WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for Dec 27 – 31: All the week’s top water news stories

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

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In California water news this week …

December storms can’t overcome dry fall in California

The first snow survey in California was ambiguous.  While it showed the mountains just southeast of Lake Tahoe contains a snowpack that is approximately average for this point of the winter, the automatic snow sensor network shows an impoverished snowpack throughout the Sierra, particularly in the southern reach of the range.  The California Department of Water Resources conducted the manual survey at Phillips Station and found a snow depth of 30.5 inches, which represents 93% of the average for this point in the season.  “It’s a little bit higher than we have been seeing through our statewide automatic sensor,” said Sean de Guzman, chief of the water department’s snow surveys and water supply. … ”  Read more from Courthouse News Service here: December storms can’t overcome dry fall in California

Water authority and GSA to settle on sagging Friant-Kern Canal resolution

The Friant Water Authority cleaned up some of the most important work in the last month of the year hashing out a legal settlement with farmers in southern Tulare County.  Represented by the Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) farmers agreed to contribute at least $125 million to repair the significant subsidence-caused sag in the gravity-fed canal that has cut water deliveries by 60%. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: Water authority and GSA to settle on sagging Friant-Kern Canal resolution

Federal spending bill includes funding for dam repairs, snow measurement technology

The proposed federal spending bill for 2021 includes funding for the Oroville Dam, Sites Reservoir Project and new snow measurement technology.  If passed by Congress, part of the massive omnibus spending bill would allocate $1 billion towards restoration projects and drought relief efforts.  In the Northstate, $7.5 million is expected to fund ongoing repair work at the Oroville Dam. … ”  Read more from KRCR here:  Federal spending bill includes funding for dam repairs, snow measurement technology

Michael Kiparsky: ‘Futures trading can bring efficiency to California’s water sector’

Chicago-based CME Group began trading in water as a futures commodity on Wall Street December 7, 2020. The company’s contracts are tied to the $1.1 billion California spot water market.  The CME Group is “the world’s leading and most diverse derivatives marketplace offering the widest range of futures and options products for risk management”, according to its website.  The contracts were announced in September as heat and wildfires ravaged the US west coast and as California was emerging from an eight-year drought.  After the move, water has officially joined gold and oil as a commodity being traded on the stock market.  Michael Kiparsky, director of the Wheeler Water Institute at the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment, University of California, Berkeley School of Law, spoke to Down To Earth about the long-term challenges and benefits of water trading.  … ”  Read more from Down to Earth here:  Michael Kiparsky: ‘Futures trading can bring efficiency to California’s water sector’

CBS This Morning:  Rural, urban California areas feud over water

A century-long feud between Los Angeles and rural communities where the city gets much of its water is heating up again. Some believe the city’s water agency is “stealing” water again, like they claim it did in the early 20th century. Jonathan Vigliotti reports.”  Watch video from CBS This Morning here:  Rural, urban California areas feud over water

Climate change measures top environmentalists’ 2021 state priorities

California is helping lead the charge in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but more needs to be done as climate change remains the state’s top environmental issue in 2021 issue, according to top environmental lobbyists in Sacramento.  Other issues on their agenda include plastic pollution, recycling, wildlife protections, and greater repair and reuse of appliances and electronic products before they are discarded. … ”  Read more from the Riverside Press Enterprise here:  Climate change measures top environmentalists’ 2021 state priorities

If ancient drought choked the Southwest for centuries, what does the future hold?

The ancient people of western Utah’s Danger Cave lived well. They ate freshwater fish, ducks and other small game, according to detritus they left behind. They had a lush lakeside view with cattails, bulrushes and water-loving willows adorning the marshlands.  But over time, the good life became history. As heat and drought set in, the freshwater dried up, and the ancients were forced to survive by plucking tiny seeds from desert shrubs called pickleweed. Archaeologists know this from a thick layer of dusty chaff buried in the cave’s floor. … ”  Read more from Cronkite News here:  If ancient drought choked the Southwest for centuries, what does the future hold?

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In regional water news this week …

Half Moon Bay: Sewer authority investigates mystery contamination

In October, engineers at the Coastside’s sewer authority saw a curious spike in one of their meters. The Sewer Authority Mid-coastside monitors a host of contaminants several times a week, and there appeared to be an inordinate amount of organic waste coursing through SAM’s system of sewer lines.  When the contaminants reached the treatment plant, they were sucking up more oxygen than the treatment was designed to handle. This led to ocean-bound treated water that had unhealthy, low levels of oxygen. … ”  Read more from the Half Moon Bay Review here: Half Moon Bay: Sewer authority investigates mystery contamination

Monterey County is deciding on new rules for drilling wells. Will the result satisfy anyone?

