Daily Digest: Court battles loom over senior water rights; Endangered species protections at center of drought debate; Water thieves on the rise; Big data battles California drought, and more …

In California water news today, Court battles loom over California’s senior water rights; In epic drought, California water cops get tough at last; Endangered species protections at center of drought debate; Water thieves are on the rise in drought-stricken California; Big data battles California drought: $2.3 million to wise up; Owner of marijuana farm fined for fouling creek; California water fight raises free market issues; Drought killing large patches of trees; State agency revises rules on grass; Legislature sends budget to Governor; ACWA-opposed trailer bills could be taken up later this week; Assemblywoman Shannon Grove denies having linked abortion and drought in Sacramento speech; Texas communities embrace toilet-to-tap water; will California follow suit?; What cuts to California water rights mean – for now; In drought-stricken California, skinny-dipping nudists accused of stealing water; White House moves funds in anticipation of drought-fueled fire season; and more …

On the calendar today …

 

  • The State Water Resources Control Board will meet at 9am.  Agenda items include an update on the ongoing drought emergency, consideration of an amendment to the Sacramento and San Joaquin basin plans regarding diazinon and chlorpyrifos, and a public workshop on composting operations.  Click here for the full agendaClick here for the webcast.
  • DWR Draft Model Ordinance for Landscaping (Southern California):  This morning, DWR will hold a public meeting to discuss the draft revision to the model landscape ordinance from 10 am to 12 pm at the Metropolitan Water District in Los Angeles. The meeting will be available via webexMore information by clicking here.
  • Workshop on Climate Change Indicators in California:  Today and tomorrow, the California Environmental Protection Agency’s (CalEPA) Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is convening a workshop to collect input into the next update of the report, Indicators of Climate Change in California, scheduled for 2017.  Click here for more information.  Click here for the webcast.

In the news today …

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

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Court battles loom over California’s senior water rights:  “Now that California officials have ordered water cutbacks for some of the oldest and most protected water rights holders in the state, we’re about to see if those orders will stick.  In a historic move, more than 100 “senior” water rights holders have been notified that they must stop pumping water from streams and rivers.  The orders are expected to launch a flurry of lawsuits, with water right holders challenging the state’s fundamental authority to cut off senior rights. Court rulings could dramatically alter how water rights are handled in the state. ... ”  Read more from KQED here:  Court battles loom over California’s senior water rights

In epic drought, California water cops get tough at last:  “Want to get rich? Move to California, become a lawyer. Most important, specialize in water, because as the state’s drought drags on, every drop of coastal rain, every flake of Sierra snowpack, and every inch of reservoir water becomes both more valuable and more contested. Before long you’ll start counting rain drops—every one that fails to fall will ring cha-ching.  The latest windfall to California’s legal community came Friday, when the State Water Resources Control Board announced it was cutting certain historical water rights—held by some farmers, communities, and companies for more than a century. ... ”  Read more from WIRED Magazine here:  In epic drought, California water cops get tough at last

Endangered species protections at center of drought debate:  “Travel up and down California farm country, the Central Valley, and you hardly hear people lamenting the lack of rain or how dry this past winter was. What you hear, from the agriculture industry and many local and national politicians, are sentiments like those expressed by Rep. Devin Nunes:  “Well, what I always like to say is that this is a man-made drought created by government,” the Central Valley Republican says. When he says “man-made” drought, he’s talking about court-ordered restrictions that have kept hundreds of millions of gallons of water in West Coast rivers and estuaries to protect endangered fish like the delta smelt…. ”  Read more from NPR’s All Things Considered here:  Endangered species protections at center of drought debate

Water thieves are on the rise in drought-stricken California: As California drought conditions worsen, water thieves are on the rise. One drove off with a 500-gallon water tanker in the Oakland Hills in March. The Marina Landscape tanker was resting on a trailer parked in front of a job site near the Caldecott Tunnel and police believe a thief hooked it up to a truck and drove off. The tanker is worth $4,500 to $5,000 and authorities suspect the thieves will use it to steal more water.  Last month, Sacramento police caught two men who illegally tapped into a city fire hydrant to fill a 2,000- to 4,000-gallon water truck they’d rented, the Sacramento Bee reports. Officials are determining whether the men had simply forgotten to obtain a permit or were intentionally stealing water. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  Water thieves are on the rise in drought-stricken California

