DAILY DIGEST, 4/24: Early season heatwave in SoCal; drought intensifies in NorCal; Regional water boards have issued hundreds of approvals for compliance extensions; SCOTUS Clean Water Act test ‘devastating’ for industry; Marin Municipal Water District considers ‘very aggressive’ water purchase; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • The Central Valley Flood Protection Board meets at 9am.  Agenda items include an informational briefings on the Yolo Bypass Salmonid Habitat Restoration and Fish Passage (Big Notch) Project, Feather River Levee Setback Area Mitigation Bank, Sacramento and San Joaquin Drainage District Assessment District Feasibility Study, the Board’s response to Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSP) occurring within the Board’s jurisdiction, and San Joaquin Area Flood Control Agency (SJAFCA) Projects Update.  Click here for the agendaWebcast information here.

In California water news today …

Early season heatwave in SoCal; drought intensifies in NorCal:  “March and early April brought a continuation of this year’s bizarrely bifurcated precipitation pattern across California. A series of persistent and slow-moving systems brought widespread heavy rainfall to SoCal over the past month or so, setting many daily precipitation records. In general, though, this was highly beneficial rainfall–it helped dig the southern half of the state out from under what had been a pretty sizable seasonal precipitation deficit.  In NorCal, though, conditions could not have been more different. Exceptional and in some cases record-breaking dryness continues across the northern third of the state, as it has since last autumn, and more moderate but still anomalously dry conditions extend southward to about the San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Sierra Nevada, and points northward. ... ”  Read more from Weather West here: Early season heatwave in SoCal; drought intensifies in NorCal

In first month of COVID-19 Guidance, the California Regional Water Quality Control Boards have issued hundreds of approvals for compliance extensions submitted by regulated entities:  “On March 20, the California Water Boards issued guidance about complying with regulatory requirements during the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders. We summarized that guidance here. In short, the guidance directs regulated entities to “immediately” notify the Board if compliance is not possible and to seek appropriate relief. Water Board staff committed to “do their best to respond within 24/48 hours.”  It has now been a month, and preliminary data about the extent to which regulated entities have sought relief, and how the Regional Water Boards have responded is available. … ”  Read more from the National Law Review here: In first month of COVID-19 Guidance, the California Regional Water Quality Control Boards have issued hundreds of approvals for compliance extensions submitted by regulated entities

Farmers face new challenges in their ongoing quest for water:  “Not a drop of rain fell in February in Sacramento until the end of the month, making it the driest February on record for much of Northern California. For many farmers it was a painful harkening back to the drought that reached its peak and 2015, and marked the driest period in recorded California history.  “Farmers get nervous by nature,” said David Guy, president of the Northern California Water Association. But it’s not time to sound the alarms just yet, he said.  “It’s not really a drought year; it’s more of a mixed year,” Guy said. The snowpack in the northern Sierra is at around 60% of normal, but the rivers and reservoirs are relatively full. Most growers, but not all, should be able to get the water they want, he said. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Business Journal here: Farmers face new challenges in their ongoing quest for water

Column: Just as Newsom and Trump were getting along, California escalates the Delta water wars:  Danielle Bergstrom writes, “The Newsom administration has filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction against increased water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, arguing that current water diversions “will cause imminent and irreparable harm to species protected under the California Endangered Species Act and the federal Endangered Species Act,” according to a statement from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.  More than 1,000 longfin smelt, a fish protected under the California Endangered Species Act, have been killed in April thus far.  The motion follows a lawsuit filed against the Interior Department by the state on Feb. 20, challenging the Trump administration’s embrace of new biological opinions that have resulted in increased pumping from the Delta south through the Central Valley Project. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Column: Just as Newsom and Trump were getting along, California escalates the Delta water wars

DWR awards $25.4 million in grants to support local water supply projects:  “To help local agencies implement projects to meet the long-term water needs of their communities, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) has awarded $25.4 million in grants.  The funding will support projects such as groundwater recharge and stormwater management located near Fresno and Bakersfield, as well as California’s North Coast. More than half of the funding will be awarded for projects that help disadvantaged and underrepresented communities, including Tribal Governments.  … ”  Read more from DWR News here: DWR awards $25.4 million in grants to support local water supply projects

DWR awards $7 million in grants for urban streams restoration:  “The Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced $7 million in grants to restore streams, creeks, and rivers to more natural environmental conditions and reduce flood damage risks across multiple communities in California.  These grants are part of DWR’s Urban Streams Restoration Program (USRP) and are funded by Proposition 84 and Proposition 68.  By enhancing the aquatic riverine and riparian floodplain environment for fish, wildlife, and people, these projects will address multiple issues at each site, improve public access and engagement, and offer science and outdoor educational opportunities. … ”  Read more from DWR News here:  DWR awards $7 million in grants for urban streams restoration

