DAILY DIGEST: As wildfires grow more intense, CA water managers rewrite their emergency playbook; WY 2020 begins with robust reservoir storage; Interior proposes coveted water deal to Westlands; Kern farmland values begin to stabilize as investors absorb groundwater restrictions; and more …

In California water news today, As wildfires grow more intense, California water managers are learning to rewrite their emergency playbook; Parts of fire-weary California suffer through one of the longest waits for the rainy season on record; Water Year 2020 begins with robust reservoir storage; Sudden oak death spreading fast, California’s coastal forests facing devastation; The survivors: Sugar pine trees and the future forest; Farm groups urge Supreme Court against expanding Clean Water Act liability; Interior proposes coveted deal to ex-client of agency head;  Kern farmland values begin to stabilize as investors absorb groundwater restrictions; Tijuana and Rosarito to ration water supply for the next two months; Mexico wants to revive Tijuana desalination plant; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • Webinar: Land Use Planning, Water Supply Planning and SGMA from 10am to 11am.  Free webinar hosted by Best Best & Krieger.  Click here to register.

In the news today …

As wildfires grow more intense, California water managers are learning to rewrite their emergency playbook:  “It’s been a year since two devastating wildfires on opposite ends of California underscored the harsh new realities facing water districts and cities serving communities in or adjacent to the state’s fire-prone wildlands. Fire doesn’t just level homes, it can contaminate water, scorch watersheds, damage delivery systems and upend an agency’s finances. The lessons gained from the Camp Fire and the Woolsey Fire in 2018 are still being absorbed by water managers around California as they recognize that the old emergency preparedness plans of yesterday may not be adequate for the new wildfire reality of today. … ”  Read more from Western Water here: As wildfires grow more intense, California water managers are learning to rewrite their emergency playbook

As fire ravages California, our infrastructure is still not equipped to handle climate change:  “Wildfires have been ravaging California for weeks. The latest round of them—from the Kincade fire near Sonoma to the Maria fire near Ventura—has blazed across more than 100,000 acres. Power outages, forced evacuations, and a trail of destroyed homes and businesses are just the initial signs of destruction, with economic and environmental costs continuing to soar. These come on top of the estimated $400 billion in losses from 2018’s wildfires. … ”  Read more from the Brookings Institute here: As fire ravages California, our infrastructure is still not equipped to handle climate change

Unprecedented effort to combat risk of catastrophic wildfire announced:  “One year after the devastating Camp Fire sparked, a diverse group of land, water and environmental managers who have not always seen eye to eye announced a commitment to work together to immediately execute a plan to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire in the North Yuba watershed.  “It’s truly unprecedented,” said Willie Whittlesey, assistant general manager of the Yuba Water Agency. “It’s a dire situation. Our forest management practices have backfired over the last 100 years of aggressively suppressing fire. It has disrupted the natural cycle.” ... ”  Read more from KCRA Channel 3 here: Unprecedented effort to combat risk of catastrophic wildfire announced

Parts of fire-weary California suffer through one of the longest waits for the rainy season on record:  “Parts of California may reach one of their driest starts to the rainy season on record with no rain in sight to quench the fire-weary state’s thirst.  In recent weeks we’ve seen a number of destructive wildfires in California fanned by Santa Ana and Diablo winds, including the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County and the Tick, Saddleridge, Getty and Easy Fires in Southern California. … ”  Read more from the Weather Channel here: Parts of fire-weary California suffer through one of the longest waits for the rainy season on record

Water Year 2020 begins with robust reservoir storage: Last winter was a bountiful one in terms of water supply for California, but it’s still too early to tell whether 2020 will be as generous. …  The 2019 water year (October 1 – September 30) pushed snowpack levels well-above average and swelled major reservoirs to above-average. There were more than 30 atmospheric rivers, with many making landfall in Northern California. The state’s snowpack on April 1 was 175% of average.  The California Department of Water Resources said that makes a great start to 2020. … ”  Read more from the Water News Network here: Water Year 2020 begins with robust reservoir storage

Sudden oak death spreading fast, California’s coastal forests facing devastation:  “It is the forgotten killer when compared to our increasingly frequent climate calamities, but the virulent pathogen known as sudden oak death remains active and is spreading death so fast it could destroy California’s coastal forest ecosystem, UC Berkeley scientists reported Thursday.  The deadly microbe has now established itself throughout the Bay Area and has spread along the coast from Monterey to Humboldt County, according to a study of 16,227 trees in 16 counties in Northern California. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Sudden oak death spreading fast, California’s coastal forests facing devastation

The survivors: Sugar pine trees and the future forest:  “California’s drought and bark-beetle infestation killed more than 129 million trees between 2012 and 2016 in the Sierra Nevada. But amid the devastation stood some survivors.  At the time, UC Davis biologist Patricia Maloney and a team of researchers entered the forest to collect seeds from 100 surviving sugar pine trees. Alongside other parched sugar pines etched with the tell-tale tunnel marks of bark beetles, were green, healthy trees. ... ”  Read more from UC Davis here: The survivors: Sugar pine trees and the future forest

