DAILY DIGEST, 8/25: PPIC Report: Making the most of water for the environment; Q&A: A faster track for ecosystem restoration; 4 reasons meadow restoration is good for all of us; New water affiliates group forms at Scripps’ Center For Western Weather And Water Extremes; and more …


Good morning!

On the calendar today …

FREE WEBINAR: Fish predation on a landscape scale from 9am to 1oam

California’s Central Valley salmon populations are in decline, and it is believed that one of the major contributors to these declines is low survival during residence in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. With this study, researchers were able to put predation risk estimates in the context of their impacts on migrating juvenile salmon, allowing them to assess the potential success of different potential survival-enhancing management actions.  Click here to register.

FREE WEBINAR: Leveraging species genomes to support climate change adaptation at 10:30am.

This lecture will feature three talks covering ongoing studies on targeting genetics to support species’ adaptation to climate change. Dr. Blair McLaughlin and Dr. Jessica Wright will discuss the potential for assisted migration and dispersed field gene banks in various California species, and Dr. Patricia Maloney will discuss using local and diverse seed sources to create drought-resilient restoration projects in Sierra Nevada conifers.  Click here to register.

FREE WEBINAR: Exploring Multiple Benefit Recharge Opportunities from 12pm to 1pm

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have been working together to explore managed aquifer recharge opportunities that will deliver three benefits: migratory shorebird habitat, groundwater recharge, and flood risk reduction. The study is modeled on TNC’s successful implementation of its BirdReturns program which has created over 60,000 acres of temporary wetland habitat in the Central Valley since 2014.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

PPIC Report: Making the most of water for the environment: a functional flows approach for California’s rivers

In California, water and land management activities have substantially altered river flows and degraded river channels and their floodplains. The result has been a precipitous decline in native fish populations, including the collapse of valued salmon fisheries, and widespread imperilment of freshwater biodiversity. Environmental flows—flows in rivers and streams necessary to sustain ecosystem health—are essential to reversing these trends. Yet many rivers in California lack environmental flows. And for those rivers with such protections, environmental flows are typically established at static minimum levels, which fail to preserve the natural seasonal and interannual variability of flow that sustains healthy ecosystems. A new approach to managing environmental water is needed.  Building on previous PPIC work in this area, we recommend a “functional flows” approach for managing water for the environment. … ”  Read more and download report at the PPIC here: Making the most of water for the environment: a functional flows approach for California’s rivers

Q&A: A faster track for ecosystem restoration

California’s rivers and aquatic species are in trouble, but restoration projects often get bogged down by lengthy permitting processes. Sustainable Conservation has been at the forefront of finding ways to speed up badly needed restoration projects with improved permitting. We talked to Erika Lovejoy—director of Sustainable Conservation’s Accelerating Restoration program—about efforts to simplify the regulatory process while upholding essential environmental protections.  PPIC: Why is it necessary to improve permitting for ecosystem restoration? … ”  Continue reading at the PPIC here:  Q&A: A faster track for ecosystem restoration

two people standing amongst tall trees.4 reasons meadow restoration is good for all of us

Meadows are often the subject of beautiful photographs and paintings, with colorful grasses swaying in the wind and creeks winding through the scene. But beyond their beauty, meadows provide important services to people and wildlife.  “Meadows are a great form of green infrastructure,” said Ian Vogel, a wildlife biologist in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sacramento Field Office. “They clean our air, contribute to a reliable water supply and provide essential habitat for wildlife.”  Vogel is part of a network of federal and state agencies and environmental groups known as the Sierra Meadows Partnership. The partnership creates and implements strategies to restore meadows throughout the Sierra. … ”  Read more from the US FWS here:  4 reasons meadow restoration is good for all of us

New water affiliates group forms at Scripps’ Center For Western Weather And Water Extremes

Atmospheric river storms cause 40-60 percent of annual precipitation and roughly 85-99 percent of flood damages on the West Coast. With atmospheric rivers vital to water supply and the main drivers of flooding, the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes (CW3E)at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego this month has formed the Water Affiliates Group (WAG), a new annual membership program that brings together water agencies and other water resource stakeholders to share best practices in forecast informed reservoir operations,  better understand atmospheric river storms and drought, and strategize ways to improve water management that mitigate flood risk and increase water supply reliability.  …

Click here to continue reading this press release.

Many water operations in the West are strictly regulated by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-approved water control manuals based on long-term averages of winter storms and spring runoff. A few private reservoirs in the region have used weather forecasts in operations. These manuals have traditionally operated on calendar-year directives to lower reservoir levels in October to make room to prevent winter storm runoff floods and raise levels in April, if it rains. A new federal policy now allows water managers to incorporate forecasted conditions in planning water operations and in updates to water control manuals, allowing operators to leverage advances in weather and water forecasting to better adapt to anticipated drought or storm conditions. 

