DAILY DIGEST, 8/3: Wildfires can poison drinking water – here’s how to be prepared; 2012-2016 drought retrospective and lessons learned; Rethinking Bay-Delta fish trends by combining multiple surveys; Water bills would fundamentally change under proposal headed for CPUC; and more …

Good morning!

In California water news today …

Wildfires can poison drinking water – here’s how communities can be better prepared

In recent years wildfires have entered urban areas, causing breathtaking destruction.  The 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise and Butte County, California was the deadliest and most destructive fire in California’s history. It took 86 lives and destroyed more than 18,000 structures in a matter of hours.  Almost two years later, only a fraction of the area’s 40,000-plus population has returned. This disaster followed the 2017 Tubbs Fire, which killed 22 people in California’s Sonoma and Napa counties. … ”  Read more from The Conversation here: Wildfires can poison drinking water – here’s how communities can be better prepared

Drought and the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, 2012–2016: Environmental review and lessons

Droughts are common in California. The drought of 2012-2016 had no less precipitation and was no longer than previous historical droughts, but came with record high temperatures and low snowpack, which worsened many drought impacts. Water supplies for agriculture and urban users statewide struggled to meet water demands. Conservation and rationing, increased groundwater pumping and a diversified economy helped keep California’s economy robust in most sectors. The drought degraded environmental conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) as the region became saltier and warmer, invasive weeds spread, and iconic fishes like salmon and Delta smelt had strong declines. … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here: Drought and the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, 2012–2016: Environmental Review and Lessons

Zooming out: Rethinking Bay-Delta fish trends by combining multiple surveys

The San Francisco Bay-Delta is among the most intensively studied ecosystems in the world. Numerous long-term fisheries monitoring programs have been conducted there since the late 1950s, but differences in the methods, scope, spatial coverage, and timing of these surveys make it difficult to compare and combine the data collected. As a result, researchers often rely on data from only one or a few of these surveys to identify patterns and draw conclusions about species trends. This fragmented approach provides an incomplete picture, which in turn can lead to incorrect inferences. To attempt a more holistic use of available information, a recent study by researchers from the University of California, Davis combined data from numerous surveys into multi-survey indices (Stompe et al. 2020). These indices could help more accurately detect trends in fish populations, and using them to reexamine existing hypotheses suggests that some commonly held beliefs about the Bay-Delta ecosystem, such as the Pelagic Organism Decline, may need to be reevaluated. … ” Read more from FishBio here: Zooming out: Rethinking Bay-Delta fish trends by combining multiple surveys

When does a groundwater recharge project NOT need a water right?

Groundwater recharge projects already play an important role in California. That role is about to expand rapidly, as local groundwater managers begin to take more concrete actions to meet their responsibilities under California’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).  As we mentioned in our last post, an important part of developing a successful recharge project is securing a source of water and the legal right to use it.  In that post, we described the surface water right permit options administered by the State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) that are potentially available for new groundwater recharge projects.  We also mentioned the central role of permitting, and water rights oversight more broadly, in ensuring that water diversion and use doesn’t harm other water users or uses.  But is a water right always necessary?  Below we explore when a recharge project might not need a water right at all (short answer: it’s complicated…and more than a little unclear)—and why it matters. … ”  Read more from the Legal Planet here: When does a groundwater recharge project NOT need a water right?

Water bills would fundamentally change under proposal headed for CPUC

Some Bakersfield residents’ water bills will be fundamentally restructured, with big cost implications, if the California Public Utilities Commission votes Thursday to end an experiment that 12 years ago erased a financial incentive to sell people more water.  Under the proposal, California Water Service and other investor-owned utilities would no longer bill customers a surcharge covering the cost difference between expected and actual water usage. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here: Water bills would fundamentally change under proposal headed for CPUC

Several factors increasing northern pistachio acreage, including SGMA

Pistachio acreage has blossomed in Northern California over the last several years, and advisors believe for several reasons.  UC Cooperative Extension Orchard Advisor Katherine Jarvis-Shean serves Yolo, Solano, and Sacramento Counties and said pistachio plantings are increasing exponentially in the Sacramento Valley.   “When I first started this job six years ago, there were about 500 acres of pistachios in my tri-county region,” Jarvis Shean said. … ”  Read more and listen to the radio report from Ag Net West here: Several factors increasing northern pistachio acreage, including SGMA

