In California water news this weekend …

California megadrought? Not if you look at precipitation:  “If you want to know what climate change means for California’s water supply, consider the last two Februaries.  In 126 years of statewide record-keeping, you can’t find a drier February than the one we just experienced. But February 2019 was the third wettest on record.  The extremes underscore how global warming is exaggerating the year-to-year swings in California precipitation, which is naturally the most variable in the country.  But surprisingly, the dramatic ups and downs even out. Average precipitation is not declining. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here: California megadrought? Not if you look at precipitation

How the coronavirus pandemic is affecting water demand:  “The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed massive health and economic burdens on communities around the world, and no sector of society is going untouched, including the vitally important water sector. The full extent of impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on the water sector are still emerging, but one area that has come to the fore is the effect on municipal water demand. Available data indicate that residential water demand has increased while non-residential demand has decreased. In Portsmouth, England, for example, residential demand increased by 15 percent during the lockdown, while non-residential demand declined by 17 percent. Likewise, in San Francisco, California, residential demand increased by 10 percent, while non-residential demand declined by 32 percent.  … ”  Read more from the Pacific Institute here: How the coronavirus pandemic is affecting water demand

Survey says: COVID-19 impacts on drinking water systems still unknown:  “More than four months into the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s hard to say exactly what the fallout has been for drinking water utilities.  Predictions were dire shortly after Gov. Newsom ordered a moratorium on water shutoffs for non-payment back in early April.  Would there be an avalanche of non payers? If so, how long would water systems, particularly small, disadvantaged systems, be able to hold out before they couldn’t pay for water treatment? Energy? Repairs? Insurance?  Multiple groups geared up to petition the state Legislature and Congress for relief.  But what has the actual impact been? … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Survey says: COVID-19 impacts on drinking water systems still unknown

Dry lightning risk rises in the West, thanks to tardy monsoon:  “The annual monsoon that drenches the U.S. Southwest is late this year, raising the risk of wildfires sparked by another of the region’s meteorological quirks: dry lightning. While heavy rain isn’t expected in the normally arid area until mid-July, thunderstorms continue to form high above the Earth. But the air below is so parched that raindrops can evaporate on their way down. The only things that strikes the ground are lightning bolts — dry lighting. The phenomenon, which also occurs in Australia, is blamed for many of the wildfires that charred more than 3 million acres in the U.S. West last year.  … ”  Read more from Bloomberg here: Dry lightning risk rises in the West, thanks to tardy monsoon

A nationwide view shows “evolution” of water quality concerns:  “Water quality issues are shifting in the United States’ rivers in big ways.  Those changes are driven, in part, by the way the land in a watershed is used and they’re big enough that researchers may need to change the way they think about water quality in the American rivers.  “What was striking to us was how perceptions of water quality issues from several decades ago may need to be updated,” said Edward Stets, a U S Geological Survey research ecologist, in an email response to questions from Environmental Monitor.  New research by Stets published in Environmental Science & Technology in March highlights these shifting water quality issues.  ... ”  Read more from the Environmental Monitor here: A nationwide view shows “evolution” of water quality concerns

SCOTUS Maui ruling ripples through pipeline, power plant cases:  “The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling that some indirect water pollution requires federal permits triggered renewed debate this week in legal battles over power plants and pipelines.  In an Illinois case, environmentalists argued Wednesday that the high court’s pivotal Clean Water Act decision in County of Maui v. Hawai’i Wildlife Fund means their own claims about coal ash pollution should advance. On the East Coast, meanwhile, industry lawyers sparred with environmental lawyers over whether the Maui standard applies in their pipeline rupture case. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here:  SCOTUS Maui ruling ripples through pipeline, power plant cases

Some new climate models are projecting extreme warming. Are they correct?  “For the past year, some of the most up-to-date computer models from the world’s top climate modeling groups have been “running hot” – projecting that global warming may be even more extreme than earlier thought. Data from some of the model runs has been confounding scientists because it challenges decades of consistent projections.  “It is concerning, as it increases the risk of more severe climate change impacts,” explains Dr. Andrew Gettelman, a cloud microphysics scientist from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colorado.  As a result, there’s been a real urgency to answer this important question in climate science: Are there processes in some new models that need correcting, or is this enhanced warming a real threat? … ”  Read more from Yale Climate Connections here: Some new climate models are projecting extreme warming. Are they correct?

