Daily Digest: The plight of the Delta smelt exposes flaws of the Endangered Species Act; Normal flows resume in the Delta-Mendota Canal; Farmer’s market emerging for power; Monster El Nino could bring relief and misery to California; and more …

In California water news today, The plight of the Delta smelt exposes flaws of the Endangered Species Act; Normal flows resume in the Delta-Mendota Canal; In parched California, a farmer’s market emerging for power; A monster El Nino could bring relief and misery to California; Investments in irrigation improvements paying off amid drought; Increasingly, droughts and heat waves are happening at the same time; Fresno State drought study seeks consensus on water use; and more …

In the news today …

Swimming upstream: The plight of the Delta smelt exposes flaws of the Endangered Species Act: In July, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife made a startling announcement. Its most recent survey of the California Bay Delta netted only a handful of Delta smelt, an endangered fish species.  The number was so low that the smelt’s “relative abundance,” a statistical measure of how common a species is compared with others in the same area, rounded off to zero. This led University of California at Davis biologist Peter Moyle, who has studied the Bay Delta’s fisheries since the 1970s, to conclude that the smelt is “on its last legs right now. We’ll be lucky if it survives the coming year.” … ”  Read more from The Conversation here:  Swimming upstream: The plight of the Delta smelt exposes flaws in the Endangered Species Act

Normal flows resume in the Delta-Mendota Canal:  “Pumping water upstream in the Delta-Mendota Canal has caught nationwide attention during this fourth year of drought, but that unusual operation is no longer needed.  On Wednesday, the Jones Pumping Plant northwest of Tracy resumed its original role — pumping enough water downstream in the Delta-Mendota Canal to meet the needs of customers.  For most of the summer, it wasn’t that way. … “  Read more from the Tracy Press here:  Normal flows resume in the Delta-Mendota Canal

In parched California, a farmer’s market emerging for power: California’s record drought may be a boon to power companies.  The dry spell that began in 2012 is depleting easy-to-reach surface water, forcing growers in the country’s largest fruit-and vegetable-producing state to almost double reliance on underground supplies. Pumping water from wells as deep as 3,000 feet (914 meters) is energy intensive, boosting electricity demand by hundreds of millions of dollars.  “We are using about two-and-a-half times more power than we would in a normal year,” Kole Upton, co-owner of the 3,000-acre Lost Wagon Wheel Ranch northwest of Fresno, said in a phone call Sept. 1. “It’s been a huge hit.” ... ”  Read more from Bloomberg here:  In parched California, a farmer’s market emerging for power

A monster El Nino could bring relief and misery to California: The tropical Pacific has taken a circuitous path over the past several years toward its present extraordinary warmth. El Niño — a pronounced warming of the equatorial eastern Pacific Ocean, which occurs at odd intervals —had been largely absent over the past 15 years. Following the record-strength El Niño event in 1997-1998, the tropical Pacific calmed down quite a bit, entering a persistent “La Niña-like” state characterized by unusually warm conditions in the tropical West Pacific and unusually cool conditions in the east. These anomalous ocean temperatures substantially altered global weather patterns, and there’s even evidence that the Earth’s average air temperature increased more slowly that it would have otherwise due to global warming as a result of the large amount of energy being sequestered by the warm West Pacific. ... ”  Read more from KQED here:  A monster El Nino could bring relief and misery to California

Investments in irrigation improvements paying off amid drought: Thanks to irrigation improvements across the state of California — which agricultural producers have implemented with help from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) — many farmers remain successful despite severe water cutbacks amid ongoing drought.  A good example is Tehama County rancher Sam Williams, who participated in a Farm Bill project in the Anderson Cottonwood Irrigation District (ACID) in 2010. Williams is using 37-percent less irrigation water, due to improved irrigation water efficiency, and his fields have stayed lush and green despite 25-percent water curtailments in 2014 and again this year. Likewise, he said that he has hardly been affected by the drought. … ”  Read more from Water World here:  Investments in California water irrigation improvements paying off amid drought

Increasingly, droughts and heat waves are happening at the same time:  “Across much of the United States, regional droughts and heatwaves are appearing simultaneously more frequently, imposing more-extreme conditions than either would deliver separately, according to a new study.  California’s four-year drought is a case in point, says Amir AghaKouchak, a civil engineer at the University of California at Irvine and the new study’s senior author.  Looking only at 2014 and using precipitation as the indicator, “it is a serious drought, but it is not that extreme,” he says. It would be classed as a drought that would occur about once every 25 years. But temperatures in 2014 were well above average, he adds. Put the two extremes together and the drought becomes a once-in-200-year event.  ... ”  Read more from the Christian Science Monitor here:  Increasingly, droughts and heat waves are happening at the same time

Fresno State drought study seeks consensus on water use:  “Authors of a California State University-Fresno study that suggests ways to get the most out of limited water in the San Joaquin Valley say they hope their research fosters dialogue and political compromise.  The study, which estimates drought-related valley agricultural losses at as much as $3.3 billion, recommends that everyone have a “water budget”, make better use of recycled water and explore other “non-conventional” sources of water. … ”  Read more from the Capital Press here:  Fresno State drought study seeks consensus on water use

In commentary today …

A surprising lesson from Australia’s drought: Politics matter:  Dustin Evan Garrick wrties, “Severe drought in California and the West has spawned a cottage industry of commentaries about lessons from Australia’s drought, and rightfully so. There’s a saying in Australia: Norwegians have 50 words for snow, while farmers in New South Wales have 50 words for water reliability.  The Murray-Darling Basin, considered Australia’s breadbasket, is also known as a land of “ droughts and flooding rains ”. Its irrigation society was once described as bearing a striking resemblance to the Southwest U.S., but this is not entirely true anymore. By many measures, the region weathered Australia’s Millennium Drought (c. 1997-2009) with aplomb: Water availability declined by two-thirds, but the gross value of irrigation agriculture dipped by only 20 percent. ... ” Read more from Water Deeply here:  A surprising lesson from Australia’s drought: Politics matter

