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DAILY DIGEST: State to keep water conservation rules for now; Hundreds of wells dumping oilfield wastewater to close; More flooding, epic snowfall ahead for California; and more …

In California water news today, State to keep water conservation rules for now; California’s tough regulations likely to remain in place; California says oil companies can keep dumping wastewater during state review; Hundreds of wells dumping oilfield wastewater to close; Levees most in need of repair lack funding; Levee breaks a sign of wetter times; Meet the minds: Roger Bales on climate adaptation and water security; Citrus industry encouraged by California’s wet weather; In south state, lingering drought worries farmers; January storms boost snowpack, swell reservoirs; More flooding, epic snowfall ahead for California and the Southwest; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • The State Water Resources Control Board will meet this morning beginning at 9am: Agenda items include an update on the ongoing drought emergency, and update on 2016 Save Our Water Program results and the plan for the 2017 Save Our Water Program.  A workshop on urban water conservation will begin at 10am.  Click here for the agenda.

In the news today …

State to keep water conservation rules for now:  “Despite drenching rains and heavy snowfall this winter, California moved Tuesday to keep in place its statewide water conservation rules — at least for another three months or so.  On Tuesday, the staff of the State Water Resources Control Board recommended that the rules the agency put in place last summer relaxing strict mandates from 2015 should continue at least through May, when they can be re-evaluated after the winter rainy season is over.  The bottom line: Communities across California that dropped strict watering rules, fines and other penalties this fall will not have to reimpose them, and areas that kept rules in place due to tight supplies are likely to keep them in the short term, although in some cases they may drop drought rules if they can demonstrate that recent rains filled their reservoirs and brought their local conditions back to normal. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  State to keep conservation rules for now

California’s tough regulations likely to remain in place:  “Despite a wet winter that has much of California emerging from drought, state officials are showing no sign that they’ll ease up on water regulations imposed on cities and towns over the past three years.  Staffers at the State Water Resources Control Board sent a proposal Tuesday to the agency’s governing board recommending renewal of emergency drought mandates that have required urban suppliers to put specific quantities of water in reserve, or cut consumption, under the threat of fines.  The mandates include restrictions designed to prevent water waste at homes and businesses: no hosing down driveways, for example, and no lawn watering for 48 hours after rainfall. Restaurants have been required to ask customers if they want a glass of water before serving it. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  California’s tough regulations likely to remain in place

California says oil companies can keep dumping wastewater during state review:  “For decades, California oil companies have disposed of wastewater by pumping it into aquifers that were supposed to be protected by federal law.  California regulators mistakenly granted permits to do it, through a combination of poor record keeping, miscommunication and permitting errors.  Now, years after the errors first emerged, state officials say that 460 underground injection wells that were disposing of wastewater illegally will be shut down. … ”  Read more from KQED here:  California says oil companies can keep dumping wastewater during state review

Hundreds of wells dumping oilfield wastewater to close:  “About 475 wells that oil companies have used to dispose of wastewater from their drilling operations in California must shut down by Feb. 15, as state regulators move to protect aquifers that were supposed to be shielded by federal law.  Should the companies that use those wells violate the state’s orders, they could face fines up to $25,000 per day, according to a letter that California oilfield regulators and water pollution officials sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday.  … ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  Hundreds of wells dumping oilfield wastewater to close

Levees most in need of repair lack funding:  “In the wake of several storms that caused levee failures in the Sacramento Valley, state officials held meetings to prioritize upcoming levee improvement projects.  After years of drought, there’s now growing scrutiny over the state of California’s levees. The flooding that followed recent storms is a reminder of what can happen when levees fail.  “There’s always a need for more work to be done on the levees,” said Bethel Island resident Robert Amrine. “We need more rock on it. We should widen them a little, bring them up a little bit higher.” … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento here:  Levees most in need of repair lack funding

Levee breaks a sign of wetter times: After a decade of nearly continuous drought, a levee break – even in an inherently flood-prone place like San Joaquin County – seems a strange and disconcerting sight.  County officials have reported two such breaks in recent days, including this one on White Slough northwest of Stockton. No damage to buildings has been reported, though officials on Tuesday were assessing the harm to agriculture.  Water has also sloshed over the top of levees or seeped through them in certain areas. But the two outright breaks reported so far, including White Slough and the north bank of the Mokelumne River east of Lodi, pales compared to the two dozen-plus breaks that were reported during the more damaging floods of 1997. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  Levee breaks a sign of wetter times