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In people news this weekend …

Jay Sorensen, Stockton angler and conservationist, has died:  ““Jolly” Jay Sorensen, longtime conservationist, Delta fishing guide, outdoor columnist and Stockton resident, passed away peacefully in his sleep at home age 83 on June 22.  Sorensen was one of two Stockton residents inducted into the California Outdoors Hall of Fame, the other being longtime Stockton Record outdoor columnist and author Pete Ottesen.  After successfully beating throat cancer 5 years ago, Sorensen lived with complications from the radiation therapy that left him unable to take nourishment by mouth. He was in and out of the hospital for the past several months. ... ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here: Jay Sorensen, Stockton angler and conservationist, has died

Profile: Dr. Christina Sloop: “Dr. Christina Sloop has been CDFW’s Science Advisor since May 2018. She leads the CDFW Science Institute, where she manages programs on science support, and works with her staff to integrate climate change resilience and biodiversity conservation practices into CDFW’s scientific, management and conservation work.  A native of Munich, Germany, Christina first came to the United States as a high school exchange student. She later returned for college, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Biology with a minor in Environmental Studies from Sonoma State University, a Master’s degree in Conservation Biology from San Francisco State University, and a doctorate in Ecology and Conservation Genetics from UC Davis. … ”  Read more from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife here: Profile: Dr. Christina Sloop

Ten UC Cooperative Extension academics retire:  “Ten University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisors and specialists are retiring, effective today. Most will continue with research in emeritus capacities. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Ten UC Cooperative Extension academics retire


Ryan Endean, 40, of West Sacramento, has been appointed assistant deputy director of communications at the California Department of Water Resources, where he has served as acting deputy assistant director for public affairs since 2019 and was public information officer II from 2018 to 2019. He was media relations director at the American Lung Association in California from 2016 to 2018, communications director at Blanning and Baker Associates from 2009 to 2016 and news producer at KCRA-TV from 2001 to 2009. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $122,076. Endean is a Democrat.

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Sunday podcasts …

Artist John Muir Laws drawing in rice field

Avocets, Ibis and Stilts, Oh My!  “The lush green color you see in the Sacramento Valley during summer is from a half-million acres of young rice fields. Those fields are not only beautiful to see, their ecosystem is impressive in its abundance and diversity.  “Rice ecosystems are fascinating marshes maintained by human beings,” said naturalist, artist and educator John Muir Laws. “Many of the birds have adopted these. You look at them – there’s shallow water and green plants growing out of them. That’s a great place to find food. That’s a great place to nest.”  Listen to the podcast below.  More information by clicking here

Fishing for Answers: Steve Baker writes, “Dealing with a permit exempt well issue in the state of Washington after people have moved into a rural domestic neighborhood is a lot like buying fire insurance as you watch your house burn down. Dale Bambrick, NOAA Fisheries, proposes water supplies be considered through general planning and development. Estimate total water available at specific locations in the watershed and build flexibility in the type and demand of the water footprint. People, water rights and the environment can each be satisfied. 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

EcoNews Podcast: The state of the Klamath River: What’s the state of the Klamath River in July 2020? Despite a recent series of wins and progress on dam removal — not great.  Mike Belchik, a senior water policy analyst with the Yurok Tribe, and Daniel Cordalis, a staff attorney for the Tribe, walk the Green Gang through what’s happening on the region’s largest river this season — including the threat of upcoming low flows and, with it, fish-killing disease.”

Click here for the podcast from the Lost Coast Outpost.

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In commentary this weekend …

California Appellate Court upholds Water Board’s broad drought response authority:  Richard Frank writes,California’s Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District recently upheld the State Water Resources Control Board’s temporary emergency drought response regulations–enacted in 2014-15–as well as related curtailment orders the Board issued to specific water users to implement those regulations.  In doing so, the Water Board rejected a legal challenge agricultural water users brought against the Board seeking to elevate private water rights over other interests–like protection of environmental values–the Board is obligated under California law to consider in its water rights decisions.  The Court of Appeal’s decision in Stanford Vina Ranch Irrigation Company v. State of California represents an important vindication of the Water Board’s broad authority to take emergency action limiting the exercise of private water rights when compelling and urgent circumstances such as severe drought require. ... ”  Read more from the Legal Planet here: California Appellate Court upholds Water Board’s broad drought response authority

