DAILY DIGEST: Democrats block GOP bid to speed Shasta Dam enlargement; Desalinated water in California doesn’t have to come from the ocean; California was in for one of the driest winters on record; then March happened; and more …

In California water news today, Democrats block GOP bid to speed Shasta Dam enlargement; Desalinated water in California doesn’t have to come from the ocean; California was in for one of the driest winters on record; then March happened;Biggest storm of the season could bring more devastation to Southern California burn areas; Radar envy; Berkeley Lab aims for big breakthroughs in water technology; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • The Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee meets at 9:00 amAt 10:30am, the Committee will hold an oversight hearing on implementation of the Water Storage Investment Program. For more information, click hereClick here to watch on Cal Channel.
  • The State Water Resources Control Board will meet at 9:30am.  Agenda items include an update on current hydrologic conditions; quarterly report on current Delta Science issues, update regarding the Status of Phase 1 of the Salton Sea Management Program, and an annual progress report by the Staff to the Board on the implementation of the Human Right to Water.  Click here for the full agendaClick here to watch on webcast.

 

In the news today …

Democrats block GOP bid to speed Shasta Dam enlargement:  “Democrats in Congress have stalled an attempt to jump start an expansion of Shasta Dam, California’s largest reservoir and a major water source for the Central Valley.  Their objections blocked a Republican gambit to allow the $1.3 billion project to move forward without full up-front funding and despite objections from Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration.  A Democratic leadership aide in the House confirmed to the Sacramento Bee on Monday that House Democrats rejected a GOP proposal to speed preparations for the project, by eliminating a requirement on the amount of upfront funding needed for pre-construction. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Democrats block GOP bid to speed Shasta Dam enlargement

Desalinated water in California doesn’t have to come from the ocean:  “The California Department of Water Resources has awarded $34 million in grants to eight desalination projects throughout the state. The money is part of a round of awards for desalination projects, as designated by Proposition 1.  While ocean desalination has often caught most of the public attention, two of those construction projects, in Antioch and Camarillo, focused specifically on inland brackish desalination, as did several of the other projects that received grant money. California has plenty of salty inland water, such as the water in the upstream Delta or in underground aquifers that have absorbed soil salts. As local agencies look for more potable water sources, desalinating that local water may become an important part of the equation, says Richard Mills, the Department of Water Resources’ recycling and desalination chief. … ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  Desalinated water in California doesn’t have to come from the ocean

Atmospheric river may dump up to four feet of Sierra snow in what could be the last big storm of the season:  “An atmospheric river is predicted to dump more rain on Southern California and the Central Coast than any other storm this year, and is expected to drop up to 4 feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada and 2 inches of rain in Sacramento before dissipating over the weekend.  The National Weather Service expects a weak preliminary storm to hit Tuesday afternoon. Light rain and snow above 5,000-6,000 feet elevation is expected before a short break Wednesday morning, followed by a second system’s arrival that afternoon. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Atmospheric river may dump up to four feet of Sierra snow in what could be the last big storm of the season

California was in for one of the driest winters on record; then March happened:  “Heavy rain and snow is in the forecast for California this week including local areas that are at risk of mudslides because of recent wildfires.  But there is an upside. All that precipitation is chipping away at a snowpack deficit in the Sierra Nevada mountains – the source of one-third of the state’s drinking water supply. December, January and February were unusually hot and dry. But March has been a different story. Since the beginning of the month, the Sierra snowpack has gone from 23 percent to 48 percent of average in terms of its snow to water equivalent. And more snow is on the way. … ”  Read more from KPCC here:  California was in for one of the driest winters on record; then March happened

Biggest storm of the season could bring more devastation to Southern California burn areas:  “An atmospheric river that forecasters are billing as the biggest storm of the season is expected to drench Southern California beginning Tuesday night and will bring with it the potential for mud flows and widespread flooding, the National Weather Service said.  The storm, which is fueled by warm, western Pacific waters, will deliver nonstop rain across much of California and provide some relief to areas that have seen a resurgence in drought conditions. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Biggest storm of the season could bring more devastation to Southern California burn areas

Pineapple Express deluge in Southern California; high risk of Thomas Fire flash floods and mudslides:  “The strongest storm of the year (and perhaps longer) for southern California is rapidly developing over the Eastern Pacific west of California. This system already has a visually spectacular presentation on satellite imagery, and is exhibiting almost textbook structure for an atmospheric river of the “Pineapple Express” variety (so named for the subtropical origins of the associated moisture transport axis near Hawaii). This slow-moving storm will take its time getting here, but will also linger after making landfall on Wednesday. As a result, a long-duration heavy precipitation event is expected from the Central Coast and southern Sierra Nevada (in the north) to the coastal plain in SoCal (in the south). The focus of very heavy precipitation appears to be Santa Barbara and possibly Ventura County (plus or minus 50-100 miles of coastline), but everyone in that above-mentioned region is going to get soaked. … ”  Read more from the California Weather Blog here:  Pineapple Express deluge in Southern California; high risk of Thomas Fire flash floods and mudslides

