DAILY DIGEST, 10/16: Peter Moyle on Trump and Delta smelt; How infrastructure standards miss the mark on snowmelt; Just how bad is California’s water debt problem? The state isn’t sure; and more …



On the calendar today …

MEETING: Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board beginning at 9am.

The second day of a two-day meeting, agenda items include updates on the cannabis program, forest activities, and enforcement.  Click here for the complete agenda and remote access information.

MEETING: The Delta Independent Science Board meets from 11:30am to 1:30pm.

The Delta ISB will meet to discuss the Science Needs Assessment Workshop, which occurred from October 5 to 6, 2020, and will discuss next steps, including the outline of the report. In addition, Dr. Jay Lund of the Delta ISB will present an overview of water supply reliability and Delta conveyance to help get new Delta ISB members acquainted with the topic.  Click here for the full agenda and remote access instructions.

Cal Desal Town Hall from 3pm to 4:30pm

A conversation with Nancy Vogel, Director of Governor Newsom’s Water Portfolio Program with Phil Rosentrater, Executive Director of the Salton Sea Authority, and an update with Peter Fiske, Executive Director of the National Alliance for Water Innovation with Sivan Cohen, CEO of Noria Water Technologies, Inc.  Click here for a flyer Click here to register.

UCANR WEBINAR: The Global Value of Water in Agriculture from 3pm to 4pm

Paolo D’Odorico is a professor of ecohydrology in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, & Management at UC Berkeley.   The value of water, however, remains difficult to estimate because water markets and market prices exist only in few regions of the world. Despite numerous attempts at estimating the value of water in the absence of markets (i.e., the “shadow price”), a global spatially explicit assessment of the value of water in agriculture is still missing.  Here we propose a data-parsimonious biophysical framework to determine the value generated by water in irrigated agriculture and highlight its global spatiotemporal patterns. We find that in much of the world the actual crop distribution does not maximize agricultural water value.  Join Zoom Meeting:  https://ucmerced.zoom.us/j/93722796133?pwd=a2FsKzBTUGVtOEovSTNVanRSNjZMdz09

In California water news today …

Peter Moyle on Trump and Delta smelt

” … The agricultural industry has cried foul and complained bitterly that California is favoring fish over farmers. President Donald Trump, who counts the agricultural lobby as one of his biggest donors, has taken to predicting California will have to start rationing water to save “some kind of tiny little fish.”  But Moyle calls the delta smelt a scapegoat for poor water management and a bellwether for an ecosystem sickened by overuse and major droughts. Several other fish species native to the delta, he notes, are also listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, including the longfin smelt, green sturgeon and spring run Chinook salmon; others, including the splittail, San Joaquin Chinook and Sacramento perch, are in serious decline. … ”  Read more from Inside Climate News here:  Sparring Over a ‘Tiny Little Fish,’ a Legendary Biologist Calls President Trump ‘an Ignorant Bully’

How infrastructure standards miss the mark on snowmelt

California’s Oroville Dam holds back a reservoir that provides water for 23 million people. In February 2017, rainstorms doused the area and filled the reservoir beyond its normal capacity. Excess water was released through the main spillway, but the structure failed, and 188,000 people living downstream evacuated to avoid potential floods.  Several factors contributed to the spillway failure, and one of them was snow. Warm temperatures and rain melted much of the unusually deep snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains that winter, which ran off into the reservoir below.  “You wouldn’t have had such a severe incident if there wasn’t so much water coming into the lake that they had to let out really, really fast,” said Brian Henn, a machine learning scientist focusing on global climate models at Vulcan. ... ”  Read more from EOS here: How infrastructure standards miss the mark on snowmelt 

Just how bad is California’s water debt problem? The state isn’t sure

A statewide water shutoff moratorium has kept the tap on for Californians who haven’t been able to pay their water bill in the midst of the pandemic-driven economic crisis. But ratepayer debt has been accruing for months now, leading to revenue losses for water providers across the state.  Just how bad is the problem? California water regulators still are not sure.  Anecdotal reports suggest some water providers have seen revenue losses between 20% and 30%, with some reporting a 50% drop. Advocates say the crisis has pushed smaller systems that serve some of the state’s most vulnerable residents to the brink of survival, and threatens to leave many ratepayers with significant debt. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here: Just how bad is California’s water debt problem? The state isn’t sure 

Forecasters: California’s winter weather prediction

The La Niña climate pattern is expected to worsen existing drought conditions in California in the coming months, according to a new outlook published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center. The forecast covers the period between December 2020 and February 2021.  La Niña refers to the cooling of ocean surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean near the equator that affects wind patterns and weather. It means that most of California has a good chance of warmer-than-normal winter temperatures, according to the forecast. This is coupled with a greater chance of drier conditions. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Forecasters: California’s winter weather prediction