Big data battles California drought: $2.3 million to wise up:  “Nearly four years in, and the state of California continues to suffer from the worst drought ever seen along the West Coast in more than a millennium. Now, the California Energy Commission has pledged a whopping $2.3 million in funding towards radically optimizing the state’s wasteful agriculture and energy sectors.  So what exactly is that money for? in a collaboration between the University of California (UC) at Santa Barbara, UC Davis, and big-data startup PowWow energy, experts plan to collect and consolidate an enormous amount of valuable data on water usage. Earlier investigations had revealed that the great majority of this data went unused, and even the little that was put to work remained isolated – completely unknown to resource managers outside of the sector that recorded it. … ”  Read more from Nature World News here:  Big data battles California drought: $2.3 million to wise up

Owner of marijuana farm fined for fouling creek:  “Water regulators in California have fined the owner of a former marijuana farm and a licensed excavation contractor $297,400 for fouling a creek while preparing a piece of land in Shasta County for pot-growing.  The fine announced Friday was the first to result from a multi-agency pilot project charged with reducing the negative environmental effect of marijuana being cultivated on private property, State Water Resources Control Board attorney Yvonne West said. … ”  read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel here:  Owner of marijuana farm fined for fouling creek

California water fight raises free market issues:  “Is water a commodity like oil and gold?  That’s the question being raised in California, where a nasty four-year-long drought has led the state to put restrictions on usage, requiring some areas to cut back by 36%.  That’s raised the hackles of some residents in the wealthier parts of the state, who argue if you pay for it, you should be able to use as much water as you like. ... ”  Read more from Yahoo Finance here:  California water fight raises free market issues

Drought killing large patches of trees:  “A U.S. Forest Service aerial survey in April found 20 percent of the trees in a 4.1 million acre area in the Southern Sierra were dead. “Those areas in particular have been suffering from the most severe drought conditions for the longest period of time and now the effects are really becoming apparent,” says Jeff Moore with the U.S. Forest Service. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  Drought killing large patches of trees

State agency revises rules on grass: The California Department of Water Resources has proposed changes to an ordinance that would prohibit installing grass at most new commercial and residential properties.  The DWR revised an ordinance to reduce the size threshold for landscapes to 500 feet for both commercial and residential property.  The updated rules would ban grass in street medians, prohibit installation of grass (unless it is for a specific function, such as a sports field) and require the installation of efficient sprinkler nozzles.  … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  State agency revises rules on grass

Legislature sends budget to Governor; ACWA-opposed trailer bills could be taken up later this week: The state Senate and Assembly approved a budget bill June 15 that includes more than $117.5 billion in general fund spending and total reserves of $5.7 billion for the 2015-’16 fiscal year.  The budget bill, approved on a 53-27 vote in the Assembly and a 26-13 vote in the Senate, is expected to be followed by subsequent trailer bill legislation addressing a range of policy issues. … ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here:  Legislature sends budget to Governor; ACWA-opposed trailer bills could be taken up later this week

Assemblywoman Shannon Grove denies having linked abortion and drought in Sacramento speech:  “Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, in a Monday post to her state government website, denied having linked California’s drought to abortion in a recent speech to a pro-life group in Sacramento, as was reported last week by RH Reality Check and picked up by other media, including The Californian. Grove, who last week chose to release a general statement rather than respond to The Californian’s questions specifically about the RH Reality Check report, on Monday said the “pro-abortion website” had misquoted her and she was releasing “answers to the following questions to set the record straight.” … ”  Continue reading at the Bakersfield Californian here:  Shannon Grove denies having linked abortion and drought in Sacramento speech

Farming interests planning pushback on water rule they say goes too far: Farm interests from around the country are pushing back on a recently finalized federal water rule after an analysis by a key trade group concluded that the rule “creates even more risk and uncertainty” for those who work the land.  Efforts are underway in Congress to redo and sharply limit the impact of what was known initially as the “Waters of the United States” rule and was designed to help federal officials clarify and simplify which bodies of water fall under the control of the Clean Water Act, the pivotal 1972 environmental law.  While those efforts have broad support in Congress, they might not have enough support to override a presidential veto – sending the rule’s ultimate fate to be battled out in court. … ”  Read more from McClatchy News here:  Farming interests planning pushback on water rule they say goes too far

Texas communities embrace toilet-to-tap water; will California follow suit?Lessons learned in – until recently – drought parched Texas could help inspire a so-called toilet-to-tap water revolution in drought-ridden California.  The only places in the United States known to have implemented the practice of turning treated wastewater into drinking water without passing treated water through an environmental buffer are in the Lone Star State.  Big Spring and Wichita Falls, Texas, employ what is known as a direct, potable reuse (DPR) technology to supplement scarce water resources. … ”  Read more from the Christian Science Monitor here:  Texas communities embrace toilet-to-tap water; will California follow suit?

