WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for Nov 30 – Dec 4: Conveyance projects panel discusses Imperial Valley to San Diego pipeline, “fish-friendly” Delta diversions; Preliminary findings from the Delta’s climate change vulnerability analysis; the week’s top stories, and more …

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

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This week’s featured articles …

WATER COMMISSION: Conveyance projects panel discusses Imperial Valley to San Diego pipeline, “fish-friendly” Delta diversions, and more …

Presentations highlight San Diego CWA’s Regional Water Conveyance System Study, addressing California Aqueduct subsidence, and the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint

The Water Resilience Portfolio directs the Water Commission to assess the state’s role in financing conveyance projects that could help meet the needs in changing climate, a task that the Commission has taken on wholeheartedly in recent months. (Here is coverage from the September meeting.)

At their November meeting, the Commission heard from two panels: the first panel was from project proponents who discussed conveyance projects being proposed by their organizations.  The second panel, which discussed the human right to water within the context of conveyance projects, will be posted next week.

Click here to read this article.


DELTA ADAPTS: Preliminary findings from the first comprehensive climate change vulnerability assessment for the Delta

Study assesses climate change risks to the Delta’s vulnerable communities, ecosystems, water supply, and flood management

Delta Adapts: Creating a Climate Resilient Future, simply called Delta Adapts, is the Delta Stewardship Council’s climate change study consisting of a first-ever climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation strategy for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Suisun the Marsh.  The study will help the Council assess specific climate risks and vulnerabilities in the Delta and, in coordination with a diverse group of stakeholders, develop adaptation strategies to address those vulnerabilities.

Click here to read this article.

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In California water news this week …

Trump’s ‘QAnon of water projects’: Destined for death?

The Trump administration made a splash last month announcing it was moving ahead with enlarging one of California’s largest dams to provide the drought-stricken state’s farmers more water.  But state officials and conservationists have another message for the outgoing administration: Not so fast.  The Bureau of Reclamation on Nov. 20 finished its environmental review of raising the 600-foot Shasta Dam in Northern California by 18.5 feet. It would be the Trump administration’s largest water infrastructure project, expanding one of the country’s biggest reservoirs by more than 200 billion gallons.  The highly-publicized announcement, however, led some state officials to scratch their heads and others to laugh out loud. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Trump’s ‘QAnon of water projects’: Destined for death?

Scientists solve mystery of mass coho salmon deaths. The killer? A chemical from car tires

When officials in Seattle spent millions of dollars restoring the creeks along Puget Sound — tending to the vegetation, making the stream beds less muddy, building better homes for fish — they were thrilled to see coho salmon reappear.  But when it rained, more than half, sometimes all, of the coho in a creek would suffer a sudden death.  These mysterious die-offs — an alarming phenomenon that has been reported from Northern California to British Columbia — have stumped biologists and toxicologists for decades. Numerous tests ruled out pesticides, disease and other possible causes, such as hot temperatures and low dissolved oxygen. Now, after 20 years of investigation, researchers in Washington state, San Francisco and Los Angeles say they have found the culprit: a very poisonous yet little-known chemical related to a preservative used in car tires.  … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Scientists solve mystery of mass coho salmon deaths. The killer? A chemical from car tires

When rubber hits the road—and washes away

The storm unleashed one evening in late November 2018. The first splashes of rain wet the streets of Oakland, California, with a smell like damp stone. Then, a crescendo of water pounded roofs, drops glancing off gutters with metallic pings. As the storm water sluiced over sidewalks and streets, it erased the boundary between land and sea, carrying branches, plastic bottles, motor oil, and more into San Francisco Bay.  At 10:30 that night, an industrial slough near the Oakland Coliseum roared to life. The slough wasn’t particularly noticeable hidden behind chain-link fences. But the vast surrounding parking lot made it perfect for measuring the stuff scoured from the city streets by rain. … ”  Continue reading or listen to podcast at Hakai Magazine here: When rubber hits the road—and washes away

Water managers urge patience after initial, 10% allocation from State Water Project

The rainy season is still young, but that’s about the only consolation to be found in California’s initial estimate this week that farmers who get water from the State Water Project will only get 10 percent of their requested allocations next year. … The announcement Tuesday by the California Department of Water Resources isn’t expected to cause the water project’s local customers to scale back because they’re still able to pump from local reserves. Local water managers say there’s a good chance conditions will improve before the allocation is finalized by about May. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here:  Water managers urge patience after initial, 10% allocation from State Water Project

Funding for the proposed delta tunnel could be slipping

The Metropolitan Water District likely won’t pick up the slack to cover planning costs for the proposed Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta tunnel.  That’s a huge shift from MWD’s “all in” support of the previous tunnel project.  And MWD’s pull back could create a ripple of iffyness among other State Water Contractors about how much of their own money they want to invest down the line without the giant southern California water purveyor in its usual position as a financial backstop. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here:  Funding for the proposed delta tunnel could be slipping

Delta farmers express doubts on ‘carbon farming’