SEE ALSO:

Groundbreaking study finds 13.3 quadrillion plastic fibers in California’s environment

A first-of-its-kind study in California has laid bare the staggering scale of pollution from plastic microfibers in synthetic clothing – one of the most widespread, yet largely invisible, forms of plastic waste.  The report, whose findings were revealed exclusively by the Guardian, found that in 2019 an estimated 4,000 metric tons – or 13.3 quadrillion fibers – were released into California’s natural environment. The plastic fibers, which are less than 5mm in length, are primarily shed when we wash our yoga pants, stretchy jeans and fleece jackets and can easily enter oceans and waterways. … ”  Read more from The Guardian here:  Groundbreaking study finds 13.3 quadrillion plastic fibers in California’s environment

Beyond the classroom: a look at DWR’s paid student assistant program

Do you wish you could find hands-on, paid work experience while in school? Do you long for an inclusive environment with teachers and mentors that provide a supportive pathway toward growth?  If the answer is yes, look no further.  The Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) Student Assistant Program offers on-the-job training to individuals enrolled in high school, college, or any recognized school of learning. The program is designed to acquaint students with DWR’s work and the employment opportunities within the department. … ”  Read more from DWR News here: Beyond the classroom: a look at DWR’s paid student assistant program

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Ensuring flows for fish in the Shasta and Scott river: update

In the Shasta and Scott Valleys, the irrigation season just ended on October 1st. It was a rough season for fish in both watersheds.  Most recently in the Shasta River, flows in mid-September — the beginning of the fall Chinook salmon run — were lower than I have ever seen in my 12+ years working with the Shasta Fall Flow Program.  The program, started by The Nature Conservancy and the Shasta Valley Resource Conservation District and now managed by CalTrout, uses short-term forbearance agreements to secure water for salmon when and where it is needed most.  … ”  Read more from Cal Trout here:  Ensuring flows for fish in the Shasta and Scott river: update

Friends of the Dunes assumes temporary management of 357 acres of Samoa dunes, wetlands, and coastal forest

Friends of the Dunes has completed a deal with Security National, the Humboldt Bay Harbor Recreation and Conservation District, the Wildlife Conservation Board, the California Natural Resources Agency, and the California State Coastal Conservancy to acquire the Samoa Dunes and Wetlands for the purposes of conservation and public access. The Samoa Dunes and Wetlands is a 357-acre coastal dune and bayfront property that includes the former Dog Ranch. … ”  Read more from the Lost Coast Outpost here: Friends of the Dunes assumes temporary management of 357 acres of Samoa dunes, wetlands, and coastal forest

Humboldt Bay:  Water quality shouldn’t be impacted by nearby wildfires, says water district manager

Water quality isn’t likely to be impacted by nearby wildfires, but one of the local water districts is working with other agencies to ensure that continues to be the case.  John Friedenbach, general manager at the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District, which serves more than 80,000 customers in the county, said the district is having discussions with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the California Office of Emergency Services and Trinity County to discuss debris removal operations and sedimentation control around Ruth Lake. … ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here: Humboldt Bay:  Water quality shouldn’t be impacted by nearby wildfires, says water district manager

Sonoma County: Rain catchment – an idea that truly holds water

Turn on the tap and water comes out. It’s a fundamental expectation of American life.  But aquatic ecologist Steve Lee is concerned that abundant water may not always be part of the Sonoma Valley story. “We have issues all around this watershed with groundwater depletion, and it shows up as diminished streamflow,” he said. “Creeks have been getting lower and lower, and creeks are the connection to underground water. That’s where the aquifer is visible.” … ”  Read more from the Sonoma Index here:  Rain catchment – an idea that truly holds water

Napa ag groups urge caution on water unity proposals

Talk of unifying Napa County’s fractured water world has sparked concerns that such a move — if done wrong—might unintentionally weaken farmland protections in famed Napa Valley wine country.  Move cautiously, the California Farm Bureau Federation, Napa County Farm Bureau, Napa Valley Grapegrowers and Winegrowers of Napa County advised. They want to make certain a countywide water agency wouldn’t hurt farmland, possibly by influencing land use. … ”  Read more from the Napa Register here: Napa ag groups urge caution on water unity proposals

Fire damage, ‘smoke taint’ add to challenges for Napa wineries during peak of harvest

Napa Valley is no stranger to natural disasters. Year after year, the world renowned wine region faces flames.  In 2019, wind and the Kincade Fire brought smoke and blackouts. In 2018, the County Fire affected a small part of the valley – the same year the enormous Camp Fire devastated other parts of Northern California, killing more than 80 people. In 2017, as in preceding years, wildfires affected parts of Napa County. The fire comes closer to the vineyards some years than others. … ”  Read more from Cronkite News here: Fire damage, ‘smoke taint’ add to challenges for Napa wineries during peak of harvest