Meet the minds: Roger Bales on climate adaptation and water security:  “How well is our environment and society adapting to climate change? That is one question that has made up the research efforts of Roger Bales, a distinguished professor of engineering at University of California, Merced and an adjunct professor of civil and environmental engineering at University of California, Berkeley.  Bales directs the U.C. Water Security and Sustainability Research Initiative and the Sierra Nevada Research Institute, studying how California can create policies to meet the challenges of climate change, including protecting vital ecosystems and the economy.  As part of our Meet the Minds series, he told Water Deeply about his most recent research and what is most critical for the state to be doing now. ... ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  Meet the minds: Roger Bales on climate adaptation and water security

Citrus industry encouraged by California’s wet weather:  “A series of three storms, the first arriving late Wednesday, is expected to drench Southern California — but one group that’s welcomed California’s recent wet weather is citrus growers. The drought has had a big impact on the state’s citrus industry, but now Bob Blakely with California Citrus Mutual, an advocacy group for the state’s citrus growers, says that this year’s wet weather has been a big positive.  “It’s been a rough three years. We’re encouraged with the rain and the snowpack that we’re getting,” Blakely told KPCC.  The state has had about 25,000 acres of citrus removed due to the lack of water, Blakely said, as a zero water allocation for the past three years has left farmers relying on groundwater and other backup sources rather than being able to purchase water. … ”  Read more from KPCC here:  Citrus industry encouraged by California’s wet weather

In south state, lingering drought worries farmers:  “Sometimes, it takes a dry sense of humor to deal with a years-long drought—especially when you’ve watched a wave of storms hammer Northern California and realize your end of the state is missing out. “Better rain dances” is what Ken Doty said he’d need to alleviate the parched conditions at his Goleta orchards, where he grows avocados and citrus.  “We are getting some rain,” Doty said. “We’re tracking right on the average annual year-to-date figures, but we have not had anywhere near enough to recover from the drought.”  Some farmers say they sense a meteorological imbalance. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  In south state, lingering drought worries farmers

January storms boost snowpack, swell reservoirs: Strong early January storms brought a wealth of increased precipitation and snow, especially in Northern California, which caused a leap in snowpack totals and reservoir storage, and helped to replenish groundwater aquifers. For water managers and farmers alike, the storms raised questions about whether they set the pattern for a wet winter to come—and whether that would ultimately lead to improved water supplies in the coming year.  In a week’s time, the Sierra Nevada snowpack swelled from about two-thirds of average levels to more than 60 percent above average. Reservoir managers were forced to release water in order to accommodate runoff from the January storms, but many key reservoirs remained near or above average storage levels for the date. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  January storms boost snowpack, swell reservoirs

More flooding, epic snowfall ahead for California and the Southwest:  “An atmospheric river  originating in the tropical Pacific will deliver an extended period of heavy rainfall to the Pacific Coast and Southwest over the next seven days, bringing yet more flooding potential to low elevations and epic snowfall for the mountains. As the inflow of moisture shifts south down the coast in the coming days, the latter part of this week will bring the potential for significant drought relief for Southern California, a region which has seen significant rainfall deficits pile up over the last few dry winters.  … ”  Read more from The Weather Network here:  More flooding, epic snowfall ahead for California and the Southwest

In commentary today …

January storms underline the need for new storage, says Chris Scheuring:  He writes, “Driving to work each morning this past week across the Yolo Causeway, which has been intentionally flooded to take excess flows from the Sacramento River system, I have been reminded of how quickly water can appear in California—and how quickly it can disappear.  After six years of drought, our state’s hydrology has turned on a dime—as we knew it could—and the various structures of the California flood control system are shunting something like 150,000 cubic feet per second of water out to sea as I write this. Some of that water is heading to the ocean because there’s just no other place to put it, and flood-control protocols require water managers to make room in reservoirs for expected, later flows.  That brings to mind a couple of things we have been saying for a while here at the Farm Bureau about the capture of our water resources. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  January storms underline the need for new storage

In regional news and commentary today …

Rain, water releases from Shasta expected this week:  “Blue skies will give way to storm clouds, gusty winds and snow this week as storms arrive in Northern California.  The three storms will not bring as much rain as last week’s series of storms, according to the National Weather Service, but additional runoff is expected to flow into the Sacramento River and other streams and creeks. In total, over the next seven days the North State could see 6 to 8 inches of rain.  The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will release water from Shasta Dam, as an excess of 300,000-acre feet of water needs to be sent downstream, according to Deputy of Public Affairs Officer Louis Moore with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. … ” Read more from the Redding Record Searchlight here:  Rain, water releases from Shasta expected this week

