DAILY DIGEST, 9/25: Democrats decry federal inaction in Salton Sea hearing; CA faces dire consequences if climate change unaddressed, report warns; Why La Niña could make wildfire season worse; Vallecitos Water District files legal complaint against San Diego County Water Authority; and more …

On the calendar today …

MEETING: Central Valley Flood Protection Board beginning at 9am.

Agenda items include DWR monthly report, Board encroachment permit inspection, Flood preparedness, Great Valley Grasslands Restoration Project, and the Butte Slough Outfall gates project.  Click for full agenda and remote access instructions.

In California water news today …

Calif. Democrats decry federal inaction in Congress’ first hearing on Salton Sea in 23 years

In a congressional hearing Thursday that starkly illuminated partisan divides, California Democrats called on the federal government to provide greater assistance in remedying environmental and public health crises at the Salton Sea. All but one GOP members were absent, and the one who did attend criticized the organizers for holding the hearing.  Hosted by a water-focused subcommittee of the House Committee on Natural Resources, it was the first hearing Congress has held on the matter in 23 years. It came at the request of Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., and Rep. Juan Vargas, D-Calif., who represent the Coachella and Imperial valleys.  … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here: Calif. Democrats decry federal inaction in Congress’ first hearing on Salton Sea in 23 years

How the Salton Sea, once a leisure destination, became an ecological time bomb

The largest lake in California, the Imperial Valley’s Salton Sea, was once home to booming farming and fishing communities, not to mention a glittering tourist oasis in the desert that drew everyone from Hollywood’s top stars to working-class folk looking for an affordable vacation spot. More recently, however, the lake has begun to evaporate, the farms and the fish are gone, and what remains is a wasteland of ghost towns swept by toxic winds.  In the new film Miracle in the Desert: The Rise and Fall of the Salton Sea (available via VOD and DVD), documentarian Greg Bassenian explores an environmental tragedy that could impact a large swath of Southern California. … ”  Read more from LA Magazine here: How the Salton Sea, once a leisure destination, became an ecological time bomb

California faces dire consequences if climate change unaddressed, report warns

More than 500,000 Californians could die prematurely and the state could lose $4.5 trillion in the next 50 years if rising climate temperatures go unchecked, a new congressional report warns.  If the planet’s warming is kept below 2 degrees Celsius, however, those deaths could be avoided, and in 10 years, premature deaths caused by climate-change-fueling air pollution could be cut by a third. Those are the conclusions in a report unveiled Thursday by Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform subcommittee on environment, which is chaired by Rep. Harley Rouda, D-Laguna Beach (Orange County). … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  California faces dire consequences if climate change unaddressed, report warns

Click here to read the report.

Why La Niña could make wildfire season worse

The National Weather Service says that conditions are in place for a La Niña weather pattern in the fall and winter of 2020-21. That could bring warmer, drier than usual weather to San Diego over the next few months.  By definition, La Niña happens when the water along the equator is colder than usual. That pushes the jet stream farther north and directs storms away from the Pacific Southwest region of the United States.  Because of that, Southern California typically sees less rain during La Niña years. … ”  Read more from ABC 10 here: Why La Niña could make wildfire season worse

Global warming driving California wildfire trends – study

Climate change is driving the scale and impact of recent wildfires that have raged in California, say scientists.  Their analysis finds an “unequivocal and pervasive” role for global heating in boosting the conditions for fire.  California now has greater exposure to fire risks than before humans started altering the climate, the authors say. … ”  Read more from BBC here: Global warming driving California wildfire trends – study

Meet Luna: DWR’s four-legged resource for protecting California’s waterways

Her pointed ears, black and brown fur, and star-shaped badge may look like those of a California Highway Patrol K-9, but with a little digging (pun intended) you’ll discover she’s the Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) four-legged resource for protecting the Delta.  Through a partnership with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Law Enforcement Division – DWR is able to provide funding for Luna, a seven-year-old German Shepard from the Czech Republic, who is trained to protect her handler, apprehend suspects, and detect various threats to Delta species and environments. ... ”  Read more from DWR News here: Meet Luna: DWR’s four-legged resource for protecting California’s waterways

