DAILY DIGEST, 1/21: Weather relief in store into late-January; Will Kamala Harris champion water justice for CA?; Reclamation releases water reliability in the West report; At dawn of Biden administration, opportunities for water systems; and more …


On the calendar today …

  • WEBINAR: Solutions for Underperforming Drinking Water Systems in California from 12pm to 1pm.  Presented by the Water Research Foundation. Click here to register.
  • MEETING: Delta Conveyance Design And Construction Authority, Board Of Directors from 2pm to 5pm.  Click here for more information.
  • MEETING: Delta Protection Commission from 4pm to 6pm. Agenda items include a report from the Delta Protection Advisory Commission; the Delta Protection Commission 2020 Annual Report; an update on the Delta Stewardship Council and the Delta Adapts project; and the update to the recreation and tourism chapter of the Economic Sustainability Plan.  Click here for the agenda and remote access instructions.

In California water news today …

Weather relief in store for California and the Southwest into late-January

A much-needed change in the weather has begun over drought-stricken California and the southwestern United States, and AccuWeather meteorologists expect the pattern to last through much of the rest of January. Even though some relief is in store for the parched region, forecasters also warn that there could be some dangerous effects of a series of upcoming storms.  January is typically one of the wettest months of the year in the Southwest as storms from the Pacific Ocean impact the region frequently. … ”  Read more from AccuWeather here: Weather relief in store for California and the Southwest into late-January

Kamala Harris says California’s water crisis is a racial injustice. Will she champion equity?

A month before she began campaigning for the second-highest political position in the United States, now-Vice President Kamala Harris briefly turned her attention to a small town with a big drinking water problem. “Utterly unacceptable that in 2020, we still can’t guarantee clean water to communities across America. It’s a fundamental human right,” Harris said in a July 9 tweet about the town of Earlimart in California’s Central Valley. “We have the solutions to address this crisis. Congress just needs to act.” … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Kamala Harris says California’s water crisis is a racial injustice. Will she champion equity?

Reclamation releases water reliability in the West report

The Bureau of Reclamation released a summary report providing an assessment of climate change impacts to water uses in the West, including adding a new set of West-wide information based on paleohydrology. The Water Reliability in the West – 2021 SECURE Water Act Report discusses changes and innovative actions across the eight basins identified in the SECURE Water Act.  The report describes Reclamation’s collaborative actions to increase water and power delivery reliability since the last SECURE Water Act Report in 2016, including science and research, planning, infrastructure sustainability, efficient hydropower production and on-the-ground activities to meet irrigation needs and water needed for municipalities, power, tribes and the environment. ... ”  Read more from the Bureau of Reclamation here: Reclamation releases water reliability in the West report

Water workshops consider climate change effects

The third of four state water conveyance workshops was held Jan. 12 with over 100 people from different water organizations attending via Zoom. The workshops are being held to give members of the California Water Commission a chance to hear directly from stakeholders about climate-driven conveyance needs and priorities in each of four regions in the state. It also gives the commission a chance to assess a potential state role in financing conveyance projects that can help meet those needs. ... ”  Read more from the Mountain Democrat here: Water workshops consider climate change effects

FERC denies waiver of Clean Water Act for Tuolumne River hydropower projects

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has denied a petition to waive water quality certification for the Don Pedro and La Grange Hydroelectric Projects on the Tuolumne River.  The January 19, 2021 denial is a rebuke to Turlock Irrigation District and Modesto Irrigation District (Districts), who jointly own and operate the projects.  The Districts had sought to piggyback on a series of waivers that FERC has granted in the last two years.  No soap.  The denial means that the State Water Board’s Final Water Quality Certification for the Projects, issued January 15, 2021, will stand unless overturned on appeal. … ”  Read more from CSPA News here:  FERC denies waiver of Clean Water Act for Tuolumne River hydropower projects

Growing worry as Californians owe $1bil in water bill debt

A new study has revealed an alarming number of California households collectively owe more than $1 billion in debt stemming from failure to pay water bills over the past year.  The California Water Board released the results of the survey on Tuesday, which show that 1.6 million households have water debt. That totals 12 percent of the state. On average, the debt runs at $500 per household, although over 150,000 households are facing over $1,000 in debt each. Those households with major debt make up about half of the total water debt in the state. ... ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here:  Growing worry as Californians owe $1bil in water bill debt

Judge suspends state procedures as applied to majority of Waters of the State; Retains retains application to waters subject to the Clean Water Act and all ocean waters regardless of jurisdiction