Oroville City Council approves water service study, to dissatisfaction of Cal Water:It was a full house as the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to go forward with a water service study vehemently opposed by California Water Service Company.  The study, provided by the Local Agency Formation Commission and funded by an anonymous donor, will look into the service of Oroville’s three water providers: Thermalito, South Feather and Cal Water. Residents have long been anguished over the highest rates of the three, Cal Water.  Right off the bat, councilors made clear they were in agreement to go ahead with the study. Councilor Art Hatley initially said he would only approve it if language could be added to the resolution ensuring the city wouldn’t take over Cal Water by eminent domain. Some councilors said that was not possible. ... ”  Read more from the Oroville Mercury Register here:  Oroville City Council approves water service study, to dissatisfaction of Cal Water

Russian River flooding heaps trash on Sonoma County beaches:  “The steep trails rising from the north Jenner beach, rendered muddy and slick by recent rains, would be a challenging climb even without the burdens borne Tuesday by coastal stewards Cea Higgins and Richard James.  But time was a factor. The pair needed to move large piles of trash brought downstream by the Russian River off the shore and up to higher ground in anticipation of exceptionally large ocean swells building this week with the latest round of storms.  Empty bottles, spare flip flops, tennis balls, two car tires, thousands of plastic foam bits, as well fiberglass boat wreckage and four plastic 55-gallon drums were among the eclectic debris deposited just outside the mouth of the Russian River in the wake of recent flooding. ... ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  Russian River flooding heaps trash on Sonoma County beaches

State and Sonoma County partner to halt river pollution:  “State and county officials have come up with a new cooperative plan to solve Russian River pollution problems caused by substandard septic systems, homeless camps and river recreational users.  “This is a big deal,” said Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Dept. (PRMD) Director Tennis Wick when the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved the plan last month.  The new Memo of Understanding (MOU) calls for Sonoma County and the state North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (NCRWQCB) to share responsibility for fixing failing septic systems and reducing pollution from homeless camps and recreational users.  … ”  Read more from Sonoma West here:  State and Sonoma County partner to halt river pollution

Sacramento County supervisors declare state of emergency due to storm damage:  “The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors proclaimed a local state of emergency effective for 30 days on Tuesday in response to a spate of winter storms this month.  Approving a state of emergency allows the county to seek reimbursement from state and federal governments for damage caused by the storms. With more storms expected to move into the area this week, staff said the county’s Emergency Operations Center remains activated.  … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Sacramento County supervisors declare state of emergency due to storm damage

Modesto triumphs in Del Rio well lawsuit, though appeal considered:  “Modesto did not violate the civil rights of some rural homeowners north of town who weren’t notified before city leaders decided to sink a well serving the nearby Del Rio community, appellate justices said in a ruling Friday.  The neighbors disagree and are considering an appeal to the California Supreme Court, their attorney said. The well has yet to be drilled.  Friday’s ruling reverses that of a judge in Modesto who had sided with the neighbors in May 2015. They had worried that a big municipal well could suck dry their shallow domestic wells. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Modesto triumphs in Del Rio well lawsuit, though appeal considered

Trio of storms could put a dent in Santa Barbara’s drought:  “The unrelenting grip of severe drought on Santa Barbara County may be about to loosen.  Forecasters say a series of winter storms expected to douse the region over the next several days could drop enough rain — possibly 6 inches or more — to cause significant runoff into nearly depleted Lake Cachuma.  “If we get hit as hard as they’re talking about, we could see substantial inflow to Cachuma for the first time since 2011,” said Tom Fayram, the county’s deputy water resources director. … ”  Read more from Noozhawk here:  Trio of storms could put a dent in Santa Barbara’s drought

LA’s megausers still pumped millions of gallons despite drought:  “Los Angeles’ 100 biggest residential water customers cut back their use after Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting exposed profligate water waste in some of the city’s most exclusive neighborhoods.  But the top 100 users still pumped enough water during the fifth year of California’s crippling drought to supply the needs of 2,800 ordinary households, records show.  L.A.’s mega-users live in Bel Air, Beverly Hills and other mansion-studded, lushly landscaped neighborhoods on the city’s ultraexpensive west side, according to utility records obtained by Reveal. ... ”  Read more from Reveal here:  LA’s megausers still pumped millions of gallons despite drought

Precipitation watch …

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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