Felicia Marcus shares California’s perspective on the future of water management:  WEF Highlights asks Felicia Marcus:  “Q: What do you think are the biggest issues the water sector is facing today? A:”We are in a transition period, or paradigm shift, where we need to move … to integrated water management. While folks have been talking about this for 20 or 30 years, now we see cities (and states) in the early phases of implementation. So we have large cities – Philadelphia, D.C., Los Angeles, and others – taking steps to look at flood control, water quality, water supply, and urban greening using the same drop of water and the same local dollar. It is definitely an opportunity to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.  These are challenging transitions, as people are used to thinking and working in their geographic or subject-matter silos. … ”  Read more from WEF Highlights here:  Felicia Marcus shares California’s perspective on the future of water management

In regional news and commentary today …

McCloud agrees to CEQA feasibility study:  “McCloud’s Community Services District Board of Directors unanimously approved a contract related to the McCloud Artesian Spring Water Company during a special meeting Monday evening, Aug. 31.  “I want to make it clear that this is not a contract to sell water, but an agreement to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act in checking the environmental feasibility of this project before initiating it,” said McCloud Finance Officer Kimberly Paul in an interview.  Paul said the CEQA process will determine whether an Environmental Impact Report is necessary. … ”  Read more from Mt. Shasta News here:  McCloud agrees to CEQA feasibility study

California orders bottled water firm to stop tapping Sierra Nevada springs: Armed with evidence captured by surveillance cameras, California regulators have ordered a business to stop tapping Sierra Nevada spring water that is later bottled and sold in stores, officials said Wednesday.  It would be the first such action taken this year against a commercial water bottling business under tight drought restrictions, said Kathy Mrowka, enforcement manager of the state Water Resources Control Board. … ”  Read more from CTV here:  California orders bottled water firm to stop tapping Sierra Nevada springs

American Canyon water bills to rise immediately: Water customers in this drought-impacted city will see a bigger number on their water bills later this month — about $18 more per month — since council members passed an emergency rate increase at Tuesday’s meeting.  The $2 per unit increase is meant to help reduce a growing deficit in the city’s water fund so it can continue paying its expenses, even as city officials work to find a more permanent solution to its reliance on State Water Project water. … ”  Read more from the Vallejo Times-Herald here:  American Canyon water bills to rise immediately

Strong El Nino expected: Bay Area flood preparations underway: Despite being in the midst of one of the worst droughts in California’s history, many state and local emergency officials are now preparing for severe flooding. They say we may be in for a very wet winter.  Rock piled 10 feet high now covers 100,000 square feet of space at the Port of Stockton. All that rock is meant to rebuild levees in the Delta just in case what happened in 1997 happens again this year. … ”  Read more from ABC 7 here:   Strong El Nino expected: Bay Area flood preparations underway

Central Valley: West side cities slapped for cancer causing agent in tap water: With attention focused on hot-button water-related topics – drought, groundwater, fish requirements, sinking earth, fallowed fields, domestic wells going dry – here’s one you probably haven’t lost sleep over: chromium 6.  California, which fancies itself at the forefront of environmental issues, last year became the only state to say by law how much of the cancer-causing agent is safe in drinking water. This year, enforcers began slapping violations on communities that might have to spend millions of dollars curing the problem. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  West side cities slapped for cancer-causing agent in tap water

In Terra Bella, half of citrus trees meet bulldozers: Terra Bella Irrigation District in southern Tulare County is a great place to grow citrus, but only if there is water.  “We find groves in Terra Bella enjoy a unique micro-climate and survive frost well,” said Sean Geivet, general manager of the district.  It is the home to about 400 small citrus farmers who — at least until two years ago — had about 10,000 acres of citrus trees. That’s no longer the case. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Business Journal here:  In Terra Bella, half of citrus trees meet bulldozers

Fresno State No. 2 on drought-endangered college list: “Fresno State was recently named one of the most drought-endangered college campuses in the U.S. by consumer landscaping service platform LawnStarter. The Austin-based company compiled its list using data from the National Drought Monitor and matched its regional information with colleges that have NCAA Division I football programs. Fresno State ranked second, behind only UCLA, on the list of 12 schools. ... ”  Read more from the Fresno Business Journal here:  Fresno State No. 2 on drought-endangered college list

Drilling for new well at Paso Robles vineyard causing water woes for neighbors: Well drilling at a North County vineyard has prompted water trouble for at least two neighbors in unincorporated Paso Robles, who say their wells have been producing less water than normal or have gone dry since the drilling began.  Paso Robles Vineyard Inc., a company that sources grapes to various local wineries, confirmed Tuesday that it’s drilling a new well at its 500-acre HuerHeuro Vineyard located just outside city limits between Union and Linne roads by Barney Schwartz Park. ... ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here:  Drilling for new well at Paso Robles vineyard causing water woes for neighbors

New rate calculator out for proposed Paso Robles water district costs: A handy-dandy new online program is now available to help people atop the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin figure out what a proposed water district would cost them.  The assessment rate calculator, as it’s called, was unveiled by the group CALM the Basin, or Citizens Advocating for Local Management of the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin. The group—a relatively new actor in the ongoing political fracas of San Luis Obispo County and local stakeholders sorting out how to manage the ailing basin—is advocating for the formation of a water district. ... ”  Read more from New Times SLO here:  New rate calculator out for proposed Paso Robles water district costs

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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