In California water news this weekend …

Westlands Water District is again eyeing San Joaquin River water:  “Westlands Water District sent shockwaves through the Central Valley water world recently after it alerted several districts that it intends to apply for rights to flood flows on the San Joaquin River.  A previous attempt by Westlands to get rights to San Joaquin River water 20 years ago ignited a ferocious east-west battle in the valley that ended in failure for Westlands and left east side farmers with a bitter taste and lingering suspicions.  This time around is different, said Tom Birmingham, General Manager of the giant Westlands district, which covers most of western Fresno County. ... ”  Read more from SJV Water here:  Westlands Water District is again eyeing San Joaquin River water

Here's how California's water laws were made:  “The outcome of Lux v. Haggin removed some — but not all — of the cloud over California’s water rights. The 1886 decision validated earlier California Supreme Court decisions supporting prior appropriation, but now, subject to riparian entitlements that preceded appropriative claims from the same stream. In California’s gold fields, this meant that priority further legitimized vast diversions of water from originating watersheds to distant diggings even after the 1884 federal court ruling in Woodruff v. North Bloomfield Gravel Mining Company ended the destructive practices of many hydraulic mining operations. … ”  Read more from Green Biz here: Here’s how California’s water laws were made

DWR scientist uses COVID-19 diagnostic testing technology to help protect endangered fish species:  “A scientist within the Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) Division of Environmental Services (DES) has found a way to use gene-editing technology, most recently used for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, for ecological monitoring of threatened fish.  “I believe this technology will transform how we accurately identify species, subspecies, or even finer-scale taxonomic levels,” said Dr. Melinda Baerwald, DWR scientist and study project manager. “This new technology will enable DWR to accurately identify threatened species in almost real-time.” ... ”  Read more from DWR News here: DWR scientist uses COVID-19 diagnostic testing technology to help protect endangered fish species

FERC issues declaratory order finding waiver of State Section 401 authority:  “On May 21, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) issued another order finding that the California State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) waived its authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) to issue a water quality certification (WQC) in the ongoing relicensing of Yuba Water Agency’s (YWA) Yuba River Project.  YWA filed its petition in response to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s (D.C. Circuit) decision in Hoopa Valley Tribe v. FERC and FERC’s subsequent declaratory order in Placer County Water Agency. … ”  Continue reading at the National Law Review here:  FERC issues declaratory order finding waiver of State Section 401 authority

Embedding agriculture in nature is beneficial for biodiversity and business:  “Since the publication of Aldo Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac” and Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” our skies have become increasingly silent; our oceans, lakes and rivers are increasingly empty. Research suggests we are fast approaching disastrous effects of this sixth extinction, geologically referred to as the Anthropocene. By embedding agriculture in nature, however, we successfully can surmount the twin challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change and dramatically alter the trajectory for Spaceship Earth. … ”  Read more from Green Biz here: Embedding agriculture in nature is beneficial for biodiversity and business

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In people news this weekend …

Rick Callender named CEO of Santa Clara Valley Water District:  “Rick Callender, former president of the San Jose-Silicon Valley NAACP and a longtime water executive, has been named CEO of Silicon Valley’s largest water provider, the Santa Clara Valley Water District.  The district, also known as Valley Water, provides drinking water and flood protection to 2 million residents in Santa Clara County.  The board of the agency, which has 859 employees and a $610 million annual budget, voted 4-3 to select Callender late Tuesday from a group that included three other finalists for the job. The vote makes Callender the first African-American CEO of the water district and one of the most high-ranking African-American water leaders in the United States, along with Harlan Kelly Jr., general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Rick Callender named CEO of Santa Clara Valley Water District

Q&A: Challenges, Solutions,and Lessons Learned with State Water Board's Greg GearheartQ: What are challenges facing your agency in regard to its management or use of water data?  “We face more legacy relational database problems in one department  than some whole states, or maybe even the federal government. Our organization usesover twenty enterprise applications, all developed over fifteen years ago, to managekey, mission-critical decisions. ... ”  Read more at the Internet of Water here: Q&A: Challenges, Solutions,and Lessons Learned with State Water Board’s Greg Gearheart

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In national/world news this weekend …

