DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: Trump asks Supreme Court to resolve groundwater fight; CA moves, haltingly, towards a post-lawn future; Wildfires pose hidden threat to the West’s drinking water; Govt shutdown: How science research is grinding to a halt; and more …

A view of the South Yuba River in Emigrant Gap, Calif. on March 22nd, 2016 (Photo by DWR)

In California water news this weekend, Trump asks Supreme Court to resolve groundwater fight; California moves, haltingly, towards a post-lawn future; After the fire: Blazes pose hidden threat to the West’s drinking water; Government shutdown: How science research is grinding to a halt; Rivers in the sky: What you need to know about atmospheric river storms; Lawsuit over microplastics in Nestle water thrown out; 2019 will be a big year for water; Here’s the research to watch in 2019; and more …

In the news this weekend …

Trump asks Supreme Court to resolve groundwater fight:  “The Trump administration is pushing the Supreme Court to review what could be the most consequential environmental case of the term: a broiling Clean Water Act debate.  The Justice Department yesterday recommended the high court decide whether the landmark environmental law applies to pollution that travels through groundwater before reaching federally regulated water. Two recent circuit court decisions say yes, but critics think that approach vastly expands the statute.  EPA is reviewing a standing position that favored the broader interpretation of the law. According to yesterday’s DOJ brief, the agency is expected to take action “within the next several weeks.” … ” Read more from E&E News here:  Trump asks Supreme Court to resolve groundwater fight

California moves, haltingly, towards a post-lawn future:  “On the first Saturday of December in a northeast neighborhood of Fresno, California, Jeff Collins and his neighbors were putting up their Christmas decorations: strings of lights along identical gable roofs, animated reindeer, and inflatable snowmen. But for Collins, the task involved an extra step—laying down tarps to help the inflatables stay upright in his grass-free yard.  Collins had had the lawn ripped out in 2015, at the peak of one of the worst recorded droughts in state history. He opted for wood chips and Sago palms instead. “I just got tired of trying to keep the grass green,” he said. He’s planning to put in artificial turf eventually—his wife prefers to retain the look of a lawn—but he says he would happily move to a new development where drought-friendly yards are standard. … ”  Read more from City Lab here:  California moves, haltingly, towards a post-lawn future

After the fire:  Blazes pose hidden threat to the West’s drinking water: “Gerald and Serene Buhrz were among the lucky ones.  When they fled their home at 2:00 a.m. on Oct. 8, 2017, the flames of the massive Tubb Fire had already engulfed most of the Fountaingrove neighborhood on the north side of Santa Rosa, Calif. They returned to their devastated street eight hours later to find their two-story stucco home still standing. It was surrounded by the embers of burned houses but untouched by flames.  Not all fire damage, however, is visible to the eye.  When Serene Buhrz turned the water on for the first time several days later, the chemical smell from their kitchen tap was overpowering. … ”  Continue reading at NBC News here:  After the fire:  Blazes pose hidden threat to the West’s drinking water

Government shutdown: How science research is grinding to a halt:  “Writing scientific reports can wait, says ecologist Malcolm North with the U.S. Forest Service. But his applications for funding can’t.  As one of the thousands of federal workers who have been furloughed during the government shutdown, North is worried that he won’t be able to seek out the money necessary to continue his research on California wildfires. He’s studying how to keep fires from turning into deadly conflagrations, and his deadline for submitting a grant request is the end of the month. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Government shutdown: How science research is grinding to a halt

Rivers in the sky: What you need to know about atmospheric river storms:  “The rainy season is well underway in California: Roughly 90 percent of the Golden State’s precipitation typically falls during the months of October through April. While drought has bedeviled the state in recent years, there’s evidence that the wet season is actually getting wetter.  If you live on the West Coast, you may hear the term “atmospheric river” thrown around. These massive, fast-moving storm systems can transport more than 25 times the moisture as flows through the mouth of the Mississippi River.  As you’re breaking out those rain slickers, boots and umbrellas, here’s what you need you know about atmospheric rivers, sometimes referred to as ARs. … ”  Read more from KQED here:  Rivers in the sky: What you need to know about atmospheric river storms

Lawsuit over microplastics in Nestle water thrown out:  “A lawsuit claiming food and beverage giant Nestle misled consumers about its water quality by allowing high levels of microplastics in its products was dismissed by a federal judge.  Los Angeles resident Cindy Baker claimed in her April 12, 2018 federal class action lawsuit that the Switzerland-based company intentionally and recklessly concealed facts about the quality and purity of its Pure Life purified water.  Nestle’s deceptive marketing misrepresented the geographic origins and quality of its water and added that consumers were made to believe that Nestle’s water offered them health benefits, the complaint said. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here:  Lawsuit over microplastics in Nestle water thrown out