Nevada Irrigation District receives grant funding for fire fuels reduction and meadow restoration

The Nevada Irrigation District (NID) announced today it has received a $145,000 Cal Fire grant for fire fuels reduction at Rollins Reservoir and a second, $1.2 million grant has been awarded, pending CEQA and other permitting, from the Wildlife Conservation Board to continue restoration at English Meadow, within the headwaters of the Yuba River in the Tahoe National Forest. … ”  Read more from Yuba Net here: Nevada Irrigation District receives grant funding for fire fuels reduction and meadow restoration

Lawsuit: Water access at heart of UC Santa Cruz, city feud

Couched as an effort to “seek clarity,” UC Santa Cruz is taking its host city to court for allegedly failing to deliver on a decades-old promise of a sufficient water supply.  On the same day as the lawsuit headed to court, a joint statement signed by UCSC Chancellor Cynthia Larive and Santa Cruz Mayor Justin Cummings was posted to the university’s website and a news release was issued, both describing UCSC’s suit as a mutually agreed-upon step to settle an impasse in the long-brewing disagreement. … ”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel here:  Lawsuit: Water access at heart of UC Santa Cruz, city feud

San Joaquin farmers, farmworkers share concerns with Assembly Agriculture chairman

Assemblyman Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, the new chairman of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, thought it might be a good use of his time this month — his re-election is virtually assured — to learn as much as he can about what makes up the state’s vast and diverse $50 billion ag industry and help keep it No. 1 in the nation. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  San Joaquin farmers, farmworkers share concerns with Assembly Agriculture chairman

Final EIR released on Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir project

The Del Puerto Water District last week released the final Environmental Impact Report for the Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir Project.  The proposed project involves construction of a reservoir in the foothills west of Interstate 5 and Patterson to store water for use in dry years for ag irrigation, groundwater recharge and wildlife refuges. The reservoir capacity would be 82,000 acre-feet within an 800-acre footprint. … ”  Read more from Westside Connect here:  Final EIR released on Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir project

Modesto Irrigation District candidates spar over selling water beyond district boundaries in a dry year

The challenger for a Modesto Irrigation District board seat criticized incumbent Larry Byrd for suggesting water sales beyond its boundaries in April.  Suzy Powell Roos said Tuesday that the idea was unwise given this year’s below-average runoff on the Tuolumne River.  Byrd said the sales would have been to farmers outside the MID boundaries but still within the Modesto-area groundwater basin. The canal water would allow them to rely less on their wells, thus boosting the groundwater supply, he said. ... ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Modesto Irrigation District candidates spar over selling water beyond district boundaries in a dry year

Ridgecrest:  Western Growers Association and Calif. Farm Bureau: Current GSP ‘will decimate agriculture’

“The Western Growers Association and the California Farm Bureau Federation voiced its concerns regarding the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s draft groundwater sustainability plan in a letter addressed to the IWVGA and its chair, Mick Gleason.  “It is shocking that the IWVGA Plan reserves 100 percent of the basin’s sustainable yield to the U.S. Navy — an entity expressly not subject to SGMA or the Plan — and denies overlying landowner farmers any groundwater allocation at all unless they pay the Authority $2,130 per acre-foot,” the letter reads. … ”  Read more from the Taft Midway Driller here:  Western Growers Association and Calif. Farm Bureau: Current GSP ‘will decimate agriculture’

IWV Groundwater Authority to talk reporting policy for wells, recycled water, transient pool today

“The Indian Wells Groundwater Authority is meeting at 11 a.m. today. On the agenda is a discussion of establishing a reporting policy for all new groundwater extraction wells in the basin. Also on the agenda are a discussion of optimized use of recycled water and a discussion on a fallowing valuation and potential for a transfer market in the transient pool.
There will also be a board discussion on the Vision Plan for 2035 introduced at a previous meeting. Also on the agenda is a meter compliance update and staff recommendations on changes to the policy. … ” Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: IWV Groundwater Authority to talk reporting policy for wells, recycled water, transient pool today

Tribal designation at toxic Santa Susana Field Lab could protect land but further delay cleanup

John Luker is standing on the top of a 3,000 foot hill at Sage Ranch Park, surrounded by largely undeveloped land on the border of LA and Ventura County.  “As I look around me, I see nothing but rolling hills, beautiful rock formations, a lot of chaparral. A lot of people think this is an industrial wasteland filled with bubbling pools of ooze, and that’s not correct whatsoever.”  He’s looking out on the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL), a lush landscape where chemical waste has been deposited since the Space Race. From 1948 until 2006, SSFL was a test facility for the nation’s space exploration programs. It was home to 10 nuclear reactors, four launch stands, and more than 30,000 rocket tests. ... ”  Read more from KALW here:   Tribal designation at toxic Santa Susana Field Lab could protect land but further delay cleanup

Desalination plant in Orange County will help ensure clean drinking water, says Gloria Alvarado, executive director of the Orange County Labor Federation

She writes, “Although these days no one seems to agree on anything, there is one thing we can all agree on: every Californian should have a right to clean drinking water.  But even with that, California is facing an impending water shortage. With widespread fires, a COVID-19 provoked economic recession bringing widespread unemployment and a public health emergency, it would be easy, but not prudent, to forget that we face a water crisis around the next corner. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here:  Desalination plant in Orange County will help ensure clean drinking water

Oceanside gets 2nd place in national water conservation challenge

Oceanside finished second in a national water conservation challenge among cities with populations between 100,000 and 299,999, behind only Lakeland, Florida, it was announced Wednesday.  During the month of August, Oceanside residents pledged to save water and protect the environment as part of the Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation. … ”  Read more from the Patch here: Oceanside gets 2nd place in national water conservation challenge

San Diego: Surfrider expands water-quality testing to coast of North County

She waded out into the shallow water where the waves barely touched her knees.  “This is the reason why people come to San Diego,” Minna said.  Sadly, Minna knows that sometimes what’s in the water doesn’t match everyone’s expectations. … ”  Read more from NBC San Diego here:  Surfrider expands water-quality testing to coast of North County

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In national water news today …

Trump’s and Biden’s plans for the environment

To combat climate change, Biden’s ambitious clean energy plan would pour $2 trillion into a set of research and development goals throughout his first term, with his principal objective being to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. … Trump says his priorities are clean water and air, but he’s also sought to boost U.S. production of oil and natural gas — objectives that often work against each other.  … ”  Read more from Valley Public Radio here: Trump’s and Biden’s plans for the environment

Water subcabinet members highlight enhanced aquatic resource mapping with Western states

Yesterday, as part of the Western States Water Council (WSWC) virtual Fall 2020 meeting, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator for Water David Ross highlighted ongoing cross-agency efforts to enhance the nation’s aquatic resource maps. The federally-led mapping effort illustrates the enhanced interagency coordination established by the Trump Administration that will accelerate progress in developing better data, tools, and strategies for managing our nation’s vital water resources, including developing maps of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) that can more accurately depict the scope of federal Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction. … ”  Continue reading at the EPA here: Water subcabinet members highlight enhanced aquatic resource mapping with Western states 

Environmental, industry groups commit to working together on some hydro projects

After more than two years of talking, environment and industry groups say they’ll work together to address climate change. To do that, they say they’ll promote hydropower and healthy rivers, according to a joint statement.  The groups, often at the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to dams and hydropower, say climate change has created a need to hear each other out, even when it comes to tough issues.  While both groups want to promote hydropower as a baseload renewable energy, there are still contentious issues between the two groups. In the Northwest, conservation group American Rivers says this agreement won’t stop it from advocating for the removal of the four Lower Snake River dams and the four dams on the Klamath River. … ”  Read more from OPB here:  Environmental, industry groups commit to working together on some hydro projects

Nearly half of the continental United States is gripped by drought, government forecasters said Thursday, and conditions are expected to worsen this winter across much of the Southwest and South.  Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center, a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said a lack of late-summer rain in the Southwest had expanded “extreme and exceptional” dry conditions from West Texas into Colorado and Utah, “with significant drought also prevailing westward through Nevada, Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.” … ”  Read more from the New York Times here:  Nearly half of the U.S. is in drought. It may get worse.

The case for investing in water

Water is essential to the production and delivery of nearly all goods and services. Many businesses are reliant on a sufficient flow of clean water to operate and realize their growth ambitions. Overconsumption of water, water pollution, environmental degradation, and changing climatic conditions are making clean water an increasingly scarce resource.1 As the world population grows and competition for water resources between industry sectors intensifies, nations are set to experience a 40% shortfall in water by 2030. ... ”  Read more from S&P Global here: The case for investing in water

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In commentary today …

Why not fund water projects like bullet trains? asks Todd Fitchette

For California farmers, the next few years is going to be frightening as the hyperbole people accuse them of during election cycles becomes reality.  When California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed legislation to help fund necessary repairs to the Friant-Kern Canal, he did so after telling business leaders in 2019 that nobody cared more about the state than he does. While he used more colorful words during his keynote address to the California Economic Summit to drive home his point, his opposition to take appropriate action on critical issues affecting the state speaks volumes. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here:  Why not fund water projects like bullet trains?

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

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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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