DAILY DIGEST, 8/6: Report assesses urban water demand forecasts in CA; A proposal to end surcharges on water bills is up for a vote, utility companies fight back; Will SGMA severely affect growers in NorCal?; Study: Forest thinning boosts downstream water availability; and more …


Good day!

On the calendar today …

  • FREE WEBINAR: Stormwater Matters: Increasing Water Supplies While Reducing Pollution from 10:15 to 11:45 am.  Stormwater capture is a water quality and supply “twofer.” Hear how water agencies, cities and others are ensuring that storms as well as dry weather flow and first flush don’t go to waste.  Presented by the Southern California Water Coalition.  Click here to register.
  • ONLINE MEETING: Delta Model Users Group from 1pm to 3:30pm.  Agenda items include presentations on data collection and data quality.  Click here for the full agenda and meeting access information.
  • SGMA Watershed Coordinator Grant Program Workshop from 1:30 to 2:30pm.  The Department of Conservation will host a workshop to answer potential applicants’ questions about the SGMA Watershed Coordinator Program application. Please RSVP to wcp@conservation.ca.gov to register.

In California water news today …

Report: An assessment of urban water demand forecasts in California

In California, urban per capita water demand has declined dramatically over the past several decades, driven in part by greater uptake of water-efficient devices. These reductions have important implications for estimating future water demand. However, failure to account for the long-term trend of declining per capita water demand has led to routine overestimation of future water demand. This can lead to unnecessary and costly investment in unneeded infrastructure and new sources of supply, higher costs, and adverse environmental impacts.  This report examines the accuracy of long-range water demand forecasts for California’s 10 largest urban water suppliers. … ”  Read more from the Pacific Institute here: Report: An assessment of urban water demand forecasts in California

A proposal to end surcharges on water bills is up for a vote, and utility companies fight back.

Water utilities across California, including those serving Monterey County, have collected an estimated $1 billion in surcharges slapped onto the bills of ratepayers since 2008.  The surcharges are part of a pilot program intended to promote conservation – but the program has failed and should be replaced, according to California Public Utilities Commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves. She is proposing a change that will come to a vote at the CPUC meeting on Aug. 6.  If approved, the new policy would mean a reduction of 10-15 percent on water bills for customers of California – American Water on the Monterey Peninsula, where bills are among highest in the country, and those of California Water Service in Salinas, according to an analysis by CPUC’s Public Advocate’s Office. … ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly here: A proposal to end surcharges on water bills is up for a vote, and utility companies fight back.

Will SGMA severely affect growers in Northern California?

There’s always more water in Northern California purchase central California. So how would the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) impact growers there?  We’re speaking with Franz Niederholzer, a Colusa County farm advisor with UC Cooperative Extension. He’s looking at almonds and walnuts in his area. Regarding SGMA, will it be an issue? “I think so. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here: Will SGMA severely affect growers in Northern California?

Study: Forest thinning boosts downstream water availability

Forest-management actions such as mechanical thinning and prescribed burns don’t just reduce the risk of severe wildfire and promote forest health — these practices can also contribute to significant increases in downstream water availability.  New research from the University of California, Merced’s Sierra Nevada Research Institute (SNRI) provides the tools to help estimate and verify those changes. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Study: Forest thinning boosts downstream water availability

Water company to pay $5M for hazardous waste violations

A California company that produces Crystal Geyser bottled water was sentenced Wednesday to three years of probation and ordered to pay $5 million in fines for illegally storing and transporting hazardous waste, federal prosecutors said.  The waste was produced by filtering arsenic out of Sierra Nevada spring water at CG Roxane LLC’s facility in the Owens Valley, authorities said. … ”  Read more from US World News & Report here: Water company to pay $5M for hazardous waste violations

SEE ALSO: Crystal Geyser water bottler ordered to pay $5 million criminal fine for illegal storage, transportation of arsenic-laced waste, press release from the US District Attorney’s Office

New engineering research center to focus on agriculture technology

By 2050, the U.S. population is estimated to grow to 400 million, and the world population to 9.1 billion, requiring a 70 percent increase in global food production.  UC Merced is one of four campuses across the country uniting to meet that challenge by harnessing the power of innovation and technology to develop precision agriculture for a sustainable future.  Led by the University of Pennsylvania, UC Merced, Purdue University and the University of Florida received a new, $26 million, five-year National Science Foundation Engineering Research Centers (ERC) grant to form the NSF Engineering Research Center for the Internet of Things for Precision Agriculture (IoT4Ag). ERC are NSF’s flagship engineering programs for convergent research to address large-scale societal challenges. … ”  Read more from UC Merced here:  New engineering research center to focus on agriculture technology

