DAILY DIGEST, 6/17: Spring-run chinook return to San Joaquin River despite low water year; State Water Board sets definition for microplastics in drinking water; New report puts spotlight on drinking water policy advances and challenges; How to address groundwater planning gaps; and more …

On the calendar today …
  • FREE WEBINAR: The California Fish Passage Advisory Committee (Cal FishPAC) is holding a webinar from 9am to 10:15 am.  The webinar features three case studies that illustrate restoration projects that enhance habitat connectivity, particularly for threatened and endangered species.  Click here to register.
  • WEBINAR: Making Good Decisions: Utilizing Decision-Making Science and Geospatial Data to Streamline Water Planning and Management from 10am to 11am.  Hosted by the American Water Resources Association.  Click here to register.
  • WEBINAR: Resilience from Below: Proactively Managing Groundwater to Sustain Communities and Nature in an Uncertain Future from 12pm to 1pm. Hosted by the Groundwater Resources Association.  Presented By Maurice Hall, Ph.D., Associate Vice President, Ecosystems-Water, Environmental Defense Fund.  Click here to register.
  • WEBINAR: PFAS in the Orange County Groundwater Basin: Occurrence, Regulation, and Impacts on Local Water Supply from 12:30pm to 1:00pm.  Hosted by the Orange County Water Association.  Click here to register.
  • FREE WEBINAR: Our Summer Water Sources: Snowpack from 1:00pm to 1:30pm. Join Sean De Guzman, chief of DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Section, to learn about the critical role that our Sierra snowpack plays in supplying water during the hot summer months.  Register on Zoom to join and ask questions or watch on YouTube:  Zoom YouTube

In California water news today …

Spring-run chinook return to San Joaquin River despite low water year:  “If there’s one certainty in these uncertain times, it’s that nature is resilient, and one needn’t look further than the San Joaquin River as an example. For a second year in a row, and for only the second year in over 65 years, spring-run Chinook salmon have returned from the ocean to spawn in the river and bring forth the next generation. And with each year the salmon return, the Program gains new insights about the next generations of fish now inhabiting the river, using the data gathered to help guide restoration efforts. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Restoration Program here:  Spring-run chinook return to San Joaquin River despite low water year

State Water Board addresses microplastics in drinking water to encourage public water system awareness: The State Water Board is leading an ambitious international effort to standardize methods for monitoring microplastics in drinking water, surface water, sediment and fish tissue. In a critical first step to further the understanding of microplastics in our drinking water and the environment, the Board today adopted an official definition of “microplastics” in drinking water.   The definition sets the foundation for a long-term approach to studying this ubiquitous contaminant, which recently has come into mainstream awareness as a major environmental challenge. Researchers believe further monitoring and study of microplastics in drinking water supplies and its implications for public health and safety are imperative.

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The science, research and understanding of microplastics is fast moving,” said E. Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Board. “This first, but critical step, in establishing a definition of microplastics in drinking water will provide the basis for further investigation and work at the Water Boards. Plastic pollution is a challenge throughout our watersheds, from large plastics such as bottles, bags, and other refuse, to microscopic pieces that this definition attempts to better define. We must find ways to comprehensively address the problem, and the Water Board looks forward to guiding the discussion on how best to do so.”

Microplastics are plastic particles less than 5 millimeters in length – a size that has long concerned scientists due to its potential ingestion by animals. Many of these particles are much smaller and can only be seen through a microscope. While other state, national and international agencies have defined microplastics, California’s definition is the first to focus specifically on microplastics in drinking water.

Today’s State Water Board action is in response to Senate Bill 1422, legislation passed in 2018 that required Board adoption of a definition of microplastics in drinking water by July 1 of this year. Specifically, the bill mandates establishment by July 1, 2021, of a standard methodology that requires four years of testing and reporting the results, including public disclosure of the findings.

