DAILY DIGEST, 3/20: The West is in an expanding 20-year drought that a ‘March Miracle’ will do little to change; Toilet paper shortages caused by coronavirus blamed for spike in raw sewage spills; Madera sub basin loses $500,000 due to lack of coordination agreement; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • Delta Independent Science Board meets from 9am to 1pm.  Agenda items include the Lead Scientist’s Report, and updates on the reviews of the monitoring enterprise, ecosystems, water supply reliability, science needs assessment, and ecology during rapid environmental change.  Meeting will be via teleconference.  Click here for the full agenda.

In California water news today …

The West is in an expanding 20-year drought that a ‘March Miracle’ will do little to change:  “The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday shows that although recent rains have provided some relief for Southern California, Northern California remains locked in moderate drought or abnormally dry conditions.  An area near the Klamath River in extreme Northern California and southern Oregon that missed out on heavy precipitation this season has slipped into severe drought. The area joins other parts of the West, including a portion of south-central Idaho and a large chunk of land in the Four Corners region, in severe drought. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: The West is in an expanding 20-year drought that a ‘March Miracle’ will do little to change

More dry weather expected to push state deeper into drought, report says:  “California saw a dizzying turn from a dry February to a wet start to March, but federal climate experts say the recent snow and rain won’t halt the state’s continuing slide into drought.  The U.S. Spring Outlook, released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday, projects that warm, dry conditions will persist and even expand across much of California over the next three months. Already, nearly half of the state is considered in moderate drought. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: More dry weather expected to push state deeper into drought, report says

Toilet paper shortages caused by coronavirus blamed for spike in raw sewage spills:  “When a foul-smelling slop began bubbling out of a manhole in Tiburon the other day, the leafy streets of Marin County became an unlikely spot for what may be the latest fallout from the coronavirus: sewage spills.  The shortage of toilet paper that’s come with the pandemic-induced shopping panic has prompted many people to get creative on the commode. They’re flushing the likes of disposable wipes and paper towels into sewer lines, wastewater officials say, and creating blockages that are leading to messy system overflows. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Toilet paper shortages caused by coronavirus blamed for spike in raw sewage spills

SEE ALSO: Shredded T-shirts no substitute for toilet paper; critical sewer spill averted, from the Redding Record Searchlight

FACT SHEET: California’s Drinking Water Systems: State-Required Treatment Process Removes Viruses, Including COVID-19, from the State Water Board

Madera sub basin loses $500,000 due to New Stone GSA (press release):  “In addition to the GSP submittals, SGMA requires a Coordination Agreement to be developed and signed by all GSAs within the subbasin. Six of the seven GSAs were able to agree to the terms of the Coordination Agreement which, among other things, required the coordination of data and water budgets to ensure the subbasin can truly attain sustainability. New Stone Water District GSA did not agree with certain aspects of the Coordination Agreement and intentionally chose not to sign the Coordination Agreement. Specifically, New Stone Water District GSA required the inclusion of an additional groundwater supply that would equate to over one (1) acre foot per acre for the New Stone Water District GSA, which would be three times the groundwater quantity per acre compared to the other six GSAs in the Madera Subbasin. ... ”  Read the rest of this press release at Water Wrights here: Madera sub basin loses $500,000 due to New Stone GSA (press release)

SEE ALSO: Madera Irrigation District March 17, 2020, meeting coverage by Water Wrights

Habitat program shows growers’ sustainability:  “During my travels as a reporter covering agriculture, I often hear it said the farmers were the original environmentalists, or that they’re the best conservationists.  One program that growers are undertaking with the group California Waterfowl would serve to prove the point.  As reported by Caroline Brady, the organization’s waterfowl programs supervisor, the group has introduced a Delayed Wheat Harvest Incentive Program, which will pay farmers $30 to $40 per acre to delay wheat or triticale harvest until July 1-15 to save migratory ducks. Payments are to help offset costs associated with harvesting later. ... ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here:  Habitat program shows growers’ sustainability