Water, sand and plenty of elbow room on 8 wild, protected coastlines

” … The principal focus of the seashores and lakeshores is recreation. Many of the sites also allow off-road vehicles and sport hunting — activities that are forbidden in national parks. And while the heat of summer makes these wild shores ideal destinations, most can also be explored throughout the fall and winter.  From California to Cape Cod, here are eight of the most scenic seashores and lakeshores in the National Park Service. ... ”  Read more from the New York Times here: Water, sand and plenty of elbow room on 8 wild, protected coastlines

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Mendocino County: Purple urchin removal program begins after COVID delay

It was supposed to start in the spring: A two-pronged effort to test the efficacy of urchin removal — versus urchin crushing.  The removal is being done by commercial divers in deep water in Noyo Harbor and at Caspar Cove. The crushing is done by volunteer divers in shallow areas off Caspar Beach.  But then, like most plans in 2020, COVID-19 interfered. … ”  Read more from the Fort Bragg Advocate-News here:  Purple urchin removal program begins after COVID delay

Zone 7 starts ozone treatment of musty drinking water at Del Valle Water Treatment Plant

The annual musty taste and odor in summer tap water in the Tri-Valley has returned, but Zone 7 Water Agency this week brought in a new solution.  “I am very happy to announce that the ozonation treatment at Del Valle Water Treatment Plant is fully online,” Zone 7 General Manager Valerie Pryor said.  The change in taste and odor are the result of algal blooms in the lakes and streams that supply water to wholesaler Zone 7 and its customers — Valley retailers Livermore and Pleasanton city water departments, Dublin San Ramon Services District (DSRSD) and the private California Water Service in Livermore. ... ”  Read more from the Livermore Independent here: Zone 7 starts ozone treatment of musty drinking water at Del Valle Water Treatment Plant 

Loss of eelgrass in Morro Bay may be causing widespread erosion, Cal Poly study finds

The large-scale loss of eelgrass in Morro Bay may be causing widespread erosion, potentially leading to future shoreline and coastal habitat changes, according to a new Cal Poly study.   Morro Bay’s iconic eelgrass beds provide the estuary’s primarily living habitats, but since 2007 the bay experienced a massive die-off, losing more than 90% of its eelgrass, according to a news release from Cal Poly. … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here: Loss of eelgrass in Morro Bay may be causing widespread erosion, Cal Poly study finds

Paso Robles: Authorities arrest 5, seize estimated $5 million in cannabis in North County grow operation

Last Thursday and Friday, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office along with partner agencies investigated two illegal trespass cannabis grows in North San Luis Obispo County. The cultivation sites were located in the area of Parkhill Road and Huer Huero Road east of Santa Margarita. Detectives harvested various stages of cannabis plants being illegally cultivated.  Members of the Sheriff’s Special Operations Unit, Sheriff’s Cannabis Enforcement Unit, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Homeland Security Investigations, Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), Cal Fire, Code Enforcement, California Department Food and Agriculture (CDFA) – Cal-Cannabis, and the U.S. Forest Service Bureau of Land Management were involved in the investigations. … ”  Read more from the Paso Robles Daily News here:  Authorities arrest 5, seize estimated $5 million in cannabis in North County grow operation

Santa Barbara City Council discusses grant for Desalination Plant Project

The Santa Barbara City Council unanimously passed a motion at its meeting on Tuesday to introduce and subsequently adopt an ordinance of the council authorizing the city administrator to execute a grant funding agreement with the State of California Department of Water Resources in the amount of $10 million for the reactivation of the Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant Project.  They also directed staff to establish a dual purpose designated reserve for the plant to fund capital maintenance and modifications of the desalination plant facilities, and to mitigate the potential repayment risk associated with accepting the grant. … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent here:  Santa Barbara City Council discusses grant for Desalination Plant Project

Fishing the L.A. River is more than a quarantine hobby. For some, it’s therapy

“It’s my new therapy,” Bryant Recinos says before raising his fishing rod and whipping a hook tipped with a single corn kernel — plunk! — into the swirling blue-brown water of the Los Angeles River on an early Saturday evening.  Recinos, 24, exudes calm and patience. At the beginning of the shutdown, he bought his first fishing rod and other gear, and started coming to Elysian Valley’s verdant stretch of the 51-mile river a couple of times a week. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Fishing the L.A. River is more than a quarantine hobby. For some, it’s therapy

