DAILY DIGEST, 2/10: California’s aging dams face new perils; Diversifying water supplies includes aquifer recharge; How is the Delta Conveyance Project Financed?; Chevron Refinery leaks 600 gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay; and more …


On the calendar today …

  • FREE WEBINAR: CV-SALTS Permittee Webinar: Salt Compliance in the Central Valley from 10am to 12pm.  The Central Valley Salinity Coalition (CVSC) is hosting a live webinar for permitted dischargers, consultants, and other parties interested in salinity management in the Central Valley. The webinar will provide an opportunity to learn firsthand from the people who developed new nitrate and salinity permitting requirements approved by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Central Valley Water Board).  Click here to register.
  • UWMP WEBINAR: Preparation, Adoption, and Submittal from 10am to 12pm.  Do you need assistance clarifying the many specifics of preparing, adopting, and submitting the UWMP 2020? Presenting and clarifying these procedures and requirements, DWR will host its eighth topic-specific webinar to support training those preparing Urban Water Management Plans, due July 1, 2021.  Click here for more information.
  • GRA SACRAMENTO: California’s Groundwater Update 2020/Bulletin 118 from 5pm to 7pm. Join a member of DWR’s Groundwater Team who will present on the background of Bulletin 118 / California’s Groundwater, and an overview of the content of Update 2020 and supporting resources.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

California’s aging dams face new perils, 50 years after Sylmar quake crisis

It was a harrowing vision of the vulnerability of aging California dams — crews laboring feverishly to sandbag and drain the lower San Fernando Reservoir, as billions of gallons of Los Angeles drinking water lapped at the edge of a crumbling, earthquake-damaged embankment that threatened catastrophe on the neighborhoods below.  Although the 1971 San Fernando earthquake and the near failure of the Lower Van Norman Dam have given rise to construction improvements — the much newer Los Angeles Dam survived an equivalent shaking in the 1994 Northridge quake — the overwhelming majority of California dams are decades past their design life span. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: California’s aging dams face new perils, 50 years after Sylmar quake crisis

Diversifying water supplies includes aquifer recharge

Bracing for potentially a second consecutive year of dry conditions, California water officials, farmers and researchers participating in an irrigation conference discussed recharging aquifers with stormwater and increased water efficiency among ways to diversify the state’s water supply.  The 59th annual California Irrigation Institute conference was held virtually last week, in time for the year’s second manual snow survey by the California Department of Water Resources. … ”  Read more from the California Farm Bureau Federation here: Diversifying water supplies includes aquifer recharge

Q/A: How is the Delta Conveyance Project Financed?

In the latest Delta Conveyance Deep Dive video, we take a look at the financing mechanisms that make the project possible, both now, in the initial planning stages, and in the future if the project is approved. It might not sound like the most exciting aspect of the project but it’s certainly one area where there’s a lot of public interest and concern. With a project of this scale (the most recent estimate of the total cost is around $16 billion) it’s not surprising that people want to know who’s footing the bill. In this illuminating conversation, Department of Water Resources (DWR) senior attorney Chris Martin guides us through the backwaters of Delta Conveyance Project financing. … ”  Read more/watch video from DWR here:  Q/A: How is the Delta Conveyance Project Financed?

Investors seek Westlands acreage as it enters market

A 2016 rule has allowed the nation’s largest water district to pay off its debts, eliminating caps on land purchases in western Fresno County. Brokers and consultants say this development may be enough to entice large institutional investors to take a chance on land in the area.  Last year, Westlands Water District repaid the federal government for infrastructure investment under the Central Valley Project by selling roughly $220 million worth of 30-year bonds. The passage of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act in 2016 allowed for the accelerated repayment of debts.  Most notably, the repayment eliminates caps on farmland operations. … ”  Read more from the Business Journal here: Investors seek Westlands acreage at it enters market

A new atmospheric river fieldwork season begins

The Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes (CW3E) 2021 fieldwork season is off to a busy start with a series of atmospheric river events that arrived in January. Due to COVID-19, this year’s field season looks a little different than in seasons past. Rather than rotating crews from week-to-week, two dedicated teams headed to Northern California for the full duration of the wet season to sample impactful atmospheric river events.  One team is launching radiosondes from the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory in Bodega Bay, CA (coastal site), while the other is launching from a Yuba Water Agency warehouse in Marysville in Yuba County (Sierra foothills site). … ”  Read more from the Center for Western Weather & Water Extremes here: A new CW3E fieldwork season begins

California wineries required to comply with new statewide waste discharge order

On January 20, 2021, the California State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) adopted a new statewide general Waste Discharge Requirement (WDR) order for winery process waste discharge facilities (New Winery Order). This action will affect thousands of wineries and wine processing facilities throughout the state. Though the State Water Board adopted the New Winery Order to streamline and improve permitting consistency while also strengthening environmental protection, wine industry groups have expressed concerns over its burdensome compliance costs. … ”  Read more from the National Law Review here:  California wineries required to comply with new statewide waste discharge order