CW3E is a leader in Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO), which uses data from watershed monitoring and modern weather and water forecasting to help water managers determine the best course of action for retaining or releasing water from reservoirs depending upon the forecasted conditions. There are on-going FIRO projects at Russian River Basin (Lake Mendocino), the Santa Ana River Basin (Prado Dam), and the Yuba-Feather River Basins (New Bullards Bar and Oroville). As forecasting skill improves, and with more frequent and greater extremes in floods and droughts likely in the future climate, FIRO is aiding reservoir operators in developing procedures for leveraging improved forecasts within established guidelines. 

“The vision for the new Water Affiliates Group is to develop a strong network of like-minded water leaders to strategize and execute plans for research and applications developments that support best practices in forecast-informed water operations, and pioneer innovative solutions in water supply management that ultimately preserves public safety and saves money for ratepayers, ”said F. Martin (Marty) Ralph, director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at Scripps and a leading researcher studying atmospheric rivers.  

There are six founding partners of the Water Affiliates Group: Irvine Ranch Water DistrictOrange County Water DistrictSan Diego County Water AuthoritySonoma WaterTurlock Irrigation District, and Yuba Water Agency. Members of the Water Affiliates Group have the opportunity to share their perspectives with CW3E scientists and other water districts at the annual workshops and conferences that the Center convenes. 

CW3E has numerous tools and technologies that members of the Water Affiliates Group can use to augment water research and methods of implementation. These tools include research on water supply reliability, flood management, greenhouse gas mitigation, groundwater recharge, public safety, observations, forecasting, decision support, climate outlooks (months- to decades-long), and hazard assessment. 

To learn more about the CW3E Water Affiliates Group,  visit the CW3E websiteand contact Gwen Nero, Director of Corporate Affiliates, Business Development, Industry Outreach, and Innovation at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at gnero@ucsd.edu.  

Commentary from founding partners on the new Water Affiliates Group:

“Ensuring water supply reliability is incredibly important for today’s water leaders.  The Water Affiliates Group has been formed at the right time and will help shepherd in a new level of industry networking and top-notch research that will support successful water operations throughout the state.” – Steven E. LaMar, Board of Directors, Irvine Ranch Water District

“We value our partnership with the Water Affiliates Group because it is a testament to true collaboration. Water and government agencies and leading researchers have come together to enhance water management to make California more resilient during times of drought,” stated Orange County Water District President Vicente Sarmiento.  “As part of this effort, the Orange County Water District is studying the feasibility of increasing water capture behind Prado Dam which would allow us to capture and use an additional 20,000 acre-feet, or 6.5 billion gallons, of stormwater in a wet year. This creates a new local water supply that is enough for 160,000 people―a tremendous benefit to our region that makes us less reliant on costly imported supplies.”

“This partnership with Scripps Institution of Oceanography underscores our commitment to strategic, science-based decision-making and long-term planning. By supporting advances in forecasting, we can more efficiently and effectively manage water resources both locally and statewide. This ultimately will benefit everyone in California by helping sustain our economy and quality of life.” — Jim Madaffer, Board Chair, San Diego County Water Authority

“Sonoma Water has worked with CW3E since its inception to brainstorm, create and implement successful state of the art water management tools, many that are being replicated across California. In the era of climate change, adaptation is mission critical.  Our partnership with CW3E as a founding member exemplifies the trust and ongoing support needed to meet these challenges together,” said Grant Davis, general manager, Sonoma Water.

“Turlock Irrigation District has been utilizing Scripps’ atmospheric river data to inform our reservoir operations for the last few years. Using this data has proven invaluable to our operations, improves public safety, and provides tremendous value to our customers,” said Turlock Irrigation District General Manager Michelle Reimers. “We are thrilled to be founding members of the Water Affiliates Group, and are excited to enhance our relationship with Scripps and continue using the latest technology to inform our water operations.”

“Our partnership with Scripps has been extremely productive and beneficial,” said John James, Yuba-Feather FIRO co-chair and Water Project Manager for Yuba Water Agency. “As a member of the new Water Affiliates Group, it’s exciting to continue to grow Scripps involvement with the Agency and leverage the remarkable research they provide for the benefit of both the people of Yuba county and the state.”