Southern California: WRD approves construction of two new monitoring wells

The Water Replenishment District (WRD) is embarking on a project to construct two new wells as part of WRD’s Regional Groundwater Monitoring Program (RGWMP). Because groundwater, water contained in deep underground aquifers, cannot be directly observed; WRD must track it through deep wells and specialized monitoring equipment.  This project is made possible through a partnership with the United States Geological Survey (USGS). WRD’s partnership with the USGS saves millions of dollars in ratepayer funds. … ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here: Southern California: WRD Approves Construction of Two New Monitoring Wells

Poseidon’s Huntington Beach desalination plant still in choppy waters

As Poseidon Water pursues the final government approvals needed to build one of the country’s biggest seawater desalination plants, the company still cannot definitively say who will buy the 50 million gallons a day of drinking water it wants to produce on the Orange County coast.  That’s one of several questions that continue to dog the $1-billion Huntington Beach project as Poseidon tries to seal an iron-clad deal more than two decades after it first proposed the ocean desalter. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Poseidon’s Huntington Beach desalination plant still in choppy waters

Orange County: ‘You can just sense the life that’s out there’: Important habitat restored by Irvine Ranch Conservancy

California gnatcatchers, coastal cactus wren and a host of other species may soon return in droves to an Irvine canyon that had been decimated by wildfires and hundreds of years of cattle grazing.  Bee Flat Canyon now has the habitat these species need after a decadelong restoration project by the Irvine Ranch Conservancy.  “I want to see these native species, be it plant or animal, thrive and endure in the way that they have in Southern California for centuries,” said Robert Freese, a project manager for the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. “My hope is that they will continue to be here in another 200 to 300 years. It’s really important that people see how California used to look before humans got here and altered it so severely.” … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  ‘You can just sense the life that’s out there’: Important habitat restored by Irvine Ranch Conservancy

Orange County: Water supply remains safe, sufficient as pandemic endures

August is Water Quality Month, a perfect time to educate ourselves about how and why we can rely on clean water each time we turn on the tap. Groundwater from your local Orange County groundwater basin makes up about 77% of the total water needed for consumers. Your city or water agency buys about 23% of imported water from Northern California or the Colorado River to make up the difference.  The heart of the Orange County Water District’s (OCWD; the District) 87-year mission is to provide high-quality groundwater supplies for the 2.5 million people in north and central Orange County. … ” Read more from Event News here: Orange County: Water supply remains safe, sufficient as pandemic endures

Imperial Irrigation District scores another win in court battle with farmer Michael Abatti

A California appellate court on Wednesday denied Imperial Valley farmer Michael Abatti’s request for a rehearing in his long-running legal fight with the Imperial Irrigation District over control of Colorado River water. The decision could likely spell the end to his legal challenges.  The court had ruled in mid-July that IID, the single-largest user of Colorado River water, was the rightful manager and distributor of the millions of acre feet that are diverted to the far southern valley every year via an intricate system of canals. In doing so, the three-judge panel overturned a 2017 ruling at the trial court level that said area farmers had a protected right to the water they historically used. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here: Imperial Irrigation District scores another win in court battle with farmer Michael Abatti

Click here for the statement from the Imperial Irrigation District.

Today, the Fourth Appellate District Court of Appeals issued its decision denying a petition for rehearing in the Michael Abatti, et al. v. Imperial Irrigation District case.  In its unanimous decision of July 16, 2020, the Fourth District Court of Appeals affirmed the owner of the Imperial Valley’s water rights is the Imperial Irrigation District. While this was the core finding in its unanimous decision, the three-judge panel went further and reversed the 2017 ruling by Imperial County Superior Court Judge Brooks Anderholt in favor of Abatti, who had sued the District over its 2013 Equitable Distribution Plan.

“As we have said all along, and the court agrees, the owner of the Imperial Valley’s water rights is the Imperial Irrigation District. The owner of the district is the people that it serves. We are very pleased to learn the court has denied the petition for a rehearing but we are prepared to continue defending against any future efforts to relitigate this historic decision,” stated Norma S. Galindo, IID board president. She continued, “In response to the petition for rehearing, the court clarified some language of the original decision and our attorneys’ initial reaction is that the changes make it even stronger in favor of the district.”

Click here to view/download the court document.