As a result of the legislation related to microplastics in drinking water, as well as Senate Bill 1263 that requires adoption of a Statewide Microplastics Strategy to protect coastal waters, the State Water Board is collaborating with the Ocean Protection Council and the Southern California Coastal Water Research Program to lead an ambitious, international effort to standardize methods for monitoring microplastics in drinking water, surface water, sediment and fish tissue. Experts will convene to better understand the human health and ecological effects. For more information, please visit the State Water Board’s Division of Drinking Water Program’s resources page.

The State Water Board’s mission is to preserve, enhance and restore the quality of California’s water resources and drinking water for the protection of the environment, public health and all beneficial uses, and to ensure proper water resource allocation and efficient use for current and future generations.

Feds seek input on Friant-Kern Canal fixes:  “Time is running out to comment on a plan to fix subsidence in the Friant-Kern Canal and to fix it before another drought draws from the overdrafted aquifer of the Kaweah River watershed.  The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the Friant-Kern Canal, is seeking public input on plans to repair a 33-mile stretch of canal between Lindsay and McFarland. This stretch of the canal has lost 60% of its original conveyance capacity due to subsidence—a sinking of the earth from groundwater extraction – which was accelerated during California’s historic drought from 2012-2017. Friant Water Authority, which operates the canal, is working with Reclamation to meet state and federal environmental law requirements for the Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project. ... ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun Gazette here: Feds seek input on Friant-Kern Canal fixes

State Water Board approves plan to provide $1.2 billion in loans for infrastructure projects:  “On June 16, the State Water Board adopted planning and funding documents for the clean water and drinking water state revolving fund programs for Fiscal Year 2020-21 and a total of more than $1.2 billion in potential new funding.  The respective revolving fund programs and plans, referred to as “intended use plans,” are adopted annually and provide millions of dollars of low interest and principal forgiveness loans to dozens of communities throughout California.

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The drinking water and clean water state revolving funds are significant financial tools that further the state’s water resiliency goals,” said State Water Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel. “The economic downturn and pressures from the Covid-19 response on our states water systems mean we must continue to innovate and grow the programs. We’re fortunate for the collaboration and coordination of many leaders in the water sector, who are partners in the revolving funds’ success and future.”

This annual funding practice is now entering its third decade with drinking water and four decades for clean water projects. The Clean Water State Revolving Fund intended use plan adds up to $910 million in new projects in fiscal year 20-21. The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund intended use plan has potential funding in excess of $308 million for new projects in fiscal year 20-21.

All projects are directly related to protecting or improving public health, water quality or both.

The Board’s approved intended use plans follow state and federal funding guidelines.

  • The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund finances infrastructure improvements to reduce drinking water risks and support the human right to water. It provides funding for drinking water projects such as well rehabilitation and replacement, tank/reservoir replacement, transmission and distribution pipeline replacement, drinking water treatment for primary contaminants and water meters. There are also a few projects on source development/desalination.

  • The Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) includes recycled water and stormwater projects and addresses wastewater discharge violations or enforcement orders issued by the regional water boards. Specifically, wastewater projects include the rehabilitation of existing facilities that treat wastewater, new wastewater treatment facilities, pump station rehabilitation and replacement and sewer pipeline rehabilitation and replacement. Recycled water projects consist of recycled water treatment facilities, pump stations, distribution systems and storage facilities. Storm water projects include projects that prevent, abate, reduce, transport, separate, store, treat, recycle, or dispose of pollutants arising or flowing in storm drainage that is transported in pipes, culverts, tunnels, ditches, wells, channels, conduits, from urban or rural areas to surface or groundwaters of the state and the reuse or disposal of storm water determined acceptable for reuse or disposal.

