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Daily Digest: Water czar disputes poor grades for California’s drought response; Ballot measure would broaden conservation water rates; Tiny plastics in our water: No easy solutions; and more …

In California water news today, Water czar disputes poor grades for California’s drought response; Environmental group gives California mixed marks for drought management; Ballot measure would broaden conservation water rates; Proposed ballot measure could reestablish tiered pricing; Hacking the Drought; Amid drought, California’s new housing experiments with ways to save water; Tiny plastics in our water: No easy solutions; California’s stranded sea lions suffering from brain damage after toxic algal blooms; San Diego’s 18-year wait to drink seawater may hinder deals; Desalination boosts California water outlook; Auditors say EPA broke law in social media blitz on water rule; This study just undermined a huge myth about the Endangered Species Act; and more …

On the calendar today …

Stormwater, Water project operations on the State Water Board agenda today beginning at 9am: The State Water Resources Control Board will hold a meeting and workshop today; Agenda items include numerous stormwater issues, an update regarding feasibility of direct potable reuse, consideration of approving $5 million in funding for drinking water solutions for households served by domestic wells or really small water systems, and consideration of a proposed order ‘taking action on Petitions for Reconsideration of the Executive Director’s February 3, 2015 Order Approving in Part and Denying in Part a Temporary Urgency Changes in License and Permit Terms and Conditions for the State Water Project and Central Valley Project and Subsequent Modifications to That Order.’  Click here for the agendaClick here for the webcast.

In the news today …

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

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Water czar disputes poor grades for California’s drought response: A “report card” for California’s response to the four-year drought is being greeted with some consternation by state water officials.  “One always prefers ‘atta-boys’ to kicks in the pants,”  responds Felicia Marcus, one of the state’s top water regulators.  On Monday, the Natural Resources Defense Council issued a report grading efforts to cope with the current dry times and gird the state against future droughts. It was a report card that, if handed down by your fifth-grade teacher, you probably wouldn’t be eager to show your parents. … ”  Read more from KQED here:  Water czar disputes poor grades for California’s drought response

Environmental group gives California mixed marks for drought management: More than four years into a drought, California’s efforts to manage the crisis have produced mixed results, according to a report card issued Monday by a leading environmental nonprofit organization.  The state received high marks from the Natural Resources Defense Council for its urban conservation and water recycling but performed poorly in areas such as stormwater capture and restoring the San Francisco Bay Delta.  “The state is making decent strides in some areas, while completely falling down on the job in others,” said Kate Poole, the report card’s lead author and senior attorney for the council’s water program. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Environmental group gives California mixed marks for drought management

Ballot measure would broaden conservation water rates: A coalition of California local governments and water agencies Monday proposed a ballot measure to allow local governments to set water rates they believe encourage water conservation.  Introduced by the League of California Cities, California State Association of Counties, and Association of California Water Agencies, the measure comes eight months after an appellate court struck down a Southern California city’s method of charging water users based on a tiered-rate system – essentially charging larger users a higher per-unit rate. Gov. Jerry Brown likened the ruling to putting a “straitjacket on local government at a time when maximum flexibility is needed” given the protracted water shortage. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Ballot measure would broaden conservation water rates

Proposed ballot measure could reestablish tiered pricing:  “A coalition of groups representing cities, counties and water agencies filed a proposed ballot measure Monday that would allow water providers to reestablish so-called tiered pricing as a means of encouraging conservation.  Backers submitted the California Water Conservation, Flood Control and Stormwater Management Act of 2016 to the attorney general’s office. The measure would appear on next November’s state ballot as a proposed constitutional amendment if enough signatures are collected.  The measure was crafted after a state appeals court ruled last spring that the tiered water rate structure used by the city of San Juan Capistrano was unconstitutional because it violated voter-approved Proposition 218 … ”  More from the LA Times here: Proposed ballot measure could re-establish tiered water pricing

Hacking the Drought:  ” … With drought expanding through most of the American west this year and extending to an unprecedented fourth year (and ninth out of 10) in California, 2015 raised the bar for policy makers, water managers, and engineers to figure out how to do more with less; 2016 will be the proving ground for many of these proposals and solutions. Climate models predict big swings from drought to drenching, particularly in regions of the globe where mountains run hard up against deserts, as in much of California. Some of these happen to be in politically sensitive places where water shortages and flooding could lead to instability. The spillway is one hack among many that California and other similar regions of the world are deploying to upgrade water infrastructure that was built for a climate that no longer exists. … ”  Read more from Take Part here:  Hacking the Drought