An island for the common man? 18 acres on Delta near Stockton for sale at $40,000:  “Talk about social distancing. You can own a private island in the Delta for $40,000.  The 18 acres of raw land sits in the middle of White Slough off West Eight Mile Road in Stockton. It can be accessed only by watercraft.  The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta property, which hit the market less than a week ago, has been in the hands of the current owner since 1986. The couple used it for recreation and family events. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: An island for the common man? 18 acres on Delta near Stockton for sale at $40,000

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Legal briefs …

Poisoned groundwater: Arconic, BASF and 29 other companies sued Cal-Tron Plating, Halliburton Energy Services and 7 other companies in federal court, claiming they poisoned groundwater under Whittier and Santa Fe Springs, California, at the Omega Superfund Site.  Via Courthouse News.

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In national/world news today …

‘This is the time to act collectively’: Anticipating coronavirus spread, groups seek to scale up handwashing and hygiene efforts: In tweets and business tweaks, the world is relearning that clean hands are a first line of defense against disease and infection.  Amid the global coronavirus pandemic, handwashing and hygiene are swelling in urgency and support, even though the message being delivered is not new.  “It’s a known solution,” said Lindsay Denny, health adviser to Global Water 2020, a water, sanitation, and hygiene advocacy group. Denny was referring to hygienic practices being a safeguard against disease transmission. “We’ve known the solution for 150 years. It absolutely could be scaled and should be scaled up.” ... ”  Read more from the Circle of Blue here: ‘This Is the Time to Act Collectively’: Anticipating Coronavirus Spread, Groups Seek to Scale Up Handwashing and Hygiene Efforts

Insights: Congress confronts PFAS in National Defense Authorization Act—what you need to know:  “The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 takes significant steps to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination throughout the U.S., including communities in or near military bases.  The NDAA, signed into law Dec. 20, 2019, by President Donald Trump, and forthcoming regulatory action from the EPA will directly impact industries that manufacture, process, or utilize PFAS chemicals. ... ”  Read more from Bloomberg Environment here:  Insights: Congress confronts PFAS in National Defense Authorization Act—what you need to know

Column: Plastic micro- and nanoparticles in drinking water and foods: “The prospect of plastics working their way into humans is a rising concern for the public, with information presented to them from various, and sometimes suspect, sources. To cut through the noise, findings from the top available sources — detailed international reviews — are presented here with commentary. … ”  Read more from Water Online here:  Column: Plastic micro- and nanoparticles in drinking water and foods

Stanford researcher reveals influence of global warming on extreme weather events has been frequently underestimated:  “A new Stanford study reveals that a common scientific approach of predicting the likelihood of future extreme weather events by analyzing how frequently they occurred in the past can lead to significant underestimates – with potentially significant consequences for people’s lives.  Stanford climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh found that predictions that relied only on historical observations underestimated by about half the actual number of extremely hot days in Europe and East Asia, and the number of extremely wet days in the U.S., Europe and East Asia. … ”  Read more from Stanford News here: Stanford researcher reveals influence of global warming on extreme weather events has been frequently underestimated

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In commentary today …

Commentary:  Giving farmers a voice in Washington on critical issues:  Congressman Josh Harder writes, “Anyone who eats food should care about our farmers. But not enough do. People in Washington can’t see beyond their dinner plate and have no idea where their food comes from. Our farmers deserve respect and support from everyone – especially our elected officials.  I fought to serve on the Agriculture Committee in Congress because farming is the lifeblood of our local economy here in the Valley. It is also a key part of who we are – and it has been ever since my great-great-grandfather came to Manteca to farm peaches in the 1850s.  My job is to be a megaphone for our valley farmers’ concerns and a bulldog for their interests. Not enough is getting done out there in Washington, but I’m proud to have notched several important accomplishments on behalf of the men and women who grow food to feed America ... ”  Read more from Westside Connect here: Commentary:  Giving farmers a voice in Washington on critical issues

