DAILY DIGEST: State says Delta tunnels a good investment; SoCal water agency eyeing whether to take control of Delta tunnels project; Water quality regulation will set precedent; Trump budget again targets regional water cleanup programs; and more …

In California water news today, State: Delta tunnels a good investment; Study commissioned by Brown administration says his Delta tunnels plan would pay off for farmers, cities; Southern California water agency eyeing whether to take control of Delta tunnels project; Water quality regulation will set precedent; 7 ways you could soon be fined for wasting water; Water conservation slipping statewide as dry weather returns; Warm, dry winter affects a number of farm activities; Ag secretary talks water, trade, regulation with Central Valley farmers; Drought conditions spread across the West. Are we ready?; Trump budget again targets regional water cleanup programs; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • WEBINAR: The use of geophysical methods for groundwater evaluation and management, from 12pm to 1:30pm.  Click here to register.

In the news today …

State: Delta tunnels a good investment:  “More than six years after critics began calling for a full economic study of the Delta tunnels plan, the Brown administration released one on Tuesday, finding that the benefits outweigh the costs — albeit by a slim margin for some water users.  Delta interests immediately dismissed the study as skewed and speculative.  The new study looks only at the first of the two tunnels, which now are expected to be built in phases after officials couldn’t get water districts to commit to the full $17 billion cost. ... ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  State: Delta tunnels a good investment

Study commissioned by Brown administration says his Delta tunnels plan would pay off for farmers, cities: “Even a single water tunnel burrowed under the California’s Delta would be worth it for urban ratepayers and farmers who would to pay to build and maintain the project, according to an analysis released Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration.  The Department of Water Resources commissioned David Sunding, a professor of natural resource economics at UC Berkeley, to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of Brown’s Delta tunnels project. His report concludes that benefits outweigh the costs to ratepayers in every scenario he analyzed under a one-tunnel approach. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Study commissioned by Brown administration says his Delta tunnels plan would pay off for farmers, cities

Study: Delta tunnels plan makes economic sense:  “The $11 billion first leg of California’s plan to divert water from its largest delta will pay dividends for cities and farmers and improve water quality, according to a state-sponsored study released Tuesday.  The long-awaited cost-benefit analysis, conducted by a University of California, Berkeley professor, concludes that it’s worth it for water suppliers to foot the bill for the ambitious public works project touted by Gov. Jerry Brown. It finds “under all scenarios analyzed” that the California WaterFix or “delta tunnels” would benefit stakeholders and provide billions in net benefits. ... ” Read more from the Courthouse News Service here:  Study: Delta tunnels plan makes economic sense

Southern California water agency eyeing whether to take control of Delta tunnels project: “In a dramatic new twist on the Delta tunnels saga, Southern California’s powerful water agency is exploring the feasibility of owning the majority stake in the hugely controversial project, a move that could raise fears of a “water grab.”  Under the plan floated Monday by three board members, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California would pour an extra $6 billion or more into the tunnels plan beyond what it has already pledged, enabling the twin tunnels to get built at the same time. Last week, facing a significant funding shortfall, the Brown administration announced it was scaling back the project to just one tunnel for now. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Southern California water agency eyeing whether to take control of Delta tunnels project

Water quality regulation will set precedent:  “After many hours of testimony by agricultural groups—including the California Farm Bureau Federation and several county Farm Bureaus—the State Water Resources Control Board has adopted an order revising agricultural requirements for the Eastern San Joaquin River watershed. Farm groups said the action adds layers of reporting requirements, the majority of which set precedents for other irrigated lands water-quality programs in California.  “Growers throughout the state will now see substantial changes to their irrigated lands regulatory programs,” CFBF Senior Counsel Kari Fisher said, “both in terms of increases in reporting and monitoring requirements, as well as additional costs to implement the requirements.” … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  Water quality regulation will set precedent

7 ways you could soon be fined for wasting water:  “Starting April 1, water wasters could be fined $500 under new rules the State Water Board is considering next week. If passed, which is likely, the rules would be permanent. Max Gomberg is the water conservation and climate change manager at the State Water Resources Control Board. He joined Take Two to talk about the proposed rules and fines for water wasters.  Under the new regulations, the following wasteful practices would be prohibited: … ”  Read more from KPCC here:  7 ways you could soon be fined for wasting water

