DAILY DIGEST: Westlands denies wrongdoing over potential raising of Shasta Dam; In Los Angeles ‘water colony’, tribes fear a parched future; DWR could soon release water over the Oroville Dam spillway; 5 U.S. cities that potentially could run out of water; and more …

In California water news today, Westlands Water District denies violating any state law over potential raising of Shasta Dam; In Los Angeles ‘water colony’, tribes fear a parched future; California’s water crisis has put farmers in a race to the bottom; With large Sierra snowpack, DWR could soon release water over the Oroville Dam spillway; Skiing in July, dangerous rivers, full reservoirs: What Sierra’s huge snowpack means for summer; 5 U.S. Cities That Potentially Could Run Out of Water; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • A free webinar: WOTS Up? An Update Regarding Regulation of WOTS and WOTUS from 1 to 2pm, presented by Nossaman LLP.   Click here to register.
    A public meeting for the Sustainable Groundwater Management Grant Program beginning at 1:30pm.  Click here for more information.

In the news today …

Westlands Water District denies violating any state law over potential raising of Shasta Dam:  “A California water district is disputing claims made in lawsuit filed by Attorney General Xavier Becerra that it is violating state laws over a dam project.  Westland Water District, which covers Fresno and Kings counties, was responding to the lawsuit filed over the Shasta Dam, the potential heightening of which the attorney general strongly opposes.  In the lawsuit, Becerra claims the district is moving forward with the proposal to heighten the dam, which opponents claim will cause environmental damage to the protected McCloud River. Violations of the Public Resources Code are alleged. The suit was filed May 13 in Shasta County Superior Court. ... ”  Read more from the Northern California Record here:  Westlands Water District denies violating any state law over potential raising of Shasta Dam

In Los Angeles ‘water colony’, tribes fear a parched future:  “When the first white settlers arrived in California’s remote eastern Owens Valley, the name given to its indigenous tribes was Paiute, or “land of flowing water” in the local language.  But for more than a century, the water in the valley has flowed in just one direction: toward Los Angeles, nearly 300 miles (480 km) away.  In the early 1900s, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) quietly bought up broad swathes of ranchland and its associated water rights in the once-lush valley, fringed by snow-capped peaks. … ”  Read more from Reuters here: In Los Angeles ‘water colony’, tribes fear a parched future

California’s water crisis has put farmers in a race to the bottom:  “While California was gripped by drought in 2014, Mark Arax began to notice something he couldn’t explain. Instead of shrinking for lack of water, some big farms were growing even bigger, expanding to hillsides, saltbush desert, and other lands where farmers usually feared to tread. They were planting thirsty almond trees as fast as they could.  Arax, a former reporter for the Los Angeles Times, watched as journalists from the East Coast parachuted in to tell the story of California’s fruit basket turning into another Dust Bowl. And they found versions of that story to tell: Some farms were drying up, especially the smaller ones. ... ”  Read more from Grist here: California’s water crisis has put farmers in a race to the bottom

With large Sierra snowpack, DWR could soon release water over the Oroville Dam spillway:  “Recent rains and snow pack could force California’s Department of Water Resources to release Oroville Dam’s main spillway as early as next week.  Currently, the 2019 snowpack for California is now the fifth largest on record dating back to 1950, according to DWR officials. As of Monday, the snowpack is slightly larger than the amount in 2017 when the state received more rain. However, the winter of 2018-19 has been uncharacteristically colder, resulting in a greater snowpack. … ”  Read more from the Oroville Mercury-Register here: With large Sierra snowpack, DWR could soon release water over the Oroville Dam spillway

Skiing in July, dangerous rivers, full reservoirs: What Sierra’s huge snowpack means for summer:  “More rain is coming to the Sierra Nevada, adding to a bountiful spring that’s left the snowpack at twice its historical average for this time of year. The mountains are holding more snow than they were two years ago, when Northern California was coming off a historically wet winter that officially ended the drought.  But the heavy spring runoff is frustrating some hikers, campers and rafters. And it’s left farmers in part of the Central Valley frustrated that they aren’t getting full allocations of irrigation water despite one of the wettest winters in years. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Skiing in July, dangerous rivers, full reservoirs: What Sierra’s huge snowpack means for summer

