Below Average Precipitation for Water Year 2018
Variability is the Only Certainty in California’s Precipitation
A new water year begins today and Californians will be eyeing the weather forecasts to see what kind of year it will be. Despite below-average precipitation in water year 2018, most California reservoirs are storing near- or above-average levels of water heading into the 2019 water year.
“California experiences significant variability in seasonal precipitation,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “The recent record-breaking drought was followed by the second-wettest year on record in 2017, followed by another dry year. Climate change models predict extreme variability in precipitation to be the new norm, which requires us to be ever more vigilant in our flood and drought preparedness.”
Today, DWR released its annual water year recap called “Water Year 2018: Hot and Dry Conditions Return,” which highlights key outcomes of the water year, including:
- Much of Southern California ended up with half or less than half of average annual precipitation.
- The April 1 statewide snowpack based on over 260 snow courses was just 58 percent of average for water year 2018, a dramatic drop from 159 percent of average for the same date in 2017.
- The water year coincided with ongoing warming conditions, setting new records this summer for maximum temperatures in the South Coast region.
- Water year 2018 is indicative of California’s ongoing transition to a warmer climate, which after years of extreme variability in annual precipitation, resulted in record-breaking wildfires.
While conditions overall were dry, California experienced sporadic periods of significant precipitation. An atmospheric river event in April brought new records for precipitation, most of which fell as rain and not snow. Though the event was short, it produced the 10th largest flood on the Merced River, impacting Yosemite National Park. This event is a good reminder that floods can happen any year, even during an overall dry one.
The new water year runs from today, October 1, to September 30, 2019 and as always, Californians should be prepared for the possibility for a wet or dry year.
DWR releases Stormwater Targets for Groundwater Recharge and Direct Use in Urban California for public review; webinar – October 18
From the Department of Water Resources:
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) has released a public review draft of Stormwater Targets for Groundwater Recharge and Direct Use in Urban California as required by California Water Code. Stormwater targets are required by water conservation legislation enacted in 2009 (Senate Bill X7-7, California Water Code [CWC] Section 10608.50 (b)) that directs DWR in consultation with State Water Resources Control Board Water Board and with public input, to propose new statewide targets, or review and update existing statewide targets, for regional water resources management practices, including infiltration and direct use of urban stormwater runoff.
A public comment period on the Draft is open through October 31st, 2018. You may submit all comments to WUE@water.ca.gov.
The report will be finalized later this calendar year and will be included in the upcoming addendum to the resource management strategy, Urban Stormwater Runoff Management Strategy, of the Water Plan Update 2018.
A webinar will be offered to allow for a Question and Answer Session with DWR staff prior to the close of the public comment period.
SFPUC, Senator Wiener Celebrate Passage of Senate Bill 966
Legislation setting standards for onsite water reuse signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) and State Senator Scott Wiener are celebrating the passage of Senate Bill 966, which will expand water recycling efforts by developing statewide quality standards for onsite non-potable water systems. The bill, which was approved without a single “no” vote by the State Senate and Assembly, was signed into law on Friday, September 28, by Governor Jerry Brown.
“San Francisco knows the importance of diversifying our water portfolio and this legislation will allow other communities to follow our lead in that regard,” said SFPUC General Manager Harlan L. Kelly, Jr. “To ensure reliability—particularly in the age of climate change—we need to use every water resource available. We commend Senator Wiener for taking a leadership role on this critical issue.”
The bill, authored by Senator Wiener and sponsored by the SFPUC, will establish consistent, risk-based water quality standards for onsite non-potable systems that align with the most advanced and protective public health standards. The bill also helps local communities across the state establish consistent oversight and management programs for these onsite water systems.
“California has a long-term, structural water shortage, and we haven’t done enough to address it,” said State Senator Wiener. “Water recycling must be a central part of the solution, yet California is far behind in implementing large-scale water reuse programs. Due to a lack of state standards on how to permit on-site water reuse systems, most cities don’t have on-site recycling programs. SB 966 gives cities the tools they need to put water recycling programs in place consistent with health and safety standards. It also provides innovative water reuse businesses clear standards for designing new technologies. California must take bold steps today to prepare for tomorrow’s drought, and I’m proud that today we took one of these steps.”
