DAILY DIGEST, 11/11: Pricey tunnel sparks talk of water sales; LAO Report on drinking water; Update on approaching atmospheric rivers; and more …

On the calendar today …

In California water news today …

Pricey tunnel sparks talk of water sales

Getting water through a tunnel under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta would be pricey.  So pricey, some Kern County water districts were looking for an “off-ramp” by potentially selling their main state water supply out of the county.  The request was shot down at a special meeting on Nov. 6 by the Kern County Water Agency, which holds the contract for state water on behalf of 13 area water districts.  That denial could jeopardize funding from Kern water districts for the proposed tunnel, known as the Delta Conveyance. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Pricey tunnel sparks talk of water sales

LAO Report:  Expanding access to safe and affordable drinking water in California—A status update

In 2019 the Legislature passed and the Governor signed Chapter 120 (SB 200, Monning) establishing the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water (SADW) Fund, which provides up to $130 million annually for efforts to provide safe drinking water for every California community. The legislation tasked the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) with administering the funding and overseeing efforts to implement both short‑ and long‑term solutions to persistent drinking water problems. One year later, SWRCB has made good progress in establishing spending priorities, beginning to allocate funds and execute projects, and collecting essential data to identify the communities that should be targeted for improvements. However, the state is still in the very early stages of implementation. Given the serious threats to public health, safety, and environmental justice posed by existing drinking water deficiencies, the Legislature will want to continue conducting robust oversight over how efforts to rectify these conditions proceed.”  To read/download the report from the LAO, go here:  Expanding access to safe and affordable drinking water in California—A status update

California Water Board collects data on household water debt, utility finances

California regulators sent a survey on Monday to 150 of the state’s largest water providers in an attempt to shed light on the financial fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.  The State Water Resources Control Board wants to know how economic slowdowns related to the virus have affected utility finances and, at a household level, how many residents have overdue water bills.  The data collection effort came a day before the Legislature’s policy advisory office released a report suggesting that lawmakers monitor these exact issues. The Legislative Analyst’s Office report noted that the pandemic is one of several matters that could complicate the state’s attempt to provide safe and affordable drinking water to all of its residents. … ”  Read more from the Circle of Blue here: California Water Board collects data on household water debt, utility finances 

Update on approaching atmostpheric rivers

An active pattern is forecast to bring multiple landfalling atmospheric rivers to the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. The first AR is forecast to make landfall on 13 November, though there is currently large ensemble uncertainty in onset and overall duration of AR conditions. … ”  Read more from the Center for Western Water & Weather Extremes here: CW3E AR Update: 10 November 2020 Outlook

Federal officials moving forward on Friant-Kern canal repairs

The Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) is moving forward on critically important Friant-Kern Canal repairs. A Record of Decision was signed last month authorizing repairs to a 33-mile portion of the water conveyance system. The move comes after the Trump Administration invested nearly $5 million to begin working on the Friant Kern Canal Project. Areas of the canal have been subsiding as an average of one inch every month for the past six years. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here:  Federal officials moving forward on Friant-Kern canal repairs

SEE ALSOFeds approve $5M to begin repairs on Friant-Kern Canal, from the Foothills Sun-Gazette

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California wildfires …

The surprising connection between West Coast fires and the volatile chemicals tainting America’s drinking water

From his back deck, Bogdan Marian can see the scars running down into the San Lorenzo Valley: the pad of a destroyed home, the scorched brown trees at the ridge line.   Marian is grateful to have a standing home. Yet his family and many others in the area still face another worry: the safety of their tap water. After fires marred the valley near Santa Cruz, California, in August, the local water district issued a “Do Not Drink Do Not Boil” notice to residents.  Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including benzene, residents were warned, could be seeping into the water system — just as the toxic chemicals did in Santa Rosa and Paradise, California, in the wake of wildfires in 2017 and 2018. … ”  Read more from Ensia here:  The surprising connection between West Coast fires and the volatile chemicals tainting America’s drinking water

California catches a break from worst-ever year for wildfires with cooler weather, but the threat remains

After being ravaged by wildfires, California has won a temporary reprieve.  Temperatures plummeted, rain pelted much of the state, and snow dusted the mountains in the past week. Cooler weather, however, is little comfort to firefighters who know the state is still in the prime of what many still call fire season.  Firefighters, however, are determined not to call it that. … ”  Read more from USA Today here:  California catches a break from worst-ever year for wildfires with cooler weather, but the threat remains

Help from on high: satellites play key role in fighting California wildfires

NASA’s LANCE data system, which makes enormous amounts of satellite information available to scientists around the world almost as soon as it’s collected, is powerful. How powerful?  “We have been known to pick up a really hot barbecue,” said Diane Davies, operations manager for the program. “We have been known to pick up the old solar factory or oil rigs. We can pick up gas flares, volcanoes.” … ”  Read more from KQED here:  Help from on high: satellites play key role in fighting California wildfires