Farm groups urge Supreme Court against expanding Clean Water Act liability:  “Agricultural groups fear that farmers nationwide will face increased Clean Water Act liabilities if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds an environmentalist victory in a lawsuit over wastewater treatment.  On Nov. 6, the nation’s highest court heard oral arguments in the legal dispute over a facility in Hawaii that injects treated wastewater into the ground. … ”  Read more from the Capital Press here: Farm groups urge Supreme Court against expanding Clean Water Act liability

Interior proposes coveted deal to ex-client of agency head: “The Interior Department is proposing to award one of the first contracts for federal water in perpetuity to a powerful rural water district that had employed Secretary David Bernhardt as a lawyer and lobbyist.  Environmental groups and a California Democratic lawmaker oppose giving the contract to the California’s Westlands Water District, the nation’s largest agricultural water supplier. The water supplier serves some of country’s wealthiest and most politically influential corporate farmers. ... ”  Read more from the AP via the Delta Optimist here: Interior proposes coveted deal to ex-client of agency head

In commentary today …

Pinpointing water content in mountain snow will help California water management:  Anna M. Caballero writes, “This past legislative session, I worked hard with groups like the Turlock Irrigation District and the Friant Water Authority to pass Senate Bill 487, which would have authorized the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) to create a statewide Aerial Snow Observatory (ASO) program. Despite unanimous support in every policy and fiscal committee, and in both the Assembly and Senate, Governor Newsom vetoed SB 487, indicating that the bill carried unbudgeted general fund costs. ... ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here: Pinpointing water content in mountain snow will help California water management

State policies exacerbate water, electricity problems, says Tab Berg:  He writes, “It should be unimaginable that the land of Apple, Tesla and a host of technology innovators has entered an era of blackouts. Again.  Yes, it has happened before.  Silicon Valley experienced “brownouts” in the 1980s and California endured rolling blackouts across the state in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Those crises were not the result of efforts to reduce fire danger, but electric shortages and an underpowered electric grid. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Business Journal here: State policies exacerbate water, electricity problems

In regional news and commentary today …

Monterey: Coastal Commission to delay decision on Cal Am desal project:  “In a surprise move, the Coastal Commission has announced it will not make a final decision on California American Water’s desalination project at next week’s public hearing and will take time to address some key technical issues raised by the state Public Utilities Commission.  In a notice posted on the commission website, the commission announced that Thursday’s scheduled public hearing on the desal project will go ahead but no final vote will be taken to approve or deny the project. The item will be continued to a later date – possibly the commission’s scheduled meeting in March in Scotts Valley. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Coastal Commission to delay decision on Cal Am desal project

Monterey: Coastal Commission staff wants more study of desal impactCal Am Water’s experts may have seriously underestimated the potential impact the company’s proposed desalination plant would have on the existing water supply nearby, the staff of the California Coastal Commission concluded in a report released this week as a supplement to its exhaustive report on the overall project.  Possibly because the staff is recommending further study before a decision on the plant’s fate, the Coastal Commission is no longer scheduled to vote on the overall desal project Nov. 14 at its Half Moon Bay meeting and is likely to make a decision in March, commission official Tom Luster said Thursday. … ”  Read more from Voices of Monterey here: Monterey: Coastal Commission staff wants more study of desal impact

Monterey: Coastal Commission policy on environmental justice helped shape recommendation against desal.  “For the first time ever, the California Coastal Commission will allow the public to participate remotely in its monthly hearing. On the morning of Nov. 14, there will be a video link from Marina City Hall so that residents who cannot make it to the commission meeting in Half Moon Bay may livestream their comments about the desalination infrastructure being proposed by California American Water.  This unprecedented new practice is just one of the ways that the commission’s new environmental justice policy, passed in March, is playing out. It’s happening as Cal Am seeks a permit to start construction of pumps on a Marina beach to supply a planned desalination facility just outside of city limits. … ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly here: Coastal Commission policy on environmental justice helped shape recommendation against desal.

Draft study for Pure Water Monterey expansion project released:  “A draft supplemental environmental impact report for the proposed Pure Water Monterey expansion project has been released.  The study was released late Thursday afternoon by the joint partnership of Monterey One Water and the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, which is backing the core recycled water project and the proposed expansion.  The draft SEIR studies the proposal to add 2,250 acre-feet of recycled water capacity to the core project, which is already approaching operation at its advanced water treatment plant near the Marina landfill and is designed to produce 3,500 acre-feet of potable or drinking water. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Draft study for Pure Water Monterey expansion project released

California red-legged frog delays construction of Morro Bay water reclamation facility:  “Morro Bay leaders hoped construction of the new Water Reclamation Facility would begin in October, but a frog has delayed those plans.  The site, located near the intersection of South Bay Boulevard and Highway 1, is habitat for the California red-legged frog, a threatened species according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) . … ”  Read more from KSBY here: California red-legged frog delays construction of Morro Bay water reclamation facility

Patterson: Irrigation agencies propose West Side reservoir:  “A storage reservoir proposed in Del Puerto Canyon near Patterson holds the promise of creating a more reliable water supply for growers served by a coalition of irrigation agencies.  The idea is being championed by the Del Puerto Water District, which serves growers along the Interstate 5 corridor, and the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority, a group of four water agencies, including the Central California Irrigation District. … ”  Read more from the Westside Connect here: Irrigation agencies propose West Side reservoir

