resources Control Board heaped praise on several water agencies whose residents had made major strides in conservation and were now among the communities using the least water per capita.  Most of the 19 communities highlighted are towns near the coast that long have been conservation leaders, made easier by moderate climates and a development model centered on small yards and apartment-living. But wedged between Sunnyvale and Daly City was an outlier from Sacramento’s suburban expanse: The city of Roseville, a hot, parched suburb surrounded by communities that generally consume far more water. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Suburban Roseville emerges as area leader in water conservation

San Diego, Los Angeles mayors take stage in drought fight:  “San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced this week that his city would be deploying water cops and offering money to rip up lawns in an effort to save water during an escalating drought.  He’s among several leaders of California cities, including Los Angeles, proclaiming commitment to water conservation and vowing to move ahead of the state in slashing water use with initiatives including awareness programs, incentives and beefed-up enforcement with warning letters and fines. ... ”  Read more from the Daily Republic here:  San Diego, Los Angeles mayors take stage in drought fight

San Bernardino National Forest: Expired Nestle permit a priority:U.S. Forest Service officials on Friday said they are making it a priority to examine a long-expired permit that Nestle has been using to pipe water out of a national forest to use for bottled water.  Nestle Waters North America has long drawn water from wells that tap into springs in Strawberry Canyon north of San Bernardino. The water flows through a pipeline across the national forest and is hauled by trucks to a plant to be bottled as Arrowhead 100 percent Mountain Spring Water. ... ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here:  Forest Service: Expired Nestle water permit a priority

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
where California water news never goes home for the weekend

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