DAILY DIGEST, 1/15: CA water futures – are they as sinister as they sound?; Water bill debt soars during pandemic; It’s January and sadly, wildfires are still a threat; Significant changes in U.S. environmental policy are expected in 2021; and more …


In California water news today …

CA water futures – are they as sinister as they sound?

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange is now hedging bets on California’s dwindling supply of H2O. Is that as sinister as it sounds?  The Chicago Mercantile Exchange, a.k.a. the Merc. What began as the Chicago Butter and Egg Board in 1898 is now a labyrinthine network for futures trading in sectors including agriculture, real estate, and metals. Futures trading — no shame in not knowing! — is the practice of betting on the future price of commodities in order to manage financial risk. It’s basically fantasy football for capitalists. ... ”  Read more from Chicago Magazine here: Two-minute guide: The futures of water 

Water bill debt soars during pandemic, prompting fears of future shutoffs

Tens of thousands of Bay Area residents financially impacted during the COVID-19 crisis now face tens of millions of dollars in unpaid water bills, prompting both long-term financial and public health concerns.  That’s the conclusion of a new a report released Thursday by the non-profit public policy organization SPUR, and that looming potential crisis has experts concerned about vulnerable customers. … ”  Read more from NBC Bay Area here: Water bill debt soars during pandemic, prompting fears of future shutoffs

First Appellate District approves responsible agency’s imposition of mitigation not considered in the EIR

In an opinion filed on December 29, 2020, the First Appellate District in Santa Clara Valley Water District v. San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board upheld a Responsible Agency’s imposition of additional mitigation more than a year after it had issued an initial approval for the project.  Although the court was careful to say that it was addressing “unique circumstances” that would “seldom arise,” the decision is potentially problematic for project proponents, and especially for public agencies trying to pursue necessary public-infrastructure projects. … ”  Read more from Downey Brand’s CEQA Chronicles here: First Appellate District approves responsible agency’s imposition of mitigation not considered in the EIR

It’s January and sadly, wildfires are still a threat

Just in case you thought that we left behind the possibility of bad wildfires when calendars ticked over to 2021 and cooler winter temperatures set in, I’m sorry to say that I’m here to disappoint you.  The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for today and Friday because of the very un-winterlike conditions that have left our landscapes parched and raised the risk of fast moving wildfires.  In fact, there’s a brush fire on Mt. Baldy right now. … ”  Read more from the LAist here: It’s January and sadly, wildfires are still a threat

Here’s what California lawmakers want to do to prevent the wildfire crisis from getting worse

For the first time in a very long time the amount of acreage that burned across all sorts of California ecosystems — 4.1 million acres in 2020 — nearly matched how much burned historically in the state.  The ongoing threat that wildfires pose for people that live across the Golden State has pushed lawmakers to introduce a dozen bills so far this legislative session to potentially prevent the wildfire crisis from getting worse.  California’s wildfire crisis has resulted from humans who have caused more than a century of fire suppression in the West, economies around the globe that are causing warming temperatures and because so many people live in California. When a blaze ignites anywhere in California, there’s often so much immediate risk to human health, property and livelihoods. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here: Here’s what California lawmakers want to do to prevent the wildfire crisis from getting worse

Extreme fire weather: Researchers model the regional impacts of specific anthropogenic activities and their influence on extreme fire weather risk

When the Thomas Fire raged through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in December 2017, Danielle Touma, at the time an earth science researcher at Stanford, was stunned by its severity. Burning for more than a month and scorching 440 square miles, the fire was then considered the worst in California’s history.  Six months later the Mendocino Complex Fire upended that record and took out 717 square miles over three months. Record-setting California wildfires have since been the norm, with five of the top 10 occurring in 2020 alone. … ”  Read more from UCSB here: Extreme Fire Weather: Researchers model the regional impacts of specific anthropogenic activities and their influence on extreme fire weather risk

