DAILY DIGEST, 9/22: Autumn arrives on North Coast with hot, dry weather in store, low reservoirs; Last minute loan keeps drinking water projects afloat; How California’s wildfires are changing; California, the most calamitous place on earth, says Mark Arax; and more …

On the calendar today …

SALTON SEA: Community Input Online Meeting from 1pm to 3pm

The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) has released a draft Project Description for the Salton Sea Management Program Phase I: 10-Year Plan.  This is the first of a series of three virtual workshops to solicit community input on the draft Project Description goals and objectives as well as the sizes, locations, and types of projects being proposed and anticipated impacts. The state is also seeking feedback about how the public would like to access the Sea and what compatible community amenities should be prioritized.  Click here to register.

WEBINAR: Urban Water Supplier Reporting Tool from 1pm to 3pm

The State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board)will hold a public webinar to discuss updates to the Urban Water Supplier Reporting Tool. Interested persons can provide input at the online meeting or via email to the contacts specified in the notice.   Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

In California water news today …

Autumn arrives on North Coast with hot, dry weather in store, low reservoirs

Sun-baked mud is cracking along the bare margins of Lake Mendocino, the reservoir near Ukiah that helps sustain river flows for imperiled fish and supply water to 600,000 people in Sonoma and Marin counties.  The shoreline is about 100 yards out, leaving the boat ramp near Coyote Valley Dam high and dry. No people were in or on the water Monday, and geese were feasting on whatever the lake bed gave up.  As autumn begins Tuesday, the reservoir, a longtime destination for campers, boaters, swimmers and anglers, has receded considerably from its nearly 2,000-acre expanse as an overheated, arid, fiery and smoky summer gives way to another season of the very same torments. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  Autumn arrives on North Coast with hot, dry weather in store, low reservoirs

Update on potentially strong atmospheric river forecast to impact the Pacific Northwest

Unfortunately, no precipitation forecast for California.  “Forecast agreement between models and ensemble members has increased in the magnitude, duration, and location of AR conditions in association with the potentially strong AR forecast to make landfall this week … ”  Read the update from the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes here: Update on potentially strong atmospheric river forecast to impact the Pacific Northwest

Last minute loan keeps drinking water projects afloat

Small, failing drinking water systems got a funding life preserver among a flurry of budget bills at the chaotic end of the California legislative session.  Drinking water advocates had fretted the Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) program, intended to help struggling water systems in mostly poor, rural areas, would fall victim to the pandemic-flattened economy.  But a last minute loan from the Underground Storage Tank Clean-Up Fund will ensure SAFER receives its full $130 million — at least this coming fiscal year. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Last minute loan keeps drinking water projects afloat

Calif. approves new treatment method for removing nitrate from groundwater

An innovative process that uses naturally occurring bacteria to remove nitrate from contaminated groundwater has received approval from California’s State Water Board as a treatment method.  The validation stems from a recent pilot study of the Hall BioProcess™ by MIH Water Treatment, Inc. (MIH) and the San Antonio Water Company (SAWCO) in Upland, California. … ”  Read more from Water World here:  Calif. approves new treatment method for removing nitrate from groundwater

Feds release environmental review for Friant-Kern Canal project

The federal government has taken another step toward fixing the Friant-Kern Canal.  The Bureau of Reclamation Friday released the environmental impact review on what it would take to fix a 33-mile stretch of canal.  Since the project was completed in 1951, the canal has lost upwards of 60% of delivery capacity along certain stretches of the waterway, according to a press release from the Bureau of Reclamation. ... ”  Read more from The Business Journal here:  Feds release environmental review for Friant-Kern Canal project

OpenET: Transforming water management in the U.S. West with NASA data

Building upon more than two decades of research, a new web-based platform called OpenET will soon be putting NASA data in the hands of farmers, water managers and conservation groups to accelerate improvements and innovations in water management. OpenET uses publicly available data and open source models to provide satellite-based information on evapotranspiration (the “ET” in OpenET) in areas as small as a quarter of an acre and at daily, monthly and yearly intervals. … ”  Read more from SciTech daily here: OpenET: Transforming water management in the U.S. West with NASA data

Agriculture and wildfire

Here’s a roundup of how the fires are impacting agriculture around the state, courtesy of the California Farm Bureau.  Timber, grazing and ranch lands appear to have borne the brunt of the agricultural impact so far from California’s destructive wildfires. A Cal Fire information officer says damage-assessment teams have begun their work, and county agricultural commissioners say a full accounting of the losses could take weeks or months. Smoke from the fires also threatens winegrapes, which can absorb chemicals that produce an off-taste in wine. … ”  Read more from Cal Ag Today here:  Agriculture and wildfire