Q&A: When it comes to water access, the devil is the details

Greg Pierce is the Associate Director of the Luskin Center for Innovation at UCLA and serves as a Senior Researcher, leading the Water, Environmental Equity, and Transportation programs.  Q: Your research is centered on basic service provision, with a focus on water and transportation. Can you tell us a little more about your work?  A:  I started out over a decade ago focusing broadly on basic service access in urban areas in low and middle-income countries. I’m a social scientist through and through, and I got into water and transportation somewhat by coincidence. Because I was concentrating on what individuals, households, and communities need in terms of basic services, water was a natural fit. As I’ve gone on in my career, I’ve seen that you can’t look at things like water, other utilities, or transportation as single issues – a household that is dealing with water access is also likely to have a transportation access challenge. … ”  Read more from the Confluence here:  When it comes to water access, the devil is the details

Groundwater and allocation of native water

As the various Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) grapple with implementation of their Sustainability Plans, one of the more challenging issues they face is how to set up a groundwater allocation policy. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) specifically states that laws governing California water rights were not changed by the Act.  … GSAs have done studies to determine how much water can be sustainably extracted from the aquifer and many of them are now in the process of deciding how to allocate that volume of water. Obviously, there is not enough water to allow everyone to pump what they want. So, who gets access to the available supply? This is where the GSAs have been struggling. … ”  Read more from Water Wrights here:  Allocation of Native Water

Why we need water futures

Investors will be able to make wagers on the price of water later this year with the launch of futures contracts, which are expected to better balance supply and demand for the commodity and hedge price risks.  “The water sector had long wished for some market structure for price discovery and the ability to hedge risk,” says Deane Dray , a managing director and multi-industry analyst at RBC Capital Markets. “If this new futures contract shows promise, it could spawn more innovation in the futures market related to water.”  CME Group CME, 0.56% and Nasdaq NDAQ, 1.06% announced a plan on Sept. 17 to launch the Nasdaq Veles California Water Index futures contract, which will have a settlement price based on its namesake index, late in the fourth quarter of this year, pending a regulatory review. … ”  Read more from Market Watch here:  Why we need water futures

Update on active period of atmospheric rivers over the Pacific Northwest

As an AR is currently impacting the Pacific Northwest, two additional ARs are forecast to bring precipitation to the region and British Columbia. … ”  Read the update from the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes here:  Update on Active Period of Atmospheric Rivers over the Pacific Northwest

Research links sinking land to regions of high groundwater demand

Excessive pumping from underground aquifers can cause the surrounding land to sink and lead to damage to streets, bridges and other infrastructure, reduced groundwater storage, and contaminated drinking water, according to researchers at Missouri S&T. They are using a form of artificial intelligence known as machine learning to map the sinking – called land subsidence – to help water policy officials make informed decisions.  Dr. Ryan Smith, an assistant professor of hydrology in the geosciences and geological and petroleum engineering department at S&T, says rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns and increasing demand for freshwater are putting additional strain on aquifers. … ”  Read more from the Missouri S&T here:  Research links sinking land to regions of high groundwater demand

Reclamation launches online tool providing public access to water, power & environmental data

The Bureau of Reclamation has launched an online tool that makes water, power and environmental data readily available to the public. The Reclamation Information Sharing Environment, also known as RISE, provides searchable data and maps in the West.  “RISE is a tool for everyone to access a range of Reclamation’s water and power-related data in a single location,” said Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. “This is just the beginning as Reclamation continues to be responsive to users’ needs by expanding our data offerings and adding additional functionality. ” … ”

Click here to continue reading this press release from the Bureau of Relcamation.

The data available from RISE includes observed and modeled water operations data, hydropower data, endangered and invasive species and habitat monitoring data, water quality data, research results and reports, and more. For example, users will have access to daily reservoir storage and release data from the Lower and Upper Colorado Basins and the Missouri Basin with the California-Great Basin and Columbia-Pacific Northwest regional data coming soon. Also available will be hydropower generation data from facilities across the Western United States, water quality data from wells at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility, and small mammal monitoring data from the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Planning Area.