American Greatness: How much water went into growing the food we eat? Edward Ring writes, “The rains bypassed sunny California in January and February, encouraging talk of another drought. California’s last drought was only declared ended about a year ago, after two wet winters in a row filled the state’s reservoirs. To cope with the last drought, instead of building more reservoirs and taking other measures to increase the supply of water, California’s policymakers imposed permanent rationing.  This predictable response ignores obvious solutions. Millions of acre-feet of storm runoff could not only be stored in new reservoirs but also in underground aquifers with massive unused capacity. Additional millions of acre-feet could be recovered by treating and reusing wastewater, and by joining the rest of the developed nations living in arid climates who have turned to large scale desalination.  All of this, however, would require a change in philosophy from one of micromanagement of demand to one that emphasizes increasing supply. … ”  Read more from AM Greatness here:  How much water went into growing the food we eat? 

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In regional news and commentary today …

El Dorado County: Save the Canal petition denied:  “A stoned-faced audience listened intently Friday as lawyers for and against piping the El Dorado Canal responded to Superior Court Judge Dylan Sullivan’s tentative ruling in which she denied the petition of the Save the Canal group.  In rejecting Save the Canal’s petition, Judge Sullivan noted, “There was sufficient relevant information and reasonable inferences from the information that support the (El Dorado Irrigation District Board of Directors’) conclusion that there was no significant indirect impact caused by the project where the portions of the ditch that will become unused revert back to the landowners … In other words, there was substantial evidence supporting the EID finding of no significant impact. The petition is denied.” … ”  Read more from the Mountain Democrat here: El Dorado County: Save the Canal petition denied

Low-lying Petaluma faces flooding from sea level rise: report:  “While the jury is still out on exactly how the world will look in 50 years, it certainly will see rising sea levels, and local climate activists say it’s time the city starts to prepare for this eventuality.  For decades, the discussion over flood mitigation in Petaluma has almost exclusively centered around storm surges and heavy rainfall events. Now, months after the city made its landmark climate emergency proclamation, attention is shifting to focus more on sea level rise and scientific projections that offer a glimpse into what could be a sodden future. ... ”  Read more from Petaluma 360 here: Low-lying Petaluma faces flooding from sea level rise: report

San Francisco Bay: Where have all the Herring Gone? Pete has fished San Francisco Bay for nearly all of his 60 years. A lifelong San Francisco resident who keeps his last name to himself, he recalls herring runs in the 1970s the likes of which rarely, if ever, occur anymore.  “I remember herring spawns that went from Oyster Point all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge,” says Pete, a former commercial fisherman, referring to the point near Brisbane. He also remembers massive spawns that stretched contiguously from the Tiburon peninsula out the Golden Gate to Point Bonita. … But these spawns are a pale shadow of the massive events of the past. … ”  Read more Estuary News here: Where have all the Herring Gone?

San Jose:  How safe and clean is your water? Our water quality lab just got a perfect score! As the primary wholesale water supplier in Santa Clara County, Valley Water is dedicated to assuring a reliable supply of safe, clean drinking water to our community.  In support of this mission, Valley Water is home to a sophisticated laboratory dedicated to the safety of our tap water, source water and groundwater. Since 2008, the Water Quality Lab has been housed in a new, state-of-the-art building designed to maintain the specialized test equipment used to meet increased water-quality testing needs and respond to emerging contaminants and more stringent water quality standards. ... ”  Read more from Valley Water News here:  How safe and clean is your water? Our water quality lab just got a perfect score! 