Huffman places a bet for water in the West and the Post Office, says the Santa Rosa Press Democrat:  They write, “Rep. Jared Huffman, whose sprawling district covers the entire North Coast, has some big ideas about infrastructure, and he’s convinced his colleagues to include them in a new bill.  The Moving Forward Act, which was written by Democrats, would invest $1.5 trillion in American infrastructure. It’s the sort of bill that lawmakers and even President Donald Trump have talked about for years but never passed.  The idea of a huge infusion of cash to improve American infrastructure makes sense today more than ever. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: Huffman places a bet for water in the West and the Post Office

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In regional news and commentary this weekend …

Klamath drought relief passes U.S. Senate:  “The U.S. Senate has approved a bill that lawmakers say will provide needed relief to Klamath Basin irrigators facing water cutbacks this summer because of drought.  Oregon’s Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announced July 1 they helped fix language in the 2018 Water Resources Development Act, adding more flexibility in how drought relief funds may be used. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Klamath drought relief passes U.S. Senate

Much of Siskiyou experiencing “extreme drought”:  “A large swath of central Siskiyou County is now classified as being in “extreme drought,” the United States Drought Monitor reported this week. The rest of Siskiyou is experiencing moderate to severe drought.  More than 58% of California is in some state of drought, a number in stark contrast to last year’s numbers, when 4.32% t of the state was classified as abnormally dry. ... ”  Read more from the Siskiyou Daily News here: Much of Siskiyou experiencing “extreme drought”

Tenmile Creek watershed conservation plan released to public:  “The Eel River Recovery Project, also known as the ERRP, has released the public draft of the Tenmile Creek Watershed Conservation and Restoration Action Plan, which is the culminating product of a two-year pilot project. The document is available at and the public is invited to comment.  The California State Coastal Conservancy awarded the ERRP Prop 1 funds to work on water conservation, riparian restoration and erosion control. ... ” Read more from the Advocate News here:  Watershed conservation plan released to public

Humboldt County: New maps outline your home’s flood risk:  “New flood maps released by a research and technology nonprofit show more homes in the United States are at risk of flooding than what’s reflected by the government’s flood risk maps.  The First Street Foundation’s flood model identifies 14.6 million properties that have substantial flood risk, which is 6 million, or 70%, more properties than classified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s map of special flood hazard zones, according to a press release from the nonprofit. More properties, including those in Eureka, Arcata and Fortuna, are going to be at increased risk of flooding over the course of the next 15 and 30 years, the maps show. ... ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here: Humboldt County: New maps outline your home’s flood risk

Numbers increase for Lake Oroville bald eagles:  “Seven nesting pairs of bald eagles who have made the Oroville area their home are once again raising families. Environmental scientists from the Department of Water Resources (DWR) Oroville Field Division have been eagerly watching the development of the nine new eaglets – an increase from the eight eaglets spotted in 2019.  The chicks have been spotted around Lake Oroville and in the Oroville Wildlife Area near the Feather River. Chicks typically fledge – grow flight feathers and become strong enough to attempt flying – during the months of June and July. ... ”  Read more from DWR News here:  Numbers increase for Lake Oroville bald eagles

Microplastic cleanup, research continues at Lake Tahoe:  “Microplastics are a widespread problem that are not only found in the ocean, but research is showing that microplastic are in freshwater lakes as well, including Lake Tahoe.  While scientific research on microplastics in freshwater has been limited in the past, momentum is gaining.  Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that are smaller than a grain of rice or 5 millimeters in length. The “rice-sized” microplastics are worrisome because the size makes them easily ingested. Some microplastic can only be seen through a microscope. ... ”  Read more from the Sierra Sun here: Microplastic cleanup, research continues at Lake Tahoe

Valley Water Board of Directors approve next step in fixing Anderson Dam:  “Valley Water has many critical projects in various stages of development, including flood protection projects, infrastructure improvements and work to protect our environment.  But our top priority remains an effort to retrofit and strengthen Anderson Dam, home to Santa Clara County’s largest reservoir, so it can safely withstand a strong earthquake.  Recently, our Board of Directors took a step toward achieving this goal by approving the preliminary project description to empty Anderson Reservoir beginning Oct. 1 to the lowest practicable level possible. … ”  Read more from Valley Water News here:  Valley Water Board of Directors approve next step in fixing Anderson Dam

