WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for Oct 11-16: Predation in the Delta, Setting groundwater allocations, Water Board’s Administrative Hearing Office, plus CA water news highlights and more …

A wrap-up of posts published on Maven’s Notebook this week …

Note to readers: Sign up for weekly email service and you will receive notification of this post on Friday mornings.  Readers on daily email service can add weekly email service by updating their subscription preferences. Click here to sign up!

This week’s featured articles …

FEATURE: Fish predation on a landscape scale in the Delta

Fisheries Biologist Cyril Michel discusses recent predator manipulation studies done in the Delta and efforts to develop a predictive model for predation

Over the past century, populations of salmon in Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta have declined drastically, with at least one population that is locally extinct and the remaining listed as endangered, threatened, or species of concern under the Endangered Species Act.  Evidence from long‐term tagging studies suggests that the survival of juvenile salmon during outmigration has a disproportionately large impact on juvenile‐to‐adult return ratios and that low survival while transiting the Delta during outmigration due to predation may be one of the major contributors to the declines of these populations.  Predation is a challenge in the  Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta where non‐native predators are known to have substantial impacts on salmonid and other native fish populations; however, resource managers lack the knowledge of the landscape‐scale predator–prey information to mitigate these impacts.

Cyril Michel is a Fisheries Biologist with the University of California Santa Cruz and the team leader for the salmon acoustic telemetry and salmon predation programs at the University of California Santa Cruz.  He also has an affiliation with National Marine Fisheries Service Southwest Fisheries Science Center.  These two programs are both currently maturing and moving from assessing the spatial and temporal dynamics as well as environmental drivers of juvenile salmon survival and predation risk to the experimental phase with different studies testing ways to manipulate juvenile salmon survival and predation risk on a landscape scale.  At a webinar held at the end of August 2020, Mr. Michel discussed the research he and his team are doing on studying salmon predation in the Delta.

Click here to read this article.

WESTERN GROUNDWATER CONGRESS: Developing groundwater allocations: Findings and recommendations

As groundwater sustainability agencies prepare their plans to meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), they will likely utilize a variety of tools to achieve sustainability.  In many subbasins, groundwater overdraft conditions will require GSAs to impose reductions in pumping in order to achieve sustainable conditions in the subbasin. To do this, GSAs will need set a limit or “cap” on the overall amount of groundwater that is removed from the subbasin, assigning portions of this capped amount to groundwater pumpers in the form of a pumping allocation.

Making pumping allocation decisions will be a difficult task for GSAs, as it will require restricting access to groundwater resources upon which the agricultural community, cities and towns, and others depend.  Adding further complexity to the task, SGMA explicitly states that it does not alter water rights, which means groundwater sustainability agencies have to carefully navigate between the confines of water rights and SGMA requirements in developing and implementing their groundwater sustainability plans.

At the 3rd annual Western Groundwater Congress, hosted online by the Groundwater Resources Association of California in September of 2020, Dr. William Blomquist, a Professor of Political Science and more at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, gave a presentation of ongoing research he is doing with Dr. Christina Babbitt, California Groundwater Manager at the Environmental Defense Fund looking at how other groundwater basins have developed groundwater allocations.

Click here to read this article.

STATE WATER BOARD: Report on the first year of the newly established Administrative Hearings Office

At the October 7 meeting of the State Water Resources Control Board, Alan Lilly, the presiding hearing officer in the Administrative Hearings Office, updated the Board Members on the first year of operations of the newly-formed office.

Click here to read this article.

Return to top

In California water news this week …

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 wildfires could affect the water in Lake Oroville

The North Complex Fire has burned a large portion of Lake Oroville’s watershed. This could lead to hazardous water quality after winter rains run all of that sediment into the lake and the effects could last decades. However, how water quality could be affected by the fire is still largely unknown.  The North Complex Fire which burned in both Butte & Plumas counties destroyed many structures and vast swaths of forest. All of that ash & debris will likely run off into the rivers and into Lake Oroville. The main tributaries into Lake Oroville are the North, Middle and South Forks of the Feather River and the West Branch. … ”  Read more from Action News Now here:  How wildfires could affect the water in Lake Oroville

Restoring California’s forests to reduce wildfire risks will take time, billions of dollars and a broad commitment

As California contends with its worst wildfire season in history, it’s more evident than ever that land management practices in the state’s forested mountains need major changes.  Many of California’s 33 million acres of forests face widespread threats stemming from past management choices. Today the U.S. Forest Service estimates that of the 20 million acres it manages in California, 6-9 million acres need to be restored. … ”  Read more from The Conversation here:  Restoring California’s forests to reduce wildfire risks will take time, billions of dollars and a broad commitment