On December 17, 2020, the Sacramento County Superior Court substantially limited the scope of waters to which the State Procedures for Discharges of Dredged and Fill Material (“Procedures”) apply through its decision in San Joaquin Tributaries Authority v. State Water Resources Control Board (Case No. 34-2019-80003133).  According to the Court, the State Water Resources Control Board (“State Water Board”) exceeded its policy-making and water quality control plan development authority, resulting in the restriction of the Procedures to those waters regulated under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act or Clean Water Act (“CWA”) and State “ocean waters.”  The Court’s decision significantly narrows the delta between the discharges of dredged and fill material regulated exclusively under the Procedures, and those that will now be regulated under both federal and state water quality control laws.  However, because the Court’s opinion did not invalidate the Procedures in their entirety, permittees will still need to evaluate application of the Procedures, though to a constricted set of waters and aquatic features. … ”  Read more from Downey Brand here: Judge suspends state procedures as applied to majority of Waters of the State; Retains retains application to waters subject to the Clean Water Act and all ocean waters regardless of jurisdiction

Why US investors are now betting on water

When Edgar Terry walks his fields in the morning, there’s one thing on his mind: water. The 61-year-old farmer owns 700 hectares (1,730 acres) of land — a total of 12 fields with bell pepper, strawberries, spinach, celery and cilantro that have to be watered all year round.  His family has run the Terry Farms for 126 years. This long-established farming company in Ventura County is located about an hour’s drive north of Los Angeles, California, where water is often scarce. “I think about water every day of the week, especially now because we’re in a drought,” Terry told DW. … ”  Read more from Deutsche Welle here:  Why US investors are now betting on water

Why winter, yes winter, fires are burning in California

During the deep of California’s winter, telltale plumes of smoke are rising from the hills.  Midwinter Western fires are unusual because the cooler, wet season dampens the potential for flames. Yet California’s fire regime is changing, creating the opportunity for unexpected wildfires, particularly in Northern California.  In early 2021, a potent combination of dry weather and a warming climate have produced fuels — grasses, shrubs, and trees — that can ignite in winter. Though the relatively small wildfires (many less than 100 acres) aren’t nearly of the scale and intensity of summer or fall fires, numerous blazes burned in fire-weary regions like Sonoma and Santa Cruz counties early this week. A robust though small fire also burned near Yosemite National Park on Tuesday, a place people can often ski and snowshoe this time of year. … ”  Read more from Mashable here: Why winter, yes winter, fires are burning in California

Return to top

In regional water news and commentary today …

Klamath Water Users Association on new guidance for the Klamath Project

The United States Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) has released a detailed analysis that will change its approach to compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) at the Klamath Project (Project) in south-central Oregon and northern California. The new analysis and guidance, called for by a Department of the Interior Solicitor’s opinion last fall, support that irrigation water deliveries in the Project are not subject to constraints that Reclamation has applied in the past.  “This is positive news for family farms and ranches, rural communities, and wildlife,” said Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) President Tricia Hill. “The federal government has recognized that we have been overregulated under the ESA, and that needs to change.” … ”  Read more from Klamath Falls News here: Klamath Water Users Association on new guidance for the Klamath Project

Karuk have a plan to lower risk of fires

Pacific Gas and Electric keeps electricity flowing through 81,000 miles of overhead distribution power lines. This happens across the cities and over the mountains of PG&E’s service area – from the Pacific Ocean to the Sierra Nevada, Eureka to Bakersfield, according to their website.  Common sense says maintaining the lines day after day, year after year, decade after decade is a feat of planning and hard work.  Another important requirement by all the state’s utility companies is keeping the thick forest and woodland brush under the lines cut back. The brush has been accumulating for 100 years of fire suppression in the ranges and mountains across California.  Common sense says wildfire loves big fuel.  The Karuk Tribe in Siskiyou and Humboldt counties want to help. … ”  Read more from the Siskiyou Daily News here: Karuk have a plan to lower risk of fires

Virtual workshop planned about Well Monitoring Pilot Program

The Colusa and Glenn Groundwater Authorities will host an online workshop about a Well Monitoring Pilot Program the agencies are implementing.  The voluntary, non-regulatory program will gather information about groundwater use in the Colusa Subbasin while also providing participants with near-real time access to information on well production and groundwater levels at their wells, according to a press release. ... ”  Read more from the Colusa Sun-Herald here: Virtual workshop planned about Well Monitoring Pilot Program

Diablo Water District focuses on strategic planning

Over the past two years, the Diablo Water District Board of Directors has seen some new faces (due to resignations and recent elections). According to Board President Seger, “The fresh group of proactive and passionate Directors are offering progressive and responsible direction regarding the District’s future.” On January 12th and 14th the new Board spent hours revisiting and revisioning best practices regarding the environment, water supply resiliency, critical infrastructure of the District, and its customers’ needs. … ”  Read more from the Brentwood Press here:  Diablo Water District focuses on strategic planning

Palo Alto: Foothills Park will charge $6 vehicle fee, lower attendance cap to address rise in visitors

