Daily Digest: How to innovate out of a drought; California has a shot out of the drought of El Nino rains persist; Oroville rises 20 feet, Folsom 44 feet; Study: Logging forests won’t increase water supply; and more …

In California water news today, How to innovate out of a drought; California has a shot out of the drought of El Nino rain persist; Water-starved Lake Oroville rises dramatic 20 feet in six days; Thanks, El Nino!  Folsom Lake’s 44 foot rise offers hope for drought’s end; Vogel asks: Where’s the fault? ; Study: Logging forests won’t increase water supply; Stormwater floods Modesto almond orchard in an effort to restore aquifer;  Could insurance markets help utilities respond to the drought?; Western mayors call for cooperation on water problems, solutions; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • Delta Protection Commission meets at 5:30 pm in Sacramento:  Agenda items include a presentation on the California Water Fix and an update on the Great California Delta Trail.  Click here for more information.

In the news today …

How to innovate out of a drought:  “Despite El Niño showers, California is still facing a potential fifth year in one of the worst droughts on record. It’s gotten severe enough that in April, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) imposed a 25 percent statewide reduction in urban water use.  The New York Times has painted a pretty bleak picture of Silicon Valley’s role in helping California respond to the drought, suggesting venture capitalists had a “brief love affair” with clean technology and water conservation at the start of the decade, but have since moved on to investing more heavily in areas like social networking.  But that sort of analysis doesn’t tell the full story. … ”  Read more from The Week here:  How to innovate out of a drought

California has a shot out of the drought of El Nino rain persist: With a couple of weeks of rain and snow behind them and more on the horizon for the Sierra Nevada in Northern California, state water officials expressed cautious hope that this El Niño season could lift California out of its historic drought.  “The recent rains have put us on a good trajectory to perhaps have a shot out of the drought if it were to continue at the current rate,” said Doug Carlson, a spokesman with the California Department of Water Resources. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  California has a shot out of the drought of El Nino rain persist

Water-starved Lake Oroville rises dramatic 20 feet in six days: El Niño is officially here, and the recent soakings walloping Northern California are recharging California’s drought-ravaged reservoirs with water.   Folsom Lake east of Sacramento rose 44 feet in the last month, and even more impressive, the elevation at Lake Oroville shot up a dramatic 20 feet in only six days.  “This isn’t entirely unusual, but it doesn’t happen every day,” said Kevin Wright, the California Department of Water Resources Oroville Field Division’s water services supervisor. “We haven’t seen the water level rise like this since we’ve had the drought over the past approximately four years.” ... ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  Water-starved Lake Oroville rises dramatic 20 feet in six days

Thanks, El Nino!  Folsom Lake’s 44 foot rise offers hope for drought’s end: California lake levels are rising as fast as the stock market is falling, with Folsom Lake east of Sacramento rising an astonishing 44 feet in just over a month and Lake Oroville, the second most expansive water storage facility in the state rising another 20 feet.  Early December saw Folsom Lake, just off Highway 50 on the way up to South Lake Tahoe, dwindle to the hydrological equivalent of a mud puddle. ... ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  Thanks, El Nino! Folsom Lake’s 44 foot rise offers hope for drought’s end

Vogel asks: Where’s the fault?  “Ken Vogel can’t find a fault connected with the Twin Tunnels project.  And neither can semiologists.  Yet one of the major impetuses for the state to push the Twin Tunnels to allow Sacramento River water to bypass the Delta and go directly into the California Aqueduct is how vulnerable the 1,000 plus miles of Delta levee are supposed to be in major earthquake.  Failure of the levees, as the Twin Tunnel project justification goes, would disrupt water supplies for much of the state’s population for an extended period of time. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Vogel asks: Where’s the fault?

Study: Logging forests won’t increase water supply:  “A controversial 2015 report that suggested logging California’s forests could increase the state’s water supply got it wrong, according to a new study released late last week.  The 2015 report by the Nature Conservancy had suggested that thinning forests in the northern Sierra Nevada as a fire management strategy would also increase flows downstream, adding to the amount of water available to rivers and reservoirs.  But that study was based on flawed assumptions, according to a review of more than 230 hydrological studies released Friday. The new study, conducted by veteran hydrologists Jonathan Rhodes and Christopher Frissell, concludes that any increases to water supply from logging would be localized and short-term, and that California would pay the price in water quality, forest biodiversity, and public safety. … ”  Read more from KCET here:  Logging forests won’t increase water supply

Stormwater floods Modesto almond orchard in an effort to restore aquifer: In an effort to restore California’s desperately depleted ancient aquifers, scientists are testing an approach that seizes surplus winter rain and delivers it to where it’s most useful: idle farms and fields.  On Tuesday, roiling, muddy water from the storm drains of the city of Modesto flooded an almond orchard, where UC Davis researchers will track its progress as it slowly percolates — over weeks, months, even years — into a 45-foot-deep underground reservoir.  “If we can recharge our basin during the wet years, that’s water we have banked away for dry years,” said farmer Nick Blom, who authorized the experiment on his orchards southwest of Modesto, where hundreds of trees are in winter slumber. ... ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Stormwater floods Modesto almond orchard in an effort to restore aquifer