San Diego: Maintenance cause of Lake Poway’s water drop

Water levels at Lake Poway are temporarily lower due to maintenance.  A planned maintenance project has left the lake looking a little reduced, but it should not affect fishing, according to city officials.  The project involves replacing a transducer, which measures the lake’s water level.  “Lake Poway is an important asset to the City of Poway and requires constant monitoring,” said Eric Heidemann, director of public works. “One of the tools we use is the transducer, which sends real-time data on the lake’s level allowing us to monitor the inflows, outflows and evaporation of the lake.” ... ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here:  San Diego: Maintenance cause of Lake Poway’s water drop

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In commentary today …

Wayne Western Column: Newsom’s water plan previews a future Calif. that ignores history – at its peril

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom released the final version of the state’s Water Resilience Portfolio. State agencies such as the Natural Resource Agency, California Environmental Protection Agency, and California Department of Food and Agriculture have gone through the daunting task of assembling an extensive, multi-faceted water plan for the future of California.  It lays out general plans and a path forward on topics such as safer drinking water, groundwater recharge, healthy habitats, fish and environmental restoration, wastewater, storm-water, pollution, sea level rise, changing water quality standards, voluntary agreements, and more. … ”  Read more from SJV Sun here: Wayne Western Column: Newsom’s water plan previews a future Calif. that ignores history – at its peril

Tunnel plan poses threat to North San Joaquin Valley, says Dennis Wyatt

He writes, “The COVID-109 pandemic isn’t slowing work aimed at moving arguably the most cantankerous water project ever proposed in California since voters overwhelmingly rejected the Peripheral Canal in 1982 — the Delta Tunnel Project.  Originally envisioned as twin tunnels by former Gov. Jerry Brown, it has been repurposed as a single tunnel by Gov. Gavin Newsom. It would divert water from the Sacramento River before it enters the Delta and move it underground to a point near the pumps northwest of Tracy. The pumps send water out of the basin and into the California Aqueduct to start its journey to urbanized Southern California and massive farms — including many that are corporate owned — in the Southern San Joaquin Valley. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here: Tunnel plan poses threat to North San Joaquin Valley

OC desal facility deserves a permit, says the OC Register

They write, “Poseidon Water first proposed its desalination plant in Huntington Beach in 1998, only a few years after California had emerged from a drought.  By the time the company received its original operating permit in 2006, the state was soon heading into yet another drought. The Regional Water Quality Control Board now is considering wastewater-discharge permits for the plant not long after the state emerged from one of the most grueling droughts in our history. … ”  Read more from the OC Register here:  OC desal facility deserves a permit, says the OC Register

AB 3030 fails to recognize marine protections that exist in California, say Marc Gorelnik, Chair of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, and Mike Conroy, Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations

They write, “We Californians are rightfully protective of our environment. Unfortunately, our ecological ethic is not widely applied around the globe.   In much of the world’s oceans, meaningful protections are absent. There are a variety of reasons: corrupt governments, lack of management and enforcement resources, and the simple lack of appreciation of the mutual benefits of a healthy, abundant ecosystem. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here:  AB 3030 fails to recognize marine protections that exist in California

AB 3030 protects biodiversity, increases opportunities for access to nature, says Drevet Hunt, senior attorney at Natural Resources Defense Council

He writes, “Just because you say it, doesn’t make it true.  Assembly Bill 3030 does not restrict fishing or hunting access, even though that’s what opposition material would have you believe.  Instead, this timely bill brings together the important goals of protecting and conserving biodiversity and increasing opportunities for access to nature for all.  A basic reading of the plain language in the bill reveals there is no mandate to close fisheries.  Instead, AB 3030 includes an affirmative requirement to improve access for recreational fishing and hunting, and is silent on commercial activities. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here:  AB 3030 protects biodiversity, increases opportunities for access to nature

You can put a price tag on environmental and economic returns from protecting rangeland, say Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture and Michael Delbar, CEO of California Rangeland Trust

They write, “As California continues to respond to the challenges of COVID-19, some people are cautiously venturing out into the state’s abundance of open spaces, while hopefully wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and practicing other safe behaviors.   From parks to rangeland, our state’s open spaces provide a variety of aesthetic and recreational benefits that it’s next to impossible to put a price tag on.  Much of that open space is also used for grazing, providing the benefit of locally sourced beef to kitchen tables across the state. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: You can put a price tag on environmental and economic returns from protecting rangeland

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In national water news today …

Millions of Americans are in water debt

Margurite McNeill, a Black woman who is 83, lives in a brick-sided, two-story house in Northwest Baltimore that her husband bought a half century ago.  Soft spoken and composed, McNeill recalled changes in the neighborhood. Older neighbors dying, younger people moving in. In the city as a whole, more gun violence and killings. Some of the early stability seemed to be slipping away. “It’s just, everything’s just, different everything,” she said.  Except her water bill until very recently. McNeill never thought much about the utility payment, which was typically about $40 a month. She receives about $1,000 a month from Social Security, and her grandson helps out with finances when needed. ... ”  Read more from the Circle of Blue here: Millions of Americans are in water debt

