DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: Biggest storm of the year on the way; Small winery operators fear new wastewater rules will cork profits; 8 issues that will pivot in CA’s favor under Biden; and more …

In California water news this weekend …

Atmospheric river: Biggest storm of the year heading for Bay Area

Winter weather is finally arriving in Northern California. And after weeks of dry, warm conditions and growing drought concerns, it’s coming in hard.  Forecasters say a sizable storm — the first significant atmospheric river event to hit the greater Bay Area this winter season and likely the biggest storm in at least 12 months — will soak much of California starting Tuesday night, continuing Wednesday, and bringing wet roads, downed trees, power outages and the possibility of mudslides.  … ”  Read more from the Mercury News here:  Atmospheric river: Biggest storm of the year heading for Bay Area

Storm next week expected to bring ‘significant rain and mountain snow’ to Southland, forecasters say

A storm system arriving during the second half of next week has the potential to bring widespread moderate to heavy rain to Southern California, the National Weather Service says.  Rainfall rates could be high at times, raising the possibility of debris flows in the recent burn areas, as well as mud and rock slides on mountain roads. Significant snow accumulations are possible with the storm, mainly above 5,000 feet. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Storm next week expected to bring ‘significant rain and mountain snow’ to Southland, forecasters say

SEE ALSOActive Weather Pattern Forecast Across the Western U.S. this Weekend through Next Week, from the Center for Western Weather & Water Extremes

California to impose first statewide rules for winery wastewater, marking new era

Hundreds of California wineries will for the first time be governed by statewide wastewater processing rules, a change from the long-held, regional approach that could increase production costs for wineries and protections for waterways while providing consistency for vintners across the state.  The move toward a statewide regulatory framework, a five-year effort championed by industry leaders, was finalized this week by the State Water Resources Control Board, which approved an order setting up guidelines for wastewater processing at most of the more than 3,600 bonded wineries in the state. … ”  Read more from the Sonoma Index-Tribune here: California to impose first statewide rules for winery wastewater, marking new era

Small winery operators fear new California wastewater rules will cork profits

California regulators have approved a new set of statewide rules for wastewater discharged from wineries and some smaller operators in the North Bay are saying the new requirements could put them out of business.  When Taft Street Winery in Sebastopol makes wine it uses lots of water to keep the equipment clean and sanitary. That water is collected in holding ponds which were previously regulated by individual county water boards.  But large wineries which operate in multiple counties complained that was too complicated. ... ”  Read more from KPIX here:  Small winery operators fear new California wastewater rules will cork profits

As Californians rack up $1 billion in water debt, advocates fear relief could come too late

Californians have accumulated $1 billion in unpaid water bills since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and about 1.6 million California households are behind on their water bills, according to a new survey from the State Water Resources Control Board.  A statewide water shutoff moratorium has kept water running since April even for those unable  to pay their utility bills. The mounting debt is taking a toll on households and water systems alike, as COVID-19 case counts continue to rise in many parts of California.  “The way it makes me feel as we go through the data is: Don’t panic, but be very worried,” Darrin Polhemus, the director of the board’s division of drinking water, said at a public meeting this week. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  As Californians rack up $1 billion in water debt, advocates fear relief could come too late

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In people news this weekend …

Michelle Banonis selected as Regional Water Authority Manager of Strategic Affairs

The Regional Water Authority (RWA) is delighted to announce that Michelle Banonis has been selected as the organization’s new Manager of Strategic Affairs.  Banonis has over two decades of experience in water, ecosystems, engineering, policy, and law, and most recently served as the Assistant Chief Deputy Director of the California Department of Water Resources where she worked on water-related issues of statewide significance with multiple interests.  Previously, she was with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in Sacramento where she served as the Bay-Delta Area Manager, Special Assistant to the Regional Director, WaterFix Program Manager, and various roles with the San Joaquin River Restoration Program. … ”  Read more from the Regional Water Authority here: Michelle Banonis selected as Regional Water Authority Manager of Strategic Affairs

Radhika Fox appointed to lead EPA’s Office of Water

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the selection of US Water Alliance CEO Radhika Fox as the Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water. Fox was a Day One Presidential Appointee in the Biden-Harris Administration. She will serve as the Acting Assistant Administrator for Water.  “It is an incredible honor and privilege to be selected by President Biden to serve our country,” Fox said. “I am proud to join the EPA team of dedicated career professionals who have a long-standing commitment to protect public health and the environment. Water policy and investments can be a force for addressing the four compounding crises facing our nation—the global pandemic, economic recovery, racial equity, and the climate crisis. I stand ready to support this administration as we Build Back Better for every American.” … ”  Read more from Water Finance & Management here:  Radhika Fox appointed to lead EPA’s Office of Water

Westlands Water District Board of Directors appoints Ceil Howe III to fill board vacancy