Whenever a farmer or a water utility wants to drill a well, replace an existing one or destroy an old one, they apply for a permit with their county regulator. This process has remained more or less the same for decades, with tens of thousands of wells drilled to pump water from the aquifers for irrigating crops and supplying household taps.  In August, a lawsuit about the permitting process for wells in Stanislaus County reached the Supreme Court of California. The court looked at Stanislaus County’s rules and said, in essence, you have been doing it wrong. Not only that – the court’s ruling meant that virtually every county in the state has been permitting wells in violation of California law. … ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly here:  Monterey County is deciding on new rules for drilling wells. Will the result satisfy anyone?

Westlands land donation will benefit Mendota park expansion

Land fallowed for several years will be transformed into two soccer fields, a splash park, two play areas, sports field lighting and additional parking in Mendota.  The Westlands Water District board of directors approved donating 4.61 acres to the city of Mendota to support the planned Rojas Pierce Park expansion project.  The land donated by Westlands is adjacent to the park’s newest soccer field. … ”  Read more from GV Wire here:  Westlands land donation will benefit Mendota park expansion

Large energy storage project would create new reservoir above Isabella Lake

A $3 billion pumped-water energy storage project has been proposed along Isabella Lake that would help even out power delivery from California solar and wind farms at a volume and longevity dwarfing the large battery installations envisioned for eastern Kern. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is reviewing a Walnut engineering company’s plan to create a new reservoir above the lake then use pumps and underground pipes to turn it into a rechargeable dam and hydroelectric generator putting out a whopping 2,000 megawatts of power for up to 12 hours at a time. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here:  Large energy storage project would create new reservoir above Isabella Lake

Trump signs spending bill that could send millions of dollars to the Salton Sea

President Donald Trump on Sunday signed a roughly $900 billion stimulus package meant to tackle both COVID-19 relief as well as federal spending. Tucked in the 5,593-page-long law, courtesy of Southern California Democrats, are provisions that hold the potential to unlock millions of dollars of new federal spending to address the Salton Sea.  The bill notably modifies the Water Resources Development Act by authorizing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite a study on the feasibility of constructing a perimeter lake around the Salton Sea. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here:  Trump signs spending bill that could send millions of dollars to the Salton Sea

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In national water news this week …

Green groups sue over Trump rule exempting quick dishwashers from efficiency standards

A coalition of environmental and consumer groups is suing the Department of Energy after it exempted quick-wash dishwashers from energy efficiency requirements.  The October rule creates a new category of dishwashers, one that lets companies meet less efficient water and energy standards if the machines wash and dry within an hour. … ”  Read more from The Hill here:  Green groups sue over Trump rule exempting quick dishwashers from efficiency standards

2020 was a year of climate extremes. What can we expect in 2021?

“2020 was a year of extreme weather around the world. Hot and dry conditions drove record-setting wildfires through vast areas of Australia, California and Brazil and Siberia. A record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season landed a double blow of two hugely destructive storms in Central America. Long-running droughts have destroyed agricultural output and helped to push millions into hunger in Zimbabwe and Madagascar. A super-cyclone unleashed massive floods on India and Bangladesh.  And overall, 2020 may end up the hottest year on record—despite a La Niña event, the ocean-atmospheric phenomenon which normally temporarily cools things down. … ”  Read more from Time Magazine here: 2020 was a year of climate extremes. What can we expect in 2021?

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt started off 2020 empowering his most controversial public lands deputy, a move that a federal judge later deemed “unlawful.” He’s ending the year in quarantine, having tested positive for COVID-19.  In between these bleak-sounding bookends, the 51-year-old Bernhardt rewrote how the Interior Department works. While the results get mixed reviews, and in some cases may get erased by the incoming Biden administration, 2020 was undeniably consequential for the department. … ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Bernhardt’s ‘plan for 1,461 days’ and one remarkable year

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And lastly …

California’s ultimate outdoor bucket list: 45 natural wonders

The California Sun reached out to leading outdoor experts in each of nine California regions and asked the same question: If you had to name your absolute top 5 not-to-be-missed day outings, what would they be?  Listed below are their picks, 45 in all, roughly north to south.”  Check it out at the California Sun here:  California’s ultimate outdoor bucket list: 45 natural wonders

Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

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