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 

Executive order aims to conserve land, biodiversity

A new California Biodiversity Collaborative will help determine how to carry out an executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom aimed at conserving 30% of California’s land and marine areas by 2030—and agricultural organizations said they would participate to assure the collaborative recognizes stewardship efforts carried out on the state’s farms and ranches.  Under Newsom’s executive order, issued last week, state agencies will “deploy a number of strategies to store carbon in the state’s natural and working lands and remove it from the atmosphere.” The state Department of Natural Resources will assemble the biodiversity collaborative with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Environmental Protection Agency and other state agencies. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  Executive order aims to conserve land, biodiversity

Another vague decree from Newsom, says Dan Walters

“Gavin Newsom is fond — overly so — of declaring “big hairy, audacious goals” and doing something that implies he’s striving to achieve them. … The second, issued last week, directed state agencies to devise ways to “protect” 30% of California’s land and coastal waters by 2030 to reduce greenhouse gases and promote biodiversity, boasting that California would be the first state to adopt the “30-by-30” program being advocated globally. … ”  Read more from GV Wire here: Another vague decree from Newsom, says Dan Walters

Return to top

Podcasts …

NOTEBOOK PODCAST: Implementing SGMA, and the lawsuits in the Indian Wells Valley

In 2014, the State of California passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA, that was intended to bring the state’s groundwater basins into balance within 20 years. The Indian Wells Valley, a critically overdrafted basin, recently submitted their groundwater sustainability plan, and passed a groundwater replenishment fee, raising water costs for some users by 7000%, triggering lawsuits. I speak with Attorney Eric Garner about SGMA implementation and the pending litigation in the Indian Wells Valley.

In regional water news this week …

Lessons from Camp Fire could help prevent water contamination after North Complex

Fear of contaminating precious local water sources is one way devastating wildfires continue to be felt in communities in Butte County, where the debris of burnt homes from recent fires sits near a watershed used by many in Northern California.  Unfortunately, the same fear of contamination of local water felt after the Camp Fire is mounting after the North Complex fires devastated Berry Creek and the foothill communities near Lake Oroville.  While heat waves and high temperatures remain, there is a fear that when rains do arrive, few county resources will have had time to protect many burnt lots from passing debris into local water sources — such as the lake. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Lessons from Camp Fire could help prevent water contamination after North Complex

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

Monterey: “Cal Am, Marina open to meeting on desal project ‘solution’

California American Water and Marina city officials are in the process of setting up talks on the company’s desalination project after exchanging letters over the past several weeks.  In a Sept. 25 letter, Cal Am president Rich Svindland reached out to Marina officials, proposing talks aimed at resolving differences over the company’s paused desalination project and suggested a series of “possible options that could be mutually beneficial for the city, Cal Am, and the region as a whole.” … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Monterey: Cal Am, Marina open to meeting on desal project ‘solution’

Nearly 1,000 nutria are trapped in two Valley counties this year

The nutria is a destructive pest to Valley agriculture that resurfaced in the grasslands of Merced County three years ago.  The latest progress report from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on the battle to eliminate the rodent is encouraging.  It’s been a busy spring and summer for trapping nutria in Merced and Stanislaus counties. State Fish and Wildlife has caught nearly 1,000 nutria along the San Joaquin River corridor and in the grasslands. … ”  Read more from Channel 26 here:  Nearly 1,000 nutria are trapped in two Valley counties this 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’

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

Lawns provide surprising contribution to L.A. Basin’s carbon emissions

The Los Angeles Basin is often thought of as a dry, smoggy, overdeveloped landscape. But a new study led by NOAA and the University of Colorado, Boulder shows that the manicured lawns, emerald golf courses and trees of America’s second-largest city have a surprisingly large influence on the city’s carbon emissions.  Working as part of the Megacities Carbon Project, scientists analyzed the carbon dioxide in around 500 air samples collected during 2015 from four sites around the basin for the presence of a rare radioactive isotope known as carbon-14. Carbon-14, or 14C, is found in living organisms, including vegetation. By contrast, fossil fuels, which are millions of years old, are totally depleted of 14C. … ”  Read more from NOAA here:  Lawns provide surprising contribution to L.A. Basin’s carbon emissions

San Diego County Water Authority to host public session on economics of regional conveyance study

The San Diego County Water Authority will host an online public information session on Oct. 27 about economic considerations related to the proposed Regional Conveyance System. The virtual event will run from 10 a.m. to noon.  Meeting participants can learn about alternatives the Water Authority Board of Directors is studying to secure San Diego County’s future water supplies, ask the experts about key issues, understand the feasibility and costs of building a conveyance system to deliver San Diego County’s Colorado River supplies, and discuss potential next steps. … ”  Read more from the Water News Network here: San Diego County Water Authority to host public session on economics of regional conveyance study