What cuts to California water rights mean – for now:  “California told holders of some of the most senior water rights in the state to stop pumping on Friday. Now citizens and businesses in the Golden State are trying to figure out what that means exactly.  The consensus from water customers is that the order, from California’s State Water Resources Control Board, will have little impact for now. Instead, they liken it to a shot across the bow, a warning that more “curtailments” will come as the summer dries up what little water is left. The state with America’s biggest economy and most productive farmlands is entering its fourth year of severe drought. … ”  Read more from CNBC here:  What cuts to California water rights mean – for now

In drought-stricken California, skinny-dipping nudists accused of stealing water:  “The nipples may be free at Lupin Lodge, but the water isn’t.  In a case that highlights California’s increasingly desperate drought, prosecutors have charged the owners of an 80-year-old nudist resort near San Jose with a felony for allegedly conspiring to steal water from a local creek.  Owners Glyn Stout and his wife Lori Kay could face up to three years in county jail if convicted. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post here:  In drought-stricken California, skinny-dipping nudists accused of stealing water

White House moves funds in anticipation of drought-fueled fire season:  “The price tag for coping with America’s record-breaking drought keeps rising.  On Friday, federal officials announced this year’s budget may have underestimated how much money it will take to fight wildfires in the American West this summer. With severe and relentless drought leaving more than a third of the West dangerously dry, the fires will undoubtedly be worse, opening a gap in the federal firefighting budget of roughly $200 million, Agriculture Department official Robert Bonnie told reporters on Friday. … ”  Read more from Newsweek here:  White House moves funds in anticipation of drought-fueled fire season

In commentary today …

Governor Brown, abandon the tunnels plan, says Esperanza Vielma:  She writes, “My family’s history parallels the California water projects, and expansion of big agricultural farms. We are rooted in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and have lived, worked and fished here for three generations.  My personal perspective leads me to strongly oppose the governor’s massive underground water export tunnels. It saddens me to see huge growers and water exporters using farmworkers’ unemployment to push for even more exports that will doom the delta and our salmon fisheries. These growers don’t care about farmworkers. They exploit chronic unemployment they built into their industrial agriculture to justify ruining delta communities. ... ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Governor Brown, abandon the tunnels plan

Everyone needs to deal with this drought, say John Coleman and Kathy Tiegs:  They write, “There is nothing like an epic drought to get Californians talking about water. Wherever you go these days, people are discussing the latest news on water restrictions and sharing advice for reducing use over the long, hot summer.  The conversation is vital because it will take massive awareness and the cooperation of every Californian to achieve state-mandated reductions in water use in urban areas. ... ”  Continue reading at the Sacramento Bee here:  Everyone needs to deal with this drought

Drought tells us some farming should return to the cities, says Robert Puro:  He writes, ” … As recently as the 1950s, Los Angeles County was the biggest agriculture county in the United States. But population growth eventually pushed farms away. Today, the only evidence of our agricultural heritage is historical photos. Sadly, we are left looking under the high-tension power lines or across former or active military bases that dot the Southland to see any signs of active farming.  Does California’s serious drought tell us we should return agriculture to urban areas?  For many more reasons — including providing more “food security” for cities, shifting the balance of water use for commercial agriculture, improving nutrition and healthy living in our urban core and for job creation — the answer is: Yes. ... ”  Continue reading at the Daily News here:  Drought tells us some farming should return to the cities

The Colorado River is not a water buffet, so why the ‘first come, first served’ policy?  Doug Kenney writes, “As water shortages grip California and the seven state Colorado River basin, many users feel no pain, while some face a complete curtailment. That’s because the water management system is not designed to be either efficient or equitable but consistent and predictable. And it is.  As is typical in issues that race from obscurity to the front page, much of the blame that has been assigned for this water shortage misses the mark, as people expound on issues they don’t truly understand. Everything from alfalfa exported to Chinese cows, fountains shooting into the Las Vegas sky and explosive population growth throughout the arid southwest has been faulted for the shortage. But it is policies that discourage cooperation and conservation that do much of the damage. One example is the “first come, first served” system – based on the prior appropriation doctrine. ... ”  Read more from The Guardian here:  The Colorado River is not a water buffet, so why the ‘first come, first served’ policy?

