Daily Digest, weekend edition: Delta pumping restricted to Southern California despite rainy weather; New water legislation wants to spend a lot more money on water infrastructure; Schools buying water filters even though fountains are fine; and more …

Mono Lake

In California water news this weekend, Delta pumping restricted to Southern California despite rainy weather; New water legislation wants to spend a lot more money on water infrastructure; Schools buying water filters even though fountains are fine; Drought may leave Pacific salmon scarce and pricey this summer; and more, plus The drought proposals in Congress are so last century, says Matt Weiser, and Jay Famiglietti asks, Is the California drought America’s water wake-up call?

In the news this weekend …

Delta pumping restricted to Southern California despite rainy weather: For the first time in five years, Northern California’s rivers are roaring and its reservoirs are filled almost to the brim.  But you’d hardly know it, based on how quiet it’s been at the two giant pumping stations at the south end of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The pumps deliver Sacramento Valley water to 19 million Southern Californians and millions of acres of farmland in the San Joaquin Valley.  While precipitation has been roughly four times heavier than a year ago, the Delta pumps have produced just a 35 percent increase in water shipments. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Delta pumping restricted to Southern California despite rainy weather

New water legislation wants to spend a lot more money on water infrastructure:  “In response to outrage over lead found in drinking water in several Midwestern cities and a prolonged drought that threatens crops and the water supply in California, two western lawmakers submitted sweeping legislation to Congress on Friday that provides $24.9 billion in funding over five years for water infrastructure projects.  What sounds like a large sum doesn’t come close to filling the need for clean water projects in American cities, which approaches $40 billion annually, said Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-West Covina, co-author of the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2016 and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. … ”  Read more from the San Gabriel Valley Times here:  New water legislation wants to spend a lot more money helping California survive the drought

Schools buying water filters even though fountains are fine:  “A growing distaste and distrust of tap water has prompted many school districts to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars on heavily marketed filters — some of which use a process that discards some water as waste — even though the schools say there’s nothing wrong with what’s currently flowing from their pipes.  School officials and filter company representatives want to make water hip at a time of alarm over the health effects of soda and sports drinks, with one company comparing its machines to a Tesla — and an old-fashioned water fountain to a Motorola flip phone. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Schools buying water filters even though fountains are fine

California drought may leave Pacific salmon scarce and pricey this summer:  “Salmon caught off the Pacific Coast may be harder to find in stores this summer and cost more with tight restrictions imposed on fishermen who anticipate pulling fewer of the prized catch into their boats, officials said Friday.  Four years of bruising drought in the West has strained inland rivers where salmon spawn, putting the fish in sharp decline.  Restrictions announced this week leave fisherman nearly half of the opportunity to catch salmon compared to last year, under the recommendations of an industry oversight body. … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento here:  California drought may leave Pacific salmon scarce and pricey this summer

Researchers studying Animas River mine spill say runoff from fall storms kicked up levels of some contaminants in the water but not others:Runoff from autumn storms kicked up the levels of some contaminants in a southwestern Colorado river after a massive spill of toxic mine waste, but concentrations of other pollutants declined or didn’t change, researchers said Friday.  A report released by the Environmental Protection Agency could offer clues about what will happen to the Animas River this spring and summer when melting snow from the San Juan Mountains makes the waterway run higher, potentially stirring up pollutants that had settled to the bottom after the spill. … ”  Read more from The Republic here:  Researchers studying Animas River mine spill say runoff from fall storms kicked up levels of some contaminants in the water but not others

In commentary this weekend …

The drought proposals in Congress are so last century, says Matt Weiser:  He writes, “Drought has been called a slow-moving natural disaster – unlike flood, fire and earthquake. Perhaps the only thing that moves slower is federal law and policy. Even so, with the California drought now in its fifth year, it must be asked: Where are the innovations in federal law that might have helped?  Politicians in Washington could have passed laws four years ago that would be yielding benefits today. These would be things like assistance with groundwater recharge, water conservation on farms, stormwater capture and wastewater recycling.  I call these non-nuclear options, because they don’t peg the Geiger counter in many lobbying offices in the land. They are nontoxic because, generally speaking, they don’t take water from anybody else, and they don’t kill any protected critters.  Instead, Congress has fixated on the old radioactive options: building dams and rewriting the Endangered Species Act. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  The drought proposals in Congress are so last century

Is the California drought America’s water wake-up call?  Jay Famiglietti writes,The California drought is not over. The great hope for major replenishment of California’s surface and groundwater supplies — the “Godzilla” El Niño — has failed thus far to live up to its super-sized hype, delivering only average amounts of rain and snow, primarily to the northern half of the state.  Average, however, is welcome. Average means that snowpack is visible atop the Sierra, water levels are rising in many reservoirs and a drought-fatigued public is getting a little emotional relief after enduring one “hottest-ever, driest ever” winter after another.  ...  But, unfortunately, average is no drought-buster. … ”  Continue reading at the LA Times here:  Is the California drought America’s water wake-up call?