Sustaining Pajaro Valley’s Water:  “The Pajaro Valley enjoys a temperate microclimate, in part because it is situated at the hip of Monterey Bay. It lays like an east-west-oriented horseshoe, with the open end settling around the coastal plains of Elkhorn Slough and its various tributaries and side sloughs. Rimmed by the Santa Cruz Mountains to the north, the Gabilan Range to the south, and the San Andreas Fault at its head, the Pajaro Valley is a unique place in California.  Marks from the state’s past — traces of the indigenous creekside camps to the Mission landmarks and Gold Rush-era place-names — tell part of the valley’s story. Unlike in neighboring areas that have embraced the commuting car culture, the endless lines of perfectly aligned row crops reveal that this valley is still very much a working landscape. … ”  Read more from Estuary News here: Sustaining Pajaro Valley’s Water

West Side ag faces ongoing challenges:  “West Side agriculture, in all its many forms, is heading into another year with both the optimism typical of farmers and the challenges that agriculture faces all too many times.  Mother Nature blessed California almond growers with near-perfect weather during the crucial bloom and pollination period a few weeks ago, potentially setting the stage for another bumper crop when late summer rolls around.  But growers in federal water districts such as the Del Puerto Water District which runs along the I-5 corridor from Vernalis to Santa Nella, again face sharply curtailed water supplies. ... ”  Read more from Westside Connect here: West Side ag faces ongoing challenges

Fresno Irrigation District Will Begin Water Deliveries to Growers on May 1:  “Recent storms delivering rain to the Valley floor and snow to the Sierra mountains have prompted Fresno Irrigation District to begin water deliveries to growers on May 1.  What’s more, a big storm coming late Sunday is expected to drop 1 to 3 inches of rain on the entire state over several days.  In a news release Thursday, FID officials said they anticipate a three-month water delivery season ending in July. ... ”  Read more from GV Wire here: Fresno Irrigation District Will Begin Water Deliveries to Growers on May 1

It’s official: Two North County districts want out of San Diego County Water Authority“The water agencies that serve the Fallbrook and Rainbow areas of North County have officially filed applications to detach from the San Diego County Water Authority, an unprecedented move with potential financial implications for almost all water customers in the county.  The Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District filed “reorganization” applications with the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) on Wednesday. The filing has been expected for months and will likely trigger a lengthy process that could culminate, should the Water Authority have its way, with a vote of all customers served by any of the 24 water districts that belong to the umbrella water agency. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here:  It’s official: Two North County districts want out of San Diego County Water Authority

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Along the Colorado River …

Nevada: Federal regulators approve preliminary permit for Pyramid Lake hydropower energy storage project:  “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved a preliminary permit Thursday to build a new reservoir in the mountains above Pyramid Lake as part of an energy storage project.  The commission’s approval comes despite environmental and cultural concerns that were expressed in comments from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, which manages most of the land where the project would be cited. The reservoir would be cited in the Lake Range, east of Pyramid Lake, in an area where there are traditional tribal gathering locations and burial sites. ... ”  Read more from the Nevada Independent here: Federal regulators approve preliminary permit for Pyramid Lake hydropower energy storage project

Commentary: California’s water problems none of our business — yet:  Greg Walcher writes, “Coloradans who pay close attention to Western water issues have monitored California’s internal water wars for years. Leaders there have worked for decades to address long-term water shortages for farms in the San Joaquin Valley, while their giant metropolitan cities continue to grow, and while trying to leave as much water in the rivers as possible for the endangered “Delta smelt.” Like every Western state, California has very limited water, so how they divvy it up quite literally determines which areas grow and prosper, and which areas do not.  For the most part, other Westerners try to stay out of internal battles within California, a favor we hope Californians would return. But we also keep a close eye out for any change that could affect our own water supplies in the upstream states, ever vigilant to protect the delicate agreements that manage allocations of the Colorado River. … ”  Read more from the Grand Junction Sentinel here: California’s water problems none of our business — yet

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Precipitation watch ...

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

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Image credit: CA streamflow assessment map, courtesy of Belize Lane.   From this paper: Lane, B. A., Dahlke, H. E., Pasternack, G. B., & Sandoval‐Solis, S. (2017). Revealing the diversity of natural hydrologic regimes in California with relevance for environmental flows applications. JAWRA Journal of the American Water Resources Association53(2), 411-430.

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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