2019 will be a big year for water:  “In the last few weeks of 2018, the Trump administration set the stage for a big battle over water in the new year. At stake is an important rule that defines which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act. The Trump administration seeks to roll back important protections for wetlands and waterways, which are important to drinking water and wildlife.  This is just one of the upcoming water battles that could serve to define 2019. … ”  Read more from The Revelator here:  2019 will be a big year for water

Here’s the research to watch in 2019:  “As urgency grows around the need for stronger climate action, so does demand for a deeper understanding of how the planet is already changing — and what to expect in the coming decades.  From the world’s melting ice sheets to its warming oceans, scientists are diligently investigating the finer details of the climate system and the consequences of global warming.  Climate scientists have published study after groundbreaking study in the past year. They’ve investigated the ways climate change has influenced extreme weather events, including everything from Hurricane Florence to record-breaking heat in Europe. They’ve documented accelerating ice loss in Greenland, new melting spots in Antarctica and alarming losses of Arctic sea ice. They’ve investigated changes in enormous ocean currents and major atmospheric patterns. … ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Here’s the research to watch in 2019

People in the news …

A Valedictory Visit With Ellie Cohen as the CEO Leaves Point Blue: “By the time I got out of my car at the Petaluma headquarters of Point Blue Conservation Science on the morning of November 8, the sky had already turned a sickly yellowish tan. … What we couldn’t have known at that point was that this was the start of the deadliest wildfire in California history, leaving 86 people dead and thousands displaced.  This was an all-too-appropriate segue to my interview with Ellie Cohen, on the occasion of her impending departure from Point Blue Conservation Science (founded in 1965 as Point Reyes Bird Observatory/PRBO). Because if the world at large had been heeding Ellie for the past 12 years, we might already be on track to make the choices and changes necessary to avoid this apocalyptic, smoke-filled vision of the future of California … and the planet. … ”  Read more from Bay Nature here:  A Valedictory Visit With Ellie Cohen as the CEO Leaves Point Blue

New Bay-Delta magazine, ‘Soundings’, launches:  “Photojournalist Rich Turner recently announced the launch of the regional publication Soundings, where he serves as publisher/editor and features a multitude of journalism platforms focused on Bay-Delta art, culture and the environment.  Featuring artists, photographers, first-person narratives, historical and scientific essays, long-form journalism and fiction, the magazine revolves around the fascinating people and wonders that make up the greater Bay – Delta region of California.  “This is the right time to produce a magazine dedicated to stories and art that celebrate this unique region and we’re proud to have people with seasoned journalistic credentials working with us to cover stories you will not see in news-driven media,” said Turner. ... ”  Read more from the Benicia Herald here:  New Bay-Delta magazine, ‘Soundings’, launches

In commentary this weekend …

State should use science to determine Delta water flows, says Jon Rosenfield:  He writes, “How low our expectations of government have sunk. Federal agencies now regularly deny science that explains the warming of our planet and rising seas. Back-room deals and obstruction of the public’s will have become so commonplace that we notice when one of our state government’s agencies takes action to protect the environment, even if it falls well short of the mark.  So it was last month when the State Water Resources Control Board finally required increased flows from three San Joaquin River tributaries, as the first step in a process to update water quality standards for the San Francisco Bay estuary. ... ”  Continue reading at the Mercury News here:  State should use science to determine Delta water flows

Why doesn’t California treat its wildfire hazards like it battles flood risks? asks Jonathan Lansner:  He writes, “Flooding has never been reason enough to halt development in California. Instead, flood control was embraced as a way to keep progress moving ahead.  So why should wildfires curtail development?  California wildfires scorched 1.9 million acres last year — as much land as Delaware and Rhode Island combined — destroying thousands of California homes and killing more than 100 people. The fires sparked lots of conversation about banning or restricting new home construction in high-risk fire zones.  But this anti-building rhetoric runs in the face of how California has historically tackled other natural disasters, specifically floods. Instead of curbing construction, the state tapped government protections for homeowners and grew its population and economy to be the nation’s largest. ... ”  Read more from Pasadena Star News here:  Why doesn’t California treat its wildfire hazards like it battles flood risks?

In regional news and commentary this weekend …

Klamath Dam removal concerns harbor officials:  “Despite concerns from Crescent City Harbor officials that dam removal on the Klamath River would “silt up the harbor,” a new environmental document predicts the level of sediment released as a result will be similar to what the river carries downstream during an average year.  Crescent City Harbormaster Charlie Helms said he and commissioners are worried about sediment being deposited in the marina and the potential impact it could have on the commercial fleet.  “We want to keep it wide open for the commercial fishermen to make their livelihood,” he said. “That’s what we’re worried about.” ... ”  Read more from the Del Norte Triplicate here:  Klamath Dam removal concerns harbor officials