DWR, partner agencies, provide free water education resources for distance learning

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) and its partners are providing learning resources to support water education while many California families are dealing with the challenges of distance learning. These free supplementary materials include workbooks, posters, and activity guides for teachers, educators, and parents, as well as online programs such as Water Wednesdays.  “Water touches every aspect of our lives,” said DWR Water Education Specialist Kathy Schulz. “DWR is proud to provide teachers, students, and parents with educational resources at this challenging time. Learning about how water directly impacts our everyday lives – from the food we eat, to the electrical power in our homes, to public health and recreational opportunities – is a key part of a well-rounded curriculum.” … ”  Read more from DWR News here: DWR, partner agencies, provide free water education resources for distance learning

Orange County family on the hook for $4,400 bill claiming they used equivalent of 50 swimming pools’ worth of water

The Do family lives in a modest single-family home in Orange County.  His backyard is all artificial turf. Every two months, they get a water bill from the city of Garden Grove. The bill hovers around $80 for a two-month billing cycle.  But in March, they got quite the shock when a bill came in the mail charging them more than $4,000 for 760,000 gallons of water usage. … ”  Read more from CBS 2 here:  Orange County family on the hook for $4,400 bill claiming they used equivalent of 50 swimming pools’ worth of water

Study finds wastewater treatment plants could profit by processing food waste while reducing greenhouse gases

A new report issued today by the California Environmental Protection Agency shows that at least half of California’s landfill-bound food waste could be processed at the state’s wastewater treatment plants and serve as an innovative power source.  Waste can be “co-digested” at these facilities, which involves adding organic wastes including municipal food scraps and industrial food processing wastes such as chicken blood to a facility’s anaerobic digester.  Building on a survey of the nearly 225 wastewater treatment plants in California, the report finds that many have the existing anaerobic digestion capacity to accommodate diverted food waste. While maximizing the use of that excess capacity would require additional infrastructure investments, the report shows such investments would benefit California’s economy while advancing environmental goals.

Click here to continue reading this press release from Cal EPA.

“We release this report just as California is experiencing the very real impacts of climate change,” said Jared Blumenfeld, California’s Secretary for Environmental Protection. “As our environmental problems become more tangled, we have to start planning for cross-cutting solutions like this. Co-digestion can be a triple threat against climate change: it can reduce organic waste in landfills while cutting greenhouse gas emissions and helping to clean wastewater.”

The report estimates the statewide capital investments required to use the co-digestion capacity range between $900 million and $1.4 billion. The net benefits to the state could be up to $255 million each year. 

Maximizing co-digestion capacity could reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 2.4 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent per year. That’s more than half of the emissions from landfills that California committed to reducing by 2030.

“The report’s findings are very promising,” said State Water Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel. “It shows California’s wastewater treatment plants have the existing anaerobic digestion capacity to accommodate at least half of California’s landfilled food waste—likely more. We look forward to working with our industry partners to get more of these projects off the ground.”

The full report can be found on the SB 1383/Organics Diversion/Co-Digestion resource webpage.

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California wildfires …

Wildfires across Northern California devastate farmers and farmland

On Tuesday night, Judith Redmond was alarmed by the thick brown smoke that clouded the air as she drove the 75 miles back from the Berkeley farmers’ market to Full Belly Farm in the Capay Valley. By Wednesday morning, she woke up to the ridge surrounding the valley engulfed by an inferno—part of what has become known as LNU Lightning Complex Fires—creeping dangerously close to the valley floor. Weathered by the 2018 County Fire, Redmond began to think logistics: how would she ensure the safety of her workers and neighbors with health conditions and animals that need to be moved? … ”  Read more from Civil Eats here: Wildfires across Northern California devastate farmers and farmland

California’s new normal: how the climate crisis is fueling wildfires and changing life

The orange glow from wildfires in the evening sky is a new way of life in the Golden State.  A lightning siege of over 12,000 strikes in 10 days ignited over 600 wildfires. Two of which have exploded into two of the top three largest wildfires in California history.  More than 1 million acres have already burned. That is an area five times the size of New York City.  Vast forests of dead trees have become tinderboxes, the result of years of warming temperatures, droughts and beetle-infestations. … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento here:  California’s new normal: how the climate crisis is fueling wildfires and changing life

Redwoods survive wildfire at California’s oldest state park

When a massive wildfire swept through California’s oldest state park last week it was feared many trees in a grove of old-growth redwoods, some of them 2,000 years old and among the tallest living things on Earth, may finally have succumbed.  But an Associated Press reporter and photographer hiked the renowned Redwood Trail at Big Basin Redwoods State Park on Monday and confirmed most of the ancient redwoods had withstood the blaze. Among the survivors is one dubbed Mother of the Forest.  “That is such good news, I can’t tell you how much that gives me peace of mind,” said Laura McLendon, conservation director for the Sempervirens Fund, an environmental group dedicated to the protection of redwoods and their habitats. … ”  Read more from the AP here: Redwoods survive wildfire at California’s oldest state park