Tulare County Board of Supervisors calls for better forest care

Democrats and Republicans may not agree on climate change but both agree better forest management is needed to prevent wildfires from decimating swaths of the state. It’s an issue the Tulare County Board of Supervisors has talked about for more than a decade and last week they took action to not only continue their efforts locally, but call on their federal counterparts to do better. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: Tulare County Board of Supervisors calls for better forest care

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Klamath River: The rebirth of a historic river

For over a century, one of the most important salmon runs in the United States has had to contend with historic dams – and now four of them are set to be taken down.  “My great uncle and my grandma and my great grandparents and, I’m sure, their great grandparents: they were all fishermen. That’s just what they did – they fished and it was out of necessity to support their families. And it’s because that’s what we’ve always done and we’ve never known another life,” says Amy Cordalis, the general counsel of the Yurok, and a member of California’s largest indigenous tribe. … ”  Read more from Future Planet here: Klamath River: The rebirth of a historic river

A recent massive bird die out calls into question the balance of water management in California

On the Oregon border lies Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. For over a century, visitors have flocked to Klamath’s wild tule marshes and open waters to canoe, fish, bird watch and hunt. Visiting the park might feel like taking a trip back in time to when settlers first came to California and saw extensive wetlands as far as the eye could see. But this year, something sinister lies beneath the Klamath Basin’s immense beauty.  Roughly 40,000 birds have died at the refuge this fall alone––wiping out an estimated 86% of it’s normal bird population. … ”  Read more from The Aggie here:  A recent massive bird die out calls into question the balance of water management in California

Scarred by fire, California’s first state park remains closed. Can Big Basin recover?

When Big Basin fell victim to California’s record-setting wildfires this fall, at least one conservation group mourned its scorched landscape and questioned if the state park would ever recover.  Two months later, the park remains indefinitely closed, crews are working to clear “hazard trees” — those that could come crashing down — and the debate continues on whether its redwood forest can rebound as it did after past fires. Some scientists say California is entering uncharted territory with climate change, leaving coastal redwoods with conditions that are hotter and less foggy than before. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Scarred by fire, California’s first state park remains closed. Can Big Basin recover?

Cloverdale: ‘Kicking the can down the road:’ Deferred maintenance at root of water rate increases

This Wednesday, Nov. 11, the Cloverdale City Council’s lone new agenda item is a costly one to Cloverdale residents — a proposed hike in the city’s water and sewage rates. The increases in both water and wastewater rates — which start with a 13% water increase and 17% wastewater increase on Jan. 1, with the same increase happening on July 1, 2021 and on each subsequent July 1 through 2024 — is something that city officials say is needed to help start capital improvement projects related to the city’s water and wastewater systems. In the past, the cost of such projects haven’t been factored into the city’s rates. … ”  Read more from Sonoma West here:  Cloverdale: ‘Kicking the can down the road:’ Deferred maintenance at root of water rate increases

EPA announces nearly $500 million for water infrastructure projects in Northern California

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced three Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loans totaling $497 million to the cities of Sunnyvale, San Mateo, and Foster City in Northern California to help improve wastewater management while benefiting public health, water quality, and the environment. These loans are especially important to citizens of Bay area communities that have been impacted by lingering sanitation issues in the greater San Francisco Bay.   “WIFIA loans are playing a critical role in President Trump’s commitment to improving America’s environmental health and upgrading the nation’s infrastructure,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Water quality issues in the Bay have been a specific concern for me and the administration and I am glad these loans will benefit the health and wellbeing of these communities.” … ”  Read more from the EPA here: EPA announces nearly $500 million for water infrastructure projects in Northern California

Southern California: Sinkhole from broken water pipe swallows van in Crenshaw

A broken water pipe beneath a Crenshaw street opened a sinkhole that swallowed a van Tuesday morning.  A large patch of asphalt near the intersection of Buckingham Road and Obama Boulevard caved in around 5:30 a.m after an 8-inch water pipe burst, said Ellen Cheng, a spokeswoman with the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Sinkhole from broken water pipe swallows van in Crenshaw

Metropolitan board advances major recycled water project

Southern California took a major step forward today on the path to developing a new sustainable water source from purified wastewater as Metropolitan Water District’s Board of Directors voted to begin environmental planning work on what would be one of the largest advanced water treatment plants in the world.  The approval marks a significant milestone for the Regional Recycled Water Program, a partnership between Metropolitan and the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts to reuse water currently sent to the ocean.  “Our board has shown over the past five years that we are committed to creating a drought-proof, local water supply for the region by investing in this project,” Metropolitan board Chairwoman Gloria D. Gray said. “We all recognize our growing duty to ensure Southern California has reliable water in the face of threats from climate change and earthquakes. This project builds that resilience.” …

Click here to continue reading this press release.