Reclamation previously shared data in various ways, ranging from posting data in machine-readable formats and pdfs on its website to mailing hard copies of data to interested groups or individuals. This presented a barrier for broad access and use of the data, as well as stakeholders and users not being aware of where or how to access data that they may need.

RISE is helping prioritize to get the most current data and information to our customers and the public. You can access RISE or learn more about the application at https://data.usbr.gov.

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In regional water news and commentary today …

House passes bill aiming to expedite Klamath dam removal

The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4447, the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act, on Thursday. Included in the act was the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement Tribal Fairness Amendment, spearheaded by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.). The amendment comes after Huffman hosted a forum on the health of the Klamath River in August, where he hinted that he would be introducing legislation to compel PacifiCorp to move forward with the terms of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement.  “The amendment is designed to safeguard Tribal communities against further harm to the Klamath River and its ecosystem and remediate existing problems in the Klamath River basin and downstream communities caused by four aging dams owned by PacifiCorp,” according to a news release. … ”  Read more from the Herald & News here:  House passes bill aiming to expedite Klamath dam removal

SEE ALSOHouse Passes Huffman Amendment on Klamath Dams, from the North Coast Journal

$37M+ tunnel to increase Manteca water reliability

A joint-supply canal put in place 110 years ago is at risk of cutting off water supplies to the cities of Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy as well as to 52,000 acres in the South San Joaquin Irrigation District.  Landslides over the years have blocked the movement of water in the canal that runs along the northern wall of the Stanislaus River canyon from Goodwin Dam where water is diverted to a point east of Knights Ferry where the canal departs from the canyon and water ultimately flows toward the in-district Woodward Reservoir. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here: $37M+ tunnel to increase Manteca water reliability

Apocalypse Now: Fire and Drought in the East Bay

This disquieting year can’t end soon enough, and sadly, we’re far from in the clear. After all, there are still a couple months left to add some more misery to the calendar.  What could make things worse, you may ask? How about a devastating fire season, or not enough rain? Oh, and the looming prospect of a “megadrought” is out 
there as well. Thankfully, local fire agencies are working hard to keep the fire danger under control in a season that has already seen historic destructive blazes, and water districts are doing their best to keep the water flowing freely. There are also plenty of steps that the average person can take to help mitigate the problems. … ”  Read more from Diablo Magazine here:  Apocalypse Now: Fire and Drought in the East Bay

Why is Cal Am still pushing for desal? asks Melodie Chrislock

She writes, “Cal Am just can’t take no for an answer. The Coastal Commission said no, the Peninsula said no, Marina said no. Now it asks us to believe it wants to work with us to find a solution. Really?  Cal Am continues to block the obvious solution. The expansion of Pure Water Monterey would lift the moratorium and give us plenty of water for economic recovery, long-term growth and the development of affordable housing. Decades of water restriction could be history in just 20 months. The only obstacle that stands in the way is Cal Am. Why? … “  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Why is Cal Am still pushing for desal?

San Luis Obispo County signals to feds its interest in owning Salinas Dam

San Luis Obispo County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are accelerating long-simmering talks to transfer ownership of the Salinas Dam into local hands—but many questions remain.  The World War II-era dam that forms Santa Margarita Lake serves as a drinking water source for the city of SLO. But it only delivers at half capacity because the Corps never installed the originally planned spillway gates. … ”  Read more from New Times SLO here:  San Luis Obispo County signals to feds its interest in owning Salinas Dam 

Vallecitos Water District files legal complaint against the San Diego County Water Authority, saying they failed to deliver desalinated water and overcharged Vallecitos

Today, the Vallecitos Water District filed a legal complaint against the San Diego County Water Authority (Water Authority) for failing to deliver desalinated water per its contract and ultimately overcharging Vallecitos nearly six million dollars.  As the Water Authority and Poseidon Resources were working to complete their highly touted Carlsbad Desalination Plant and actively recruiting partners to buy into the desalination plant to make it financially viable, Vallecitos stepped up to the plate. Vallecitos made a long-term, forward-looking investment of nearly $1.5 million to construct a dedicated pipeline in 2015 to directly bring desalinated water to Vallecitos customers. Vallecitos also entered into a contract with the Water Authority stipulating that the Water Authority would assume responsibility for managing and maintaining the pipeline and Vallecitos would commit to purchasing about 3,500 acre-feet of desalinated water a year. ... ”

Click here to continue reading this press release from the Vallecitos Water District.

In November of 2017, the Water Authority notified Vallecitos that a routine video inspection of the Vallecitos pipeline revealed a minor issue and that the Water Authority would be making the repairs. Vallecitos offered to take on fixing the issue with the pipeline from the Water Authority but was ultimately rejected. Instead, the Water Authority never resumed operating the desalinated pipeline and covertly delivered regular treated water for 16 months while continuing to charge Vallecitos the premium desalinated rate — overcharging nearly $6 million during the time when the pipeline was shutdown. Once notified of the situation, the Water Authority resumed operating the pipeline, demonstrating there was nothing wrong with the line and it should never have been out of service.

Unfortunately, Vallecitos had no way of knowing that the pipeline had still been shut down and the water they were receiving was replaced since there isn’t a separate meter or indicator to demonstrate water quality.4

“If you go to the gas station to fill your car with premium gas, you trust that the gas station has not replaced it with regular while charging you more — we should be able to put that same trust in our region’s trusted water leader,” said Glenn Pruim, General Manager of VallecitosWater District. “We built the pipeline, agreed to pay a premium for desalinated water and entrusted the Water Authority to serve as a responsible partner in managing the resources and infrastructure — but that is not what happened. It’s unfortunate that we are in this situation, however, our repeated attempts to work with the Water Authority on finding a fair and reasonable resolution to this matter have been ignored.”

Vallecitos’ legal complaint seeks to obtain reimbursement for the amount they were overcharged during the pipeline shutdown along with amendments to the original contract with the Water Authority to ensure that these troubling actions never happen again. Vallecitos remains open and willing to collaborate with the Water Authority on a reasonable and fair solution that benefits all parties.

To learn more about the issue, please click here.

New study supports water districts efforts to break from San Diego County Water Authority

“Earlier this year Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District officially filed “reorganization” applications the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) to detach from the San Diego County Water Authority, citing they could save millions of dollars annually and a recent study supports that effort. … ”  Read more from California Water News Daily here: New study supports water districts efforts to break from San Diego County Water Authority

Frustrated Imperial County Board floats renaming New River after Rep. Vargas

Frustration over years of federal inaction at the New River bubbled over during a recent local meeting when the idea surfaced of renaming the historically polluted New River after Congressman Juan Vargas, D-Chula Vista, and the bridge spanning the toxic waterway after Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California.  Two recent events sparked the conversation at the end of the Sept. 22 Imperial County Board of Supervisors meeting: the recent raw sewage spill into the New River and a “60 Minutes” special earlier this month about raw sewage flowing into the Tijuana River water shed, bringing pollution from Mexico into California. … ”  Read more from the Holtville Tribune here:  Frustrated Imperial County Board floats renaming New River after Rep. Vargas

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Along the Colorado River …

Opponents of Colorado River pipeline project view delay as progress

Regional water conservation groups and a Clark County commissioner welcomed a request by Utah officials Thursday to extend the federal environmental review of a controversial plan to divert billions of gallons of water from the Colorado River to southwest Utah.  In a joint letter, officials with the Utah Division of Water Resources and the Washington County Water Conservancy District asked the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for more time to consider feedback received from the public, neighboring states and others on the Lake Powell Pipeline. … ”  Read more from the Las Vegas Review-Journal here: Opponents of Colorado River pipeline project view delay as progress

How well do we understand numbers in the Colorado River basin?

