News Worth Noting: Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers Basin Study released; DWR wins climate leadership award; State Water Board approves selenium discharge limits for North SF Bay; Report on use of natural remediation for contaminated groundwater sites

Bureau of Reclamation’s Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers Basin Study Predicts How Climate Change Will Impact the Sacramento and San Joaquin Delta

From the Bureau of Reclamation:

Reclamation ReportThe Bureau of Reclamation has released the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers Basin Study, which found climate change will cause earlier runoff and refill reservoirs earlier in the year, potentially affecting reservoir operations and water storage.

This study, collaboratively developed by Reclamation, the State of California Department of Water Resources, El Dorado County Water Agency, Stockton East Water District, California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley and Madera County Resource Management Agency, examines climate change impacts and adaptation actions for the Sacramento River Basin, San Joaquin River Basin and the Tulare Lake Basin.

Water from the Tulare Lake Basin reaches the San Joaquin River Basin only in wetter years. Because of the connection with the Central Valley Project, the upper Trinity River Basin was also included in this study. The basins flow into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which is the largest estuary on the west coast of the United States.

“These basins are at the center of discussions about the availability of water in California, not only for agriculture, but for municipal and environmental needs as well,” Reclamation Commissioner Estevan López said. “Because of the collaborative efforts put forth in this basin study, we now have more information on how climate change will impact this region and a better understanding of what will be needed to ensure a sustainable water supply for today and for the future.”

The study found that warming conditions will cause a median sea level rise of 36 inches, which will increase the difficulty of conveying water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Also, temperatures will most likely increase by 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit in the early 21st century to almost 4.8 degrees Fahrenheit by late in the 21st century; precipitation may increase in the areas north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, with very little change projected in the Tulare Lake Basin, where some of the greatest agricultural demands exist; evapotranspiration is expected to increase with warming temperatures; and snowpack will decline with warming temperatures, particularly in the lower elevations of the mountains surrounding California’s Central Valley.

Reclamation, along with its partners and stakeholders, developed management actions to address these findings. The study revealed that conservation, groundwater and surface water augmentation projects and operational improvements may improve the reliability and sustainability of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project systems to meet current and future water needs.

The report also identified potential next steps to resolve current and future imbalances. These next steps were grouped into the following categories, Institutional Flexibility, Municipal and Industrial and Agricultural Water Use Efficiency, River Temperature Management, Forest Health, Groundwater and System Conveyance.

The Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers Basin Study is a part of WaterSMART, the Department of the Interior’s sustainable water initiative that uses the best available science to improve water conservation and help water resource managers identify strategies to narrow the gap between supply and demand. The report is available at www.usbr.gov/watersmart/bsp. For more information on the WaterSMART program, visit www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART.

Links to the report:

DWR Honored with Second National Climate Leadership Award

From the Department of Water Resources:

NEW_DWR_LOGO_14inchThe California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has been honored by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its organizational leadership in addressing climate change.

“I am proud to distinguish DWR for its outstanding actions and dedication to reduce harmful carbon pollution that leads to climate change,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “DWR is leading the way towards a healthy environment, and demonstrates that meeting challenges of a changing climate can be done.”

In 2012, the Department adopted the greenhouse gas emissions reduction phase of its Climate Action Plan (CAP), in which DWR commits to reducing its GHG emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. To achieve these goals, the CAP relies primarily upon using renewable and cleaner energy sources and improving energy efficiency for the State Water Project. As of 2014, DWR’s carbon emissions were already approximately 30 percent below 1990 levels.

This year, 17 awards were given to 13 organizations, three partnerships and one individual in the public and private sectors for their leadership in addressing climate change. The  2016 Climate Leadership Award to DWR was for Organizational Leadership. This award recognizes organizations that not only have their own comprehensive greenhouse gas inventories and aggressive emissions reduction goals, but also exemplify extraordinary leadership in their internal response to climate change, and engagement of their peers, partners, and supply chain.

“Over the past 10 years, DWR has developed and implemented a comprehensive approach to addressing climate change,” said John Andrew, Assistant Deputy Director, “covering climate science and analysis, mitigation, adaptation, and public outreach. We greatly appreciate that our organizational leadership on this important issue has received this national honor.”

As part of US EPA’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Agency’s Center for Corporate Climate Leadership co-sponsors the Climate Leadership Awards with two non-governmental organization partners—the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), and The Climate Registry (TCR). These organizations seek to highlight leaders in management and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions — both in internal operations and throughout the supply chain — through the awards.

The awards took place today in Seattle, Washington during the Climate Leadership Conference, which is dedicated to professionals addressing global climate change through policy, innovation, and business solutions. The 2015 Climate Leadership Award to DWR was in the “Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management” category.