Pandemic sets back abalone restoration effort in California:  “In California, the Covid-19 pandemic has introduced a host of challenges to the scientific community. Researchers have struggled to collect data under stay at home orders, contended with depleted staff, and in the case of those who study abalone, at least, faced new challenges when it comes to collecting food for the animals in their care.  “It’s certainly limiting our ability to work efficiently,” says Dr. Ed Parnell, an associate researcher with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, CA, just north of San Diego. ... ”  Read more from Earth Island Journal here: Pandemic sets back abalone restoration effort in California

Coronavirus pandemic has affected state’s food, agriculture and environment:  “COVID-19 continues to affect parts of California agriculture in different ways. A new report from agricultural economists at the University of California examines the current and long-term impacts on California’s leading agricultural industries.  Profiles in the report illustrate the different ways the pandemic has impacted dairy, beef and produce — industries that have scrambled to repurpose products from foodservice to retail — and tree nuts, an industry that saw a temporary spike in sales as consumers hoarded storable goods. The report includes expert assessments of what the future holds for California’s cattle, dairy, produce, strawberry, tomato, tree nut and wine industries. … ”  Read more from the Woodland Daily Democrat here:  Coronavirus pandemic has affected state’s food, agriculture and environment

Big almond crop grows in state’s orchards:  “Almond trees in the Central Valley carry a heavy crop this year—so heavy that during springtime windstorms, many of the shallow-rooted trees fell over or had branches split.  Anticipating a record crop of 3 billion pounds, marketers say they’ll be monitoring impacts of the pandemic and of international trade negotiations. Crop losses related to the windstorms will have only a fractional impact on overall supplies. … ” Read more from Ag Alert here: Big almond crop grows in state’s orchards

Hands on the land, heart in community: Returning cultural fires:  “It was a California Summer. I was working in a plant nursery tucked into the Cascade Mountain Range—blue mountains in the distance and rivers and creeks to splash in.  But I couldn’t clearly see my hand outstretched in front of me. It’s the smoke. Like almost every summer of my childhood, a wildfire raged in a nearby forest.  Looking back, what was most disturbing was not the smoke or the thick layer of ash on my car after work, it was how normal this was. Evacuations and high severity forest fires are an almost annual occurrence. California’s forest fire problem now routinely makes international news as entire cities are destroyed. ... ” Continue reading at Environmental Health News here:  Hands on the land, heart in community: Returning cultural fires

Conservationists concerned by Forest Service blueprint:  “The Trump administration on Friday released a blueprint for the Forest Service.  The directive came in the form of an unusual memo to Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. It orders the Forest Service to expedite environmental reviews on its land, paving the way for more grazing, logging and oil development on public lands, The Hill reported.  “Under this administration, the Forest Service has sold more timber than we have in the last 22 years and made significant increases in our hazardous fuels treatments and active management of our national forests,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “Today, I am announcing a blueprint for reforms to provide further relief from burdensome regulations, improve customer service, and boost the productivity of our national forest system.” ... ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Conservationists concerned by Forest Service blueprint

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In national/world news today …

New report puts spotlight on drinking water policy advances and challenges:  “[The Water Foundation is] proud to share a new report, Policy Innovations to Secure Drinking Water for All, in partnership with the US Water Alliance and water leaders across the country. Between fall 2019 and winter 2020, we met with nearly 100 state and tribal water experts, advocates, and organizers in a series of regional roundtables in Atlanta, Detroit, Sacramento, and Santa Fe to share safe drinking water solutions.  In the US, racial injustice is ingrained in the systems that shape who has safe, clean, and affordable water. Recent reports, such as those by NRDC, the Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform, and Coming Clean, as well as DigDeep and US Water Alliance, have underscored how Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color are most likely to live without running water or with toxic tap water as a result of redlining, disinvestment, and other aspects of structural inequity. … ”  Read more from the Water Foundation here:  New report puts spotlight on drinking water policy advances and challenges

Plastic rain is the new acid rain:  “Hoof it through the national parks of the western United States—Joshua Tree, the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon—and breathe deep the pristine air. These are unspoiled lands, collectively a great American conservation story. Yet an invisible menace is actually blowing through the air and falling via raindrops: Microplastic particles, tiny chunks (by definition, less than 5 millimeters long) of fragmented plastic bottles and microfibers that fray from clothes, all pollutants that get caught up in Earth’s atmospheric systems and deposited in the wilderness. … ”  Read more from Ars Technica here: Plastic rain is the new acid rain

