Daily Digest, weekend edition: Despite drought, Reclamation to release water for San Joaquin River restoration; Are almond growers being told to stop planting trees?; Where did El Nino go? Heat, dry spell stoke drought worry; and more …

In California water news this weekend, Despite drought, Reclamation to release water for San Joaquin River restoration; Are almond growers being told to stop planting trees?; Where did El Nino go? Heat, dry spell stoke drought worry; The current El Nino may hold lessons for how to deal with a warming planet; If La Niña follows the current super El Niño, it will probably be bad news for drought-plagued California; Why it is so disturbingly common for water regulation to fail; and more …

In the news this weekend …

Despite drought, Reclamation to release water for San Joaquin River restoration:  “Despite promises that El Nino storms will not bring an end to California’s drought, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced Friday that it will begin releasing more water into the San Joaquin River. The release is part of a program to restore the river’s long-extinct salmon population on a 60-mile stretch of the channel that is typically dry. ... ”  Read more from Valley Public Radio here:  Despite drought, Reclamation to release water for San Joaquin River restoration

Are almond growers being told to stop planting trees?  “It’s been a roller coaster ride for almond growers, and it continues as concerns rise over water use.  A drive through the San Joaquin Valley shows rows and rows of almond trees sharing space and resources with other farms.  “Almost didn’t have any water last summer, that’s why the yard is dead,” said Valley Home resident Tom Wilson.  Three years ago, homeowners say their wells started to run dry. ... ”  Read more from CBS here:  Are almond growers being told to stop planting trees?

Where did El Nino go? Heat, dry spell stoke drought worry: Where did El Nino go?  Winter has suddenly switched off the rain and flipped on heat up to 95 degrees in California, raising jitters that the strong El Nino might not be the drought-buster the crispy state had hoped.  “Forget El Nino, this is El No-no!” YouTube celebrity Hannah Hart tweeted.  Heat records have fallen across the West in recent days, from Oregon to Phoenix to Los Angeles, where surfers hit the beaches and golfers strolled fairways. … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here:  Where did El Nino go? Heat, dry spell stoke drought worry

The current El Nino may hold lessons for how to deal with a warming planet:  ““In some sense, what we’re seeing around the world right now is an advanced view of the sort of things that we’ll see more of in the future — all of the weather systems being somewhat more vigorous than they have been in the past, the risk of both droughts in some regions and flooding in other regions,” says climate scientist Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research.  El Niño is essentially a “mini global warming” event, Trenberth explains.  … ”  Read more from PRI here:  The current El Nino may hold lessons for how to deal with a warming planet

If La Niña follows the current super El Niño, it will probably be bad news for drought-plagued California: The El Niño that has been helping to spawn wild and wacky weather in many parts of the world for months now is still very strong. But the latest analysis from the U.S. Climate Prediction Center suggests that it should start to weaken and transition to neutral conditions by late spring or summer. Then what?  If the cooling of the eastern and central tropical Pacific characteristic of a weakening El Niño progresses enough, we could well find ourselves in a La Niña by next fall or winter. That’s the opposite of an El Niño, and it typically brings dry winters to California. That, of course, would be bad news for the state — which is still struggling to emerge from an epic drought. ... ”  Read more from Discovery Magazine here:  If La Niña follows the current super El Niño, it will probably be bad news for drought-plagued California

Why it is so disturbingly common for water regulation to fail: The Texas border towns of Rio Bravo and El Cenizo had always lacked adequate drinking water, back to their founding as colonias by unscrupulous developers in the 1980s, when the Rio Bravo Water Treatment Plant opened in 2006. The citizens, predominantly poor and Latino, hoped their troubles would be washed away.  But the $12 million, state-of-the-art plant didn’t work. The water smelled and came out in peculiar colors. Almost immediately residents complained about stomach problems and skin rashes to Webb County officials, and eventually to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which issued some violations. But it wasn’t until 2013 that the TCEQ, alongside the Texas Rangers, launched investigations that found the county had been falsifying water quality records all along. In 2015, one county employee pled guilty to criminal charges, while TCEQ was probed for not having done more about the dysfunctional plant. … ”  Read more from CityLab here:  Why it is so disturbingly common for water regulation to fail

In commentary this weekend …

Santa Clara Valley Water District should support the Governor’s twin tunnels, say Derrick Seaver and Josue Garcia:  They write, “There has been a lot of discussion about the California Water Fix, the plan to update aging infrastructure that brings water to Santa Clara County from the Sierra Nevada Mountains through the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta.  Our organizations strongly urge members of the Santa Clara Valley Water District to support this project. It is absolutely vital to ensure reliable, secure water for our region and to protect the health of the failing Delta.  There are some efforts to falsely position this project as a North vs. South debate. The simple fact is that Santa Clara County is more reliant on this water source than perhaps any other region in the state. ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Santa Clara Valley Water District should support the Governor’s twin tunnels