With $3 billion PFAS cleanup price tag looming, Pentagon looks to industry for ideas:  “Staring down a $3 billion — and growing — tab to clean up water sources at military installations across the country that are contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals linked to firefighting foam, the Defense Department is now in discussions with private firms about potential cleanup solutions that might reduce the cost.  During a test at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida last August, Gradiant Energy Services applied its evaporation technology to 814,000 gallons of contaminated rainwater. The water had accumulated in the fire pits at the Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s fire training and research area, and had to be contained for disposal because it contained the chemical compounds. ... ”  Read more from McClatchy DC here: With $3 billion PFAS cleanup price tag looming, Pentagon looks to industry for ideas

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Sunday podcasts …

California's toxic gold mining legacy:  On this episode of Jared Blumenfeld's Podship Earth: “One hundred and seventy years after the Gold Rush, the environmental legacy of gold mining is still with us and rarely acknowledged. Mercury which is a deadly neurotoxin, was elemental to the process of gold mining.  Today large quantities of mercury from the Gold Rush are still polluting California –  posing a risk to every kind of living organism, including us. Gold represents a unique view into the human psyche – we have given gold a value, we have destroyed peoples and ecosystems to pull gold from mountainsides, we have then turned that gold into bars that ironically we put in vaults back under the ground.  I talk with Izzy Martin, a community organizer and environmental advocate who leads the Sierra Fund and has worked for the last decade to bring attention to gold’s dark shadow.”


Outcome Based Water Management:  Steve Baker writes, “Managing the health of a watershed has historically been attempted by predicting the results of possible management behavior with computer models. If a good result was calculated, you try it in the field. This has produced mixed results. Are there better approaches to managing a watershed? Water is a Many Splendor’ed Thing brings you another water relationship that has a personally significant impact to your life.” Produced by Steven Baker, Operation Unite® Bringing People Together to Solve Water Problems, Online at www.operationunite.co

 

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In commentary this weekend …

Do two failed dams foretell a dire future?  Upmanu Lall and Paulina Concha Larrauri from the Columbia Water Center write,Two more dams down, a few thousand more to go.  The failure of Edenville and Sanford dams last week after heavy rains was a narrow escape for Michigan. Luckily, no one died, but 10,000 people were evacuated. The massive flooding from the failed dams got close to a Superfund site and the Dow Chemical Complex. Fortunately, no toxics were mobilized. The disaster brought a Presidential emergency declaration, but once again there is little discussion of a growing hazard that we are ignoring — our aging and failing infrastructure. ... ”  Read more from the Circle of Blue here:  Do Two Failed Dams Foretell a Dire Future?

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In regional news and commentary this weekend …

Water wars heat up again in Klamath Basin:  “Bob Gasser didn’t expect to be in this situation again.  The owner of Basin Fertilizer in Merrill, Ore., Gasser was deeply involved in the first big protests over water in the Klamath Basin straddling the California-Oregon state line, which gained national attention in 2001.  After 19 years of lawsuits, negotiations and a water-sharing breakthrough that slipped through its proponents’ fingers, Gasser was back to co-organizing another protest movement. ... ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Water wars heat up again in Klamath Basin

Making their point: Tractor, truck procession decries cutback in Klamath water:  “Tractors and trucks from across the region rumbled through Klamath Falls Friday on their way to the “Shut Down and Fed Up” rally where speakers called for a revamping of the way water is allocated.  The Klamath Project's allocation this year is 80,000 acre-feet — 23% of the 350,000 acre-feet considered a full allocation. Worse yet, they say, the cutback was announced after many crops had been planted. Scott Seus, one of the organizers, said the event is a way organizers can allow irrigators to release “pent up” anger felt by many in the Klamath Project. ... ”  Read more from the Capital Press here:  MAKING THEIR POINT: Tractor, truck procession decries cutback in Klamath water

Commentary: Upstream and downstream: We all depend on sustainability in the Klamath Basin, says

Commentary: Klamath water decisions will cause farms to close, says Ben Duval of Ben Duval Farms:  He writes, “No one likes to fail. But anyone who has been successful in life is going to tell you that failure is part of a learning curve necessary to be successful.  Yet to repeat failure is the definition of insanity. However, that is exactly what is occurring on the Klamath Project right now. We are taking 20+ years of bad decisions, based on poor science, and doubling down on them.  Unfortunately, farms and ranches of the Klamath Basin are going to fail as a result. It’s not because of bad business, poor work ethic, or anything in our control. Rather, we are going to lose farms and ranches this year because of insane approaches to water management that are embedded in agency cultures. … ”  Read more from the Herald & News here:  Klamath water decisions will cause farms to close

Commentary: During a time of crisis Klamath Basin needs data-driven leadership, says