Tired of wells that threaten residents’ health, a small California town takes on the oil industry

In September 2018, Estela Escoto sat down with a team of lawyers and community organizers and weighed her options.   Escoto’s town—Arvin, California—had just granted an oil drilling and well-servicing company, Petro-Lud, a permit to drill four new wells near a neighborhood densely packed with young families and a park where children played soccer.   Escoto, president of an environmental justice group called the Committee for a Better Arvin, was frustrated, but not surprised. For years, she and the committee had been struggling to keep oil and gas development out of their neighborhoods. … ”  Read more from Inside Climate News here:  Tired of wells that threaten residents’ health, a small California town takes on the oil industry

Representative TJ Cox’s Provisions to repair the Friant-Kern Canal, other conveyance facilities pass in House funding bill

Last week, the House voted on, H.R. 7617, the FY 2021 Six-Bill Appropriations Minibus. This package includes the following six appropriations bills: Defense; Commerce-Justice-Science; Energy and Water Development; Financial Services and General Government; Labor-HHS-Education, and Transportation-HUD. Rep. TJ Cox (CA-21) has been fighting for Central Valley priorities, like water infrastructure. The Central Valley’s lack of access to a reliable water supply is unacceptable. As the nation’s top food producer, the Valley’s need for water infrastructure solutions is imperative for the health and well-being of all Americans. After nearly two years of determined effort, Rep. TJ Cox secured $225 million in funds to help repair the canals affected by aging or land subsidence.  Rep. Cox is making sure our taxpayer dollars return to the Valley in order to fund the programs most critical to our communities.  … ”

Click here to continue reading this press release.

Funding for conveyance facilities secured by Rep. TJ Cox includes: 

  • $200 million in emergency infrastructure funding for the repair of critical Reclamation canals where conveyance capacity has been impaired by age or land subsidence – like Friant-Kern and Delta-Mendota Canals. 
  • An additional $25 million address the reduction in conveyance capacity of Bureau of Reclamation canals, up $5 million more than last year. 

The Friant-Kern and Delta-Mendota Canals have lost up to 60 percent and 15 percent of their conveyance capacity, respectively. This funding provided in the House bill also includes specific funding of $71 million for the Friant-Kern and $3 million for the Delta-Mendota Canal, advocated for by Rep. TJ Cox and identical to the administration’s request. The bill would represent a major commitment to repair the federal conveyance facilities critical for delivering water to farms and communities across the arid West.  

“We all know that water is important, but to the Valley? Water is our lifeblood. Generations of Valley families have tilled the earth to produce food for the world, and yet, there is hardly enough water to keep those crops alive,” said Rep. TJ Cox. “This funding is long overdue, so I am thrilled to share that the Friant-Kern Canal will finally have an opportunity to secure much of the federal funding required to address land subsidence. With these funds, the Valley would take a major step toward greater water supply reliability.” 

Last year, Rep. TJ Cox brought Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva to the Central Valley to tour the Friant-Kern Canal and see the impacts of damaging land subsidence firsthand. Rep. TJ Cox subsequently introduced the Move Water Now Act, H.R. 5316, which would authorize $200 million to fix canals that have lost conveyance capacity due to land subsidence, such as the Friant-Kern Canal. Through Rep. TJ Cox’s efforts, the Move Water Now Act passed out of the Natural Resources Committee and passed the House as part of H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act.  

These funds come on top of $79 million in new funding for water storage under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act. Also included in the bill is $89 million in funding for six specific projects in California that were advocated for by Rep. TJ Cox, which includes the previously mentioned specific funds for the Friant-Kern and Delta-Mendota Canals. 

Action on this bill now lies with the Senate, which must introduce and pass its version. The differences between the two bills then need to be reconciled before being enacted. 