Effective water-supply negotiation and river management are best served if Colorado River stakeholders are mindful of the precision and accuracy of the many components of the hydrologic cycle that affect the water supply of the Colorado River. As part of analysis for a recent white paper, we analysed the data reported by the Bureau of Reclamation and the U. S. Geological Survey that describe the primary inflows to Lake Powell and to the Colorado River between Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Mead, as well as the losses from both reservoir and the releases from Hoover Dam. We evaluated the uncertainty in those data and identified key locations where stream-flow information is essential to managing the water supply provided by the Colorado River. The significance of the uncertainties that we identify can be measured by reminding the reader that the annual consumptive uses by the state of Nevada cannot exceed 300,000 acre feet/year (af/yr). … ”  Read more from Utah State University here:  How well do we understand numbers in the Colorado River basin?

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In national water news today …

USDA will need 3 times more than current resources to mitigate, fight wildfires in 2021

The United States is enduring a devastating wildfire year. Fires have cut destructive swaths through California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and Arizona. As of September 17, according to the United States Forest Service (USFS), there have been 43,000 wildfires in the US that have burned more than 7.2 million acres, both public and private lands.  Nearly 4 million of those acres have burned in California. Since mid August, numerous large fires have been in and around very large communities in California and the Pacific northwest. Smoke impacts have been significant and widespread across the western United States.  Today in Washington DC, the Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing titled, “The 2020 Wildfire Year, Response and Recover Efforts.” … ”  Read more from the Sierra Nevada Ally here:  USDA will need 3 times more than current resources to mitigate, fight wildfires in 2021

Think 2020′s disasters are wild? Experts say the worst is yet to come

A record amount of California is burning, spurred by a nearly 20-year mega-drought. To the north, parts of Oregon that don’t usually catch fire are in flames.  Meanwhile, the Atlantic’s 16th and 17th named tropical storms are swirling, a record number for this time of year. Powerful Typhoon Haishen lashed Japan and the Korean Peninsula this week. Last month it hit 130 degrees in Death Valley, the hottest Earth has been in nearly a century. … ”  Read more from NBC News here:  Think 2020′s disasters are wild? Experts say the worst is yet to come

Mexican farmers revolt over sending water to US during drought

Mexican farmers in the drought-stricken state of Chihuahua are pitted against riot squads from the national guard in an increasingly violent standoff over their government’s decision to ship scarce water supplies to the United States.  The confrontation has already led to bloodshed: earlier this month, a woman was shot dead and her husband was wounded after guardsmen opened fire on farmers wielding sticks and stones. The Mexican government, meanwhile, has accused protesters of being backed by opposition politicians and sabotaging La Boquilla dam, which holds some of the water it wants to send north. ... ” The Guardian here:  Mexican farmers revolt over sending water to US during drought

ASU researchers find single-use contact lenses cause microplastic pollution

Three ASU researchers found that single-use contact lenses may be one of the major contributors to microplastic pollution.  Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering Director Rolf Halden, postdoctoral research scholar Charles Rolsky and graduate research assistant Varun Kelkar found single-use contact lenses to be a major source of microplastic pollution in a first of its kind study.  Contact lenses are made of silicone hydrogel plastic, which is a type of plastic introduced in the late 1990s and begun seeing usage in the early 2000s. … ”  Read more from the State Press here:  ASU researchers find single-use contact lenses cause microplastic pollution

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National water and climate update …

The Natural Resources Conservation Service produces this weekly report using data and products from the National Water and Climate Center and other agencies. The report focuses on seasonal snowpack, precipitation, temperature, and drought conditions in the U.S.


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Today’s featured articles …

SCIENCE NEWS: New Delta Lead Scientist’s outlook on Delta science; Nursing salmon on flooded farms; Critical zone science comes of age; Overlooked sea louse may be a big problem for salmon; and more …

Click here to read this article.


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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

DELTA eNEWS: ~~ Century Ride~ Estuary Magazine~ Science Workshop~ Delta Blog

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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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