How California’s wildfires are changing

This year’s fire season has already set records in number of acres burned, with months left to go. We asked fire scientist Crystal Kolden of UC Merced how California’s “firescape” is changing, and what we can do about it.  PPIC: How are wildfires in California changing over time? What are the drivers of change?  CRYSTAL KOLDEN: California has always had a lot of fire—both from lightning in the mountains and indigenous people utilizing fire for cultural and sustainability purposes. About a century ago the indigenous influence was stopped with the removal of tribes and the forced end of their burning culture. ... ”  Read more from the PPIC here:  How California’s wildfires are changing

Federal wildfire bill receives support from ag groups

A group of agricultural groups is supporting a federal wildfire bill that was recently introduced by Senators Diane Feinstein and Steve Daines. A coalition of 13 Western state Farm Bureaus along with the American Farm Bureau Federation sent a letter of support for the Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act of 2020. The legislation would provide federal land management with additional resources to address wildfire issues. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here: Federal wildfire bill receives support from ag groups

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In commentary today …

California water managers need more flexibility to move water when & where it’s needed most, says Jennifer Pierre, General Manager of the State Water Contractors

She writes, “The State Water Project is an indispensable lifeline to all of California, providing fresh, reliable water to 27 million residents, 750,000 acres of fertile agricultural land and dozens of industries – from retail to real estate – that form the backbone of our state’s economy. Seven hundred miles of canals, pipelines, reservoirs and hydroelectric power facilities deliver water daily from high in the Sierra Nevada mountains to communities from Northern California, San Joaquin Valley, San Francisco Bay Area, Central Coast and Southern California.  Twenty-nine public water agencies across the state contract with the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) to receive State Water Project water. These contracts have historically restricted water transfers and exchanges between water agencies and limited the flexibility for water management opportunities. … “

Click here to continue reading this commentary.

Today, our changing climate is straining water supplies with prolonged periods of drought followed by intense and unpredictable storms. Water supply reliability is dependent upon operational flexibility, and California water managers need all the tools available to effectively manage limited supplies, especially during times of uncertainty. 

For this reason, public water agencies and DWR have publicly negotiated amendments to their long-term water supply contracts in order to better plan the future of their local water supply portfolios. The amendments, which have undergone extensive environmental review and public comment, have been finalized and are now ready for adoption by public water agencies. 

The State Water Contractors applaud this coordinated and collaborative effort, which provides flexibility for single and multi-year non-permanent water transfers and exchanges. The contract amendments are prudent, reasonable and include clear oversight and transparency measures to ensure the process includes government accountability. Importantly, the amendments provide transparency and do not change State Water Project operations. They do not include any financial provisions for the Delta Conveyance Project or construction of new water facilities, and they do not require any new financial commitments from DWR, the State of California or public water agencies. 

Providing water agencies with the opportunity to better utilize regional water supply projects, when needed, by exchanging or transferring water amongst one another is one more step towards protecting our state’s most valuable asset, the State Water Project

California, the most calamitous place on earth, says Mark Arax

He writes, “I’ve lived in the middle of California for more than 50 years, which is another way of declaring my share of natural disasters. I’ve seen the land around me dragged through four long droughts, five big floods, a half-dozen earthquakes of 7.0 or higher and three of the 10 deadliest wildfires in U.S. history.  I’m now sitting in my home in Fresno on the edge of another historic blaze, the Creek Fire, counting the days for it to peter out, waiting for our collective amnesia to set down again like ash, so that Californians can go on with the madness of building in the same path of wildfire. … ”  Read more from the New York Times here:  California, the most calamitous place on earth

A clear warning about the Colorado River, says Dave Marston

He writes, “For the West this summer, the news about water was grim. In some parts of California, it didn’t rain for over 100 days. In western Colorado, the ground was so dry that runoff at first evaporated into the air. And in New Mexico and Nevada, the rains never came.  Bill Hasencamp is the manager of California’s Metropolitan Water District, which provides treated water to 19 million people. What was most unfortunate, he said, was that, “the upper Colorado Basin had a 100% snowpack, yet runoff was only 54% of normal.” In 2018, a variation happened — light snow and little runoff, which doesn’t bode well for the future.  What everyone wants to know, though, is who loses most if severe drought becomes the norm. … ”  Read more from the Salt Lake Tribune here: A clear warning about the Colorado River

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Neighbors of Laurel Creek upset Fairfield tore down beaver dam

Fairfield Public Works officials said debris from washed-out beaver dams has contributed to clogged culverts, caused flooding and eroded the creek banks – all potentially costly problems for the city.  “Beavers are, obviously, native to the area and they try to create an environment for themselves by building a dam,” Mike Gray, Public Works manager, said in a phone message left in response to questions by the Daily Republic.  … ”  Read more from the Daily Republic here: Neighbors of Laurel Creek upset Fairfield tore down beaver dam