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Boaters told to leave Folsom Lake Marina by mid-August

“The water level at Folsom Lake is dropping by nearly half a foot each day, and soon boaters who rent a slip at Folsom Lake Marina will have pull their boats out.  Marina managers told the tenants they should plan on removing their boats from the water by around Aug. 16, which is when the lake is expected to sink to an elevation of 412 feet above sea level. Below that elevation, water at the marina’s slips becomes too shallow to dock boats. … ”  Read more from KCRA here:  Boaters told to leave Folsom Lake Marina by mid-August

Montecito groundwater basin levels still recovering from California drought

The groundwater levels within Montecito’s basin are still recovering from California’s recent drought, according to the Montecito Water District.  The district’s spring groundwater monitoring program, using 55 public and private wells, found that the levels rose 3-to-18 feet in each storage area of the basin since last year.  That’s progress, but it is still far below historic wet weather levels, groundwater specialist Nick Kunstek said. The six-year statewide drought was declared over in 2017, although conditions lingered in Santa Barbara County. … ”  Read more from Noozhawk here:  Montecito groundwater basin levels still recovering from California drought

Questions raised over water official who took money from interests pushing desal project she’s voting on

Regional water board member Kris Murray is on track later this week to vote on a controversial desalination plant sponsored by a company and interest groups she took money from during past political campaigns.   State regulators have identified more than $6,000 in campaign contributions that Murray fundraised for her Anaheim city council campaigns in 2014 and 2015 and county supervisorial in 2018 from the project’s parent company, Poseidon Water, and two trade unions who voiced support for the project in recent years.  Environmental activists say they have identified thousands more in contributions that are connected to Poseidon’s project that state regulators should have considered as connected but didn’t. ... ”  Read more from the Voice of the OC here: Questions raised over water official who took money from interests pushing desal project she’s voting on

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Along the Colorado River …

Can the Colorado River keep on running?

“Maybe you’re brushing your teeth; perhaps you’re rinsing your dishes; you could be watering your plants. When you turn on your faucet in parts of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, or California, there’s a good chance you’re drawing water from the Colorado River. But the days of this mighty waterway may be numbered, along with the free-flowing access to freshwater from the faucet for one in ten Americans that it affords. The average annual flow of the Colorado River has decreased 19 percent compared to its 20th century average. Models predict that by 2100, the river flow could fall as much as 55 percent. The Colorado River, and the people it sustains, are in serious trouble. ”  Read more from National Geographic here: Can the Colorado River keep on running?


Report: Coal and water conflicts in the American West

Burning coal to generate electricity consumes large quantities of water, which exposes the electric utilities that operate coal plants to water supply risks. Large coal plants consume millions of gallons of water each day, which can also lead to legal disputes and conflicts with other water users, increased costs when water supplies are disrupted, and other challenges. Those water conflicts and risks are magnified in the American West, where water supplies are already scarce and increasingly threatened by persistent drought and hotter temperatures driven by climate change. … This report explores the water supply risks facing coal plants in the American West, and the conflicts and legal disputes over water that have already arisen between communities and the utilities that operate coal plants. We show how much water each coal plant in the Western U.S. consumed in recent years, and estimate how much more water each will consume until its closure. And we discuss key water supply risks facing particular coal plants in the American West, based on documents filed with the SEC and state utility regulators, annual reports, local news articles, and correspondence with utilities in the region. … ”  Read more and access report from the Energy and Policy Institute here: Report: Coal and water conflicts in the American West

Colorado’s abandonment list incentivizes water users to take share, exemplifies complex policies

Use it or lose it.  That saying is at the heart of how access to water is managed in the western U.S. Laws that govern water in more arid states, such as Colorado, incentivize users to always take their full share from rivers and streams, or risk the state rescinding it. The threat comes in the form of a once-a-decade document that lists those users on the brink of losing their access to one of the region’s most precious resources.  It’s called the Decennial Abandonment List – and being included on it strikes fear and paranoia into rural pockets of the state, where farmers and ranchers depend on water for their livelihoods. Farmers trade tales of neighbors who’ve been mistakenly listed, with a notice sent to a wrong address, and who eventually see their water rights effectively canceled. … ”  Read more from Cronkite News here: Colorado’s abandonment list incentivizes water users to take share, exemplifies complex policies

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In national water news today …

Why should your business be interested in nature-based solutions for watersheds?