Officials warn of increasing cyber threats to critical infrastructure during pandemic

Senators and other energy sector officials warned Wednesday that foreign adversaries are continuing to target the U.S. electric grid, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has only underscored the dangers.  “The threat of cyberattacks by foreign adversaries and other sophisticated entities is real and it’s growing,” Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said Wednesday during a committee hearing on cyber threats to the grid. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created a unique opportunity for cyber criminals to attack our networks, including critical energy infrastructure.” … ”  Read more fromThe Hill here:  Officials warn of increasing cyber threats to critical infrastructure during pandemic

Trump faces another challenge to rewrite of bedrock environmental law NEPA

A coalition of environmental groups on Thursday filed suit against the Trump administration, challenging its rollback of a bedrock environmental law.  The suit, spearheaded by the Natural Resources Defense Council on behalf of eight other groups, is the third to contest the July rollback of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which for 50 years has required thorough environmental reviews before major projects like pipelines and highways could be approved. … ”  Read more from The Hill here: Trump faces another challenge to rewrite of bedrock environmental law NEPA

‘Sluggish’ agency slow to act on toxic baby products

Often described as “nonstick” chemicals, the presence of PFAS in kitchenware has become more widely known as environmental groups have raised alarms about their toxicity.  One place consumers might not expect to find the highly toxic class of substances? Baby products.  Recent studies have found per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in crib mattresses and car seats, with experts warning they could also be used in practically any fabric that promises to be stain resistant — an attractive notion for unassuming parents. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: ‘Sluggish’ agency slow to act on toxic baby products

Pipeline plan could mean fewer stream protections, critics say

Oil and gas developers may be able to build more pipelines and face fewer needs to protect streams and wetlands if the Army Corps of Engineers moves forward with a plan to change some Clean Water Act permits, according to environmental consultants.  Under the Aug. 3 proposal, companies would no longer be required to notify the Corps if the pipelines they lay require clearing of forested wetlands, or building access roads longer than 500 feet with fill material dredged from streams or wetlands or with impervious materials. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here: Pipeline plan could mean fewer stream protections, critics say

Making comprehensive water resources modeling more accessible

The growing global population and continued economic development will likely require a significant increase in water demand, especially in developing regions. At the same time, climate change is already having global, regional, and local impacts on water availability. Ensuring that the changing supply can meet the continuously growing demand without compromising the sensitive aquatic environments from which it is derived, is clearly a huge challenge that will require strategies and policies informed by science.  In order to aid in the accurate assessment of water supply and the demands of both people and the environment, IIASA researchers have developed a large-scale hydrological and water resources model ̶ the Community Water Model (CWatM). ... ”  Read more from Water Online here: Making comprehensive water resources modeling more accessible

Supreme Court’s 2020–2021 Preview: Interstate water rights

As climate change accelerates, clashes between states over water rights are heating up due to this resulting strained resource. The only court with authority to adjudicate these interstate disputes is the U.S. Supreme Court. In the 2020–2021 session, the Court likely will issue rulings that could alter the landscape of interstate water disputes and impact millions of people and thousands of businesses who rely on interstate water resources. A preview of the four cases slated for the 2020–2021 session and potential implications follows. … ”  Read more from JD Supra here: Supreme Court’s 2020–2021 Preview: Interstate water rights

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Today’s featured articles …

ACWA CONFERENCE: Commissioner Brenda Burman: “We are keeping our promises, and we are doing what we said we would do.  And we are not done.”

At the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) virtual conference last week, one of the keynote speakers was the Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman.  Commissioner Burman has more than 25 years of experience in water and natural resources, including previously serving as Reclamation’s Deputy Commissioner for External and Intergovernmental Affairs and as the Department of Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Water and Science.  Commissioner Burman was nominated for her position by President Trump and confirmed by the US Senate in November of 2017, making her the 21st Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation and the first woman to assume this post.

In her keynote address, Commissioner Burman ran down the list of the Bureau’s accomplishments as well as what is in the works for the rest of 2020.

Click here to read this article.


SCIENCE NEWS: Rethinking Bay-Delta fish trends by combining multiple surveys; Evaluating non-native fish populations in the San Joaquin River; The secret life of water after a wildfire; and more …

Click here to read this article.

 

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

WATER PLAN eNEWS: ~~Water Data~ Tribal Conference~ Draft PSP~ Annual Report~ Water Presentation~ Forest Stewardship~ Valley Infrastructure ~~

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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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