If fully realized, the project would take cleaned wastewater from the Sanitation Districts’ Joint Water Pollution Control Plant in Carson and purify it using innovative treatment processes, producing up to 150 million gallons of water daily – the amount used by more than 500,000 homes.

The purified water would initially be used for groundwater replenishment and storage, and by industrial facilities. After additional treatment, it may later be delivered directly to Metropolitan’s existing water treatment plants and used for drinking water, after the state develops regulations for direct potable reuse.

The board’s vote today allows Metropolitan to initiate the necessary environmental planning work, including a Program Environmental Impact Report, engineering and technical studies, and to continue public outreach. This work will cost about $30 million and take approximately three years.

“The information produced will be critical to provide our board with the necessary information to make a fully informed decision in 2024 whether to build this project,” Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said. “When combined with our investments to ensure the reliability of our imported supplies from the Colorado River and the northern Sierras, we can build water security for the region for generations to come.”

“Metropolitan has never before directly developed a local supply like this. It is a huge opportunity for Southern California, and an opportunity that can only succeed through a partnership between two large regional agencies like Metropolitan and the Sanitation Districts.”

At their upcoming meeting, the Sanitation Districts board will consider contributing approximately $5 million toward the environmental planning costs, along with undertaking additional studies to support the project, through an agreement also approved today by Metropolitan’s board.

Today’s vote marks Metropolitan’s latest investment in the Regional Recycled Water Program. Last year, Metropolitan launched a $17 million demonstration plant to test an innovative purification process that could be used in a full-scale plant. Though that process is based on proven technologies, it uses a new combination of treatment processes – starting with membrane bioreactors and followed by reverse osmosis, ultraviolet light and advanced oxidation – that could significantly increase efficiencies in treatment.

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In national water news today …

Towards resilience against water-related extreme events

Dr Anjuli S. Bamzai, NSF Division Director for Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences and Ms Elizabeth Zelenski, Staff Associate, NSF Office of the Assistant Director for Geosciences, explain research on water-related extreme events that have profound implications for society. … ”  Read more from Open Access Government here:  Towards resilience against water-related extreme events

Senate proposes spending increase at environmental agencies

The Republican-led Senate is proposing modest spending increases for environmental agencies compared to last year’s budget, diverging from proposed cuts that the Trump White House put forward earlier this year.  In its $38 billion Interior-environment spending bill for fiscal 2021, the Senate Appropriations Committee proposed giving about $13.6 billion to the Interior Department and about $9.09 billion to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). … ”  Read more from The Hill here:  Senate proposes spending increase at environmental agencies

Environmentalists and industry observers are watching the clock now that President Trump has lost his bid for reelection, anticipating a potential flurry of last-minute energy rollbacks, permitting decisions and new rules that could impinge on a Biden administration.  Several rules that could weaken energy efficiency standards, for example, are poised for final passage at the Department of Energy, and measures at the Interior Department that could affect oil drilling are in various stages of completion.  Trump has not conceded the race and shows no signs of doing so. His supporters say his administration should continue working full speed ahead. … ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Trump eyes midnight energy rules at DOE, Interior

Biden’s EPA expected to pass limits on some ‘forever chemicals’

The EPA under a future Biden administration is expected to quickly move to set regulations on “forever chemicals” in water and other areas, but not to restrict the entire group of thousands of the substances, attorneys said in recent interviews.  The Environmental Protection Agency is already expected to set national drinking water limits for two of these chemicals, perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, said Cynthia AM Stroman, a partner in King & Spalding LLP’s Washington, D.C. office. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here: Biden’s EPA expected to pass limits on some ‘forever chemicals’

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In commentary today …

Sacramento fiddles while 31.7 percent of California is in moderate drought or worse, says Dennis Wyatt

He writes, “Several inches of snow fell over the weekend on Sonora Pass. The temperature Monday morning in the Northern San Joaquin Valley dipped to 33 degrees.  If you think this is nothing to worry about, guess again.  Appearances — and assumptions — can be deceiving. … ”  Read more from the Turlock Journal here:  Sacramento fiddles while 31.7 percent of California is in moderate drought or worse

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And lastly …

California’s 5 most wondrous forests, according to “field atlas” author Obi Kaufmann

” … After the publication of his latest volume, “The Forests of California,” in September, the California Sun posed an unreasonable challenge to Kaufmann. In a state covered by 33 million acres of forestland, give us your top five destinations. Below, in his own words, are his choices. … ”  Read more from the California Sun here: California’s 5 most wondrous forests, according to “field atlas” author Obi Kaufmann

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

WATER PLAN eNEWS: ~~Grants Available~ UWMP Webinars~ Advisory Document~ Landscape Study~ Resilience Webinar~ Metadata Workshop~ Applicants Sought ~~

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FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Poppies for Remembrance Day, photo by Tony Oldroyd

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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