A trip to the recently opened Foothills Park nature preserve could soon cost you $6 after a rise in visitors prompted the city council to limit attendance in an effort to preserve its natural beauty.  This week, city council members voted 6-1 — with Alison Cormack dissenting — to craft emergency rules imposing the new fee and lowering the attendance limit from 750 people at any given time to at most 400, not to exceed 500.  The council also directed the Parks and Recreation Commission to explore a more complex fee system to give discounts for specific groups, craft a reservation system and assess staffing needs. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Palo Alto: Foothills Park will charge $6 vehicle fee, lower attendance cap to address rise in visitors

Manteca: More homes being built in flood zone

Twenty-four years ago today Manteca was breathing a collective sigh of relief that the flood that devastated 70 square miles along the San Joaquin River forcing 2,000 rural residents to flee left the city intact.  Emergency crews at one point had plugged the McKinley Avenue undercrossing to convert the 120 Bypass into an emergency levee. The reason was simple: The dry levee south of Woodward Avenue was touch and go for several days as to whether it would fail.  Tonight the Manteca City Council is posed to approve the final map for the first unit of 655 homes in the Cerri development south of Woodward Avenue at its intersection with McKinkey Avenue. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here:  Manteca: More homes being built in flood zone

Central Coast: Time is running out for further Ag Order 4.0 revisions

The deadline to make any further Ag Order 4.0 revisions is quickly approaching. The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board is currently working on another draft of the measure. The Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program known as Ag Order 4.0 has already undergone several draft revisions. Industry members are concerned that with the adoption deadline coming up soon there will be limited time to make any further changes. ... ”  Read more from Ag Net West here:  Central Coast: Time is running out for further Ag Order 4.0 revisions

State seeks input on cleanup at West Ventura site

Through Feb. 10, the public is being asked to provide input to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) regarding a plan for protecting human health and the environment related to contaminants at an 8.5-acre site in West Ventura where Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) is planning to update its natural gas compressor facilities.  Contaminants of Potential Concern (COPC) including lead, arsenic, carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (cPAHs) and other compounds have been identified in both soil and soil vapor at a site located at 1555 West Olive Street in Ventura, just behind E.P. Foster Elementary School. ... ”  Read more from the Ventura County Reporter here: State seeks input on cleanup at W. Ventura site

Camarillo: Inframark to operate new desalter

On Jan. 13, the Camarillo City Council approved a five-year contract with Inframark LLC for operations of the new North Pleasant Valley Desalter Facility project, located near the junction of Las Posas Road and Lewis Road, slated to be in operation by the end of this year.  According to the city staff presentation, the project once fully operational is designed to treat 4,500 acre-feet per year of “brackish” groundwater yielding 3,800 acre feet per year of usable water, roughly 40% of the city’s water needs. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Reporter here: Camarillo: Inframark to operate new desalter

Pasadena: Activists file appeal challenging PWP’s Arroyo Seco Canyon Project

Opponents of a project to divert water from the Arroyo Seco for use by the Pasadena Water and Power Department filed an appeal on Tuesday challenging the approval by city officials of the project’s environmental analysis earlier this month.  … The concerns raised by project opponents center around fears that “the Hearing Officer failed to consider or respond to some important detrimental aspects of the project based on its impacts on local groundwater levels and on habitat and fish in Hahamongna Watershed Park and the Arroyo Seco,” said the ASF statement. … ”  Read more from Pasadena Now here:  Activists file appeal challenging PWP’s Arroyo Seco Canyon Project

Albert Robles back to try again for general manager at Water Replenishment District

The Water Replenishment District of Southern California once again today, Thursday, will consider hiring former Carson Mayor Albert Robles as its general manager, roughly a month after a previous attempt to hire him failed amid pitched infighting among board members.  Board President Vera Robles DeWitt is now recommending the district give Robles a two-year contract at $275,000 annually, instead of the six-month, $137,500 interim role she brought forward unsuccessfully in December. … ”  Read more from the Grunion Gazette here:  Albert Robles back to try again for general manager at Water Replenishment District

San Diego: Lower water levels impacting grebes’ mating habits at Lake Hodges

San Diego has over 500 different species of bird that migrate though or live here. One of the more unusual is Grebes. “[They are] white birds with a black neck and head and very red eyes,” said Brian Caldwell. Caldwell is a naturalist that guides tours at Lake Hodges and said water level changes nesting. ... ”  Read more from Channel 8 here: Lower water levels impacting grebes’ mating habits at Lake Hodges

Return to top

Along the Colorado River …

Upper Colorado River drought plan triggered for first time

Increasingly bleak forecasts for the Colorado River have for the first time put into action elements of the 2019 upper basin drought contingency plan.  The 24-month study released in January by the Bureau of Reclamation, which projects two years of operations at the river’s biggest reservoirs, showed Lake Powell possibly dipping below an elevation of 3,525 feet above sea level in 2022. That elevation was designated as a critical threshold in the agreement to preserve the ability to produce hydropower at Glen Canyon Dam. … ”  Read more from KUNC here: Upper Colorado River drought plan triggered for first time