In regional news and commentary today …

Strict water use rules take effect for San Jose Water Company customers:  “With the hot summer months ahead in California’s fourth year of drought, state regulators have approved a strict water conservation plan that went into effect Monday for the 1 million people served by San Jose Water Company.  On Friday, the staff of the California Public Utilities Commission notified the company that it could move forward with its plans to cut water use 30 percent to meet city and state drought targets, said John Tang, a spokesman for San Jose Water. ... ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Strict water use rules take effect for San Jose Water Company customers

Mountain House water source dries up: Outdoor irrigation could soon be entirely banned in San Joaquin County’s newest community, more evidence that the pain of the drought is not limited to local farmers.  Mountain House, a planned community of about 9,600 people, buys its water from the Byron Bethany Irrigation District near Tracy.  But on Friday, state officials announced that Byron Bethany can no longer divert water under its century-old water right, along with 114 other water districts, farms and companies up and down the Central Valley. ... ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  Mountain House water source dries up

Kern County: The impacts of groundwater legislation: County Supervisor David Couch announced the need to create a plan for regulating groundwater, before one is forced upon us.  That announcement came during Monday night’s “Water 101” educational meeting at the Supervisors Chambers. While most of the meeting centered on where Kern County’s water comes from and how it is regulated, Supervisor David Couch went over the state’s new groundwater legislation. ... ”  Read more from Kern Golden Empire here:  Kern County: The impacts of groundwater legislation

State won’t change Riverside’s tier:  “Another attempt by the city of Riverside to reduce the amount of water it is required to cut to meet emergency drought regulations or face $10,000-a-day fines has been struck down by the state.  Staff with the State Water Resources Control Board denied Riverside Public Utilities’ request to move from a conservation tier mandating 28 percent cuts to the 24 percent level.  The difference between the two tiers is about 836 million gallons, or 2,566 acre-feet, enough to serve about 5,100 families for a year. ... ”  Read more from the Riverside Press-Enterprise here:  State won’t change Riverside’s tier

Malibu: $3.2 million project aims to help endangered steelhead trout:  “A $3.2 million project aimed at restoring habitat for the endangered Southern California steelhead trout is set to begin this summer at Arroyo Sequit Creek near Malibu.  Only three waterways in the Santa Monica Mountains are known to contain steelhead trout: Arroyo Sequit, Malibu and Topanga creeks, according to California State Parks. ... ”  Read more from the Daily News here:  $3.2 million project aims to help endangered steelhead trout near Malibu

In the drought, O.C. agencies learn to say ‘conserve’ in several languages: It took Gov. Jerry Brown’s emergency drought order for Luyen Trinh to begin saving his shower water in a bucket and to cut back his plant watering from five days to two.  The 69-year-old Vietnam native didn’t get the message in English. He learned it from listening to Little Saigon Radio, broadcast out of Westminster, where he has been living since moving to the U.S. in 1994.  Trinh is one of almost 600,000 Asians living in Orange County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. He also is among the 45.5 percent of county residents who speak a language other than English at home, complicating efforts to communicate conservation strategies that are delivered largely in English and Spanish. … ”  Read more from the O.C. Register here:  In the drought, O.C. agencies learn to say ‘conserve’ in several languages

Desert water use drops substantially in May:  “Coachella Valley residents made big strides in reducing their water use in May, the last month before mandated statewide cutbacks take effect.  The valley’s two largest water providers, the Coachella Valley Water District and the Desert Water Agency, said Monday they had cut water use back by 17 percent and 26 percent, respectively, compared to 2013. The Mission Springs Water District, which serves Desert Hot Springs, reached 25 percent. And the City of Indio achieved an 18 percent reduction. ... ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here:  Desert water use drops substantially in May

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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