Wildfire mitigation is important, but not a one-size-fits-all solution, says Roy Wright, president and CEO of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety

He writes, “Far too many Californians have grown up with memories of wildfires. Growing up in the Bay Area, the Oakland Hills fire, which, until more recently was one of the most destructive and deadliest tragedies in our history, was a pivotal part of my youth. Wildfires once again played a big role with my family in 2018 when both my parents and brother lost their homes in Paradise to the Camp Fire.  This year, no Californian was immune from the negative effects of wildfires when thick, dark clouds of smoke stretched to the furthest reaches of the state for a month and ash rained down on neighborhoods. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Wildfire mitigation is important, but not a one-size-fits-all solution

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Klamath Tribes reclaim ancestral lands

The Klamath Tribes of Oregon have recently completed a monumental and historical land acquisition transaction, doubling its current land holdings of roughly 1,100 acres.  Over the past couple of years, the Klamath Tribes have vigorously explored the acquisition of a major tract of land within the former reservation boundary. Several property owners within the region have been soliciting the sale of their property and the Klamath Tribes has been actively evaluating every opportunity. … ”  Read more from Klamath Falls News here: Klamath Tribes reclaim ancestral lands

Let mating begin! A popular Point Reyes beach closes to humans as elephant seals arrive

Point Reyes National Seashore on Thursday announced the temporary closure of Drakes Beach to protect the area’s northern elephant seals during their winter pupping season.  The south-facing beach will remain closed as the four-ton pinnipeds leave the water to rest and mate — a period known as “hauling out.” Visitors are still welcome to watch the scene from the beach’s parking lot, park officials said. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Let mating begin! A popular Point Reyes beach closes to humans as elephant seals arrive

Livermore: Zone 7 officials report high costs to clean up homeless encampment

Officials from the Zone 7 Water Agency recently reported an expense of $140,000 for the cleanup of one homeless encampment last year. Colter Andersen, Zone 7 production manager, provided the figure during a Jan. 6 special meeting, noting that the expense stemmed from hiring a contractor to complete the 10-day cleanup. “That 10-day clean up included propane tanks, a 55-gallon drum half full of needles, 40 tons of material taken in 14 40-yard bins,” he said. “If you imagine 14 of the biggest dumpsters you’ve seen — that amount of trash was taken out of Arroyo Los Positas behind Kohls and Walmart . . . We had 12 individuals get permanent shelter, so that was a good thing that came out of that.” ... ”  Read more from the Livermore Independent here: Livermore: Zone 7 officials report high costs to clean up homeless encampment

Pleasanton City Council to review well water status

The council will soon receive an update on the city’s ambitious water rehabilitation plan and consider a request for additional funding to evaluate wells. “The project is on track,” said Kathleen Yurchak, Pleasanton’s director of operations and water utilities operations services. “To date, a preferred centralized treatment site has been identified at the Operations Service Center (on Busch Road).” ... ”  Read more from the Livermore Indpedendent here:  Pleasanton City Council to review well water status

San Luis Obispo County: The Land Conservancy purchases Santa Rita Ranch near Templeton

In the heart of the southern Santa Lucia Range, the Santa Rita Ranch sits at the top of Highway 46 West between the Pacific Ocean and Templeton. On Dec. 29, 2020, this 1,715-acre property was purchased and permanently protected by the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County (LCSLO), a non-profit land trust.  This conservation effort began in 2018 when LCSLO partnered with the Conservation Fund, a national environmental non-profit, to help protect this incredible ranch. … ”  Read more from the Paso Robles Press here: San Luis Obispo County: The Land Conservancy purchases Santa Rita Ranch near Templeton 

Half of Kern County now in severe drought

California’s drought status continues to intensify. The latest report released Thursday morning shows the eastern half of Kern County, including our local mountains and desert, are classified as Severe Drought, with Ridgecrest even worse in an Extreme Drought. The western half of the county, including the south San Joaquin Valley is still in Moderate Drought status. ... ”  Read more from KERO here: Half of Kern County now in severe drought

Temperatures may skyrocket 20 degrees above normal in L.A.