On Tuesday, January 19, Westlands Water District Board of Directors appointed Ceil Howe III to the vacancy created when Director Don Peracchi resigned last month. Howe will serve through the end of Peracchi’s term in 2022.  “Ceil has farmed in Fresno and Kings counties for many years, and he will be an important voice on our Board as we address the important issues that will face Westlands in the months and years ahead,” said Westlands Board President Daniel Errotabere. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here:  Westlands Water District Board of Directors appoints Ceil Howe III to fill board vacancy

Longtime Kern water leader leaving for private sector

Kern County’s water community had a shake-up Tuesday when longtime Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District General Manager Eric Averett announced he is leaving to take a private sector job.  This comes on top of the pending retirement of another key local water manager.  Richard Diamond, General Manager of North Kern Water Storage District, announced he will retire later this year. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Longtime Kern water leader leaving for private sector

Imperial Valley water champion Kevin Kelley, who fought to save the Salton Sea, dies at 61

Kevin Kelley, the elegant, whip-smart and fierce former general manager of the Imperial Irrigation District, who fought to preserve the Salton Sea and his rural county’s water rights, died Tuesday at 61. He passed away at home, said his brother, Ryan Kelley, an Imperial County Supervisor. The cause of death isstill being determined.  As top executive from 2011 to January 2019 of the powerful but often overlooked IID, Kelley regularly took on state, federal and urban water officials to remind them of the valley’s importance. He was a well-known figure in Western water politics, relying on humor and tenacity to run an agency entitled to the largest single share of Colorado River water. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here: Imperial Valley water champion Kevin Kelley, who fought to save the Salton Sea, dies at 61

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Podcasts …

PODSHIP EARTH PODCAST w/JARED BLUMENFELD:  Birding

“Our human relationship to birds is complex. They’re wellbeing is our wellbeing. Since 1970, US bird populations have plummeted by 3 Billion birds – that’s an insane 30% of all birds – gone forever! Luckily, the 60 million birdwatchers in the US alone are ready to help. Dr. Meredith Williams takes me on my maiden birdwatching adventure. Connecting to nature is the most powerful force we have in defense of the planet and birdwatching establishes a link to our past and present with profound immediacy.”


WATER IS A MANY SPLENDOR’ED THING PODCAST: Scottish Canals and Climate Change

Steve Baker writes, “I am sure you have heard that climate changes will have an impact on everyone. Scotland is no exception. Water is a Many Splendor’ed Thing brings you another water relationship that has a personally significant impact to your life.”  Produced by Steven Baker, Operation Unite® Bringing People Together to Solve Water Problems, Online at www.operationunite.co

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In regional water news this weekend …

NorCal: Overturned fuel tank at cannabis grow leads to over $100,000 fine and more

Two out-of-state men were ordered by a judge to pay $117,373 in restitution for water pollution violations stemming from an overturned fuel tank that released an estimated 760 gallons of diesel into Rock Tree Creek, a tributary of the Eel River.  The men had used the fuel tank to power an illegal indoor cannabis grow on their property in December 2017. An investigation determined the tank overturned and spilled fuel on Dec. 16. ... ”  Read more from the Redheaded Blackbelt here: Overturned fuel tank at cannabis grow leads to over $100,000 fine and more

Coho return to Noyo tributaries as salmon habitat restoration proceeds

The Noyo River, Pudding Creek, the Navarro. These are just some of the rivers that flow through Mendocino County, starting from their headwaters in the chaparral hills, they wind down valleys of redwoods, and pour out into the Pacific ocean. The rivers running through our county are some of the last left that still host wild California Central Coast coho, a genetically distinct subset of coho salmon, that once flourished in the region, with returns reaching up to 400,000 fish, according to one scientist, and filling rivers from Aptos Creek in Santa Cruz up to the mouth of the Eel River. … ”  Read more from Mendocino Beacon here:  Coho return to Noyo tributaries as salmon habitat restoration proceeds

El Dorado Irrigation District approves permanent water contract to draw from Folsom reservoir

At a special meeting Jan. 11 the El Dorado Irrigation District Board of Directors unanimously voted to adopt a resolution authorizing the conversion of the district’s existing long-term Central Valley Project water contract to one that runs in perpetuity.  For six decades the district has held a long-term water service contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for the diversion of up to 7,550 acre-feet annually of CVP water from Folsom reservoir. The contract was last renewed in 2006 for a period of 40 years. … ”  Read more from the Mountain Democrat here:  El Dorado Irrigation District approves permanent water contract to draw from Folsom reservoir

$29.5M for Sacramento River levee improvements

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District has awarded a $29.5 million construction contract to Nordic Industries Inc. for 1.8 miles of levee improvements at four sites along the Sacramento River East Levee.  Construction in 2021 will entail installation of seepage cutoff walls on both sides of Business 80/Highway 50 just upstream of Miller Park, on the south side of the little pocket, and on the north side of the big pocket. … ”  Read more from Dredging Today here: $29.5M for Sacramento River levee improvements