Return to top

In national water news …

President Trump yesterday issued a sweeping executive order to bolster water infrastructure across the country, including establishing a new “interagency subcabinet” to streamline decisions.  But critics were quick to denounce the reasoning behind the order, which, coming just weeks before Election Day, appears to be part of a recent effort to fortify the administration’s environmental record and deliver on a campaign promise to provide more water to Western farmers.  The order touches on a broad range of issues, from creating new water storage for Western farmers, to Florida Everglades restoration, to the Great Lakes. … ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Trump creates water ‘subcabinet’ in preelection push

Rock and a hard place: Constrained U.S. Growers see future in water innovation

Water represents the lifeblood of many industries, but especially agriculture. Agricultural success is highly dependent on irrigation that covers approximately 9.6 million acres with roughly 34 million acre-feet of water during an average year. In years of droughts, the agricultural industry is severely impacted, and so growers worldwide are taking necessary steps toward innovations and technology to maximize the water they have and sustain agriculture.  For the U.S., the question is, will innovation happen fast enough to sustain growers through seasons with the greatest droughts, while still meeting the most stringent regulatory restrictions? … ”  Read more from AgriBusiness Global here: Rock and a hard place: Constrained U.S. Growers see future in water innovation

Water has become a big issue for Big Tech. But Microsoft has a plan

When Brian Janous started at Microsoft in 2011 as a data center utility architect, he joined at a time when energy and sustainability issues were still nascent.  “I was the first person that was brought into the organization to work on energy and sustainability issues. This was back in the time when it … certainly wasn’t clear to me why a company like Microsoft even needed someone like me,” Janous told CNBC by phone.  “And the person that was hiring me, (said), ‘I really think this whole cloud thing is going to be a big deal. And I think energy is going to be really important to the future of our company.’ And he was clearly correct. … ”  Read more from CNBC here:  Water has become a big issue for Big Tech. But Microsoft has a plan

Environmentalists and dam operators, at war for years, start making peace

The industry that operates America’s hydroelectric dams and several environmental groups announced an unusual agreement Tuesday to work together to get more clean energy from hydropower while reducing the environmental harm from dams, in a sign that the threat of climate change is spurring both sides to rethink their decades-long battle over a large but contentious source of renewable power. … ”  Read more from the New York Times here: Environmentalists and dam operators, at war for years, start making peace

The immense potential of solar panels floating on dams

Solar farms need vast swaths of land that might not always be easily available. So why not put them on water? Many countries in Asia are starting to do that by sprinkling floating solar panels on lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. But coupling floating photovoltaics (PV) with hydropower could be even better, researchers show in a new study published in the journal Renewable Energy. Floating solar farms on existing hydropower reservoirs could cut solar costs and meet 40 percent of the world’s energy needs, they found. … ”  Read more from the Anthropocene here:  The immense potential of solar panels floating on dams

2020-21 Winter outlook leans warm and dry across southern U.S.

NOAA’s winter forecast for the U.S. favors warmer, drier conditions across the southern tier of the U.S., and cooler, wetter conditions in the North, thanks in part to an ongoing La Nina. Forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center – a division of the National Weather Service – are also closely monitoring persistent drought during the winter months ahead, with more than 45% of the continental U.S. now experiencing drought.  “NOAA’s timely and accurate seasonal outlooks and short-term forecasts are the result of improved satellite observations, more detailed computer forecast modeling, and expanding supercomputing capacity,” said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., acting NOAA administrator. “From expansive and multi-hazard winter storms to narrow but intense lake effect snow, NOAA will provide the necessary information to keep communities safe.” … ”  Read more from Climate.gov here:  2020-21 Winter outlook leans warm and dry across southern U.S.

Weekly features …

BLOG ROUND-UP: Flows wasted to sea to protect Delta smelt; Delta tunnel design disputed; Court ruling on water challenges Central Valley water districts; and more …

SCIENCE NEWS: Linking critical zone water storage and ecosystems; The effects of repeated droughts on different kinds of forests; Where will snow survive in a warming world?; A new way to fingerprint drivers of water cycle change; and more …

Return to top

Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

NOTICE: Public Comment Opens for Madera Groundwater Sustainability Plans

FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES: State Grant Resources and Websites

And lastly …

‘Unheard of’: Wild owl rides shotgun as helicopter pilot fights California fire

An owl joined a helicopter pilot mid-flight while crews worked to help extinguish California’s Creek Fire.  “It’s odd to have an owl enter an aircraft. It’s unheard of to have it enter while the helo is in-flight,” Sky Aviation said. … ”  Check it out from Fox 4 here: ‘Unheard of’: Wild owl rides shotgun as helicopter pilot fights California fire

Return to top

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
%d bloggers like this: