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Daily Digest: State lifts restrictions on senior water rights; Feds must disclose some groundwater well information; Wastewater injection threatens San Joaquin Valley farmland; Deadlines loom as new state groundwater law goes into effect; and more …

In California water news today, California lifts restrictions on senior water rights; Feds must disclose some California groundwater well information; Wastewater injection threatens San Joaquin Valley farmland; Groundwater: Deadlines loom as new state law goes into effect; Researchers track parched farmland from space; NASA Study: California drought doubles idle farmland acres; Aerial photos capture drought-stricken Lake Oroville; In restaurants, habits make the difference in water conservation; Public comment period on Delta tunnels plan ends Friday; Despite hype of El Nino Grande, California’s rainy season starts with a whimper; High surf expected along much of the coast; Forecasters more confident of a wetter winter; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • Army Corps Yuba River ecosystem restoration public meeting (Sacramento): The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District will host a public scoping meeting in Sacramento beginning at 1pm to discuss the feasibility of ecosystem restoration in Northern California’s Yuba River watershed in late October and early November.  The meetings will present an outline of the study’s purpose, a tentative schedule and provide the first opportunity for public interaction with the project team. The Corps and our non-Federal partners, the Yuba County Water Agency, will be on hand to discuss the study and answer any questions about the process and accept public comments. Click here for more information.

In the news today …

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …
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California lifts restrictions on senior water rights:California water regulators on Tuesday lifted restrictions for the holders of hundreds of senior water rights who were ordered to stop pumping this summer.  With the harvest largely over, the State Water Resources Control Board said there’s enough water in the Sacramento-San Joaquin watersheds so that holders of senior water rights could once more divert water from rivers and streams. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  California lifts restrictions on senior water rights

Feds must disclose some California groundwater well information: Federal authorities will not have to disclose the location, construction or depth of California water wells to an environmental group under a recent federal court ruling.  However, the decision does require the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to turn over the names and addresses of the well owners and water transfer participants to AquAlliance, which advocates for “hydrological health” in Northern California.  In 2013, AquAlliance made a wide-ranging Freedom of Information Act request for documents relating to water transfers in the region, which included geological data about water wells. … ”  Read more from the Capital Press here:  Feds must discloses some California groundwater well information

Wastewater injection threatens San Joaquin Valley farmland: When Tom Frantz looks eastward from his small Kern County almond grove, the farmer sees a bank of low hills rising from the Central Valley floor and, eventually, building into the large peaks of the southern Sierra Nevada. Frantz has these mountains to thank for his livelihood, since the snowmelt that runs off the peaks eventually sinks into the ground and, over time, descends into the natural underground reservoirs of the Central Valley. In drier years, Frantz gets most of his water from wells that tap into this aquifer.  But the water, Frantz says, is being poisoned. … ”  Read more from Comstock’s Magazine here:  Wastewater injection threatens San Joaquin Valley farmland

Groundwater: Deadlines loom as new state law goes into effect: Hammering out the structure for sustainably managing groundwater is a complicated effort, California water experts say. But farm owners, water districts, government agencies and cities all have a stake in completing the steps to meet the deadlines set by the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.  Known as SGMA, the law sets a number of milestones that must be met to achieve groundwater sustainability. People involved in implementing the law say achieving that means acting now to complete incremental steps to sustainability.  Some of the most pressing and problematic deadlines are just months away, said Sonoma County farmer Tito Sasaki, who serves on both the California Farm Bureau Federation and Sonoma County Farm Bureau water committees. ... ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  Groundwater: Deadlines loom as new state law goes into effect

Researchers track parched farmland from space: The drought has left few nooks of California un-browned. Formerly lush lawns crack underfoot. Riverbeds splay naked under the sun. And, in some parts of the state, crop fields lie fallow. Now these farmlands are ready for their close-up — from space.  As farmers prioritize certain crops and forsake others, a patchwork of barren fields segments the state, particularly in the Central Valley. Researchers at California State University, Monterey Bay, have teamed with NASA to understand the dimensions of that patchwork quilt. … ”  Read more from the Salinas Californian here:  Researchers track parched farmland from space

NASA Study: California drought doubles idle farmland acres: Farmers in California’s Central Valley have left more than one million acres of agricultural land idle all year long, more than double the amount before the drought.  NASA and USGS satellite imagery paints a bleak picture of the effect of the drought on farmland in the Central Valley. 15 percent of all irrigated farmland was idle all year long. ... ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  NASA Study: California drought doubles idle farmland acres

Aerial photos capture drought-stricken Lake Oroville:As California waits for what forecasters say will be a wet winter, the state’s water supply continues to dwindle.  Aerial photos of Lake Oroville released Tuesday by the California Department of Water Resources show the toll a four year drought is taking on our water supply. ... ”  Read more from Action News Now here:  Aerial photos capture drought-stricken Lake Oroville

In restaurants, habits make the difference in water conservation: Restaurants face a number of unique challenges in dealing with drought. That’s because, unlike in many other commercial sectors, a solution to saving water doesn’t necessarily come from simply installing new plumbing fixtures.  The biggest obstacle to saving water in restaurants is breaking old habits. A restaurant owner can install all the new water-saving technologies available, but if chefs, dishwashers and servers continue to work in old patterns, the water savings won’t materialize.  That’s the word from a number of industry professionals, who recently participated in an online water conservation forum hosted by Water Deeply. ... ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  In restaurants, habits make the difference in water conservation

Public comment period on Delta tunnels plan ends Friday:Californians only have two more days to put in their two cents about the state’s $15.5 billion plan to build two 30-mile tunnels to divert water from the Sacramento Delta.  Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of a nonprofit called “Restore the Delta,” claimed the tunnels will do more harm than good. ... ” Read more from the Public News Service here:  Public comment period on Delta tunnels plan ends Friday

Despite hype of El Nino Grande, California’s rainy season starts with a whimper:  “Many Californians have already mentally deposited oceans of rainwater into our depleted reservoirs, thanks to the hype surrounding a projected Godzilla El Niño this year. The only problem is that actual deposits haven’t really amounted to much just yet. Bay Area National Weather Service officials released a friendly reminder Monday that we haven’t really seen any relief from our drought at this (very early) point in the rainy season. In fact, we are pacing well behind normal yet again.  ... ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  Despite hype of El Nino Grande, California’s rainy season starts with a whimper

High surf expected along much of the coast:  “Very high tides and swell arriving from a Pacific storm will combine to bring the possibility of big surf and minor flooding of low-lying points along parts of California’s coast, the National Weather Service said Tuesday.  Coastal flood advisories were issued for much of the shore from Los Angeles northwest to Santa Barbara and south to San Diego, while high surf advisories were to go into effect Wednesday for the Central Coast. ... ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  High surf expected along much of the coast

Forecasters more confident of a wetter winter:A little more than a month ago, Scott Borgioli was warning farmers that news reports of El Niño conditions in the Pacific bringing large — even monstrous — storms to California this coming winter were premature. … More importantly, Borgioli was among meteorologists warning that September was too early to say reliably that warming waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean — the phenomenon known as “El Niño” — was likely to hold up through the winter months.  But this week, Borgioli has changed his tune. … ”  Read more from the Visalia Times-Delta here: Forecasters more confident of a wetter winter

In commentary today …

Investing in desalination could be risky with El Nino on the way, says financial advisor Larry Palmer:  He writes, “After four long years of punishing water shortage across the state, weather forecasters are finally predicting rain — the strongest El Niño in decades. While that may be great news for some, it also creates a tricky conundrum for those invested in the world of water.  The longer we are without rain, the more we start hearing about investment in desalination — a process that produces clean water by removing salt and minerals. On one hand, developing desalination technology and infrastructure unlocks a virtually limitless water supply that is reliable throughout the year. However, the process is currently extremely costly. ... ”  Read more from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune here:  Investing in desalination could be risky with El Nino on the way

In regional news and commentary today …

Eel River salmon go blind awaiting rain:  “Recent high tides and brief mid-September rains gave some Eel River salmon a fleeting chance to move closer to their spawning grounds. But a lack of adequate flows on the river is causing many fish to fall ill as they crowd within small pools for weeks at a time, according to a recent survey by the Eel River Recovery Project.  In an email to the Times-Standard, Wiyot Tribe Natural Resources Director Stephen Kullmann said the low-flow conditions on the Eel River are exposing these salmon to disease, predation, and poor quality water as they await adequate flows to move upriver. ... ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here:  Eel River salmon go blind awaiting rain

Modesto seeks to look for alternatives to water treatment plant: Modesto wants to explore alternatives with Turlock and Ceres to building an expensive drinking water plant on the Tuolumne River.  The three cities – acting as the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority – have been working on a water treatment plant and in July reached a deal with the Turlock Irrigation District to have it provide the plant with as much as 30,000 acre-feet of river water annually. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Modesto seeks to look for alternatives to water treatment plant

Recharge method could boost Merced-area aquifers up to 20 percent, report says: Researchers on Tuesday estimated that groundwater levels could rise 12 percent to 20 percent through intentional flooding of selected farmland between Merced and Fresno counties.  The report from the California Water Foundation said the method, using excess river flows during wet winters, also could be used in Stanislaus and other counties with concerns about overpumping.  It came out a day after the Almond Board of California, based in Modesto, announced a similar research project in San Joaquin Valley nut orchards. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here: Recharge method could boost Merced-area aquifers up to 20 percent, report says

Amid drought, Kings County looking to help renters with well failures:  “Kings County supervisors have approved a program designed to help people whose wells have run dry.  There are a few catches. You have to be a renter, meet certain income requirements, and you will have to wait until the state gives the go ahead before being able to take advantage of the program. Kings has requested an initial allocation of $150,000 from the state, but hasn’t been formally approved yet. … ”  Read more from the Hanford Sentinel here:  Amid drought, Kings County looking to help renters with well failures

Study will look at East Porterville water woes: The elusive long-term solution to East Porterville’s water problems could still be years away, but officials are beginning the long process to identify what is needed and what it will cost. Officials with the state of California, Tulare County and the City of Porterville will meet next week to finalize moving forward with a grant to do a feasibility study seeking long-term solutions to the lack of water in East Porterville that has left more than 600 homes without a functioning domestic water well. … ”  Read more from the Porterville Recorder here:  Study will look at East Porterville water woes

Water conservation program adopted by San Luis Obispo County supervisors: How groundwater in the Paso Robles and Nipomo Mesa areas will be managed was fundamentally changed Tuesday.  Following a daylong hearing, a divided San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors adopted a countywide water conservation program. The main feature of the program is the requirement that new uses of groundwater in the Paso Robles and Nipomo Mesa areas must be offset by an equal amount of conservation.  The vote to adopt the program was 3-2 with supervisors Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton voting no. ... ”  read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here:  Water conservation program adopted by San Luis Obispo County supervisors

Santa Barbara:  As Lake Cachuma reaches record lows, water managers do some soul-searching:  “There was some good news Monday as regional water managers gathered at the Marriott Hotel in Buellton to discuss the past, present and future of Lake Cachuma, the most reliable water source in Santa Barbara County — until now.  After more than 60 years, they learned, the $43 million debt for Bradbury Dam at Lake Cachuma has been paid off. The last installment was made last month.  Now, if only the lake would fill up with water. After four years of severe drought, records show water levels at Cachuma are down 82 feet to the lowest levels since 1991.  … ”  Read more from Noozhawk here:  As Lake Cachuma reaches record lows, water managers do some soul-searching

LA Aqueduct flows once again as dam built for drought is dismantled: Water in the aqueduct that helped fuel Los Angeles’ growth was flowing toward the city Wednesday for the first time in six months after workers removed an earthen and concrete dam that had diverted runoff to the parched Owens Valley.  With little mountain runoff due to a historic drought, water managers made the unprecedented decision to try to meet legal obligations to keep the Owens River flowing, control dust from a dry lake bed and irrigate pastures where cattle graze instead of sending water to the city. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  LA Aqueduct flows once again as dam built for drought is dismantled

Precipitation watch …

  • weatherFrom the National Weather Service: A weakening weather system will bring scattered showers and a slight chance of thunderstorms to Northern California tonight into Wednesday. Additionally, snow levels are expected to drop to 8000-9000 ft, with some light snow possible through Lassen Park and across higher Sierra passes. After this system passes through, breezy north winds are likely to develop Thursday into Friday., especially across the Sierra and western side of the Valley. This warm and dry pattern looks to continue through at least Friday.   Ready for fall like temperatures? We expect them to be here by Monday! Two weather systems will be moving through California and the second system will usher in a much cooler air mass. This could possibly create unstable conditions on Monday and bring locally heavy showers.

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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