Southern California has been dealing with a terrible coronavirus surge to go along with a warm and dry start to the new year, and now people in that part of the country can expect near summer-like warmth, which will pose multiple other dangers.  Much of the Southwest has been in the throes of an extreme drought since the summer and, in many cases, quite a bit longer than that. The weather pattern into the weekend will not help the situation. … ”  Read more from AccuWeather here: Temperatures may skyrocket 20 degrees above normal in L.A.

Any L.A. River rethinking needs to consider people as well as water, says the LA Times

They write, “It became popular among a certain segment of Los Angeles River enthusiasts several years ago to predict that the 51-mile-long, concrete-encased, freeway-adjacent, mostly dry waterway could become L.A.’s High Line, a reference to one and a half miles of abandoned elevated railroad in Manhattan that was made over into a garden-lined walkway.  The comparison is hardly apt. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Any L.A. River rethinking needs to consider people as well as water, says the LA Times

Army Corps takes next step toward San Pedro Bay reefs, kelp beds

Army Corps of Engineers officials will meet online next Tuesday with members of the Long Beach Boat Owners Association and other stakeholders to talk about a plan to add rocky reefs and kelp beds along the Long Beach shore.  The proposal, called the San Pedro Bay EcoSystem Restoration Plan, still is in the study phase. It is the culmination of a nearly four-year process that began with advocates of removing or altering the breakwater south of Long Beach. In November 2019, the Army Corps released its draft report eliminating breakwater changes as an option, but suggesting the ecosystem could be improved and beach erosion slowed with reefs and kelp beds. … ”  Read more from the Grunion here:  Army Corps takes next step toward San Pedro Bay reefs, kelp beds

La Jolla permit reviewers hear safety and environmental concerns about La Jolla View Reservoir project

About 30 people attended the Jan. 12 La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee meeting to discuss the planned replacement of the La Jolla View Reservoir, many with concerns about the project.  DPR did not vote during the online meeting but scheduled another hearing for Jan. 19 (after the La Jolla Light’s deadline). The project also is scheduled to be heard at the Feb. 4 La Jolla Community Planning Association’s online meeting. … ”  Read more from La Jolla Light here: La Jolla permit reviewers hear safety and environmental concerns about La Jolla View Reservoir project

San Diego County’s new climate plan could use the system that doomed the old plan

There’s this thing called carbon offsets, and San Diego County might not be able to make mandated greenhouse gas cuts without them, even though that very program is what tripped up its previous climate action plans.  The Board of Supervisors kicks off the effort to rewrite its plan on Wednesday with a Democrat majority for the first time in decades, a change environmentalists are giddy will lead to more progressive steps to address climate change. But politics won’t change the physical challenges the county faces in curbing emissions locally. … ”  Read more from the Voice of San Diego here:  San Diego County’s new climate plan could use the system that doomed the old plan

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Along the Colorado River …

Satellite data, teamwork help chart future of Colorado River basin

The Colorado River is the lifeblood of the American West, but the viability of the massive river basin is being threatened by climate change.   To plan future water use in the region — which includes Arizona — the Central Arizona Project is teaming up with NASA and Arizona State University, to evaluate how climate and land-use changes will affect patterns of hydrology.  Using state-of-the-art satellite imaging, scientists will measure and evaluate how water flows throughout the basin. Professor in the Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration Enrique Vivoni, said their work will help apportion future supplies of Colorado River water. ... ”  Read more from the Public News Service here:  Satellite data, teamwork help chart future of Colorado River basin