Plans to convert nearly 200,000 acres of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta farmland into rice production or tule-based carbon farms are being greeted with skepticism among representatives of delta farmers.  The Delta Conservancy, a state agency, has partnered with environmental organizations and universities on pilot projects aimed at stopping or slowing ongoing land subsidence in the delta under a California Wetland Protocol. The protocol, currently certified through the nonregulatory American Carbon Registry, is being used to quantify carbon sequestration from growing tules or rice on seasonally or perennially wetted lands in the delta. … ”  Read more from the California Farm Bureau Federation here: Delta farmers express doubts on ‘carbon farming’

Farmland consolidations could save water, promote solar

Hopes are rising in the southern Central Valley that the farmland expected to be fallowed in coming years because of drought and groundwater restrictions won’t sit idle but will instead be consolidated to make room for new land uses including solar power generation.  Efforts are underway locally to create a system for piecing together parcels that would allow investment at a scale large enough to support substantial photovoltaic solar arrays — or ranching or creation of natural habitat, whatever makes sense financially for landowners. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here:  Farmland consolidations could save water, promote solar

California commits to conserving 30 percent of its land and water by 2030. What does that mean?

On October 7 California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered the state to create a new California Biodiversity Collaborative and conserve 30 percent of its land and coastal waters by 2030.  Conservationists have celebrated the enshrinement of biodiversity preservation among the state’s priorities, as well as the state aligning with an international “30 by 30” goal shared by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and many of the world’s most prominent conservation scientists.  Now comes the hard part: figuring out which 30 percent of California, and making it clear what it means to truly “conserve” it. … ”  Read more from Bay Nature here: California commits to conserving 30 percent of its land and water by 2030. What does that mean?

“Thirstier” atmosphere will increase wildfire risk out West

Recent years have seen the largest, most destructive wildfires on record in California. Accompanying these extreme events have been extreme levels of evaporative demand—the degree to which the atmosphere “wants” to evaporate water from plants and the ground, regardless of how much water is available.  A new analysis of global climate model simulations by McEvoy et al. suggests that evaporative demand will increase in California and Nevada through the end of the century, driving increased risk of more extreme wildfires and drought. … ”  Read more from EOS here: “Thirstier” atmosphere will increase wildfire risk out West

California environmental groups tell Biden not to pick Mary Nichols for EPA

A coalition of some 70 California environmental justice groups, national environmentalists and other organizations sent a letter to Joe Biden’s transition team Thursday asking the incoming president to avoid picking Mary Nichols as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.  Nichols has been reported to be Biden’s top candidate to lead the EPA.  The outgoing chair of the California Air Resources Board, Nichols is “not the right person to oversee and implement climate and environmental programs for the country” because of her “bleak track record in addressing environmental racism,” the groups wrote. … ”  Read more from KQED here: California environmental groups tell Biden not to pick Mary Nichols for EPA

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In regional water news this week …

Water environmental group threatens Calistoga with lawsuit, again

Stemming from litigation dating back to 2008, the City of Calistoga is confronted again with a long-standing threat from an environmental group over the operation of Kimball Dam.  Grant Reynolds, a director of Water Audit California, delivered a letter to the City of Calistoga on Monday criticizing the city for not fulfilling its commitment to complete a “stream study … and other aspects of its commitments.”  According to the letter, the City adopted an interim bypass plan in 2011, with the intention of meeting demands and ending the litigation. … ”  Read more from the Napa Register here: Water environmental group threatens Calistoga with lawsuit, again

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ends plans to dredge San Francisco Bay

Every day, boats travel into the San Francisco Bay, carrying with them cargo and other supplies. Some travel up the channel that connects the San Francisco Bay to Stockton. It’s the primary route for tankers carrying oil products to and from several oil refineries.  This channel is naturally pretty shallow, about 35 feet. But a fully loaded oil tanker needs deeper waters to travel. So currently the tankers can’t be fully loaded because otherwise they’d get stuck. Instead they have to make multiple trips. This ends up costing those tankers more money. … ”  Read more from KALW here: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ends plans to dredge San Francisco Bay

East Bay: Cattle ponds double as habitat for threatened amphibians

When ecologist Jackie Charbonneau learned that cattle ponds in the East Bay hills are vital to rare amphibians, it came as a surprise. Stock ponds can be so muddy and trampled that “they can look like a bomb hit them,” said Charbonneau, who works in Alameda County at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service. But looks can be deceiving. As an East Bay Regional Park District intern early in her career, she found that stock ponds are full of California red-legged frogs and California tiger salamanders, which are unique to the state and federally listed as threatened. … ”  Read more from the Bay Area Monitor here: East Bay: Cattle ponds double as habitat for threatened amphibians