Case studies examine costs and benefits of improving soil health on California farms:  “California is one of four states where new detailed economic analyses have been recently completed for farms that undertook significant soil health practices. Thanks to a partnership between NRCS and AFT using a Conservation Innovation Grant, the case studies are now available for farmers, conservationists, academics and others who wish to examine the costs and benefits associated with improving soil health on California farms.  Tom and Dan Rogers have adopted many conservation practices on their third- generation farm near Madera, Calif., now planted completely to almonds.  But, according to Tom, the more they did—irrigation management, nutrient management, conservation cover—the more they realized that “everything relates to the soil,” and they took on more. ... ”  Click here to continue reading the press release from the Natural Resources Conservation ServiceClick here for the case studies.

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In national/world news today …

SCOTUS Clean Water Act test ‘devastating’ for industry:  “Clean Water Act attorneys have a new permitting guidepost after the Supreme Court on Thursday struck a middle ground in a landmark case on federal water protections.  The justices in a 6-3 opinion ruled that polluters must get permits for indirect water contamination that’s the “functional equivalent” of a direct discharge into federal waterways.  The decision narrows an environmentalist-favored standard an appellate court adopted in 2018, but rejects the industry-preferred approach that would have exempted all indirect pollution from Clean Water Act permitting requirements. ... ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here: SCOTUS Clean Water Act test ‘devastating’ for industry

‘Hydrologists should be happy.’ Big Supreme Court ruling bolsters groundwater science:  “A new U.S. Supreme Court ruling puts groundwater science at the center of decisions about how to regulate water pollution.  Today, in a closely watched case with extensive implications, the court ruled 6 to 3 that the federal Clean Water Act applies to pollution of underground water that flows into nearby lakes, streams and bays, as long as it is similar to pouring pollutants directly into these water bodies. The decision came after a sewage treatment plant in Hawaii claimed that the landmark environmental law covered only “point sources” of pollution, such as an effluent pipe that dumps polluted water in a stream, lake or bay, and not polluted groundwater that seeps into water bodies. ... ”  Read more from Science Magazine here: ‘Hydrologists should be happy.’ Big Supreme Court ruling bolsters groundwater science

SEE ALSO:

Why CO2 isn’t falling more during a global lockdown:  “About 4 billion people around the world are under lockdown to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. Given that huge number, the drop in global greenhouse gases seems almost paltry by comparison.  Forecasters expect emissions to fall more than 5% in 2020, the greatest annual reduction on record. But it’s still short of the 7.6% decline that scientists say is needed over the next decade to stop global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.  “If you assume a proportional decline in [gross domestic product] and emissions, what feels like an economical catastrophe is a fairly modest reduction in emissions compared to where we need to go,” said Trevor Houser, who leads climate and energy research at the Rhodium Group, a research firm. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Why CO2 isn’t falling more during a global lockdown

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In commentary today …

Western agriculture’s thirst for water:  Ron Crete writes, “Water is the Achilles heel of Western agriculture. Always was, always will be. With Reclamation in the early 20th Century across the West and reclaimed again after the “Dust Bowl” era throughout America came the storage, channeling and allocation of water to famers and irrigators and the opening of the West. This also brought about a second wave of refugees clamoring for life, liberty and land west of the Mississippi. Water in the Klamath is key to our agricultural industry here as well as a source of food and finance for those of us living on the farm and in the Basin. … ”  Read more from the Herald & News here:  Western agriculture’s thirst for water

New systems of governance are needed to address climate change, says Lynn Scarlett:  She writes, “In the age of coronavirus, the United States is facing many extraordinary public health and economic challenges. But we should not lose sight of another problem of hugely significant proportions—climate change.  Recognizing that climate change is a leading cause of sea level rise, precipitation pattern changes, droughts, wildfires, and high-intensity storms, the National Academy of Public Administration recently identified “Steward Natural Resources and Address Climate Change” as one of its 12 grand challenges of public administration.  It is critical that we change the way we manage natural resources to address climate change and improve community resilience. ... ”  Read more from Governing here: New systems of governance are needed to address climate change

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In regional news and commentary today …