Could insurance markets help utilities respond to the drought?  “Last Friday, the California Water Resources Control Board extended for eight months an emergency water conservation mandate that Governor Jerry Brown first ordered on April 1, 2015. The goal of the regulation, issued in response to California’s worst-ever drought, was to reduce urban water use by 25 percent compared to 2013, a year before water reserves began to plummet.  By and large, the mandate worked. Californians, despite bristling at the top-down order, followed the governor’s directive. Through November, the 411 urban water suppliers that are covered by the regulation had reduced water use by 26 percent. Homeowners tore out lawns, stopped washing cars, and took shorter showers, all in a collective effort to respond to the drought.  But cutting water use resulted in undesirable consequences for water utilities. … ”  Read more from Circle of Blue here:  Could insurance markets help utilities respond to the drought?

Western mayors call for cooperation on water problems, solutions:  “Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton had a message for the group of Western mayors gathered in the nation’s capital Wednesday to talk about water resources: It’s time to work together.  “There’s this almost adversarial relationship between Arizona and California in which we ask, ‘Are they going to steal our water?’ and they ask are we going to steal their water,” Stanton said. “The more we can work together, maybe we can break down those concerns.”  The meeting, called by Stanton as part of the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors convention here, drew mayors from Mesa, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Aurora, Colorado. It came against a backdrop of California’s historic drought, and on the same day that NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that 2015 was the hottest year on record. ”  Read more from Cronkite News here:  Western mayors call for cooperation on water problems, solutions

People news …

Save the Bay co-founder Sylvia McLaughlin dies:  “Save the Bay’s last living founder, Sylvia McLaughlin, died at her home in Berkeley on Tuesday. She was 99. The organization helped kick off the modern, grassroots environmental movement in the Bay Area.  In the 1950s, San Francisco Bay was in dire shape. There were plans to fill in most of it for development, leaving just a narrow channel of water. The Bay was regularly filled to provide space for ports, industry, airports, homes, and even garbage dumps.  Families didn’t stroll along the shoreline because it was rife with trash and industrial development. The wetlands and wildlife were quickly disappearing.  McLaughlin could not sit by. … ”  Read more from KQED here:  Save the Bay co-founder Sylvia McLaughlin dies

In commentary today …

Will the state protect the Delta? asks Jonas Minton:  “When a company sells tainted ice cream, we ask, “When did the FDA know about the contamination?” When a train carrying crude oil derails, we ask, “When did the NTSB know the safety equipment was not installed?”  We ask because those are the agencies that need to be held accountable for protecting us. But agencies are made up of individuals who make conscious choices about whether they will act. Most take their responsibility very seriously. The state Air Resources Board, for instance, helped uncover the Volkswagen diesel fraud.  Now, we will find out if the five members of the State Water Resources Control Board will do their job to protect the San Francisco Bay Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Will the state protect the Delta?

Don’t ease up on water conservation, says Tracy Quinn:  She writes, “State and federal agencies seem to disagree about California’s drought. The Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s 2016 Drought Contingency Plan, released Friday, painted a grim picture, but that same day, the State Water Resources Control Board staff proposed to relax emergency drought regulations.  Some farmers in California’s Central Valley are bracing for a third year without federal irrigation water. So how can we rationalize backing off conservation, recognized as the least expensive, fastest and most environmentally sound way to meet water needs? … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Don’t ease up on water conservation

In regional news and commentary today …

PacifiCorps pursues dam removal after collapse of Klamath legislation: PacifiCorp is now trying to reach a quick deal with federal and state regulators to remove four aged dams on the Klamath River.  The aggressive action by the big western utility follows the failure of Congress over the last four years to pass sweeping legislation aimed at ending the water wars in the Klamath Basin that straddles the states of Oregon and California.  Supporters of restoring free flows on one of the West Coast’s biggest salmon rivers are cheered by the prospect of finally seeing the dams demolished. But Klamath Basin farmers say they’re worried they will be left behind without any of the water guarantees included in the federal legislation. … ”  Read more from OPB here:  PacifiCorps pursues dam removal after collapse of Klamath legislation

River activists and Tribes Prepare For Water Board Public Hearings in Orleans, Arcata and Yreka:Now that hopes for a settlement to Klamath River water issues have collapsed in Congress, dam removal proponents are shifting their attention to a series of four scoping meetings being sponsored by the State Water Resources Control Board.  The downriver tribes, who were not all in accord on the settlement agreements, may travel much more parallel paths at this stage.  The schedule includes a meeting Thursday, January 14, in Sacramento, then meetings in Arcata on Monday, January 25, and in Orleans and Yreka, both on Tuesday, January 26. The Orleans session is an add-on requested by the Karuk Tribe in their effort to encourage more input from people in the river communities. It is a step in the process open to both scientists and to locals who may want to make sure the Water Board does not overlook any issue dam opponents consider important. … ”  Read more from the Two Rivers Tribune here:  River activists and Tribes Prepare For Water Board Public Hearings in Orleans, Arcata and Yreka