Effort to allow electricity from large dams to count as renewable energy in California fails to pass:  “A controversial effort to broaden California’s definition of renewable energy has fizzled out. The proposal would have allowed electricity from a large dam in the Central Valley to count the same as solar and wind.  Under a law signed last year by former Gov. Jerry Brown aimed at reducing smog and greenhouse gas emissions, utilities in California are required to produce 60 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.  Large dams aren’t allowed to count toward that total, however. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Effort to allow electricity from large dams to count as renewable energy in California fails to pass

Legal analysis: California Court Finds Tribe Lacks Standing to Quantify Reserved Water Right:  “The Central District of California in the second phase of Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Coachella Valley Water District et. al. issued a decision with massive implications for water rights in the West. In the first part of this case, the District Court decided, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed, that when the United States government granted tribes reservation land, this land came with an accompanying right to groundwater under the reservation.   The initial decision was viewed as a huge win for tribes in asserting claims over increasingly scarce water resources in the Western United States. However, in the second phase of the case, the District Court determined that the Water District has not harmed the Tribe with its groundwater pumping, and therefore the Tribe cannot require the Water Districts stop pumping to leave a certain quantity of water accessible to the Tribe in the aquifer. ... ”  Continue reading at Beveridge and Diamond: Legal analysis: California Court Finds Tribe Lacks Standing to Quantify Reserved Water Right

Combination of water scarcity and inflexible demand puts world’s river basins at risk:  “Nearly one-fifth of the world’s population lives in a stressed water basin where the next climate change-driven incident could threaten access to an essential resource for agriculture, industry and life itself, according to a paper by University of California, Irvine researchers and others, published today in Nature Sustainability.  The study’s authors analyzed trends in global water usage from 1980 to 2016, with a particular focus on so-called inflexible consumption, the curtailment of which would cause significant financial and societal hardship. Those uses include irrigating perennial crops, cooling thermal power plants, storing water in reservoirs, and quenching the thirst of livestock and humans. ... ”  Read more from UC Irvine here: Combination of water scarcity and inflexible demand puts world’s river basins at risk

5 soil health policy ideas:  “Since Colonial times, America’s soils have lost 50% to 70% of their organic matter, degrading the capacity of our soils to produce food, feed, and fiber. Cornell University says the U.S. is losing topsoil ten times faster than it can be replaced by nature. Restoring the health of our soils would reduce flooding, reduce polluted runoff from agriculture, store carbon in the soil, boost farm profits, make farms more resilient to droughts, and improve our ability to produce food for a growing population.  A new report, “State and Local Soil Health Strategies,” from the Izaak Walton League of America highlights some of the best state and local policy ideas from around the country designed to improve soil health.  Here are some of the ideas. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here:  5 soil health policy ideas

5 U.S. Cities That Potentially Could Run Out of Water:  “It’s hard to imagine a city running out of water, but it could happen. Cape Town, South Africa, came perilously close to running out in early 2018. … Cape Town is not alone. Many of the world’s major cities face water stress. They include Mexico City, Tokyo, São Paulo, and Melbourne, Australia. The United States is not immune to water problems, either. Here are five U.S. cities, in no particular order, that could run out of water if the changes they have undertaken aren’t continued. … ”  Read more from The Weather Channel here: 5 U.S. Cities That Potentially Could Run Out of Water

In commentary today …

Toxic drinking water is a public health crisis. Here’s a path to urgent action, says the Sacramento Bee:  They write, “Water is a basic necessity of life, but over one million Californians lack access to clean, safe and affordable drinking water, says Gov. Gavin Newsom. Six million Californians receive their water from operators who have been fined for violating the state’s clean water laws in recent years, according to a 2018 investigation by McClatchy.  “In many communities, people drink, shower, cook and wash dishes with water containing excessive amounts of pollutants, including arsenic, nitrates and uranium,” according to a Sacramento Bee story by Dale Kasler, Phillip Reese and Ryan Sabalow. ... ”  Continue reading from the Sacarmento Bee here:  Toxic drinking water is a public health crisis. Here’s a path to urgent action

All Californians deserve safe drinking water, says Matt Kingsley:  He writes, “When you paid your electricity and gas bills this month, there was a small line item for a “public purpose surcharge.”  This surcharge was there last month, the month before that, and for every month you’ve ever turned on a light.  The primary purpose of this surcharge is to ensure that no Californian is forced to live in cold and darkness because their families make too little money to afford a fundamental necessity of life.  All Californians chip in a tiny bit to subsidize reduced utility bills for the least well-off among us.  But what about a resource even more vital and necessary than electricity and gas?  What about water? … ”  Read more from the Visalia Times-Delta here:  All Californians deserve safe drinking water