More storage, political consensus key to solving water woes:  Mike Dunbar writes,Farmers who depend on the Central Valley Project are angry over how much water they’re not going to get this irrigation season. They’re also angry at any writer who doesn’t share their rage.  After watching so much rain fall and snow accumulate in the Sierra, a reasonable West Side farmer might get maybe half his or her normal water allotment … at least a third, surely … certainly a quarter.  No, they’ll get 5 percent. That’s right, a 20th. We don’t blame them for being mad. ... ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  More storage, political consensus key to solving water woes

Answer to California drought may be just under our feet, say Yvon Chiounard and Larry Kopald:  They write, “Former Hewlett-Packard CEO and ex-presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina said recently that environmentalists were the cause of water problems in California because they had blocked the creation of more dams in the state.  She was quickly raked over the coals by environmentalists, who pointed out that it doesn’t matter how much storage you have if you have no water to store. Turns out both sides are missing the point. And the opportunity. … ”  Read more from the East Bay Times here: Answer to California drought may be just under our feet

In regional news and commentary this weekend …

Collapse of kelp forest imperils North Coast ocean ecosystem:  “Large tracts of kelp forest that once blanketed the sea off the North Coast have vanished over the past two years, a startling transformation that scientists say stems from rapid ecological change and has potentially far-reaching impacts, including on several valuable fisheries.  The unprecedented collapse has been observed along hundreds of miles of coastline from San Francisco to Oregon. The region’s once-lush stands of bull kelp, a large brown alga that provides food and habitat for a host of wildlife species, have been devoured by small, voracious purple urchins. In the most-affected areas, denuded kelp stalks are almost all that remains of plant life. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  Collapse of kelp forest imperils North Coast ocean ecosystem

Yuba County:  The goldfields: A tale of two legacies:  “The Yuba Goldfields have a complicated environmental legacy.  Lining a 12-mile stretch of the lower Yuba River — home to some of the most important spawning habitat for salmon in the state — the Goldfields represent both environmental triumph and devastation.  The mounds of cobble and gravel were created by huge dredges that sifted through the million of cubic yards of soil and sediment that washed down from the Sierras during the height of Gold Rush. In many ways, the Goldfields are the graveyard of the Gold Rush — the bones that remain after the flesh was picked clean. It remains as the legacy of untold effects of mining activities on the Yuba River and its life forms. … ”  Read more from the Appeal-Democrat here:  Yuba County: The goldfields: A tale of two legacies

What’s that rotten smell in Yolo County?  “Something smells rotten in Yolo County, and the stench has some neighborhoods in West Sacramento concerned it could be a gas leak.  It turns out, that smell is a lingering effect of the winter’s strong storms.  “If you don’t want that smell to penetrate your house, you have to close your doors and lock all the windows up,” said Robert Mistler.  People were wondering what the source of that smell is, so we went to an expert for an explanation. ... ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento here:  What’s that rotten smell in Yolo County?

Fresno: What triggered Supervisory Buddy Mendes to shoot off his mouth?  The Fresno Bee editorial board writes, “The angry attack on a community water advocate by Fresno County Board of Supervisors Chairman Buddy Mendes on April 12 was unprofessional and unbefitting someone who is supposed to represent all constituents.  In case you missed it, here’s the condensed version: Mendes raised his voice and said the advocate, Janaki Jagannath, who appeared in chambers on behalf of El Porvenir residents, was being dishonest because she compared much lower Fresno area water rates to rates in farmworker communities.  “The answer to the question is, your leftist buddies in Northern California won’t let them run the pumps,” Mendes thundered at Jagannath, referring to pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta that move water south to the Valley. “That’s why that water is so expensive.” Mendes later told Jagannath to “sit down.” … ” Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  What triggered Supervisory Buddy Mendes to shoot off his mouth?

Scientists confirm: El Nino still a disappointment in still-too-dry Southern California:  “The National Weather Service has confirmed what many Southern Californians suspected during a scorching February: El Niño, and its badly needed rainstorms, are pretty much kaput.  “It’s looking pretty grim,” said Anthony Barnston, the chief climate forecaster for the International Research Institute for Climate and Society in New York. “This winter was really disappointing.”  This week, the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center published an El Niño advisory that not only forecast the end of the Pacific Ocean-warming phenomenon, but also warned that El Niño’s drier flip side, La Niña, would replace it by the end of the year. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Scientists confirm: El Nino still a disappointment in still-too-dry Southern California

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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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