Environmentalists and farmers lose lawsuits over Klamath refuges:  “Multiple environmental lawsuits over the management of five national wildlife refuges in the Klamath Basin have failed, but so has a complaint filed by agricultural groups.  A federal judge has rejected challenges filed in 2017 against livestock grazing, pesticide usage and water management within the 200,000-acre Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex.  U.S. District Judge Michael McShane has also dismissed claims filed by farms and irrigation organizations, which argued that a comprehensive conservation plan had impermissibly restricted agricultural leases of refuge land. … ”  Read more from the Capital Press here: Environmentalists and farmers lose lawsuits over Klamath refuges

Tule, Klamath Irrigation Districts anticipate significant water supply shortfall:  “Until this year, 2010 was the second most detrimental year for irrigation in the Klamath Project, according to Brad Kirby, president of Tulelake Irrigation District.  That year, the Klamath Project had a water supply of approximately 150,000, with 35,000 more added later in the year — a total water supply of approximately 185,000 acre feet.  “Today we’re looking at 140,000 (acre feet), with no signs or indications or projections that show the potential for an increase,” Kirby said on Thursday. ... ”  Read more from the Herald & News here: Tule, Klamath Irrigation Districts anticipate significant water supply shortfall

Northern California: Rice growers look forward to ‘normal’ planting season:  “California rice growers are looking forward to a return to average conditions for planting this year, after experiencing inclement weather over the past few years that created delays for growers. Communications Manager for the California Rice Commission, Jim Morris said it is welcome news for the industry.  “It’s a normal start to the planting season and that may not sound like a lot but it’s actually very significant because for the past several years we’ve had a lot of delays. We’ve had late spring rains which has hampered our ability to get the fields ready, to get the airplanes flying,” Morris noted. “Speaking with growers, they’re more often two weeks or so ahead of recent years.” ... ”  Read more from Ag Net West here:  Northern California: Rice growers look forward to ‘normal’ planting season

Corning Sub-basin GSP Development meeting planned:  “A Groundwater Sustainability Plan (plan) is being developed for the Corning Sub-basin to comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014. The Corning Sub-basin is located partially within Tehama County, and partially within Glenn County and is rated as “high” within the Act’s categorization of priority. Because the Corning Sub-basin rates high priority, the Act requires it to develop a plan and manage groundwater for long-term sustainability. ... ”  Read more from the Appeal Democrat here:  Corning Sub-basin GSP Development meeting planned

Marin Municipal Water District considers ‘very aggressive’ water purchase:  “Following poor rainfall this winter and rising water demand in recent years, the Marin Municipal Water District is considering a major purchase of Sonoma County water as insurance for a potential dry period.  “That’s part of our plan moving forward is a very aggressive take of water from Sonoma,” Paul Sellier, MMWD engineer and operations director, told the board of directors this week. “In fact, we’re setting up to take potentially the greatest amount of water that we’ve ever taken from Sonoma in the next 12 to 15 months.” … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here:  Marin Municipal Water District considers ‘very aggressive’ water purchase

Monterey: Army report analyzes the risk of PFAS chemical contamination on Fort Ord.  “The U.S. military’s use of firefighting foam containing “forever chemicals” known as PFAS has left a legacy of toxic contamination at hundreds of bases nationwide. These chemicals were introduced to Monterey County soil and groundwater when Fort Ord was still an active installation, but the military says that the risk to public health here is low.  “Fortunately, compared to other [Department of Defense] sites, the presence of PFAS is not that extensive,” says William Collins, environmental coordinator of the military’s local Base Realignment and Closure office. “The chemicals were not frequently used here and not in large quantities.” … ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly here:  Army report analyzes the risk of PFAS chemical contamination on Fort Ord. 

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Along the Colorado River …

Why did Kane County pull out of the Lake Powell pipeline? Turns out, it doesn’t need more water. For several years, a poster has hung at Kanab’s City Hall, warning that Kane County would exhaust its existing water sources by 2020 without an infusion from the proposed Lake Powell pipeline.  The Kane County Water Conservancy District’s participation in that controversial water project would cost its customers alone at least $35 million. But the investment would pay for itself, district general manager Mike Noel has argued for nearly two decades, through the economic development and tourism revenues the water would support. ... ”  Read more from the Salt Lake Tribune here: Why did Kane County pull out of the Lake Powell pipeline? Turns out, it doesn’t need more water. 

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Weekly National Water and Climate Report …

Weekly National Water and Climate Report:  “The Natural Resources Conservation Service produces this weekly report using data and products from the National Water and Climate Center and other agencies. The report focuses on seasonal snowpack, precipitation, temperature, and drought conditions in the U.S.” Read/download below.

dmrpt-20200423

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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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