Fighting over dead salmon officially ‘overblown’, says Wayne Western:  He writes, “Late last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) sent a letter to the Newsom administration over Oroville Dam.  It appears the Feds are requesting corrective measures after flows from Oroville were cut by California’s Department of Water Resources, killing baby salmon in the Feather River.  Fishing guides told The Sacramento Bee that thousands of baby salmon turned up dead right next to a $6.3 million salmon restoration project built with taxpayer funds.  State officials, however, said that “the federal government’s concern about the dead fish are overblown.” … ”  Continue reading at The Sun here: Fighting over dead salmon officially ‘overblown’

State bill would rebuild Friant-Kern Canal, a key Valley waterway that needs fixing, says Esmeralda Soria:  She writes, “The San Joaquin Valley is ground zero for issues of water quality and supply. While there are countless studies that have highlighted these water challenges, there have been few investments made to begin to address the problem. We must do more.  Our families and I are no strangers to this crisis. We depend on agricultural jobs, but at the same time rely on bottled water because our ground-water wells are contaminated.  Today, more than 2,400 families are being impacted by dry wells and over a million Valley residents are exposed to toxic water. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  State bill would rebuild Friant-Kern Canal, a key Valley waterway that needs fixing

A political deal comes full circle:  Dan Walters writes, “It was late one night 40 years ago and Gov. Jerry Brown’s most important piece of legislation was in trouble.  Brown wanted the Legislature to approve a 42-mile-long “peripheral canal” to carry water around the environmentally fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, thus closing the last major gap in the massive state water system that had been the proudest achievement of his father, ex-Gov. Pat Brown.  The canal authorization bill, however, was stuck in the state Senate Finance Committee. Twelve of its 13 members were evenly divided and the 13th, a cantankerous Democrat from San Jose named Alfred Alquist, wasn’t even in attendance. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: A political deal comes full circle

In regional news and commentary today …

Will a cleaner San Francisco Bay be a more toxic one?:  “San Francisco Bay enthusiasts are pleased that the waters of San Francisco Bay are becoming cleaner and clearer, but researchers are worried that this might invite a new problem – blooms of toxic phytoplankton. Although these microscopic, toxin-producing algae are already found in the Bay, with clearer waters permitting more light to reach these photosynthetic algae, it’s feared that the Bay could turn into a toxic soup of both freshwater and marine harmful algae, potentially impacting shellfish and even the marine mammals that are finally starting to re-populate the Bay. ... ”  Read more from the SF Examiner here: Will a cleaner San Francisco Bay be a more toxic one?

New State Map Shows the Return of River Otters to the Bay Area:  “On an overcast May morning, Karen James crouched on the edge of Rodeo Lagoon in the Marin Headlands. The sun was barely up, and the only sounds were birdsong and the distant crash of waves. The soft gray sky set off the green of the willows, rushes, and ferns around James. A wren, typically shy yet undisturbed by her presence, hopped nearby.  James was there to install a motion-activated camera to record wildlife passing by around the clock. She cares about all the animals that live here but, as part of the River Otter Ecology Project field crew, is most interested in tracking river otters. Strapping the camera to a sturdy branch, she explained that the droppings they leave behind — called scat — show that the otters frequent this sheltered site. ... ”  Read more from the Bay Area Monitor here: New State Map Shows the Return of River Otters to the Bay Area

Congressman Harder Questions Lack Of Groundwater Safety Oversight In Ripon:  “A local congressman is demanding answers tonight after seeing our reports that uncovered holes in city water records tied to a chemical known to cause cancer.  Our investigation was prompted by parents asking for answers after a growing number of kids were diagnosed with cancer. … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento here: Congressman Harder Questions Lack Of Groundwater Safety Oversight In Ripon

Wet weather, melting snow bring adjustments to Isabella Lake repair work:  “The combination of snow melt and recent wet weather are creating a sense of urgency for work crews helping to shore up Isabella Lake’s water-storage infrastructure.  As of late last week, official projections for inflow of water to the lake near Kernville estimate current runoff at 199 percent of normal, up from 183 percent a week before  — “a substantial increase” roughly equaling the lake’s entire runoff between April and July of 2015, Kern River Watermaster Dana Munn said. ... ”  Read more from Bakersfield.com here: Wet weather, melting snow bring adjustments to Isabella Lake repair work