Monterey: The cost spiral that sends water costs up, says Ron Weitzman:  He writes, “Recently, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District board adopted its staff report on local water supply and demand and, in a letter to the California Coastal Commission, endorsed the expansion of Pure Water Monterey (PWM) over the building of Cal Am’s proposed desal plant as part of the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project (MPWSP). Two major facts supporting this endorsement are the steeply rising cost of water on the Monterey Peninsula resulting from Cal Am’s chronic overestimation of local water demand, which provides the foundation of its proposed desal project, and the sufficiency of the PWM expansion to meet actual local demand for water. ... ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Monterey: The cost spiral that sends water costs up, says Ron Weitzman

Monterey One Water answers back: Ron Stefani writes, “In reply to Rick Heuer’s Commentary on June 20, on behalf of Monterey One Water’s Board of Directors, I want to take this opportunity to further communicate and clarify information on the Pure Water Monterey Groundwater Replenishment Project.  Pure Water Monterey is a collaborative water supply project that uses advanced purification technology to turn treated wastewater into a safe, sustainable water supply.  Has the project experienced delays? Yes. Is the project currently producing and injecting purified water? Yes. … ”  Continue reading at the Monterey Herald here:  Monterey One Water answers back

Threatened trout return to San Benito River:  “After 75 years of abuse and countless tons of garbage dumped into it, all it took was 18 months of work from dedicated volunteers to get the San Benito River on the road to recovery.  Just a few weeks ago, a discovery was made in the river in what environmentalists are calling an historic milestone for the Pajaro River Watershed: The threatened steelhead trout are back in the river in the first confirmed sighting in three-quarters of a century. … ”  Read more from the Gilroy Dispatch here:  Threatened trout return to San Benito River

Fillmore: Groundwater recharge capturing project completed:  “According to the state, this year is the 11th driest snowpack on record since 1950 and with the State Water Project announcing it will deliver only 20% of requested water supplies in 2020, projects like the Piru Stormwater Capture for Groundwater Recharge Project are critical to Ventura County’s important water supplies. This project will provide a sustainable source for recharge of the Piru Groundwater Basin and improve water quality in Piru Creek. … ”  Read more from the Fillmore Gazette here: Groundwater recharge capturing project completed

SoCal: Rainfall season was a ‘roller coaster ride’ when two wettest months turned dry:  “The 2019-20 rainfall season that ended on June 30 was nearly average for most of Southern California, but was far from normal.  Downtown Los Angeles ended up with 14.88 inches of rain for the period from July 1 to June 30, the historical meteorological rainfall season. This falls slightly short of the mathematical average of 14.93 inches, but nonetheless earns a 100% of normal score for the city. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Rainfall season was a ‘roller coaster ride’ when two wettest months turned dry

‘Something bad’s going to happen’: Big surf and high tide hit Balboa Peninsula with flooding:  “The sun was out in Newport Beach, the skies clear on the eve of July 4 when Bruce Ogilvie plopped down in the sand. But something, he said, felt off.  A lifeguard had chased him out of his usual spot, which seemed puzzling at the time, but then Ogilvie saw the guard sprint into the water and save two girls caught in a rip tide. This wasn’t the first rescue of the day, Ogilvie realized, and the guard needed the area cleared to run as fast as he could into the churning ocean.  In hindsight, he said, “I should’ve realized: ‘Hey, something bad’s going to happen.’” … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: ‘Something bad’s going to happen’: Big surf and high tide hit Balboa Peninsula with flooding

High tide, massive surf causes flooding along Balboa Peninsula:  “A combination of high tides and violent surf Friday night on the Balboa Peninsula flooded homes, reduced a sailboat to splinters and prompted several near-death rescues offshore, according to authorities.  The flooding was centered near A Street and East Balboa Boulevard, said Newport Beach police Sgt. Steve Oberon. ... ”  Read more from the OC Register here:  High tide, massive surf causes flooding along Balboa Peninsula