Water conservation slipping statewide as dry weather returns:  “As California suffers through another dry winter, increasing fears that drought conditions may be returning, the state’s residents are dropping conservation habits that were developed during the last drought and steadily increasing their water use with each passing month.  A new analysis of state water records by this news organization found California’s urban residents used 13.7 percent less water last year in the first eight months after Gov. Jerry Brown declared an end to the drought emergency than they used in the same eight-month period in 2013. But in each of those eight months last year, the water savings dropped from 20 percent in May to 2.8 percent in an unseasonably dry December. ... ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Water conservation slipping statewide as dry weather returns

Warm, dry winter affects a number of farm activities:  “In the weeks leading up to mid-February, California farmers went from sweater weather to sweating the weather, with unseasonably warm temperatures and a near-total lack of rain and snow leading to cherry-crop worries and discussions of renewed drought.  “We have this upper-level ridge pattern, which has been blocking a lot of the storms from the West Coast—really shifting them up more into the British Columbia area, and somewhat to the Pacific Northwest,” said Eric Kurth, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.  This ridge, reminiscent of the “ridiculously resilient ridge” that parked itself over the West Coast during the winter of 2013-14, pushed temperatures around Northern California into the 70s last week—levels usually not seen until April or May, according to the National Weather Service. ... ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  Warm, dry winter affects a number of farm activities

Ag secretary talks water, trade, regulation with Central Valley farmers:  “More water, less regulation, a workable labor system and distribution of funding were all topics laid at the feet of United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.  Perdue sat in front of more than 100 farmers, dairymen and agriculture industry professionals during a town hall meeting Tuesday in the Heritage Complex at the 2018 World Ag Expo Show.  Perdue was there to learn and informally discuss what is and isn’t working in the agriculture industry. … ”  Read more from the Visalia Times-Delta here:  Ag secretary talks water, trade, regulation with Central Valley farmers

Drought conditions spread across the West.  Are we ready? The driest December in California’s recorded history was followed by a relieving gush of rain in January, when it seemed there was a chance the state would be on track to receive at least its average level of precipitation.  Now, shortly after a record-breaking midwinter heatwave and seemingly endless blue skies, general optimism is waning as February shapes up to be even drier than December, despite a soaking Los Angeles received on Monday. A formidable high-pressure ridge has settled off the West Coast, deflecting storms northward in much the same pattern observed in 2013, 2014 and 2015, and though scientists and policy experts debate the definition of “drought,” few would disagree that the American West is in the grip of another extraordinary dry spell. … ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  Drought conditions spread across the West.  Are we ready?

Trump budget again targets regional water cleanup programs:  “For a second consecutive year, President Donald Trump is trying to drastically reduce or eliminate federal support of cleanups for iconic U.S. waterways including the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay.  Trump’s proposed 2019 budget for the Environmental Protection Agency released Monday would cut funding by 90 percent for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative — an Obama-era plan for dealing with pervasive pollution in the world’s biggest surface freshwater system — and a similar program for Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary. … ”  Read more from the Capital Press here:  Trump budget again targets regional water cleanup programs

In commentary today …

We had a deal.  Without Sites, Temperance Flat you’re breaking a promise, says Adam Gray:  He writes, “In 2014, I asked you to support Proposition 1, $7.5 billion water bond written during one of the worst droughts in the state’s modern history.  It certainly wasn’t perfect. I would have preferred significantly more than the $2.7 billion it provided for water storage, while others would have eliminated water storage funding entirely. But Prop 1 was a product of compromise and negotiation – something we need a lot more of in today’s political climate.  In typical Sacramento fashion, we had ignored a problem until it became so large that we could not possibly ignore it anymore. If there was a silver lining to the drought, it was that water became a priority again. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  We had a deal.  Without Sites, Temperance Flat you’re breaking a promise