Modeling wildfire risk in 2020 and beyond

It is only the beginning of the 2020 wildfire season and already there have been 20,351 U.S. wildfires between Jan. 1 and June 12. Compare this to 16,630 fires during the same period in 2019, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).  As many as 90% of the wildfires in the United States are caused by people, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior. Some are caused by unattended campfires, burning of debris, downed power lines, negligent discarding of cigarettes, and intentional arson. … ”  Read more from TD World here:  Modeling wildfire risk in 2020 and beyond

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In commentary today …

Gov. Newsom must clarify his Delta tunnel plan, says Bruce Babbitt

He writes, “Gov. Gavin Newsom recently released his Water Resilience Plan, a platform of 142 proposals gathered from state agencies to manage and improve California’s  water future.  The big ticket items are two infrastructure projects: the Delta conveyance tunnel and Sites Reservoir, alongside the Sacramento River.  Each project is designed to deliver large amounts of water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to Southern California. However, neither Newsom nor the project sponsors are prepared to say just how much more water.  … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here:  Gov. Newsom must clarify his Delta tunnel plan, says Bruce Babbitt

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Dry wells, angry neighbors: Big Springs residents protest water trucking for illegal marijuana grows

More than 100 people gathered in front of the Mayten Fire Department in Montague Saturday morning to protest the trucking of water from local wells, most likely to irrigate illegal cannabis grows in the Big Springs and Mt. Shasta Vista areas.  More than a dozen wells in the area have recently gone dry and residents blame much of it on the pumping. … ”  Read more from the Mt. Shasta News here:  Dry wells, angry neighbors: Big Springs residents protest water trucking for illegal marijuana grows

Suit filed over expansion of Terra Bella’s ARO’s expansion

Wonderful Pistachios, the nation’s largest farmer and largest pistachio processor, has sued Tulare County over the expansion of a rival’s operation west of Terra Bella.  Wonderful filed the suit in Tulare County Superior Court last month. … In its suit, Wonderful claims the building permits issued violate the California Environmental Quality Act. … ”  Read more from the Porterville Recorder here: Suit filed over expansion of Terra Bella’s ARO’s expansion

Ridgecrest: Water agency approves 7,000-percent cost increase

A protest vote over the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s basin pricey replenishment fee failed last Friday.  The Authority voted 4-1 to pass the replenishment fee despite significant public opposition.  The Authority did not release the number of Proposition 218 protest votes submitted by the public.  Although residential users will see an estimated $24 per month increase, Searles Valley Minerals will see a 7,000-percent increase in water costs. … ”  Continue reading at the San Joaquin Valley Sun here:  Water agency approves 7,000-percent cost increase

What works in the Santa Clarita Valley: Our water supply, says Maria Gutzeit

” … You know what has worked, without fail, for more than 26 years? Our local water services. Some, but not all, folks lost water service due to the Northridge earthquake in 1994. Since then upgrades, mostly to storage tanks, have been installed to better withstand seismic activity. Earthquakes aren’t the only things planned for, however.  We have plans in place to ensure water availability in event of public safety power shutoffs or localized damage to pumping equipment. … ”  Read the full commentary at The Signal here:  What works in the Santa Clarita Valley: Our water supply

San Diego: Real estate sellers aren’t required to disclose sea level rise risk

Though it’ll be decades before the sea truly swallows parts of San Diego’s coastline, we already know which properties are at risk. The city studied it. The U.S. Geological Service studied it.  Yet in California, and most of the country for that matter, there’s no requirement to disclose anything about sea level rise or coastal flooding between buyer and seller during a real estate transaction.  This is important because the city of San Diego is hoping to lease out a big chunk of property in the Midway District, which includes the Pechanga Arena. … ”  Continue reading at the Voice of San Diego here: Real estate sellers aren’t required to disclose sea level rise risk

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In national water news today …

The Trump administration is advancing clean, reliable, and affordable hydropower

Since the beginning of this Administration, President Trump has demonstrated his commitment to modernizing our Nation’s infrastructure. Under his leadership, the Trump Administration has been implementing a One Federal Decision policy to improve coordination between Federal agencies on environmental reviews for major infrastructure projects, including water projects.  The President has specifically directed Federal agencies to work together to expedite ongoing environmental reviews in the western United States in order to meet the demands of water users, including to provide reliable water supplies for farms, families, businesses, and fish and wildlife; reduce flood risks; and generate dependable hydropower. He has also directed agencies to work together to encourage innovation, research, and the development of technology that improves water management. … ”  Continue reading press release from the White House here: The Trump administration is advancing clean, reliable, and affordable hydropower