With slow start to winter, drought conditions could linger in 2021

“Daniel Rothberg writes, “Nevada is the driest state in the nation, but 2020 — true to form — was especially dry.  In fact, Nevada and Utah witnessed their driest year on record in 2020, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported on Friday. Things are not looking up in 2021, at least not yet. Even if things do rebound, drought is shaping up to be a big weather story in 2021.   To learn more about what’s going on, I talked with Dan McEvoy, a researcher with the Western Regional Climate Center. He said my timing was good: “It’s definitely worth talking about it now.” … ”  Read more from the Nevada Independent here:  With slow start to winter, drought conditions could linger in 2021

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In national water news today …

Water Data Prize: Re-designed water reports aim to better show whether drinking water is safe

The Environmental Policy Innovation Center (EPIC) today announced winners of its Water Data Prize, demonstrating how water quality reports can be reimagined to help consumers understand whether their drinking water is safe. More than 30 organizations and individuals in the water sector submitted entries aimed at improving the federally-mandated Consumer Confidence Report (CCR), with Raftelis, a Charlotte, NC-based consultancy, awarded the top prize. … ”  Read more from Water Data Prize here:  Water data prize: Re-designed water reports aim to better show whether drinking water is safe

NRDC sues EPA for its illegal rule that will expose millions to toxic lead in drinking water

NRDC sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today, asking the courts to strike down the EPA’s new Lead and Copper Rule, the outdated federal protection meant to keep lead—a potent neurotoxin with no safe level of exposure—out of drinking water. The agency released its final changes to the rule this past December; among the numerous do-nothing updates, it delays and, in most cases, refuses to require the removal of the six million to ten million lead service lines that remain in use across the country.  “Drinking water from the often century-old pipes is like drinking from a lead straw,” says Erik D. Olson, senior strategic director of health at NRDC. “The only way to ensure that lead contamination doesn’t get into our tap water from these pipes is to pull them out of the ground and replace them. … ”  Read more from the NRDC here: NRDC sues EPA for its illegal rule that will expose millions to toxic lead in drinking water 

Scientists solve desalination mystery, improving efficiency

Scientists believe they have solved one of the biggest mysteries about desalination — exactly how reverse osmosis membranes work to remove salt and other chemicals from water — a breakthrough they say could help make the process more efficient and cheaper.  “Reverse osmosis membranes are widely used for cleaning water, but there’s still a lot we don’t know about them,” Manish Kumar, a chemical engineer at the University of Texas, Austin and co-author of the new research, said in a statement. “We couldn’t really say how water moves through them, so all the improvements over the past 40 years have essentially been done in the dark.” … ”  Read more from Yale E360 here:  Scientists solve desalination mystery, improving efficiency

Green groups sue over administration rules limiting habitat protection for endangered species

Environmentalists sued the Trump administration Thursday over rules that limit protections for habitat used by endangered species.  Two separate suits challenge two related rules from the administration.  A December rule from the Fish and Wildlife Service narrows the definition of habitat to areas that can currently support a species, a move environmentalists say ignores the changing climate and efforts that could be made to modify a landscape. ... ”  Read more from The Hill here: Green groups sue over administration rules limiting habitat protection for endangered species

A new agenda: Significant changes in U.S. environmental policy are expected in 2021

Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inauguration on January 20, 2021 as the forty-sixth President of the United States could usher in a sweeping period of environmental regulatory changes vastly eclipsing those of his immediate predecessor – and perhaps even those of President Barack Obama. Further, with key Senate victories in January by Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in Georgia, a Democrat-controlled Congress is better situated to help the President-elect achieve the environmental goals he’s promised would be a focus of his administration. … Below we provide a brief overview of key environmental policy initiatives poised for action under a Biden administration … ”  Continue reading at the National Law Review here:  A new agenda: Significant changes in U.S. environmental policy are expected in 2021

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National water and climate update …

The Natural Resources Conservation Service produces this weekly report using data and products from the National Water and Climate Center and other agencies. The report focuses on seasonal snowpack, precipitation, temperature, and drought conditions in the U.S.

dmrpt-20210114

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

DELTA eNEWS: ~~ CWC Meeting~ Conveyance Financing~ Conveyance Alternatives~ Saving Salmon ~~

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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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