Column: Modern pyramid building:  Sally Stephens writes, “Sometimes politicians are stubborn. And sometimes that stubbornness makes them continue to push projects that no longer make much sense. Consider Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to build two massive tunnels to send even more water more reliably from the Sacramento River to farms and thirsty Southern California.  Brown’s $17 billion plan will pull up to 9,000 cubic feet per second of water from the river — just before it reaches the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta — and divert it into two new underground tunnels, each 40 feet wide, that will eventually join with the existing state aqueducts near Tracy. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Examiner here:  Modern pyramid building

Feinstein water bill could help with drought – if GOP gives it a chance, says the LA Times:  They write, “As an attempt to balance many competing interests, the water bill that California Democrat Dianne Feinstein introduced in the Senate last week appears well-thought-through and carefully crafted — and as such it is being greeted by many with the kind of lukewarm response that such attempts often receive. Few seem ready to embrace it without reservation, precisely because it offers a compromise. If it were the product of negotiations among environmental stewards, agribusiness and urban water agencies, it would leave each interest plenty to continue fighting over, yet still infuse the state with the crucial federal investment it needs to update its infrastructure to allow better capture, storage, treatment and reuse of water.  The problem is that it is not the end-point of negotiations but the beginning. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Feinstein water bill could help with drought – if GOP gives it a chance

Time for Congress to compromise, says the San Diego Union Tribune:  They write, “Sen. Dianne Feinstein has spent two years trying to fashion a bill that would help California deal with its drought, but she has never been able to come up with a proposal that can bridge the gaps between Central Valley Republicans and her fellow Northern California Democrats. This week, she’s unveiled new legislation that just might prove the basis of a reasonable compromise.  … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here:  Time for Congress to compromise

In regional news and commentary this weekend …

Red Bluff: Sacramento River Discovery Program talks groundwater management and sustainability:  “California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Engineering Geologist Erin Smith from the Red Bluff office gave a talk Thursday at the Sacramento River Discovery Center program on groundwater management and sustainability.  “Two years ago, we had a 40-foot well go dry here and that’s 100 yards from the Sacramento River,” said Discovery Center Executive Director Bobie Hughes, when introducing Smith. “That’s groundwater and that’s scary. It’s such an important topic right now.” … ”  Read more from the Daily News here:  Sacramento River Discovery Program talks groundwater management and sustainability

Sonoma County coalition awarded $8 million for water conservation work:  “A coalition of Sonoma County resource agencies has been awarded $8 million in federal funds to advance an ambitious series of conservation projects intended to improve water supply and quality and enhance wildlife habitat on local agricultural lands.  The efforts will take in vineyards and farmland and aim to reduce erosion, boost stream flows and groundwater and clean up the Russian River and its tributaries while restoring habitat for imperiled fish and wildlife species. … ” Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  Sonoma County coalition awarded $8 million for water conservation work

Woodland-Davis water agency works to combat worries over Flint:  “The city of Flint, Mich., is in the middle of a water-quality crisis that’s made national headlines and drawn concern from anxious communities across the country that wonder if something similar could ever happen to their water supplies.  Among those concerned are some Woodland and Davis residents as their cities prepare to switch from using entirely groundwater to using mostly Sacramento River water.  But local water-agency officials assure that the situation locally is very different. … ”  Read more from the Davis Enterprise here:  Woodland-Davis water agency works to combat worries over Flint

Tulare County: No running water and no solutions as California’s driest county despairs: “Living day-to-day in a community without running water finally wore the Serrato family down.  Their shallow well went dry more than a year ago, along with the wells of nearly a thousand nearby homes. The family of five turned to a government-provided emergency tank, conserving its contents like misers. A bucket of water for bathing replaced showers. A cup of water sufficed for brushing teeth. Nightly trips to the toilet required a walk outdoors to fetch a bucket for flushing.  “It was like the end of the world,” Yolanda Serrato said. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post here:  No running water and no solutions as California’s driest county despairs

Bakersfield: Water – how far will it let us build? asks Lois Henry:  She writes, “Perhaps it seems crazy that Bakersfield has actually ramped up home construction during one of the worst droughts in California history.  Especially crazy since the city’s river rights dried up last summer, bringing 20,000 residents harrowingly close to running out of water.  Add to that the fact that we have a boatload of development left over from the pre-recession days already approved.  Oh, and we sit atop one of the most over-pumped aquifers in the state, something new law aims to change. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here:  Water – how far will it let us build?

Momentum builds to save the Salton Sea, says the San Bernardino Sun: They write, “It’s a long way from the $9 billion state officials say they’d need to fully restore the Salton Sea, but an $80.5 million set-aside in Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget is a start toward turning things around.  Brown’s 2016-17 budget, announced in early January, sets aside funds for restoration of habitat at the shrinking Salton Sea as well as the creation of a long-term plan for the lake’s management. This is vital work necessary to avert an environmental and economic disaster at the man-made lake. … ”  Read more from the San Bernardino Sun here:  Momentum builds to save the Salton Sea

Precipitation watch …

Wet weather to return next week:  From the National Weather Service: “Wet weather will return to northern California Wednesday and Thursday this week. This will be an average storm by February standards, and the primary impacts will likely be to Sierra travel.”

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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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