Radar envy:  ““The rule for releasing water is rigid and dates to the 1950s,” says Jay Jasperse of the Sonoma County Water Agency. Near the end of 2012, the US Army Corps of Engineers released 28,000 acre-feet of water from Lake Mendocino. Then followed 14 of the driest months on record. The key to managing the drought and deluge cycle of California lies in a better understanding of atmospheric rivers, intense winter storms that transport water from the tropics to the West Coast. Over the last decade California has pumped more than $40 million into the statewide network that tracks these rivers, giving lead times of up to a week. Researchers continue to work to push the boundaries of what’s possible. ... ”  Read more from Estuary News here:  Radar envy

Berkeley Lab aims for big breakthroughs in water technology:  “Recognizing that the issues of water and energy are critically interdependent, the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) is launching a new research institute to focus resources on its growing portfolio of projects for water innovation.  Building on a decades-long tradition of “team science,” Berkeley Lab’s Water-Energy Resilience Research Institute (WERRI) will house a gamut of research, from nano-engineered desalination solutions to ultra-high resolution climate modeling for watershed predictions to novel groundwater management approaches. … ” Read more from Berkeley Laboratory here:  Berkeley Lab aims for big breakthroughs in water technology

The public startup charting bold new waters:  “Most startups fail. Within the first four years, anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of firms go belly up. Investing in them is risky. It’s easy for things to go wrong.  But Blue Drop LLC isn’t a typical startup. To begin with, there isn’t a hoodie or open-loft office to be found in its modest headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C. And the company’s lone investor, the public utility DC Water, hails from an extremely risk-averse sector.  There’s something else unique about Blue Drop: A healthy portion of its revenue plan relies on selling truckloads of what used to be human poop. ... ”  Read more from Governing here:  The public startup charting bold new waters

In commentary today …

Clean drinking water isn’t a partisan issue, says Justin Salters:  He writes, “California faces a statewide drinking water crisis that affects a million Californians each year, but most of us have no idea what’s going on.  In 2017, the California State Water Board identified more than 300 public water systems that were out of compliance with federal drinking water standards. Many of the communities served by these systems – often in rural, disadvantaged areas of the state – have gone without safe drinking water for years. … ”  Read more from Bakersfield.com here:  Clean drinking water isn’t a partisan issue

Congress must reject Westlands settlement as unjust to Hoopa Tribe:  “The Trinity River water that had sustained the Hupa people’s fishery and 10,000 year-old economy, culture and religion now supplies industrial agriculture with irrigation and hydropower. Westlands Water District uses the lion’s share of that water. Its demand for Trinity water is insatiable.  Federal law and judicial decrees strictly limit Trinity River diversions. They forbid shipping any Trinity water to Westlands that North Coast communities and Indian tribes need for fish, wildlife and economic development.  For 40 years, the Hupa people have fought to enforce those limits and preserve our rights. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Congress must reject Westlands settlement as unjust to Hoopa Tribe

Everybody poops; Sacramento must make sure homeless people can do it in a toilet, says the Sacramento Bee:  They write, “Given the smears of human feces staining downtown sidewalks and the smell of urine stinking up alleys all over midtown, a serious discussion about ways to put more public restrooms in Sacramento should have happened years ago.  But it didn’t, and homeowners and apartment dwellers who’ve had to deal with the unsanitary side effects of the city’s burgeoning homeless population have paid the price. Residents deserve more, and so do homeless people. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Everybody poops; Sacramento must make sure homeless people can do it in a toilet

In regional news and commentary today …

Walden supports effort to find a new Klamath Basin water pact:  “Oregon’s Second District Congress member Greg Walden says he believes stakeholders in the Klamath Basin can come together again to negotiate a comprehensive solution to the region’s water wars.  After Governor Kate Brown declared a drought emergency in Klamath County last week, Walden told JPR he was working with Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley to get federal funds to provide emergency relief to growers who could lose access to irrigation water. … ”  Read more from Jefferson Public Radio here:  Walden supports effort to find a new Klamath Basin water pact

Butte working on structure for required groundwater plan:  “The process of developing plans to protect the water beneath Butte County is underway, but in the very preliminary stages.  The plans are required by a state law approved in the height of the drought. It was motivated by cases in the San Joaquin Valley where excessive pumping had drained the aquifer to the point that wells that provided household water in a number of communities were going dry.  With the water removed, the land surface was dropping in places — a process called subsidence — and the resulting compaction can be dense enough to prevent the soil from ever holding water again. … ”  Read more from the Oroville Mercury-Register here:  Butte working on structure for required groundwater plan

Napa River: Locals trade vines for resilient rivers: “In 2002, when stretches of the Napa River running through Rutherford area vineyards breached levees and flooded yet again, Michael Honig did something remarkable: rather than call the authorities to complain, his neighbors and he banded together to restore their riverbanks. “It had became a kind of competition,” Honig says. “If I built my levee up to five feet, the person across from me had to build theirs up five-and-a-half feet.” The restoration project came at a personal price: Honig, and many of his neighbors, gave up acres of some of their best vineyards. What makes vintners in a competitive market voluntarily give up that kind of income is a complex mix of principles, pragmatic thinking, and long-term considerations. … ”  Read more from Estuary News here:  Napa River: Locals trade vines for resilient rivers