Butte County: Helicopter survey should aid groundwater planning:  “Butte County may soon have a better idea of what lies beneath its surface, thanks in part to the Kingdom of Denmark.  Starting in late November, a helicopter took off for several days from the Orland airport to fly a pattern over an area between Chico and Orland, and southeast into Butte Valley.  Dangling beneath the helicopter was a hoop loaded with devices that created a weak magnetic field and instruments that measured how that interacted with layers beneath the soil.  Christina Buck with the Butte County Department of Water and Resource Conservation explained that underground there are layers of sands and gravels that hold water, divided by layers of clay and silt that block water passage to different degrees. ... ”  Read more from the Oroville Mercury-Register here:  Butte County: Helicopter survey should aid groundwater planning

Groundwater replenishment, seawater intrusion project approved by Soquel Creek Water District:  “The Soquel Creek Water District (SCWD) Board of Directors recently certified the Final Environmental Impact Report (Final EIR) for its proposed Pure Water Soquel Groundwater Replenishment and Seawater Intrusion Prevention Project (Project). The Dec. 18 board of directors meeting saw the unanimous approval of the Project plan following staff presentations, board discussion, and public input by more than 25 attendees. ... ”  Continue reading at California Water News Daily here:  Groundwater replenishment, seawater intrusion project approved by Soquel Creek Water District

New leaders on the Monterey Peninsula must finish the water project, say Bill Kampe, Ralph Rubio and Jerry Edelen:  They write, “In September of 2018, a busload of local citizens traveled to San Francisco to support approval of our local desalination plant by the California Public Utilities Commission. Included among the supporters were local elected officials, representatives of labor, environmental, housing and business organizations, and people from the community at large. The one thing all these people had in common was the understanding that an adequate and drought-proof water supply is a necessity for a thriving community.  … ”  Continue reading at the Monterey Herald here:  New leaders on the Monterey Peninsula must finish the water project

Indian Wells Valley: Groundwater Authority committees meet for first time in 2019:  “The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority Technical Advisory and Policy Advisory committees met Thursday at the Indian Wells Valley Water District boardroom.  Special Legal Counsel Jim Markman was present during both meetings, though he mainly spoke and gave updates on the pumping and allocation process during the first portion of the PAC meeting.  Markman discussed his encounters and experience up until this point with other legal counsel involved in a handful of successful water negotiations in California, all of which had different scenarios and factors to them to show the possible solutions and outcomes to the committee. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  Indian Wells Valley: Groundwater Authority committees meet for first time in 2019

Stretch of PCH in LA and Ventura counties closed by flooding and mudslides:  “The first winter storm of 2019 has moved into the Southland for the weekend, bringing with it rain, snow and some roadway flooding and mudslides on mountain slopes recently scorched by wildfires.  Forecasters estimated the strong Pacific System would bring a half-inch to an inch of rainfall across the Southern California coast and valleys and more than double that amount in higher elevations Saturday and Sunday. … ”  Read more from the Long Beach Press Telegram here:  Stretch of PCH in LA and Ventura counties closed by flooding and mudslides

Along the Colorado River …

Nevada has long taken conservation measures for success in drought contingency plan: “Southern Nevadans will see few noticeable consequences from a soon-to-be-finalized drought plan for states that get most of their water supply from the Colorado River, according to a Southern Nevada water resources expert.  States are nearing a federal deadline for the drought contingency plans, dealing with lower reservoir levels and a higher probability that Lake Mead will experience a shortage by 2020. Brenda Burman, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, told Nevada, Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming to finalize their drought plan by Jan. 31. … ”  Read more from the Las Vegas Sun here:  Nevada has long taken conservation measures for success in drought contingency plan

Our current drought is worse than most megadroughts, new study says:  “The Colorado River — Tucson’s drinking water supply — carries nearly 20 percent less water than in 2000. Bark beetles are chomping away at our forests and killing off ponderosa pines. Wildfires are rapidly growing in intensity.  These problems have been linked to a drought that has stretched 19 years with no respite.  Now, a team of researchers concludes that the ongoing drought across the western U.S. rivals most past “megadroughts” dating as far back as 800 A.D. — and that this region is currently in a megadrought. ... ”  Read more from Tucson.com here:  Our current drought is worse than most megadroughts, new study says

Colorado’s snowpack slips below average:  “After a strong start to the season, Colorado’s snowpack has managed to slip below average thanks to meager moisture in the drought-tormented southwest part of the state.  Snowpack was at 94 percent of median statewide Thursday, according to a daily map on the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Colorado Snow Survey Program website. That compares to 117 percent about a month ago. … ”  Read more from the Daily Sentinel here:  Colorado’s snowpack slips below average

Precipitation watch …

Also on Maven’s Notebook this weekend …

CA WEATHER BLOG: Stormy pattern on California’s doorstep; will help mitigate early-season rain & snow deficits

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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.

Maven’s Notebook
where California water news never goes home for the weekend

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