Amid drought, California’s new housing experiments with ways to save water:  “In an affluent neighborhood north of the city, the Sea Cliff development of million-dollar custom houses appears at first glance to be yet another in a series of expensive homes sprouting across California.  But a tour of the model properties reveals a surprisingly innovative feature that is getting a lot of attention in a state grappling with the fourth year of a devastating drought: Built-in gray water recycling systems.  Gray water is the soapy water that drains from showers, bathroom sinks and washing machines. In most homes, the water flows down sewers. ... ”  Read more from Al Jazeera America here:  Amid drought, California’s new housing experiments with ways to save water

Tiny plastics in our water: No easy solutions:  “Looking out at San Francisco Bay, you’d never know it’s dotted with tiny pieces of plastic. But new research shows that, like other waters across the United States, the bay is contaminated with billions of plastic beads, particles and fibers, all 5mm (a fifth of an inch) or smaller. This microplastic threatens fish and may also threaten people who eat them.  “We can’t recover it once it’s into our watersheds and oceans,” said Stiv Wilson, campaign director at The Story of Stuff, a nonprofit in Berkeley. “People are focused on plastic bags but the small stuff is more dangerous. We need to broaden the dialog.” ... ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  Tiny plastics in our water: No easy solutions

California’s stranded sea lions suffering from brain damage after toxic algal blooms:Scientists have gleaned fresh insight into the havoc wreaked by a microscopic culprit that has disrupted marine life this year along the Pacific Coast, not only tainting Northern California’s delicious supply of Dungeness crab but also sickening or killing hundreds of sea lions. It’s long been known that a tiny toxin called domoic acid, produced by marine algae known as pseudo-nitzschia, kills brain cells. But new research by a UC Santa Cruz team illuminates the relationship between damage to the brain and sea lions’ profound loss of memory and navigational skills. In recent years, biologists have increasingly observed a high number of California sea lions struggle onto beaches, weak, confused and trembling. ... ” Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  California’s stranded sea lions suffering from brain damage after toxic algal blooms

San Diego’s 18-year wait to drink seawater may hinder deals: The largest ocean desalination plant ever built in the Western Hemisphere is finally generating drinking water — and revenue — 18 years after it was proposed in Southern California. Some investors say it wasn’t worth the wait. … Proposed in 1998, the project was beset by legal and regulatory challenges that held up construction until the end of 2012. The specter of similar delays may scare off future investors and underscores the difficulties western states confront as they rush technology common in the Middle East to their fight against a historic drought that may have been worsened by climate change. ... ”  Read more from the Chicago Tribune here:  San Diego’s 18-year wait to drink seawater may hinder deals

Desalination boosts California water outlook: With the ceremonial opening of the Western Hemisphere’s largest ocean desalination plant on Monday, a new era began for water use in the San Diego County — and possibly for the entire drought-plagued state of California.  Water conservation, recycling, reservoir and ground water storage are all used extensively in the state. But seawater desalination, the most abundant potential source, has until now remained a minor part of the water supply puzzle. If this new plant in Carlsbad performs according to expectations, that could change. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here:  Desalination boosts California water outlook

Auditors say EPA broke law in social media blitz on water rule:  “The Environmental Protection Agency broke the law in a social media campaign intended to generate public support for a controversial rule to protect small streams and wetlands from development and pollution, congressional auditors said Monday.  The EPA’s campaign violated restrictions against lobbying and propaganda by federal agencies, the Government Accountability Office said in a 26-page report. The agency blitzed social media in a campaign that urged the public to submit comments on the draft water rule. The effort reached at least 1.8 million people. … ”  Read more from the AP here:  Auditors say EPA broke law in social media blitz on water rule

This study just undermined a huge myth about the Endangered Species Act:  “The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has raised continual controversy since its enactment more than four decades ago, inciting many a heated debate over the need to protect threatened plants and animals versus how such protections could crimp land use or economic development. But a surprising new analysis shows that the Act might not be quite the economic threat that critics believe it is — at least, not anymore.  The new research, which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, takes a look at the impact of an especially highly debated section of the ESA: Section 7, which requires federal agencies to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service before moving forward with any form of development that they fund, authorize or carry out. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post here:  This study just undermined a huge myth about the Endangered Species Act

In commentary today …

Governor Brown’s “Water Fix” is not a real solution for the Delta, say Joan Buchanon and Mike Machado: They write, “Gov. Jerry Brown’s bid to build tunnels to isolate the Delta from its natural water supply has been repackaged as the “California Water Fix.”  It’s curious terminology indeed. Surely he can’t mean fix as in a “solution,” since this proposal solves none of the water problems plaguing California. His twin tunnels will produce no “new” water in the face of the annual shortage of at least 5 million acre-feet resulting from a promise to deliver more water than is available in the Sacramento River watershed. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Governor Brown’s “Water Fix” is not a real solution for the Delta

Precipitation watch …

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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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