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In commentary today …

How to address groundwater planning gapsEllen Hanak and Jelena Jezdimirovic write, “In these extraordinary times, managing groundwater for long-term sustainability may not seem like a top priority. But in the San Joaquin Valley—where groundwater supplies have been declining for decades—excess pumping is a critical problem, with major implications for public health, jobs, the environment, and local economies.  The state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires groundwater planning and actions to sustain this vital resource. Agencies from California’s 21 “critically overdrafted” basins—including 11 large basins that span most of the San Joaquin Valley floor—submitted their first groundwater plans in January.  As part of our long-term work to build shared understanding of water challenges and solutions in the valley, the Public Policy Institute of California reviewed the 36 plans developed for these basins to see how well they tackle some key issues. … ”  Read more from the PPIC here: How to address groundwater planning gaps

The basic disruption of Central Valley hydrology:  Jim Brobeck writes, “Re “What’s at the heart of California’s water wars? Delta outflow explained”; Commentary, May 28, 2020 This commentary ignores the basic disruption of natural Central Valley hydrology while focusing on the severely impaired post-leakage/diversion remains of watershed flow. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here:  The basic disruption of Central Valley hydrology

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In regional news and commentary today …

Construction begins on new beach at Riverbend Park as part of park restoration effort:  “The rough dirt and ragged rocks at the Riverbend Park’s waterfront will soon be replaced with a smooth beach to restore the one that was swept away by flooding.  Construction began earlier this week to restore the beach that was washed away by the severe floods caused by the Oroville Dam Spillway crisis. ... ”  Read more from KRCR here: Construction begins on new beach at Riverbend Park as part of park restoration effort

Commitment to wildlife earns Sac State national recognition:  “From the turkeys that parade across campus and 100,000 honeybees living at the BAC Yard, to the iconic squirrels with nearly 1,000 Instagram followers (#squirrelsofsacstate), and even the occasional coyote, Sacramento State is alive with animal activity.  The University’s commitment to provide a nurturing natural environment has earned it Garden for Wildlife certification from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).  NWF’s Garden for Wildlife is the largest and longest-running movement dedicated to helping wildlife and preserving wild spaces. The idea is for a community to build a sustainable environment that offers food, water, and shelter from predators, and a safe place for all to raise their young. ... ”  Read more from Sac State here:  Commitment to wildlife earns Sac State national recognition

Health officials say ‘stay out of the water’ at Discovery Bay after harmful algal blooms found:  “Health officials are urging residents and visitors to stay out of the water in Discovery Bay after dangerous levels of harmful algae were detected.  Marisa Van Dyke of the State Water Resources Control Board reported that recent lab results from water testing showed “significant” harmful algal blooms occurring in Discovery Bay. Multiple locations recorded a “danger” level, the highest threshold, she said.  Numerous Discovery Bay residents also had reported harmful algae, including in areas not sampled on June 4, she added. ... ”  Read more from the East Bay Times here: Health officials say ‘stay out of the water’ at Discovery Bay after harmful algal blooms found

Water district calls on Coastal Commission to deny Cal Am’s desalination permit:  “To a large extent, the fate of several multi-million dollar water projects on the Monterey Peninsula is in the hands of the California Coastal Commission.  The question is whether the commission will grant a development permit for a desalination plant proposed by California American Water—or will the commission deny the permit and implicitly endorse a smaller project that would provide new water to the area by expanding the regional wastewater recycling facility. A vote is expected at the August 12-14 meeting of the commission. … ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly here: Water district calls on Coastal Commission to deny Cal Am’s desalination permit

Turlock City Council decides to move forward with surface water treatment plant project:  “As the City of Turlock enters the third year in a five-year water rate increase schedule, the City Council held a special meeting to review the plans made — and potential options — when it comes to securing a reliable source of drinking water.  In December 2017, the City of Turlock adopted a new water rate structure beginning in 2018 and increasing every year for five years to help fund a new surface water treatment plant project with the City of Ceres and maintain and service current groundwater wells. … ”  Read more from the Turlock Journal here: Turlock City Council decides to move forward with surface water treatment plant project