San Clemente Column: Once upon a septic time:  “There could be worse things than not having a July 4 Fireworks Show at the pier this Saturday.  Try this:  Hordes of people—locals and tourists—arrive at the crack of dawn, staking out their prized patch of beach for the day, from which to watch the fireworks. Only then do they discover ominous signs all around: NO SWIMMING … SEWAGE CONTAMINATED WATER. … ”  Read more from the San Clemente Times here:  San Clemente Column: Once upon a septic time

Ramona: Local leaders discuss impacts of water conservation laws:  “Four elected officials representing area water districts expressed frustration with state laws aimed at water conservation during an American Liberty Forum of Ramona informational meeting Saturday, June 27.  Roughly 50 attendees gathered at Ramona Mainstage to hear the “Water Regulations Today and Tomorrow” presenters discuss the pending impacts of Senate Bill 606 and Assembly Bill 1668, which were signed into law by former Gov. Jerry Brown in May 2018. ... ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here: Local leaders discuss impacts of water conservation laws

Border sewage projects secure funding, but progress will be slow:  “San Diego officials are optimistic that a long-term fix to stop persistent cross-border sewage flows is close. There is now money available and more than two dozen projects are already vetted, but it could still be years before the majority of the flows stop.  Most of the region’s congressional delegation, fronted by Rep. Mike Levin, D-Dana Point, delivered good news during a January press conference to a region increasingly frustrated by massive cross-border flows. ... ”  Read more from KPBS here: Border sewage projects secure funding, but progress will be slow

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Along the Colorado River …

Arizona water transfer proposal gets mixed reviews:  “First off, a caveat: There are myriad suggestions on how to manage water in the West, but there is not yet one “right” answer to keep it flowing for both citizens and crops.  In one of the many discussions on the subject, the University of Arizona’s Water Resources Research Center went virtual in this, the year of the virus, for its 2020 conference commemorating the 40th celebration of Arizona’s momentous Groundwater Management Act, a long-term planning structure to safeguard water certainty for residents. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Arizona water transfer proposal gets mixed reviews

In with the new: Arizona water community takes on new Colorado River challenges:  “In a way, it was a meshing of the new and the old.  The “new” Arizona Reconsultation Committee – a group formed to prepare for the development of new guidelines governing the operation of the Colorado River – is, in fact, a (modestly) old concept. The new “ARC” includes virtually the same group of Arizona water community leaders that formed the Arizona Drought Contingency Plan Committee.  That “old” Arizona DCP group successfully completed the set of intra-Arizona agreements that paved the way for Arizona’s participation in the system-wide Colorado River DCP agreements in May 2019. The results of the historic shortage-sharing agreement will govern river operations through the end of 2026. … ”  Read more from the Arizona Department of Water Resources here:  In with the new: Arizona water community takes on new Colorado River challenges

Work to protect Colorado River is far from done, says Tom Buschatzke:  He writes, “When U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman hailed the Drought Contingency Plans signed last year as “historic,” we wholeheartedly agreed. The plans were the product of years of discussion, negotiation and compromises among water users throughout the Colorado River Basin.  The DCP agreements specified reductions by the seven states that share water from the Colorado River, and Mexico, would take. In order to complete and implement the agreements, Arizona developed its own unique process reflecting Arizona’s diverse interests. … ”  Read more at the Arizona Capital Times here: Work to protect Colorado River is far from done, says Tom Buschatzke

Colorado’s oldest water rights get extra protection from state engineer:  “For the second time, the state’s top water cop has directed the Western Slope’s oldest and most valuable water rights to be left off the once-a-decade abandonment list. That means hundreds of these mostly irrigation water rights have been granted immunity — even though they are no longer being used — from the threat of “use it or lose it,” further enshrining them in the state’s system of water administration and dealing a blow to the validity of the well-known adage. ... ”  Read more from Vail Daily here:  Colorado’s oldest water rights get extra protection from state engineer

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National Water and Climate Update

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.


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Sunday video …

Blooming Sacramento Valley sunflowers:  “Beautiful and an important crop in the Sacramento Valley – Sunflowers from M3 Ranches in Yolo County. John Hannon video.”  From the folks at Sacramento Valley.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook this weekend …

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Image credit: Early morning on the Sacramento River by Locke; Photo by Sharon Mollerus

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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