New California water reporting rules worry Sonoma County grape growers:  “About 2,250 water rights holders in Sonoma County will be affected by new regulations requiring them to report all surface water diversions to the state and for larger diverters to measure them as well. Vineyard and winery representatives say the requirement will be costly and hard to meet by the established deadlines.  The regulations, adopted Tuesday night by the State Water Resources Control Board, apply to about 30,000 water rights holders statewide who have, historically, been subject to minimal accounting of the water they draw from rivers and creeks.  But a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in June called for emergency regulations on reporting surface water diversions allowed under a complex system of water rights that applies primarily to farmers, ranchers and utilities. ... ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  New California water reporting rules worry Sonoma County grape growers

Drought years tough on Sacramento Valley rice growers:  “The recent rains have been great for a dry California. However California rice farmers have been through a rough few years.  Rice growers gathered in Richvale Tuesday morning for an annual Sacramento Valley update sponsored by University of California Cooperative Extension. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enteprise-Record here:  Drought years tough on Sacramento Valley rice growers

Cofferdam leak at Folsom spillway project stabilized: A temporary cofferdam that kept crews and construction areas dry during the construction of a new spillway at Folsom Dam began leaking Wednesday, forcing crews to evacuate.  “It was a construction incident,” said Bob Kidd, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Corps officials said there was no risk to life downstream.  Late Wednesday afternoon, Tyler Stalker, a spokesman for the Corps, said workers had stabilized the cofferdam and would have all their equipment moved out Wednesday night. The work using the cofferdam was to be completed by Feb. 8 and can be done under wet conditions that don’t require the cofferdam. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Cofferdam leak at Folsom spillway project stabilized

Dublin San Ramon Services District continues drought policies:  “Dublin San Ramon Services District (DSRSD) Board of Directors voted unanimously to continue the Community Drought Emergency that they originally declared on February 18, 2014.  DSRSD President D.L. (Pat) Howard stated, “Even though we’ve had some rain, we have a lot of catching up to do before we’re out of the drought. We need everyone to continue to use water wisely.”  As of Monday, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) reported precipitation had reached 110 percent of normal and snowpack 121 percent of normal in the northern Sierra, where most of the Tri-Valley’s supply originates. … ”  Read more from The Independent here:  Dublin San Ramon Services District continues drought policies

Paso Robles: Supporters make case for new groundwater district:  “A group called the Citizens Advocating for Local Management of the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, or CALM, hosted an informational meeting on upcoming Measures A and B and a candidates forum for the public to hear from and meet those running for the board of the proposed Paso Robles Basin Water District. The event was held Tuesday evening at the Estrella Warbirds Museum. It was open to the general public and dozens of local citizens attended.  CALM’s presentation said it is key for those who live within the management district, whom they call overliers, to have local control via creation of a local water district. … ”  Read more from the Paso Robles Daily News here: Supporters make case for new groundwater district

Kern County:  Longtime water foes join forces: There’s nothing like a common enemy to bring warring parties together.  That was never more true than with the City of Bakersfield and Kern Delta Water District, which agreed this week to form a joint Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA).  As part of the alliance, they both agreed to drop long-running lawsuits against each other.  And Kern Delta even pledged to back the city’s effort to convince the State Water Resources Control Board to grant it ownership of a chunk of Kern River water that Kern Delta forfeited in 2007. (That forfeiture, by the by, was the result of yet another lawsuit in which the city was a party.) … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here:  Longtime water foes join forces

Santa Barbara:  Officials hope cloud seeding will increase county water supply:  ” … In an attempt to raise the levels, Santa Barbara County signed a $397,000 cloud seeding contract contract.  However, this effort is estimated to only increase the rainfall in a targeted area by 10%.  Cloud seeding can be done only when a storm system is approaching and if conditions are appropriate. … ”  Read more from KEYT here:  Officials hope cloud seeding will increase county water supply

Mountain snows that feed Colorado River slightly above average this winter: Snowpack in the mountains that feed the Colorado River was slightly above the long-term average on Wednesday — welcome news in the drought-stricken Southwest.  But water and weather experts said it’s too early to predict how deep the snow will get or how much of it will make its way into the river and on to Lake Powell in Utah and Arizona, one of two major reservoirs on the Colorado.  “We are cautiously optimistic, but nature has a way of doing what it wants,” said Chris Watt, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the water in Lake Powell. ... ”  Read more from US News & World Report here:  Mountain snows that feed Colorado River slightly above average this winter

Precipitation watch …

From the National Weather Service:  “A moist Pacific storm system will be moving though northern California late tonight through Saturday. This system will bring rain and mountain snow as well as gusty winds at times. Moderate rain is expected at the lower elevations. Significant snowfall is expected over the higher elevations of the Sierra Cascade range. This heavy snow will remain generally above 5000 feet but low enough to cause travel difficulties over the passes. Gusty winds at times will make travel more difficult especially when combined with snowfall.”

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.

 

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