Bill seeks millions in state funds for San Francisco seawall improvements:  “An aging seawall along San Francisco’s iconic waterfront could leave the city defenseless in the event of sea level rise or a major earthquake, but new state legislation announced Monday is seeking to secure more funding to strengthen it.  Assembly Bill 2578, introduced by Assemblyman David Chiu, would provide the state with a mechanism to contribute to the Seawall Earthquake Safety Program and would generate an estimated $55 million in the first ten years of the program and a total of $250 million over the life of the program. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Examiner here: Bill seeks millions in state funds for San Francisco seawall improvements

Placerville: Water reliability project moves a step forward:  “Despite some objections, the El Dorado Water and Power Authority (EDWPA) is moving ahead on its water reliability project with the goal being to secure an additional 40,000 acre-feet of water to supply the county’s needs as it builds out.  At the EDWPA board meeting March 14, General Manager Ken Payne discussed feedback from the public and various agencies on EDWPA’s plans to proceed with having an environmental impact report prepared for the project. … ”  Read more from the Mountain Democrat here:  Placerville: Water reliability project moves a step forward

When it comes to Paso Robles water basin, it’s deja vu all over again, says Don Wilson:  He writes, “In its editorial of March 7, The Tribune Editorial Board rebuked the Board of Supervisors for its 3-2 decision to reject a proposal to create a Estrella-El Pomar-Creston Water District in North County, asserting that was a power grab by the county to retain control over North County’s water and, in the process, usurp “local control” by “a group of North County landowners” (their words, not mine). In that attack, The Tribune could not have been more wrong.  The editorial board acknowledges the motivation for rejection was a fear that the individuals behind the proposed district would “have too much control in the collaborative process of developing a state-mandated groundwater management plan.” This is a legitimate concern. The supervisors were doing exactly the job they were elected to do — to protect the interests of all, not just the monied few. … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here:  When it comes to Paso Robles water basin, it’s deja vu all over again

San Diego: California board debates lawsuit, seeks scrutiny of contaminated flows from Mexico:  “Members of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board gathered in a closed session on Monday afternoon, debating whether to file a lawsuit against the federal government to stem the cross-border flow of sewage, sediment and other contaminants from Tijuana to San Diego.  The deliberations followed a lawsuit filed earlier this month by the cities of Imperial Beach, Chula Vista and the Port of San Diego against the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission, alleging violations of the Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union Tribune here:  San Diego: California board debates lawsuit, seeks scrutiny of contaminated flows from Mexico

Can the Salton Sea be saved?  “If you don’t live near the fading banks of the Salton Sea, it’s easy to forget it exists — that is, until the winds pick up.  Depending on which way they are blowing, gusts carry tiny, toxic particulates — and sometimes the stench of decaying fish and sulfur dioxide — from the Colorado Desert to Los Angeles, Phoenix, and points beyond.  The smell is a reminder of the public health crisis that will occur if more isn’t done — and quickly — to save the sea. … ”  Read more from The Week here:  Can the Salton Sea be saved?

Along the Colorado River …

Palo Verde Irrigation District withdraws lawsuit against Metropolitan Water District of Southern California: “In a bit of Colorado River detente, the Palo Verde Irrigation District has filed a motion in Riverside County Superior Court to withdraw a lawsuit it had filed against the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California over the use of water on Met-owned land in the Palo Verde District. … ”  Continue reading from the Inkstain Blog here:  Palo Verde Irrigation District withdraws lawsuit against Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Worsening dry spell won’t tip Lake Mead into shortage – yet:  “An already dry winter for the Colorado River has gotten worse in recent weeks, but it won’t be enough to send Lake Mead to a record low — at least not right away.  Despite worsening conditions in the mountains that feed the Colorado, forecasters still expect the reservoir east of Las Vegas to contain just enough water by the end of the year to avoid a first-ever federal shortage declaration.  A month ago, the Colorado River Basin was on track for its seventh-driest winter in more than half a century. Now forecasters say this winter will likely go down as the sixth-driest on record for the river system that supplies 90 percent of the Las Vegas Valley’s drinking water. … ”  Read more from the Las Vegas Review-Journal here:  Worsening dry spell won’t tip Lake Mead into shortage – yet

Plight of Phoenix: How long can the world’s least sustainable city survive?  “Jennifer Afshar and her husband, John, pushed their bikes across the grass and paused to savour the sunshine, while their two boys went to look at the duck pond. Other kids were playing soccer or doing tricks in the skate park, and families picnicked on blankets or fired up a barbecue across from the swimming pool.  “We moved here from Los Angeles, to get away from the rising cost of living and the traffic,” said Jennifer. “When we saw this park, we thought they were punking us it was so good. There’s low crime, the home owners association takes great care of the grass and trees – we like it.”  The Afshars live in the squeaky-clean suburb of Anthem, Arizona. It’s part of a giant conurbation of satellite towns surrounding Phoenix, and is a classic example of why this metropolitan – or “megapolitan” – area is tempting fate. … ”  Read more from the Guardian here:  Plight of Phoenix: How long can the world’s least sustainable city survive?

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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