Sand mining at the Cemex plant in Marina ends ahead of deadline

Occupying part of the beach in Marina for decades, the last coastal sand mine in the United States has ceased operations, according to officials at the California Coastal Commission.  Cemex, a multinational company based in Mexico, notified the commission in mid-October that it had stopped mining sand at its Marina dredge pond, fulfilling the central requirement of a 2017 settlement agreement two-and-half months before the deadline of Dec. 31.  “Cemex has stopped removing sand from the beach environment, allowing sand that is part of the public trust to remain in place,” says Justin Buhr, an analyst with the commission’s enforcement arm. … ”  Read more from Monterey County Weekly here:  Sand mining at the Cemex plant in Marina ends ahead of deadline

Water district moves to hire ousted Carson mayor as general manager during bizarre meeting

The Water Replenishment District of Southern California’s board of directors moved Thursday to hire a former board member forced out of office by the district attorney as its new general manager, despite concerns about his lack of qualifications and the rushed hiring process.  Board members voted 3-2 to select former Carson Mayor Albert Robles as the new general manager, then went into closed session to discuss it further. They then continued the meeting until the next day, though they had finished their agenda, and left those in attendance, including some other board members, unsure about what exactly that meant. … ”  Read more from the Daily Breeze here:  Water district moves to hire ousted Carson mayor as general manager during bizarre meeting

LADWP replacing critical areas along its 7,000 miles of water pipeline with earthquake-resilient ones

Local utilities are looking for new ways to make Southern California earthquake safe, and one way is by replacing aging water pipes.  The new pipes could help keep the water flowing after a big one hits.  LADWP is replacing critical areas along its 7,000 miles of water pipes in Los Angeles with earthquake resilient pipes to ensure water is still flowing after the shaking stops. … ”  Read more from ABC Channel 7 here:  LADWP replacing critical areas along its 7,000 miles of water pipeline with earthquake-resilient ones

Orange County water districts file massive lawsuit over PFAS contaminants

Eleven Orange County water agencies have joined in a lawsuit seeking hundreds of millions of dollars from DuPont, 3M and others whose carcinogenic chemicals have leached into groundwater aquifers and forced the closure of more than three dozen wells in the central and northern parts of the county.  The money would compensate the water districts — and the hundreds of thousands of residents they serve — for costs associated with the contamination, including the treatment plants being designed to remove the PFAS contaminants targeted in the lawsuit. Those chemicals were long used in Scotchguard, Teflon, and other waterproofing and stain-proofing products. … ”  Read more from the OC Register here: Orange County water districts file massive lawsuit over PFAS contaminants

San Diego coastal marshes may become important tools to battle climate change

Matthew Costa stepped gingerly into a little pocket wetland near the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The squishy salt marsh is more than just a patch of habitat in the intertidal zone.  “Just watch out,” said Costa, a postdoctoral researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, as he warned a helper. “Watch out for birds.”  Endangered ridgeway rails like hiding in the pickleweed that covers the soft, moist ground nestled between train tracks and a busy Del Mar street. … ”  Read more from KPBS here: San Diego coastal marshes may become important tools to battle climate change

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In national water news this week …

Several former Obama EPA and Interior Department officials on President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team bring with them deep expertise in water policy that could come in handy as the incoming administration plots policy goals and actions to undo Trump administration rollbacks.  With expertise including crafting WOTUS; tackling the Flint, Mich., water crisis; restoring the Everglades; and curbing coal plant pollution, the experts may be appointed to high-level positions after the new administration ramps up and may shape policy going forward. … ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Meet Biden’s water experts

Once-ignored promises to Tribes could change the environmental landscape

” … Federal and state officials signed nearly 400 treaties with tribal nations in the 18th and 19th centuries. Threatened by genocidal violence, the tribes signed away much of their land. But they secured promises that they could continue to hunt, fish and gather wild food on the territory they were giving up. Many treaties also include cash payments, mineral rights and promises of health care and education.  For the most part, the U.S. has ignored its obligations. … ”  Read more from Pew Charitable Trust here: Once-ignored promises to Tribes could change the environmental landscape 

Investors, water experts launch Water Finance Exchange

Millions of people across the U.S. lack access to safe, reliable, and affordable drinking and wastewater services. To address this challenge, a new non-profit platform, the Water Finance Exchange (WFX), is launching to increase investment in the nation’s aging water and wastewater infrastructure and to help meet the growing needs and funding gaps of small and mid-sized utilities across the U.S. Seed funding for WFX is being provided by leading impact investors, the Lyda Hill Philanthropies and the Water Funder Initiative. … ”  Read more from Water World here: Investors, water experts launch Water Finance Exchange

Common pipe alloy can form cancer-causing chemical in drinking water

Rusted iron pipes can react with residual disinfectants in drinking water distribution systems to produce carcinogenic hexavalent chromium in drinking water, reports a study by engineers at UC Riverside.  Chromium is a metal that occurs naturally in the soil and groundwater. Trace amounts of trivalent chromium eventually appear in the drinking water and food supply and are thought to have neutral effects on health. Chromium is often added to iron to make it more resistant to corrosion. … ”  Read more from UC Riverside here: Common pipe alloy can form cancer-causing chemical in drinking water

Weekly features …

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Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

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