San Luis Obispo County weighs fallowing program for Paso basin farmers:  “Paso Robles has an oversupply of wine grapes, according to growers and winemakers. That's an existing problem that's been exacerbated by COVID-19.  “We clearly have an overplanting of grapes in that area. … COVID is only the latest thing to come along,” said Jerry Lohr, owner of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines. “Let's say the market was at a certain level, COVID may make it 70 or 60 percent [of that].”  According to Lohr and some others in the wine industry, there's never been a better time to talk about creating a fallowing program for the North County region, which overlies the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin. … ”  Read more from New Times SLO here: San Luis Obispo County weighs fallowing program for Paso basin farmers

How California’s oil industry may help preserve agriculture in California’s southern San Joaquin Valley – recycled, oil field produced water found safe for crop irrigation:  “A study conducted by researchers at Duke University and RTI International found that reusing oil field produced water that has been mixed with surface water to irrigate crops in Kern County’s Cawelo Water District does not pose any major health risks. To cope with droughts and water shortages, some farmers in the Cawelo district have used diluted produced water to irrigate their crops for over two decades. Though the diluted produced water does contain slightly elevated levels of salts and boron as compared to the local groundwater, those levels are below applicable state standards for drinking and irrigation water. ... ”  Read more from the California Environmental Law blog here: How California’s oil industry may help preserve agriculture in California’s southern San Joaquin Valley – recycled, oil field produced water found safe for crop irrigation

Alternative desalination project to be studied for Doheny beach:  “With its proposed Doheny desalination plant facing hurdles because of costs and a lack of partner water districts, the South Coast Water District board has agreed to spend $73,000 to study a scaled-down alternative.  The district has spent $7.9 million so far for the preliminary design, environmental impact report and other early development steps for a standalone four-well plant near Doheny State Beach. And it is continuing its pursuit of necessary permits, which it hopes to have in hand by mid-2021. … ”  Read more from the OC Register here: Alternative desalination project to be studied for Doheny beach

EPA announces that Oasis Mobile Home Park has clean, drinkable water:  “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has declared that, as of Friday, Oasis Mobile Home Park in Thermal had clean, drinkable water.  The park's 1,900 residents have been without a permanent drinking water source for months, after the EPA announced last summer that the park's well water contained nearly 10 times the permissible level of arsenic, a toxic metal.  Long-term exposure to arsenic — through tainted drinking water, for example — can lead to elevated risk of cancer and cause skin damage and circulatory system problems. ... ”  Read more from The Desert Sun here: EPA announces that Oasis Mobile Home Park has clean, drinkable water

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Along the Colorado River …

Arizona Department of Water Resources and Audubon agree to funding plan to conserve Colorado River water:  “As part of an overall $38 million effort to bolster Lake Mead surface levels by fallowing irrigable farmland on the Colorado River Indian Reservation in western Arizona, the National Audubon Society has reached an agreement with the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) to help fund the Colorado River Indian Tribes’ (CRIT) on-going efforts to conserve 150,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead over the next three years.  “Leaving water in Lake Mead for the greater Colorado River system creates more security for people and birds in the arid Southwest,” said Karyn Stockdale, Audubon’s Western Water Initiative Senior Director. ... ”  Read more from Audubon here: Arizona Department of Water Resources and Audubon agree to funding plan to conserve Colorado River water

Saving the Colorado River doesn’t have to mean hurting farmers, says Andy Mueller:  He writes, “No one denies it: Over-consumption of water and extreme drought caused by climate change are realities driving the Colorado River into crisis. But some solutions are better than others.  In a column published in the Sun and elsewhere, former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt suggested that “retiring” 10% — some 300,000 acres — of irrigated agriculture would save 1 million acre-feet of the Colorado River. Babbitt wants the federal government to pay farmers in both the Lower and Upper Colorado River Basins to dry up their cropland.  The imbalance on the Colorado River needs to be addressed, and agriculture, as the biggest water user in the basin, needs to be part of a fair solution. But drying up vital food-producing land is a blunt tool. It would damage our local food-supply chains and bring decline to rural communities that have developed around irrigated agriculture. ... ”  Continue reading at the Las Vegas Sun here: Saving the Colorado River doesn’t have to mean hurting farmers

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Also on Maven's Notebook this weekend …

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Image credit:  Owens Lake Dust Control, 2012.  Photo from my adventures on the Owens Lake dry lakebed, checking out the dust control project as it existed at the time.  Things have substantially changed since then, and someday I should go back.  Here's my photoblog post on my adventures as it was back then.

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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