Santa Barbara: From “birdies” to bird habitat: A former golf course is returned to its wetlands roots:  “A “chance to turn the clock back.”  That’s how Carla Frisk described a recent effort to transform a former seaside golf course in Santa Barbara, California into a functional wetlands community.  Frisk, a former project coordinator with The Trust for Public Land, was enthralled with the 64-acre restoration project effort, which will provide recreational opportunities, pristine wildlife habitat and educational opportunities for students, residents, and visitors at the UC Santa Barbara campus. “California has lost something like 95 to 96 percent of its coastal wetlands. It’s just almost unheard of that you get a chance to turn even 64 acres back,” Frisk said. … ”  Read more from the US FWS here: Santa Barbara: From “birdies” to bird habitat: A former golf course is returned to its wetlands roots

EPA considering tripling allowed perchlorate contamination in water; officials say Santa Clarita would not be impacted:  “There are drinking water standards at both the federal and state levels. In California, water is held to the state standard of .006 mg/L, which is lower than any of the proposed EPA options, according to Kathie Martin, public information officer for the Santa Clarita Water Agency (SCV Water).  “Our customers can expect the same quality standards we always provide,” Martin said.  The announcement comes weeks after the SCV Water Q2 Well was voluntarily shut down due to perchlorate levels reaching the maximum levels allowed in the water supply. … ”  Read more from the KHTS here: EPA considering tripling allowed perchlorate contamination in water; officials say Santa Clarita would not be impacted

Los Angeles County making progress with Sativa Water takeover:  “The county Board of Supervisors has voted to pour more resources into Sativa Water District after the county Public Works Department identified the extent of challenges facing Sativa and the level of support required to stabilize the water system and begin providing a more reliable source of clean and clear water to its customers in Willowbrook and Compton until a long-term service provider can take over.  “Having access to clean and clear water is a basic human right, and one that we are committed to providing Sativa’s customers,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who pushed for state officials to appoint Public Works as Sativa’s interim administrator in October after decades of mismanagement by the water district’s previous leadership caused episodes of brown water flowing from taps. ... ”  Read more from the Los Angeles Wave here:  Los Angeles County making progress with Sativa Water takeover

San Diego: Wetlands Restoration on Mission Bay Is More Important Than Ever, says Jim Peugh:  He writes, “The last several years have seen a deluge of news about infrastructure in San Diego. Whether it’s the future of the stadium site in Mission Valley, the extension of the Blue Line trolley to UCSD, or the push among urbanists to revolutionize housing in our city, refining our development footprint has taken up a sizable volume of bandwidth in our civic conversation.  As plans move forward to reshape San Diego’s built environment, it’s easy to overlook how these changes can negatively affect our quality of life and the sustainability of our communities. … ”  Read more from the Times of San Diego here:  San Diego: Wetlands Restoration on Mission Bay Is More Important Than Ever

San Diego: Turning back nature’s clock: Salt marsh restoration project now a flourishing wetland habitat:  “Two unique landscapes share a space within one unit of the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge in San Diego, California — a working saltworks industrial site, San Diego’s oldest business, and hundreds of acres of lush green habitat.  The 2,300-acre South San Diego Bay Unit was established in the mid-1990s to shelter, protect and restore habitat for hundreds of thousands of birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway, as well as for the bay’s resident species.  “This piece of land wasn’t always like this,” said Carolyn Lieberman, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program coordinator for the Carlsbad office. “All the green you see now, imagine no plants – just patches of water and mud everywhere.” … ”  Read more from the US FWS here: San Diego: Turning back nature’s clock: Salt marsh restoration project now a flourishing wetland habitat

Along the Colorado River …

Unusually wet winter and spring pushes Arizona out of short-term drought:  “The U.S. Drought Monitor recently reported that, for the first time in its nearly 20-year history, none of the contiguous states was showing symptoms of severe or exceptional drought. That report includes Arizona, as this year’s abnormally wet May helped push the state out of a 10-year drought period.  According to the monitor’s weekly report for late last week, only 20.5% of Arizona was showing moderate drought or “abnormally dry” symptoms. Data for the same week in 2018 found 100% of the state in moderate drought or abnormally dry, with a majority of the state experiencing severe (97%) or extreme drought (73.2%). … ”  Read more from Cronkite News here: Unusually wet winter and spring pushes Arizona out of short-term drought

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

GUEST COMMENTARY: Are California’s Water Operations as Efficient as Claimed?

BLOG ROUND-UP: Does California need SB1?; Resilience and the portfolio approach; Some common questions on water, part 2; The new normal of no more labels; and more …

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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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