Santa Cruz: Recent California wildfires were likely fueled by embers smoldering underground for months

Several small wildfires that erupted around California’s Santa Cruz Mountains on Tuesday were likely started by wind that fanned embers smoldering underground for months after a huge fire outbreak in the same region last year.  There is a “strong possibility” the wind helped rekindle hot spots within the boundaries of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire, which burned in August and September, according to Cecile Juliette, a spokesperson for Cal Fire CZU, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection unit that covers Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties. ... ”  Read more from The Weather Channel here: Recent California wildfires were likely fueled by embers smoldering underground for months

Santa Clarita Valley Water to hold public meeting on water shortage plan

The Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency will hold a public meeting via Zoom to inform residents of the Water Shortage Contingency Plan and gather community input on Jan. 28 beginning at 6:30 p.m.  The contingency plan is discussed with the public and updated every five years, according to Gary Martin, SCV Water board president. He added the plan is part of the overall water-management plan.  “The goal of the meeting is to gather input from the public in case action is needed to be taken if there is a water shortage,” Martin said. “If there’s a drought or an emergency which leads to a water shortage, we might have to take action to reserve water and that action could impact the community.” … ”  Read more from the Santa Clarita Valley Signal here: Santa Clarita Valley Water to hold public meeting on water shortage plan

Why this is the year Lomita finally solves its drinking water issues

Construction is set to begin in Lomita next month on a new multimillion dollar water filtration system designed to not only remove the cancer-causing chemical benzene that was recently discovered in the city’s well, but also fix the community’s longstanding groundwater quality issues.  Lomita shut down its well on Cypress Street in May 2019 after the chemical was found. Lomita is currently using expensive imported water, something officials have said they had hoped to avoid by tapping local groundwater supplies via the city well. … ”  Read more from the Daily Breeze here:  Why this is the year Lomita finally solves its drinking water issues

San Diego optimistic about federal legislation to streamline permit for Point Loma sewer plant

Long-awaited federal legislation exempting San Diego from having to get a Clean Water Act waiver every five years has a strong chance of being approved this year, city officials said.  The legislation, which is required for the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant, was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives 395-4 in November. But the U.S. Senate didn’t vote to approve it.  With a new Congress now in place, Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego) plans to introduce the legislation again in coming weeks, said Adrian Granda, director of government affairs for Mayor Todd Gloria. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here: San Diego optimistic about federal legislation to streamline permit for Point Loma sewer plant

With rain on the way, Imperial Beach braces for Tijuana River sewage

Two winter storms expected to roll over San Diego County this month are renewing worries over sewage flows from the Tijuana River Valley.  Almost routinely after it rains in the county, many South Bay beaches are closed due to sewage-contaminated runoff from the Tijuana River. … ”  Read more from Channel 10 here: With rain on the way, Imperial Beach braces for Tijuana River sewage

Along the Colorado River …

Here’s what it takes to keep Colorado River fish from going extinct

The Colorado River is one of the most engineered river systems in the world. Over millions of years, the living creatures that call the river home have adapted to its natural variability, of seasonal highs and lows. But for the last century, they have struggled to keep up with rapid change in the river’s flows and ecology.  Dams throughout the watershed create barriers and alter flows that make life hard for native fish. Toss in 70 non-native fish species, rapidly growing invasive riparian plants and a slurry of pollutants, and the problem of endangered fish recovery becomes even more complex.  … ”  Read more from Nevada Public Radio here: Here’s what it takes to keep Colorado River fish from going extinct

In national water news …

Environmental turnaround — 8 issues that will pivot in California’s favor under Biden

As wildfires, heat waves, water scarcity and threats to wildlife intensify in the West, California’s effort to confront these environmental crises now has support in Washington, a stark change from the past four years.  Even as former President Donald Trump spent his final days in office on the sidelines, lamenting his election loss, his administration continued to roll back environmental conservation and gut climate regulations. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Environmental turnaround — 8 issues that will pivot in California’s favor under Biden

‘Mass aging’ of dams a global safety and financial risk, UN report says

A global dam-building binge that spanned the early- to mid-20th century is now reaching a turning point, according to a report published by the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment, and Health.  These dams are nearing middle and old age, when their operation and maintenance poses growing financial, environmental, and safety challenges. Though each dam is a unique case, an older fleet has common risks: Rising maintenance costs and declining capacity to store water due to sediment buildup. Continued environmental harm from blocking fish migration and stagnant waters in their reservoirs. And designs that may not stand up to an era of more intense rainstorms and severe weather, putting them in danger of collapse. ... ”  Read more from Circle of Blue here: ‘Mass Aging’ of Dams a Global Safety and Financial Risk, UN Report Says

Catch up on last week’s news in the Weekly Digest …

WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for Jan 17-22: Water Supply Reliability Estimation: an overview; Results from the 2019 recycled water volumetric report; Plus all the top water news of the week

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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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