Paying for extreme weather: wildfire, hurricanes, floods and droughts quadrupled in cost since 1980

” … The cost of this year’s fires—the first of which have so far burned their way across more than 1,400 square miles, destroyed hundreds of structures and are still not close to being contained—can’t even be guessed at. Fire season is just beginning. And global warming is going to make it worse, according to a new analysis commissioned by the nonprofit advocacy organization Environmental Defense Fund that looks at the cost of climate-linked natural disasters.The report details how the financial impacts of fires, tropical storms, floods, droughts and crop freezes have quadrupled since 1980.  … ” Read more from Inside Climate News here:  Paying for extreme weather: wildfire, hurricanes, floods and droughts quadrupled in cost since 1980

Ocean forecast: blobs on the horizon

” … Marine heatwaves like the Blob have cropped up around the globe more and more often over the past few decades. Scientists expect climate change to make them even more common and long lasting, harming vulnerable aquatic species as well as human enterprises such as fishing that revolve around ocean ecosystems. But there’s no reliable way to know when one is about to hit, which means that fishers and wildlife managers are left scrambling to reduce harm in real time.  Now, oceanographers are trying to uncover what drives these events so that people can forecast them and so minimize the ecological and economic damage they cause. … ”  Read the full article at Hakai Magazine: Ocean forecast: blobs on the horizon

Thousands allowed to bypass environmental rules in pandemic

Thousands of oil and gas operations, government facilities and other sites have won permission to stop monitoring for hazardous emissions or otherwise bypass rules intended to protect health and the environment because of the coronavirus outbreak, The Associated Press has found.  The result: approval for less environmental monitoring at some Texas refineries and at an army depot dismantling warheads armed with nerve gas in Kentucky, manure piling up and the mass disposal of livestock carcasses at farms in Iowa and Minnesota, and other increased risks to communities as governments eased enforcement over smokestacks, medical waste shipments, sewage plants, oilfields and chemical plants. … ”  Read more from the AP via WHAM here:  Thousands allowed to bypass environmental rules in pandemic

Up to half the world’s water supply is being stolen, a troubling report reveals

Our planet’s water supply is an incredibly valuable resource that we need to protect, and worrying new figures show between 30-50 percent of it is being stolen – meaning that water isn’t paid for or counted. This theft occurs when people and companies obtain water illegally – often for agricultural purposes. That could mean getting treated water that should be paid for free of charge, or obtaining water in ways that go against environmental guidelines. … ”  Read more from Science Alert here: Up to half the world’s water supply is being stolen, a troubling report reveals

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And lastly …

Great Lake water transfers appear best lasting solution to Colorado River overuse, says Lake Havasu’s Today’s News Herald

They write, ” … Forget trans-basin water diversions that are popular in the wet Northwest and to a lesser extent in the upper Colorado River. Those balance use and need in relatively small regions.  A water purchase and infrastructure to move water from the rising Great Lakes to the Southwest is an audacious, bold, expensive and complex solution that is absolutely needed. The Great Lakes are at their highest level ever. The Southwest is as dry as it can be.  That’s how markets are made. Communities along the Great Lakes are suffering damage from the high water and would like to get rid of some. Arizona, Nevada, etc. can help. … ”  Read the full editorial at Today’s News Herald here:  Great Lake water transfers appear best lasting solution to Colorado River overuse

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Today’s featured articles …

BLOG ROUND-UP: What’s missing in the Delta cost estimate, Water Blueprint proposes valley-wide sales tax, Faster track for restoration, Old readings on California water, and more …

Click here to read this article.


DELTA CONVEYANCE PROJECT: The Delta Independent Science Board discusses the upcoming environmental review

Back in April of 2020, the Delta Independent Science Board (DISB) submitted a letter to the Department of Water Resources during the comment period for the Notice of Preparation for the Delta Conveyance Project.  The letter indicated that the Delta Independent Science Board planned to review the environmental impact report for the Delta Conveyance Project as part of their legislative mandate in the 2009 Delta Reform Act to provide scientific oversight of programs that support adaptive management.  In addition, the letter shared insights and expectations based on the previous review of the environmental documents for both the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and the California Water Fix.

The Department of Water Resources came to the August DISB meeting to provide an overview of the project including timeline and review process, as well as some thoughts on the Board’s letter.

Click here to read this article.

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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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