Daily Digest, weekend edition: State of water is grim, Drought rules frustrate regions that prepared for the worst, Would a wild water plan work?, Delta receives temporary dam but reactions are mixed, and more …

In California water news this weekend, State of water is grim, California drought rules frustrate regions that prepared for the worst, California looks to Australia for drought advice, Would a wild water plan work?, How the state’s water conservation rules affect you, Delta receives temporary dam but reactions are mixed, group says Delta dam will hurt California, California opens up the floodgates for desalination, As Lake Mead hits record lows and water shortages loom, Arizona prepares for the worst, and more …

Happy Mother’s Day!

In the news this weekend …


Also on Maven’s Notebook this weekend …


State of water is grim:  “The water supply picture is now mostly sorted out. And it’s not pretty.  Of course, no one expected it to be anything but a catastrophe.  A promisingly wet December morphed into a Sahara-dry January, and, for the rest of 2015, the rain virtually disappeared. For the Sierra snowpack, there was no “virtually” about it — it’s gone, one of the largest reservoirs of water in the state, melted away. … ”  Read more from the Appeal-Democrat here:  State of water is grim

California drought rules frustrate regions that prepared for the worst: In California’s second-largest city, memories are still fresh of a devastating drought 25 years ago that saw the area’s water supplies slashed by about a third.  Billions of dollars were invested to prepare for the next drought, an effort that included building the western hemisphere’s largest desalination plant, which opens this fall.  Yet the moves count for nothing under sweeping statewide cuts to urban water use approved this week that require hundreds of cities, counties and local agencies to reduce consumption between 8% and 36% from 2013 levels, starting 1 June. The largest per-capita users must make the biggest percentage cuts, no matter how and where they get their water. ... ”  Read more from the Guardian here:  California drought rules frustrate regions that prepared for the worst

California looks to Australia for drought advice:  “Severe dry spells aren’t unique to California.  Just ask Australia, where the Millennium Drought stretched from 1997 to 2009, devastating the southeastern portion of the country and forever changing how it uses water.  For months now, water experts in California have asked their counterparts Down Under for advice on drought management. And, increasingly, state officials are employing the lessons they’ve learned from Australia, though not all equally, as they address California’s four-year dry stretch and ponder a drought that could extend for years. … ”  Read more from U-T San Diego here:  California looks to Australia for drought advice

Would a wild water plan work?  “California’s current drought has brought back discussion of some of the biggest — or craziest — ideas on how to sate the Golden State’s thirst. These ideas, which circulated through previous droughts, were never implemented, but also never went away.  Are any of the ideas any good? U-T San Diego took a look at some of the grander plans and talked with water experts about their benefits and failings, and whether they might ultimately might make sense after all — whether in San Diego County or the entire state. ... ”  Read more from the U-T San Diego here:  Would a wild water plan work?

How the state’s water conservation rules affect you:  “The administration of Gov. Jerry Brown last week enacted historic new water conservation rules in response to California’s drought. The goal is to cut statewide water use by urban residents 25 percent over the next nine months to help preserve water supplies in case the drought continues through next winter.  Q Am I affected?  A Yes. The rules apply to all 38 million California residents. Q I’ve been hearing lots of confusing details. What do I need to know?  A There are basically three types of rules. ... ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  How the state’s water conservation rules affect you

Delta receives temporary dam:  “California water managers, reacting to the state’s increasingly dire four-year-old drought, have taken an uncommon step to ensure the quality of the fresh water flowing through California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a vital estuary that supplies drinking water to southern California communities and irrigation water to Central Valley farmers.  On May 8, the Department of Water Resources began constructing a temporary rock barrier, in effect a small dam, across one of the delta’s interlinking channels. The goal of the $US 28 million project is to 1) keep the salty Pacific Ocean from creeping inland and souring a drinking water source used by two-thirds of Californians, and 2) to preserve water storage in depleted upstream reservoirs. … ”  Read more from the Circle of Blue here:  Delta receives temporary dam

Reactions to drought barrier mixed:  “Construction of a temporary drought barrier on the West False River in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is underway. …  Karen Cunningham has a ranch and draws water from what will be the salty side of the barrier. “This is a sad day. A sad day to see this going on,” Cunningham said. “Are my cows going to be watered with salt water? Will my sub-irrigation become salty? Cunningham said. … ”  Read more from ABC News here:  Reactions to drought barrier mixed

River rock barrier will hurt California, group says:  “The water project drought-minded California officials fast-tracked could reduce water supplies for millions, an environmental group claims in court.  Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy and Reliability (CESAR) filed the lawsuit in superior court Wednesday, claiming that the state circumvented environmental law to build a 750-foot-wide rock barrier across a channel of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.  CESAR says the barrier will harm protected fish species and increase salinity in areas unprotected by the state’s water project. … ”  Read more from Courthouse News here:  River rock barrier will hurt California