Yettem-Seville tap into towns’ potential: “Becky Quintana has spent most of her life watching her community of Seville struggle with water quality issues. Now in her early 60s, Quintana remembers seeing her late father Ladislao (Lalo) Jacquez show concern about the community’s water system. While not much change happened back then, community residents like Jacquez began to ask questions: “Why are we running out of water? Why does this keep happening?”  Quintana’s father never lived to see the day that Seville would turn on the taps and clean water would flow freely into the town’s 100 homes, but Quintana was there when it happened a month ago. ... ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: Yettem-Seville tap into towns’ potential

Nearly 1,000 gallons of raw sewage spill along Pacific Coast Highway:  “Almost 1,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled near the Rincon Beach Parkway on Monday, officials with the Ventura County Environmental Health Division said Tuesday.  The incident was reported at 2 p.m. in the 4900 block of the Pacific Coast Highway north of Ventura.  Officials reported 990 gallons of raw sewage were discharged due to a break along a forced main line that runs parallel the coast. A vacuum truck transferred the spilled sewage to a nearby lift station and the ground in the area was cleaned. The pump has been shut off and repairs are ongoing, authorities said. ... ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star here: Nearly 1,000 gallons of raw sewage spill along Pacific Coast Highway

Otay Water District gives burrowing owl homes a makeover:  “Burrowing owl homes maintained by the Otay Water District received a modern makeover this year. As part of its ongoing environmental mitigation efforts, the District managed construction of new nesting burrows to encourage breeding.  Ten acres of the 240-acre, District-owned San Miguel Habitat Management Area reserve, or HMA, and mitigation bank in eastern Chula Vista is a dedicated native grasslands area where the new artificial burrows are located. The California Department of Fish & Wildlife has designated burrowing owls as a “Species of Special Concern.” They are also protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. … ”  Read more from the Water News Network here: Otay Water District gives burrowing owl homes a makeover

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Along the Colorado River …

Nevada: In protecting endangered fish, Muddy River flows, state regulators find little water left in basin eyed by Coyote Springs:  “The state’s top water regulator issued a ruling Monday that is likely to have a significant effect on any future development in a large area northeast of Las Vegas, including the construction of Coyote Springs, a proposed master-planned community.  The 66-page ruling effectively places a halt on more groundwater pumping around Coyote Springs. Any additional groundwater pumping, the ruling concludes, could harm sensitive habitat for the endangered Moapa dace and reduce the flow of the spring-fed Muddy River, which feeds into Lake Mead and is credited toward Las Vegas’ long-term water supply. … ”  Read more from the Nevada Independent here:  In protecting endangered fish, Muddy River flows, state regulators find little water left in basin eyed by Coyote Springs

Arizona: Virus-ravaged Navajo say coal mines sapped their drinking water:  “To “do this hand-washing thing that’s recommended by the health people,” Navajo Nation member Percy Deal drives his pickup truck once a week about 17 miles to wait in line for as long as an hour at a communal well.  There, he fills up two 55-gallon drums at the cost of 1 cent a gallon.  “I use the same water at least five or six times before I throw it out,” Deal said. “It’s very dirty, but otherwise, I would run out of water in less than a week. And I can’t afford that.”  Lack of running water has long plagued the Navajo Nation. About a third of homes don’t have it; in some towns, it’s 90 percent. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg here: Arizona: Virus-ravaged Navajo say coal mines sapped their drinking water

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Today’s featured article …

CA WATER COMMISSION: Preparing California’s Water System for Climate Extremes

A view from Daou Vineyards at sunrise looking towards the valley in Paso Robles, Calif. on April 28th, 2015.
Photo by Kelly M. Grow/ DWR

In October 2019, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released the report, Priorities for California’s Water, which outlined California’s water management challenges and their top priorities for addressing those challenges.  Other reports from the PPIC have highlighted actions that would prepare California’s water systems and natural environment for the changing climate and drought.  At the May meeting of the California Water Commission, Alvar Escriva-Bou, a research fellow at PPIC’s Water Policy Center, gave a presentation on the PPIC’s findings and how they align with the actions of the draft water resilience portfolio.

Click here to read this article.

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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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