Marin Voice: The next major wildfire could threaten our water supply, says Kimery Wiltshire

She writes, “The 2020 West Coast wildfire season has already caused such a large loss of human life with so many communities flattened, thousands of homes gone, millions of acres burned and wildlife habitat incinerated.  With it, the water supply for hundreds of thousands of people is now at risk.  We all know that Marin County is overdue for a major wildfire. A number of smart steps are being taken to mitigate that risk. What we’re not paying close attention to is what a catastrophic wildfire could do to our water supply. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here:  The next major wildfire could threaten our water supply

Water treatment plant damage means uncertainty for Shaver Lake residents

Shaver Lake residents are still unsure when they can return home.  Part of the issue is fire damage to the liners of the Waste Water Treatment Plant that supplies water to around 1400 units in Shaver Lake.  “Until that sewer plant is operational again we cannot repopulate those areas and have people up there for any amount of time,” said Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig. “If people run their sinks or flush their toilets it causes a big problem for that plant – which is currently not operational.” … ”  Read more from Your Central Valley here: Water treatment plant damage means uncertainty for Shaver Lake residents

SBVWCD launches unique habitat plan under rare Safe Harbor Agreement

In a first for the region, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) awarded a  Safe Harbor Agreement to the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District (SBVWCD) to temporarily remove the kangaroo rat from its degraded habitat in order to restore it – a  move designed to save the local population. Under the same agreement, an endangered plant, the Santa Ana River woolly star, was cultivated and is being planted in the new habitat area along with other native flora. … ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here:  SBVWCD launches unique habitat plan under rare Safe Harbor Agreement

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Along the Colorado River …

Despite dry monsoon season, reservoirs still full

This summer, the Valley saw only two days of rain — the lowest number of days ever on record.  As we head into fall, ABC15 spoke with Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources Tom Buschatzke about what impact the dry monsoon will have on the state’s reservoirs.  Buschatzke says close to 40% of the state’s water comes from the Colorado River and 17% comes from other rivers in Arizona. … ”  Read more from ABC 15 here: Despite dry monsoon season, reservoirs still full

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In national water news today …

Trump NOAA pick questions ties between climate change and extreme weather

The White House is appointing Ryan Maue, a meteorologist who has been vocal in questioning the science connecting climate change to extreme weather events, as the new chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), according to reporting from The Washington Post.  Maue, currently a meteorologist and developer at weathermodels.com, has amassed a significant twitter following by sharing maps and forecasts tracking the weather. … ”  Read more from The Hill here:  Trump NOAA pick questions ties between climate change and extreme weather

Ginsburg left a long environmental legacy

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday at age 87, helped establish critical Supreme Court precedent that empowered EPA to address the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change.  The landmark ruling she joined in 2007 that affirmed EPA’s power set up the Obama administration to issue rules limiting carbon pollution from cars, power plants and other sources — and set up a contentious legal battle over the extent of federal authority still being waged today. … ”  Read more from Politco here:  Ginsburg left a long environmental legacy

Microsoft’s latest environmental pledge tackles water scarcity

Microsoft plans to address dwindling water resources in its latest environmental pledge. Microsoft made a new commitment to replenish even more water than it uses for its global operations by 2030, making the company “water positive.”  For now, the commitment is more of an aspirational vision than it is a concrete plan. Microsoft hasn’t set out exact details for how it will give back more water than it uses up, and it hasn’t said how much it’s going to spend on the endeavor. “We’re going to invest as much as we need to meet that goal,” says Lucas Joppa, Microsoft’s chief environmental officer. “Companies that can do more, should do more.” … ”  Read more from the Verge here: Microsoft’s latest environmental pledge tackles water scarcity

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Today’s featured articles …

GUEST COMMENTARY: SGMA and IRWM – Successful Integration: How SGMA and IRWM Can Utilize Each Other’s Strengths

Guest commentary from Soua Lee, Program Manager of the Kings Basin Water Authority, on behalf of the IRWM Roundtable of Regions.

How does a region integrate Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), a program mandated by State legislation, with Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM), a voluntary collaborative effort, to implement regional water management solutions?

A question often asked, but with no definitive answer depending on who you ask. This article discusses how IRWM and SGMA share a similar approach that involves comprehensive management on a regional scale and provides examples of where the two programs are working together successfully.

Click here to continue reading this guest commentary.

BLOG ROUND-UP: Healthy headwaters after wildfire, voluntary agreement, measuring irrigated water use, best alternatives to toilet paper, and more …

Click here to read the blog round-up.

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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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