California opens up the floodgates for desalination:With California suffering through a brutal prolonged drought that already has forced communities there to cut water use by 25 percent, the state is moving aggressively to implement what some see as a longer-term solution for water shortages. On May 6, the State Water Resources Control Board approved the first statewide standards for building desalination plants, which would treat seawater from the Pacific Ocean and convert it to water suitable for drinking and other uses.  The decision, enacted by voice vote, sets rules that will allow regional water boards in California to evaluate applications to build and operate desalination plants and to expand existing ones, according to Reuters. ... ”  Read more from Discovery News here:  California opens up the floodgates for desalination

As Lake Mead hits record lows and water shortages loom, Arizona prepares for the worst: Last week, Lake Mead, which sits on the border of Nevada and Arizona, set a new record low—the first time since the construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s that the lake’s surface has dipped below 1,080 feet above sea level. The West’s drought is so bad that official plans for water rationing have now begun—with Arizona’s farmers first on the chopping block. Yes, despite the drought’s epicenter in California, it’s Arizona that will bear the brunt of the West’s epic dry spell.  … ”  Read more from Slate Magazine here:  As Lake Mead hits record lows and water shortages loom, Arizona prepares for the worst

And lastly … Dealing with drought, but dreaming of water:  SacBee editorial cartoonist Jack Ohlman writes, “We are all aware, except for Los Angeles, that there’s a water crisis in California, and that we all have to do our part to conserve this precious natural resource. (Editor’s note: People in L.A. use less water than people in Sacramento, but we hate L.A. for that whole Lakers-Kings playoff game.)  For example, in Hollywood, residents are limited to five Maserati washings per week. (Editor’s note: Teslas?) In Malibu, residents have been asked to keep swimming pools filled with Dom Pérignon 2004 instead of water drained from Owens Valley. So they’re doing their part. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Dealing with drought but dreaming of water

In commentary this weekend …

It’s time to reform California’s water rights, says the LA Daily News:Inherited water rights were established in California’s Gold Rush era, if not precisely to bolster the common good, then at least to allow entrepreneurial miners and farmers adequate supplies for their work.  They were the first so-called prior-appropriation water rights in the country, created as an alternative to riparian water rights, which allow all property owners access along a river’s path, that served the water-rich Eastern states well enough. For generations the inherited rights have been good for commerce in the West, where other states modeled their laws on our own. … ”  Read more from the Daily News here:  It’s time to reform California’s inherited rights

Feds need to help with California drought:  Rep. Grace Napolitano, Daniel P. Beard and David Wegner write,  “Last week, Silicon Valley officials showed real leadership by raising a toast with recycled water. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews and other leaders took big gulps of treated water to show their support for a project that will more than double production of recycled water from the Alviso treatment plant.  Their leadership comes on the heels of important steps taken by Gov. Jerry Brown to reduce household and urban water use, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s mandate to reduce dependence on imported water. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Feds need help with California drought

Prepare for the deluge as the Delta boils over, says columnist Dan Morain:  He writes, “Jerry Brown was sounding a little like an eccentric uncle-governor the other day as he muttered about Spaceship Earth, how he got the Moonbeam moniker, and, yes, the need to recycle human waste into water.  Wearing a sweater and no tie, the governor was at ease among the 1,000 or so Association of California Water Agencies conventioneers at the Sheraton last week as he gave one of his most direct pitches yet for his Delta plan. That’s the one that includes two 40-foot-wide, 35-mile-long tunnels, which will cost $17 billion, give or take.  ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Prepare for the deluge as the Delta boils over

Time to stop the tunnel vision, says Kathryn Phillips:  “For many Californians, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is known only as a place mentioned in magazine ads about houseboat vacations.  That the Delta, where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers meet the San Francisco Bay, is only vaguely understood in the state’s main population centers makes it easier to confuse people about the Delta’s value to the whole state and about the greatest threats to its future.  Gov. Jerry Brown demonstrated that recently when he announced his administration’s latest plans for the Delta. … ”  Continue reading at the Sacramento Bee here:  Time to stop the tunnel vision

Governor’s water policy needs a rewrite, says The Reporter:  They write, “In approving new sweeping regulations for urban water agencies this week, Gov. Jerry Brown and state water officials lamented how little water saving has been achieved in the state.  Bound and determined to change that, the Governor and his water administrators are now mandating deeper cuts and vowing fines and other action for those who don’t comply.  But should the Governor really be surprised that water users haven’t fallen into lock step behind his plans?  The Governor talks about saving water, but then continues to push for massive tunnels to send water south. ... ”  Read more from The Reporter here:  Governor’s water policy needs a rewrite