Return to top

Biden administration …

At dawn of Biden administration, opportunities for water systems

President Joe Biden has made his priorities clear: subduing the pandemic, economic recovery, climate action, and racial equity.  He reiterated those national challenges once again on Wednesday following his swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.  “We will be judged, you and I, for how we resolve the cascading crises of our era,” Biden said in his inaugural speech, after naming each of the four priorities.  Now comes the hard part — converting rhetoric into policy and policy into practice. … ”  Read more from Circle of Blue here:  At dawn of Biden administration, opportunities for water systems 

Biden’s executive orders

President Joe Biden issued a number of executive orders yesterday, including: Revocation of Certain Executive Orders Concerning Federal Regulation, Regulatory Freeze Pending Review, Modernizing Regulatory Review, and Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.

The CRA is back in play: Four things to know about the Congressional Review Act and Trump’s regulatory legacy

Last week’s Georgia Senate victories have given Democrats (bare) control of the Senate—and, with it, the potential to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to erase some of the Trump Administration’s regulatory rollbacks. Here are four key things to know about this unique legislative oversight tool. … ”  Read more from Legal Planet here: The CRA is back in play: Four things to know about the Congressional Review Act and Trump’s regulatory legacy

Ins and outs of Congressional Review Act and climate change rules

The obstacles the Trump administration has placed on environmental rulemaking and, by extension, on stemming climate change have been well-documented by organizations from mainstream media outlets to multiple academic institutions.  Those obstacles are numerous, well more than 100 plus a cascade of end-of-term parting shots, many designed to complicate life for the incoming Biden administration, which is expected to reverse as many as it can, as quickly as it can.  As a result of Democratic victories in the January 5 Senate runoffs in Georgia – giving Biden’s Democratic party a razor-thin Senate majority – there is an extra tool in the toolbox: the Congressional Review Act (CRA). … ”  Read more from Yale Climate Connections here:  Ins and outs of Congressional Review Act and climate change rules

Return to top

Other national water news …

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.  Each year, America’s 50,000 water utilities must provide their customers with a CCR, reporting on drinking water quality, any contaminants such as lead or arsenic found in the water, as well as any water violations. … ”  Read more from Water Online here:  Re-designed water reports aim to better show whether drinking water is safe

How AI will solve agriculture’s water efficiency problems

The optimal use of water through irrigation has always been inextricably linked to the evolution of agriculture and successful farming. But efficiently managing natural water resources alongside a standard cost-benefit analysis for technology and infrastructure overheads is a delicate balancing act. The importance of reducing water consumption is paramount, especially as agriculture is estimated to account for over 70% of global water use. With food demands only rising, water use is expected to increase an additional 15% to meet this demand. ... ”  Read more from the World Economic Forum here: How AI will solve agriculture’s water efficiency problems

Warming may push ecosystems to release carbon instead of absorbing it

” … For now, on average, the world’s land-based ecosystems are storing more carbon than they’re releasing. In fact, scientists estimate that they soak up at least a third of all the carbon emissions humans produce by burning fossil fuels. That makes natural ecosystems a key resource in the fight to halt climate change.  But scientists worry that rising temperatures may eventually upset the delicate balance between carbon in and carbon out. ... ”  Read more from Scientific American here: Warming may push ecosystems to release carbon instead of absorbing it

Argument analysis: Justices divided in procedural battle between Baltimore, oil companies in climate fight

In a speech at Harvard Law School in 2015, Justice Elena Kagan told the audience that “we’re all textualists now” – that is, that any effort to interpret a statute begins (and often ends) with the language of the statute. That principle may ultimately prove dispositive in BP v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, in which the justices heard oral argument on Tuesday regarding a procedural aspect of a major climate-change lawsuit. Although the justices expressed concerns about the implications of a ruling for the oil and gas companies who are defendants in the lawsuit, several of them also seemed persuaded by the companies’ argument that their interpretation of the federal law at the heart of the dispute was more consistent with the actual text of the law. … ”  Read more from the SCOTUS blog here: Argument analysis: Justices divided in procedural battle between Baltimore, oil companies in climate fight

Return to top

Today’s featured article …

STATE WATER BOARD: Results from the 2019 Volumetric Annual Report of Wastewater and Recycled Water in California

At the January 5 meeting of the State Water Board, Rebecca Greenwood, an engineering geologist with the recycled water and desalination unit in the State Water Board’s Division of Water Quality, presented the results from the first year of reporting for wastewater and recycled water facilities statewide.

Click here to read this article.

Return to top

 

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.

 

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