Onsite non-potable water systems can save more than 50 percent of potable water needed in a typical building. These systems collect and treat water onsite in a manner that is protective of public health, and offer another tool to use water more efficiently and to diversify San Francisco’s water supply portfolio. In the age of climate change and increased stress on water supplies, responsible water conservation programs are more important than ever.
The SFPUC is committed to pursuing responsible water conservation and water reuse programs. In 2012, San Francisco became the first municipality in the country to adopt legislation allowing buildings to collect, treat and use alternate water sources for non-potable demands, such as toilet flushing, cooling and irrigation. Subsequently, San Francisco became the first municipality to require all new development projects with more than 250,000 square feet to install and operate onsite non-potable water systems.
The City pioneered this program to oversee and permit onsite non-potable water systems in the absence of a clear regulatory pathway set forth by the state. With the passage of Senate Bill 966, communities across California will have more guidance and structure to establish similar oversight programs.
At the SFPUC’s headquarters in downtown San Francisco, a Living Machine was installed to treat all the building’s wastewater onsite and reuse it for toilet and urinal flushing. The Living Machine has been able to reduce the building’s potable water use by 60 percent.
“It’s clear that onsite non-potable water systems are just one of the tools that can be used to promote water use efficiency,” said SFPUC Water Resources Director Paula Kehoe. “What is needed today are risk-based water quality standards and oversight and management programs to ensure these systems are protective of public health. The SFPUC sponsored SB 966 because it does just that. The bill establishes consistent water quality standards and provides communities with a framework for developing local oversight and management programs.”
About the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is a department of the City and County of San Francisco. It delivers drinking water to 2.7 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area, collects and treats wastewater for the City and County of San Francisco, and generates clean power for municipal buildings, residents, and businesses. Our mission is to provide our customers with high quality, efficient and reliable water, power, and sewer services in a manner that values environmental and community interests and sustains the resources entrusted to our care. Learn more at www.sfwater.org.
San Francisco Baykeeper Releases ShoreView Planning Tool for Sea Level Rise
From the San Francisco Baykeeper:
Sea levels are expected to rise in San Francisco Bay by at least three feet over the next fifty years. Many people around the Bay Area, including those working for local governments responsible for shoreline adaptation, don’t know what that will mean.
ShoreView, a new way of viewing the Bay using Google StreetView technology, provides a glimpse into how sea level rise will affect the Bay’s shoreline and Bay Area communities.
The ShoreView website, launched by San Francisco Baykeeper, was developed after collecting imagery of the Bay shoreline using a locally manufactured autonomous boat. In partnership with Google, through its Impact Challenge Program, Baykeeper collected imagery from over 200 miles of Bay shoreline from our patrol boat, using a remote-controlled, mounted Google Trekker camera.
The website highlights imagery from key shoreline areas threatened by sea level rise in the Bay and provides in-depth analysis of many of the impacts expected from sea level rise. It’s designed to help residents, urban planners, developers, and other stakeholders assess vulnerabilities and plan for the future.
As climate change causes sea levels to rise and storms to become more severe, the Bay ecosystem faces new, complex hazards. Essential infrastructure like roads, sewer lines, and housing, as well as thousands of toxic sites along the shoreline, are at risk of being damaged or flooded. Low-lying wetland habitat and recreational areas along the shore will also become increasingly vulnerable.
Most critically, the website outlines adaptation steps needed to prevent widespread urban and ecological damage. Baykeeper’s recommendations to prepare the Bay for sea level rise include:
- unified regional planning to prepare Bay shorelines for sea level rise;
- wiser use of Bay sediment to prevent flooding and protect habitat;
- broader adoption of green infrastructure measures, such as natural flood plains;
- more flexible zoning regulations to allow for creative adaptation to rising tides; and
- expedited cleanup and containment of toxic sites along the Bay shoreline.
“Rather than the piecemeal or head-in-the-sand approaches we’ve witnessed so far, ShoreView is designed to empower residents and decision-makers to envision the best ways to prepare for sea level rise in the Bay,” said Sejal Choksi-Chugh, Baykeeper Executive Director. “We’ve pinpointed proactive steps that are necessary to help protect the Bay and Bay Area communities.”
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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.