The West is watching the California Delta debate, says Pat Mulroy:  She writes, “What happens to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta matters in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Denver. From the eastern slope of the Rockies to the edge of the Pacific Ocean, the western United States functions as a vast, interconnected plumbing system. Those who follow water closely in the West are increasingly nervous about what is going on in California. The delta is in crisis. Will California be able to solve this problem?  Saying “no” is not an option. Now is when all the California water perspectives have to come together in the delta toward common action through the Brown and Obama administrations. … ”  Read more from the Las Vegas Sun here:  The West is watching the California Delta debate

In regional news and commentary this weekend …

N. California water-bottling plant’s critics consider the source:Siskiyou County officials were effusive in 2013 when Crystal Geyser’s chief executive announced outside an idled bottling plant here that it would soon be churning out sparkling water, teas and flavored beverages.  A onetime logging haven, this northern county had long been burdened by high unemployment, and the company’s purchase of the plant just outside the town limits would bring jobs.  But this is not the old Mount Shasta. A steady influx of outdoors enthusiasts, spiritual seekers and urban retirees has arrived in recent decades, drawn to the beauty and power of the 14,180-foot mountain that looms to the east. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  N. California water-bottling plant’s critics consider the source

Sonoma:  Wells running dry as groundwater recedes:  “If praying for more rain isn’t working, and conserving usage isn’t sufficient to provide enough water for Sonoma, maybe it’s time to look down – underground. There, however, the picture gets murkier.  “We can see an open storage reservoir, like Lake Sonoma or Lake Mendocino, how much water is in there, and how much the decline is,” said Dan Muelrath. “Groundwater is much trickier. You can’t see it.”  Muelrath is the executive director of the Valley of the Moon Water District, which is holding a public hearing on the groundwater situation in Sonoma Valley next Tuesday, May 5, at the regular VOMWD board meeting in El Verano. … ”  Read more from the Sonoma Index-Tribune here:  Wells running dry as groundwater recedes

Sacramento water agencies plan gentle approach on drought cutbacks:The decision is final, the deadline is non-negotiable, and the targets for conserving water are the most stringent in California.  Just don’t expect Sacramento-area water agencies to go into a tough-cop mode as they gear up for new state-ordered drought restrictions that begin in June.  The agencies are imposing new rules on residents. There will be new restrictions on outdoor watering, and at least one agency will forbid residents from filling empty swimming pools. Several will ramp up their “water patrols” aimed at ferreting out water abuse. West Sacramento will become apparently the first jurisdiction in the region to limit outdoor watering to once a week. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Sacramento water agencies plan gentle approach on drought cutbacks

Sacramento wants to grow; will the drought say no? Blessed by its perch at the confluence of two major rivers, the Sacramento region has grown for generations in sprawling style, confident that water would be there in ample supply.  Even now, amid a historic drought that has prompted deep, state-mandated water cuts for urban users, capital area leaders show no sign of backing off their plans for another major growth surge. The six-county Sacramento region is projecting 285,000 new housing units over 25 years, expanding the region by nearly 30 percent. Much of that growth is envisioned as the sort of suburban expansion that has made Sacramento residents among the biggest water users in the state. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Sacramento wants to grow; will the drought say no?

Stockton: Flood plan comes with a cost: The search ended the moment Elizabeth Meyling turned the corner and saw the house — “my little paradise,” as she now calls it.  “I didn’t even need to come inside,” the 43-year-old Meyling recalled with a smile. “I knew I wanted to buy it right away.”  She had no idea that less than three years later, the federal government would propose strengthening the levee behind her home. And now, based on neighbors’ interpretation of a conceptual proposal, Meyling fears the work could wipe out most of her backyard and maybe even the house. ... ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:   Flood plan comes with a cost

Fast growing hycainth chokes Central Valley waterways:  “The Tuolumne River near Empire in Stanislaus County had a swath of hyacinth 300 yards long and 40 yards wide atop the water that cut off any boating.  Seventh grade teacher Elias Ruiz along with a few friends donned scuba gear and made several trips to remove pylons and logs that remained from an old bridge. ... ” Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  Fast growing hyacinth chokes Central Valley waterways

Davis: Data dance shows how absurd system is, says Bob Dunning:  He writes, “Now that the State Water Resources and Punishment Board has officially declared that “beauty” is no longer a value in California, get ready for the city of Davis to sponsor a workshop telling us how we must conserve by another 28 percent so the city can raise our rates by 39 percent.  And remember, the more you conserve, the more we’ll have to charge you, even if that “Clean Water Project” that has caused your bills to skyrocket has yet to produce even a drop of water from the Sacramento River. … ”  Read more from the Davis Enterprise here:  Data dance shows how absurd system is