Water Commission must invest bond funds in water storage, says Danny Merkley:  He writes, “More than three years ago, on Nov. 4, 2014, 67 percent of voters approved California Proposition 1, the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014. The nearly 4.8 million Californians who voted for the bond did so knowing that new water storage was crucial for addressing longer and more frequent drought periods, punctuated by flashier storm systems.  On top of that, the governor and state representatives have made it clear they consider new water storage a key component in upgrading our water infrastructure.  In recent weeks, however, state agency staff members have thrown the bond funding process into some doubt—despite the expectations of the voters and their elected representatives. ... ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  Water Commission must invest bond funds in water storage

Oroville Dam neighbors want answers on repairs and operations, says Jim Nielsen:  He writes, “A year ago, nearly 200,000 Northern California residents were alarmed by an alert from the state Department of Water Resources informing them of the potential failure of the auxiliary spillway at the Oroville Dam.  Within hours, residents scrambled to load their most treasured possessions and pets into vehicles and head onto crammed highways.  A year later, our community still does not have answers from the state Department of Water Resources. It has been a year of mistrust and uncertainty. Let’s not wait for another year to get this right. ... ”  Read more from the SF Chronicle here: Oroville Dam neighbors want answers on repairs and operations

In regional news and commentary today …

NID fears pot grows could make water conservation more challenging:  “The Nevada Irrigation District on Tuesday said it may have to re-work its master plan, which projects NID’s water needs until 2023, to account for water usage associated with legal marijuana grows.  Because California’s new cannabis regulations allow for the cultivation of up to six plants indoors, NID customers not associated with agricultural water use could potentially be using additional water, the district said.  NID, which follows conservation mandates levied by the state, also said Tuesday it fears a potential uptick in cannabis cultivation could pose challenges in meeting California’s requirements. ... ”  Read more from the Appeal-Democrat here:  NID fears pot grows could make water conservation more challenging

After fires, Sonoma County seeks to defend landscape against next disaster:  “As Sonoma County tries to prevent its scorched landscape from contaminating local watersheds, government officials are exploring additional measures to help the environment withstand another major firestorm, including a possible expansion of controlled burns and rules requiring more landowners clear defensible space around their homes.  Crews are already installing gauges around the major burn zones from the October wildfires to monitor rainfall and stream levels, aiming to develop an early-warning system for conditions that might trigger flooding and landslides. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  After fires, Sonoma County seeks to defend landscape against next disaster

Bay Area could face first dry February in 150 years:  “The Bay Area has experienced February dry spells before, including twice from 2013 to 2016 during California’s historic drought when rainfall totals were drastically below average.  But this February could close with a distinction most in the Bay Area would like to avoid. This could become the first February in more than 150 years with no rainfall. The only major Bay Area city to go the entire month of February without rain is San Francisco in 1864. San Francisco has the longest set of weather data in the Bay Area, going back to 1850.  “Lincoln was president the last time San Francisco had an 0 for February,” said Jan Null, a meteorologist with Golden Gate Weather Services in Saratoga. ... ” Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here:  Bay Area could face first dry February in 150 years

Transformation in Armona:  “After almost 10 years, Armona has rescinded a moratorium on new water connections, opening up the possibility for growth and development in the small community.  “Things are looking up,” Jim Maciel, chairman of the Armona Community Services District, said. “It’s starting to blossom after a lot of years of being dormant.”  Back in 2008, Maciel said engineers determined that the community’s water supply was unable to support new housing connections, so Armona had to cap-off the connections it had and essentially halt other development within the community until additional water became available. ... ”  Read more from the Hanford Sentinel here:  Transformation in Armona

Santa Barbara County moves forward on developing groundwater sustainability plans:  “Santa Barbara County supervisors on Tuesday accepted a report on efforts to implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and set May 8 for a public hearing on removing “fringe” areas from the Santa Maria basin.  The 4-0 vote also directed the Santa Barbara County Water Agency staff to notify the California Department of Water Resources that it is considering a basin boundary modification to eliminate some of the “fringe” areas from the state’s definition of the basin.  Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam recused himself from hearing the report and voting on the staff recommendations because of a potential conflict of interest. … ”  Read more from the Lompoc Record here:  Santa Barbara County moves forward on developing groundwater sustainability plans

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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