More information about the 2016 Climate Leadership Award winners is available at
http://www.epa.gov/climateleadership/2016-climate-leadership-award-winners

State Water Board Approves Selenium Discharge Limits for North San Francisco Bay

From the State Water Resources Control Board:SWRCB logo water boards

The State Water Resources Control Board today approved an amendment to the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Basin Plan that puts a cap on selenium discharges into North San Francisco Bay.

Selenium is an essential beneficial nutrient in very small quantities, but in higher concentrations it can accumulate in tissues of fish and wildlife, and impair reproduction in sensitive species. Current levels of selenium in the North Bay are not posing a threat to fish and wildlife.
The Basin Plan amendment, in the form of a TMDL, or Total Maximum Daily Load, does not call for a reduction of selenium in the North Bay, but caps the amount of selenium that dischargers, such as oil refineries and wastewater treatment plants, can put into the water body. The selenium TMDL is designed to maintain levels of the mineral in order to protect human health and the environment.

Selenium enters the North Bay from a number of sources, including oil refineries and waste water treatment plants, but the primary source of selenium is the Central Valley watershed, and specifically the San Joaquin River. Selenium occurs naturally in the soils in the San Joaquin River basin, and is leached into the river with farm irrigation drainage.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board already has TMDLs in place to control and reduce the amount of selenium entering the San Joaquin River. Changes in flow regimes on the river may affect the selenium loads in the future. The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Board will continue to monitor North Bay water quality to assure that selenium levels don’t threaten fish and wildlife.

Of particular concern in north San Francisco Bay are white sturgeon and Sacramento splittail. Sturgeon are bottom-feeders, eating clams that accumulate selenium.. The TMDL is also protective of green sturgeon, a federal-listed endangered species.

The amendment was adopted on Nov. 18 by the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, and approved today by the State Water Board. The amendment becomes effective upon approval of the Office of Administrative Law and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Lahontan Water Board Approves Report on Use of Natural Remediation for Contaminated Groundwater Sites

From the State Water Resources Control Board:

SWRCB logo water boardsThe Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Water Board) has approved a report for evaluating and implementing the processes of natural attenuation – a form of natural, non-chemical-based cleanup — for contaminated groundwater sites.

The Monitored Natural Attenuation and Evaluation and Application Report explains how natural attenuation should be properly evaluated, instituted and monitored at cleanup sites throughout the Lahontan Region. Among the recommendations the report explains minimum requirements for determining if monitored natural attenuation is appropriate for certain sites, and achieves cleanup within a reasonable timeframe; and develops a remedial selection process that meets state and federal requirements.

“Having this report, the first of its kind among the state’s Regional Water Boards, is an important tool in making sure the use of natural attenuation at cleanup sites throughout our region is properly monitored and conducted,” said Amy Horne, Ph.D., chair of the Lahontan Regional Water Board. “With several Department of Defense cleanup sites in our region using monitored attenuation already, and at least another half dozen projects expected to apply for use of it, we need to have clear and concise guidelines for making sure these projects are following the appropriate steps needed to properly complete remediation in a timely manner.”
Some of the natural attenuation processes include biodegradation (soil and water break down the pollutant); sorption (contaminants’ movements stopped in soil; they are not destroyed); evaporation (constituent may turn from liquid to gas); chemical reaction (naturally-occurring substances may transform pollutants into less harmful forms); and dilution. One or more of these processes may take place at a single cleanup site.

Monitored natural attenuation is considered a passive remediation option due to its dependence on naturally-occurring events, and has been an accepted practice since the 1990s after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Air Force began issuing guidance documents on its use. Other standard forms of cleanup include pump and treatment practices.

Natural attenuation can be an ideal tool for certain cleanup projects, based on site conditions and overall environment. However, this form of remediation is not considered a default remedy. Other viable remedial options, such as standard water treatment and pumping, must be considered along with natural attenuation, and the specific site must be thoroughly evaluated to see if natural attenuation can achieve the desired cleanup goals.

While natural attenuation is dependent on passive techniques — in many instances it is paired with active cleanup protocols (e.g. pumping and treatment) — it is not considered a “do-nothing” approach. Through the Regional Water Board’s established reporting and technical requirements, cleanup of sites throughout the Lahontan Region with natural attenuation will be actively monitored. Some of the benefits of using natural attenuation include lower costs and a smaller environmental footprint when it comes to generated waste, surface disturbance and energy use.

The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board is a California state agency responsible for the preservation and enhancement of the quality of California’s water resources in eastern California. For more information about the Lahontan Water Board visit its website.

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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