Santa Clara Valley officials mull stepped-up water conservation:  “Think you’re doing your part to save water — and that the problem is the guy with the lush lawn down the street, not to mention water-guzzling farms?  You’re in good company.  On Saturday, local officials gathered to brainstorm how to kick water conservation into high gear — and how to collectively tackle the blame-them-not-us mindset. The Santa Clara Valley Water District, which provides water to 13 water retailers, hopes agencies will help draft a unified battle plan to attack the drought… ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Santa Clara Valley officials mull stepped-up water conservation

Monterey: Drought will force cooperation, says the Monterey Herald:  They write, “California’s drought has put the issue of an inadequate water supply front and center, and perhaps that means more people are seeing the need for cooperative solutions.  There are any number of competing factions when it comes to water: different jurisdictions, water districts, agriculture, political groups and business interests. Thanks to the drought, all these factions now should realize that with supply limited, an equitable solution is in everyone’s interest.  For example, those interested in limiting development have advocated capping the water supply as a crude form of growth control. Now, it’s apparent that the population that’s here now needs a reliable source of water just to provide enough for basic needs, a viable economy as well as health and safety standards. … ”  Read more from Monterey Herald here:  Drought will force cooperation

Hilmar dairy farm experiments with worms to clean wastewater:  “A dairy farm in Hilmar is the first commercial farm in the country to experiment with worms cleaning wastewater.  Fanelli’s Dairy is known for its Jersey cows. But two months ago, it received a new creature on the farm. One whose population averages 10,000 per square meter.  There are now more worms than cows on Vic Fanelli’s farm. He doesn’t mind. … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento here:  Hilmar dairy farm experiments with worms to clean wastewater

Fresno: Green waste, another drought casualty: Fresno officials expect to collect less green waste — lawn clippings, tree trimmings, shrubbery prunings — as California struggles through a fourth straight year of drought.  “Less watering — less growth,” Public Utilities Director Thomas Esqueda says.  The result could be a blow to City Hall’s efforts to meet state guidelines for solid-waste recycling and landfill deliveries.  At the same time, city officials are close to unveiling a service at the wastewater treatment plant that would make available an almost limitless supply of water safe for landscape irrigation (but not drinking). … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Green waste, another drought casualty

Central Valley: Dead orchards may go up in smoke:  “In drought-wounded Terra Bella, Kent Duysen says he has seen the plumes of smoke recently — farm-waste burning linked to both the devastating dry time and a faltering biomass energy industry.  The San Joaquin Valley’s tainted air might be getting an extra dose of soot and ozone-forming gases this spring as growers wrestle with the woody waste from dead citrus orchards. ... ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Dead orchards go up in smoke

Paso Robles to tighten water restrictions this summer:  “Grass will be a goner in places around Paso Robles this summer as residents and businesses undergo tighter water restrictions on outdoor irrigation in accordance with new state mandates.  The biggest change, city officials say, is that users must cut back to watering their lawns two days a week starting May 15, compared with previous years’ water restrictions that allowed for irrigation three days a week.  Meanwhile, the city will let decorative turf die on city medians and at some municipal facilities such as City Hall and the Public Safety Center. … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here:  Paso Robles to tighten water restrictions this summer

Bakersfield water rates are all about location, location, location:  Lois Henry writes, “This newspaper, along with most water agencies in town, has been bombarded with questions that no one ever asked P.D. (pre drought).  Such as, “Why does my neighbor, with a big yard and a pool, only pay $20 a month for water when I pay more than $100 a month and I don’t even have a pool?!” I’ve actually already written about this very topic. But that was PDE (pre drought emergency) so no one apparently read it waaaay back in 2013. I’ll recycle some of that column for you here. … ”  Continue reading at the Bakersfield Californian here:  Your water rates are all about location, location, location

Drought keeps some O.C. splash pads dry: Splash pads have exploded in popularity across Orange County, springing up inside parks and outdoor shopping centers.  “I would say that it has more than tripled in the last five years in terms of the number of splash pads being built,” said Jeffrey Barman, president of California Waters, a Santa Ana company that develops the water play areas.  But some splash pads are drying up faster than they were built as cities scramble to meet new mandates triggered by the statewide drought. … ”  Read more from the O.C. Register here:  Drought keeps some O.C. splash pads dry

Less water, more dead trees in Vista:  “When Vista decided during a budget crunch four years ago to drastically scale back on watering trees on the edges of city parks and traffic medians, officials crossed their fingers and hoped for rain. Instead, they got epic drought.  Since then dozens of trees on city-owned land have died — most of them nonnative invasive species like eucalyptus. Last year alone, Vista cut down 100 dead trees on city property, including 43 at the city’s cornerstone Brengle Terrace Park. Eighteen trees died in the park the prior year, up from just two in 2012. … ”  Read more from U-T San Diego here:  Less water, more dead trees in Vista

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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