NEWS WORTH NOTING: Innovation, investment, and infrastructure needed to replenish groundwater basins, new DWR report shows; North Coast Regional Water Board and Caltrans Reach $2M Settlement; Weekly water and climate update

Innovation, Investment, and Infrastructure Needed to Replenish Groundwater Basins, New DWR Report Shows

From the Department of Water Resources:

An updated analysis of California’s water resources shows that investment, innovation, and infrastructure will be necessary to achieve the state’s goal of sustainable groundwater management.

The Department of Water Resource (DWR) today released the final Water Available for Replenishment (WAFR) report, which shows that water available for aquifer recharge may be limited in many regions, except in years of high precipitation. Developed with extensive stakeholder involvement, the report provides an estimate of the amount of water available to replenish groundwater basins to help inform development of local groundwater sustainability plans for critically overdrafted basins by January 2020.

“The WAFR report makes it abundantly clear that a diversified water resources portfolio is needed at the local, regional and state levels,” DWR Director Karla Nemeth said. “If California is to simultaneously bring sustainability to its groundwater basins, cope with climate change, and meet future demands, water managers must embrace a comprehensive, innovative approach.”

DWR estimates that 1.5 million acre-feet (MAF) of water may be available to replenish groundwater basins in an average year. With additional investments in programs such as water storage, conservation, recycling, stormwater capture, desalination, and conveyance improvements, more water could be available for replenishment in the future.

Water deliveries from the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project have reduced groundwater overdraft in many basins in the state; however, average deliveries have declined in recent years due to drought and regulatory requirements to protect water quality and critical species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and tributaries. Climate change is expected to further exacerbate these challenges. The WAFR report shows that constructing additional storage north and south of the Delta and improving Delta conveyance infrastructure as proposed in the California WaterFix project would limit the decline of water project deliveries and provide a more reliable supply of surface water for replenishment and other purposes.

The WAFR report analyzes water supply, demand, and runoff in 10 regions of the state to estimate how much surface water could be available to replenish groundwater basins. It provides a visual depiction of supply and demand in each region, as well as a range of potential water available for replenishment estimates.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act directs DWR to prepare the WAFR report to help newly formed local groundwater sustainability agencies develop sustainability plans for critically overdrafted basins by January 2020.

The final report incorporates public comments submitted in response to the draft report published last year.

North Coast Regional Water Board and Caltrans Reach $2 Million Settlement for Discharges to Haehl Creek in Willits

From the North Coast Regional Water Board:

The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has reached a $2 million settlement agreement with the California Department of Transportation regarding alleged water quality violations of stormwater permits associated with construction of the Highway 101 Willits Bypass project.

The settlement resolves allegations that work on the Caltrans project, and inadequate pollution prevention measures, resulted in the discharge of approximately 3.4 million gallons of sediment-laden stormwater to Haehl Creek. The creek is a tributary of Baechtel Creek, Outlet Creek, and the South Fork Eel River.

“Project planning and erosion protection must take the highest priority in any construction project when large amounts of dirt are being disturbed next to creeks in the rainy season,” said Matt St. John, Regional Water Board Executive Officer. “We believe that Caltrans has made positive efforts to improve the water quality associated with its construction projects since the Willits Bypass discharges and we look forward to continuing to work cooperatively with Caltrans on construction-related water quality concerns.”

As a condition of the agreement, Caltrans will pay $1,954,999.00 to the State Water Resources Control Board’s Cleanup and Abatement account, and will apply $45,000 towards a Supplemental Environmental Project.  Supplemental Environmental Projects, or SEPs, allow a portion of a penalty to be applied to an environmentally beneficial project or purpose. The Caltrans SEP, to be conducted by San Francisco Estuary Institute, will consist of posting 35 Clean Water Act Section 401-certified Caltrans projects and maps in the North Coast on EcoAtlas, a database of aquatic resources.

The issue began in February 2013 when Caltrans began constructing the 6-mile long Willits Bypass to provide an uninterrupted route for Highway 101 around the City of Willits. The Willits Bypass connects to the City of Willits through both a northern and southern interchange. Construction of the southern interchange began in 2013 and required vegetation removal and grading across hilly terrain, as well as construction of six bridges, including four crossings over Haehl Creek.

Between February 2013 and April 2014, water quality monitoring data and reports from Caltrans engineers indicated that approximately 3.4 million gallons of sediment-laden stormwater from the construction site entered Haehl Creek and significantly elevated the creek’s turbidity levels.

North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board staff also documented inadequate erosion and sediment controls at the southern interchange before the winter rains in 2013, in violation of the Clean Water Act and California Water Code.

The Clean Water Act and California Water Code require erosion and sediment controls of construction sites to protect nearby waterways. Abnormally high levels of sediment in stormwater runoff can smother aquatic animals and habitats; alter or obstruct flows resulting in flooding; and reduce water clarity, which makes it difficult for organisms to breathe, find food and refuge, and reproduce.

For more information about the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s enforcement efforts, visit:  http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/northcoast/water_issues/programs/enforcement/

Weekly water and climate update: April 1 water supply forecasts show increases in the Sierra Nevada, remain unchanged elsewhere

From the USDA:

The Natural Resources Conservation Service produces this weekly report using data and products from the National Water and Climate Center and other agencies. The report focuses on seasonal snowpack, precipitation, temperature, and drought conditions in the U.S.

Most of the West reported little change in the conditions which have persisted so far this winter.  The one exception is “near-miracle” March snow and precipitation due to storms in the Sierras. This increased the snowpack and subsequent forecast streamflow from near record low to near average.

Forecasts remain exceptionally low in the Southwest and Great Basin regions and quite high in Montana and northwestern Wyoming. Lake Powell on the Colorado River is forecast to receive the sixth lowest inflow in the period of record.

Click here to read the report.

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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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