Fresno County: A new era in groundwater management begins:  “A new era in the sustainable management of groundwater in a portion of Fresno County for the next 20 years and beyond was initiated by the McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency (MAGSA) Board of Directors with the unanimous adoption of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) at their November 6 meeting. ... ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here: Fresno County: A new era in groundwater management begins

Paso Robles area farmers share opinions on water management districts:Farmers Dana Merrill and Jerry Reaugh talk about the need for water management in the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin basin, which suffers from overdraft. They worry that if extreme restrictions are imposed it will impact the local economy.”  Watch the video from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here: Paso Robles area farmers share opinions on water management districts

SLO County supervisors fire back at state ag board:  “A confrontational morning session of the Nov. 5 San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors meeting ended in the narrow approval of a written retort to the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, which recently criticized SLO for its handling of water policy over the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin.  The supervisors’ 3-2 vote delivered the four-page response letter, in which Chief Administrative Officer Wade Horton wrote that the county “adamantly disagrees” with the state ag board’s complaint that commercial agriculture was insufficiently involved in the development of a groundwater sustainability plan. ... ”  Read more from News Times SLO here: SLO County supervisors fire back at state ag board

Kern farmland values begin to stabilize as investors absorb groundwater restrictions:  “A new report shows market conditions in local agriculture are generally stabilizing — though not improving much — as investors in Kern County farmland take in the bad news about upcoming restrictions on groundwater pumping and, to a lesser degree, lower commodity prices and a continuing labor shortage.  Thursday’s update from Bakersfield’s Alliance Ag Services Inc. points to big year-over-year drops in the value of properties with minimal surface-water supplies, and more modest decreases in areas with more reliable access to irrigation. ... ”  Read more from Bakersfield.com here:  Kern farmland values begin to stabilize as investors absorb groundwater restrictions

Apple Valley: High on hydroelectricity:  “The Mojave Water Agency on Thursday cut the ribbon on its Deep Creek Hydroelectric Clean-Energy System, a project that produces electricity from California Aqueduct water and replenishes the groundwater in the Victor Valley.  Local and regional leaders attended the morning event at the MWA’s Central Operations Center on Deep Creek Road in Apple Valley, where the $4.3 million system was put on display by the MWA board of directors, staff and others associated with the project. … ”  Read more from the Victorville Daily Press here: High on hydroelectricity

South Coast Water District to review desal tech concerns:  “The South Coast Water District’s Board of Directors will hold a special meeting on Thursday to hear from a consultant that pioneered the use of slant water well technology about why its a feasible component of the planned Doheny desalination plant.  The directors will hear a presentation from representatives of GEOSCIENCE Support Services that includes lessons learned from previous slant well construction and operation, as well as strategies for mitigating the technical risks of installing technology that has a relatively brief track record. … ”  Read more from the Long Beach Independent here: South Coast Water District to review desal tech concerns

Santa Ana: Agencies re-think how they manage river habitat:  “Researchers are finding that there are environmental consequences to regulating the flow of the Santa Ana River.  “As water agencies increasingly make the river more controlled, it disrupts the natural scouring and rejuvenation of habitat that takes place in the river with flood events,” said Heather Dyer, a fish biologist and senior water resources manager with San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (Valley District). ... ”  Read more from Community News here: Agencies re-think how they manage river habitat

San Diego: Low lake levels doesn’t mean low water supply, Water Authority says: Lake Hodges is one of the many reservoirs around the county where water levels have rapidly declined.  Right now the lake is holding only 39.7% of its capacity. San Diego has not seen rain in more than eight months and weather trends will keep the county dry through most of November, so it won’t be filing up any time soon. … ”  Read more from Channel 7 here: Low lake levels doesn’t mean low water supply

San Diego commentary: Becoming more water independent:  “Since the days of the Kumeyaay, survival in San Diego has depended on the availability of water. While blessed to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, the fact remains we must rely upon outside sources to meet our water needs. The level of this dependency, however, is more a matter of resolve rather than circumstance. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here: San Diego commentary: Becoming more water independent

Tijuana and Rosarito to ration water supply for the next two months:  “Starting Monday, authorities in Tijuana and Rosarito will ration water for the next two months because of a limited supply, according to the Baja California Public Service Commission.  Roughly 140,000 households and business in the border cities will go without water service for up to 36 hours every four days. The service disruptions will be spread throughout seven districts. Customers will receive a 24-hour notice whenever water services are shut off in their district, officials said. ... ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here: Tijuana and Rosarito to ration water supply for the next two months

Mexico wants to revive Tijuana desalination plant:  “Tijuana needs a desalination plant for its long-term survival, said a senior official with the Baja California Public Services Commission (Cespt).  Less than a week after being sworn in by new Governor Jaime Bonilla, Rigoberto Laborín Valdez told a press conference that desalination is the only solution to Tijuana’s water supply problem. … ”  Read more from Mexico News Daily here: Mexico wants to revive Tijuana desalination plant

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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