As large users of natural resources, including water, the private sector has disproportionate impacts and dependencies on natural capital1. These impacts and dependencies play out across physical, reputational and regulatory factors, and across the interface between company risks and risks due to a particular watershed. All of these issues affect private sector bottom lines and long-term well-being.  The private sector has a critical role to play in addressing many environmental, social, and economic challenges faced today. To this end, a multi-organizational project (including the CEO Water Mandate, the Pacific Institute, The Nature Conservancy, Danone, and LimnoTech) is looking to understand the opportunities for businesses to invest in nature-based solutions (NBS) to address societal challenges. … ”  Continue reading at the Pacific Institute here: Why should your business be interested in nature-based solutions for watersheds?

Water rate reviews & long-term financial planning: lessons from covid-19

With the multitude of challenges the world has faced in 2020, primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact, many water utilities are rethinking their approach to rate reviews and long-term financial planning. As both residential and CII customers look for rate relief and/or payment deferrals, utilities are adjusting to both temporary and potentially permanent revenue losses, looking for alternative revenue sources, and updating cash reserve policies in an attempt to both address the current situation and better prepare for a similar crisis in the future.  Even during times of economic stability, our customers tell us that water rate reviews are time-consuming, difficult, and often expensive. The result is that they tend to either hire consultants to do rate reviews infrequently or they do more regular in-house reviews that lack depth. Some water service providers avoid rate reviews altogether. Either way, they’re left woefully unprepared for the revenue uncertainty caused by a situation like the one we currently face. … ”  Read more from Water Finance & Management here: Rate Reviews & Long-Term Financial Planning: Lessons from COVID-19

Farmers across the world worried about climate change impacting their crops

The Flores family has been farming dates for three generations.  For the past few years, Marco Flores, owner of San Marcos Date Farm, says he’s seen major changes in temperature and weather patterns.  “It’s drier than it used to be,” he said of the land his father bought in California’s Coachella Valley more than 55 years ago. “It used to be a lot more moist before.”  These are conditions his 300 fruit-producing palm trees don’t like.  “Sometimes there’s no rain,” Flores said. “The impact of climate change is definitely doing something to them.” … ”  Read more from the Denver Channel here: Farmers across the world worried about climate change impacting their crops

Everyone loves the chat box: How climate science moved online

In mid-April, hundreds of scientists from around the world were supposed to fly to Ecuador for a five-day meeting about the latest research on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. … But the pandemic forced the IPCC to hold April’s in-person meeting online. Smaller scientific gatherings scheduled for the spring and summer also met remotely.  It was an inadvertent test of a question that has loomed over international climate science for years: can climate experts support the United Nations effectively without requiring scientists to fly all over the world for meetings? … ”  Read more from Valley Public Radio here: Everyone loves the chat box: How climate science moved online 

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Weekend Daily Digest …

This weekend in California water news,

  • California’s coast is vanishing due to land subsidence;
  • Are shrimp-flavored dog treats the answer to keeping Lake Tahoe blue?;
  • They tried to tame the Klamath River. They filled it with toxic algae instead.;
  • Cache Creek flood control continues advancing;
  • Monterey: Water district asks state for Carmel River cutback relief;
  • Amador County will not pursue lawsuit against CDCR as talks continue on Mule Creek contamination;
  • Celebrating public recreation and shorebird conservation at Surf Beach in Santa Barbara County;
  • The Los Angeles River as you’ve never seen it — in augmented reality;
  • House-passed bill includes nearly $385 million to fix Whittier Narrows Dam;
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries propose regulatory definition of habitat under Endangered Species Act;
  • And more …

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: Draft Prop 68 Sustainable Groundwater Management Implementation proposal solicitation package open for public comment

SGMO NEWS: New funding opportunities, Read DWR articles on groundwater level change maps and stream gages, and more …

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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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