Court of Appeal holds that a city’s surcharge for utility services to cover voter approved general tax on revenues from customer fees and charges did not violate proposition 218

The Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District recently ruled in Wyatt v. City of Sacramento that a City’s imposition of a surcharge in the form of a “general tax” on property-related utility services payable to the City’s general fund did not violate Proposition 218 (Prop. 218).  (Wyatt, supra (Jan. 29, 2021, C089702) 2021 Cal. App. LEXIS 79.)  The appellate court decision confirms that a surcharge imposed on a utility enterprise is a cost of providing utility services and is therefore properly part of the Prop. 218 analysis of determining whether revenues exceed funds required to provide the services.  The decision further clarifies that, even when revenues from such a surcharge are transferred to a general fund, they do not necessarily violate Prop. 218’s prohibition on funding general governmental services if the surcharge is imposed for specific utility services. ... ”  Read more from Somach Simmons & Dunn here: Court of Appeal holds that a city’s surcharge for utility services to cover voter approved general tax on revenues from customer fees and charges did not violate proposition 218

Earthquakes can acidify groundwater

The aboveground effects of earthquake ground shaking are often readily visible. If the shaking is strong enough, it can rend, tilt, and dislodge rock at Earth’s surface, resulting in cracks, mudflows, and landslides that are apparent for all to see.  Below the surface, earthquakes open fractures that can release and shift gases and fluids, discharging groundwater from aquifers and altering streamflow on the surface. Additionally, quakes can, at least temporarily, expose groundwater to pollution and change its makeup. Such shifts typically correlate with earthquakes larger than magnitude 3.5. But what about weaker earthquakes? … ”  Read more from EOS here: Earthquakes can acidify groundwater

More frequent drought in California

Longer fire seasons and more persistent and longer lasting droughts have been a common theme in the last 20 years, but especially so since 2014.  Data from the United States Drought Monitor by region, county and location shows how most of California has experienced some level of drought conditions — from D-1 moderate to D-4 extreme — roughly 80% of the time since 2000. … ”  Read more from NBC Bay Area here:  More frequent drought in California

Washington: Rising water temperatures could be a death sentence for Pacific salmon

In the Pacific Northwest, several species of salmon are in danger of extinction. The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office has released a report on the state of salmon populations in the state’s watersheds — and the findings predict a grim future.  The report was commissioned by the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office, established by the state legislature in 1998 in response to the Salmon Recovery Planning Act. Its findings showed that 10 to 14 species of salmon in the northwest are “threatened or endangered,” and five species are “in crisis.” … ”  Read more from Columbia University’s State of the Planet here: Rising water temperatures could be a death sentence for Pacific salmon

Evaluating environmental predictors of Western U.S. wildfires

As the western United States becomes hotter and drier, wildfires in the region are becoming more frequent and severe. In addition to causing acute, local impacts on people and property, the fires can adversely affect the respiratory health of the millions of people who inhale tiny smoke particles that drift downwind. But understanding what drives wildfire activity from year to year across this diverse region and how these factors could change in the future has been difficult to ascertain.  Now Brey et al. report results from a series of statistical analyses examining which environmental variables are likely to be the best predictors of future wildfire burn area, a metric that is proportional to the air quality impacts of smoke. … ” Read more from EOS here:  Evaluating environmental predictors of Western U.S. wildfires

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Nevada Irrigation District Snow Survey: storms deliver; snowpack still below normal and reservoir levels at 87% of average

“The recent storms helped increase the amount of precipitation in the watersheds that are the source for Nevada Irrigation District (NID) water supply, yet totals for the season remain lower than normal for the year.   “January produced near average precipitation for the month. The storms after January 26 added approximately 6 inches of water content to our snowpack,” said Thor Larsen, NID’s Water Resources Superintendent. “While there was improvement to the snowpack, we are still below average and continue to encourage conservation.” … ” Read more from YubaNet here: Nevada Irrigation District Snow Survey: storms deliver; snowpack still below normal and reservoir levels at 87% of average

Chevron Refinery leaks 600 gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay

Contra Costa County officials temporarily issued a public health advisory for portions of Richmond, North Richmond and San Pablo after an oil spill sent roughly “600 gallons of a petroleum and water mixture” into San Francisco Bay at the Chevron Refinery in Richmond on Tuesday, authorities said.  The cause of the spill was not immediately known, but officials at the scene determined that roughly 600 gallons leaked, Bay Area Air Quality Management District officials said on Twitter. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Chevron Refinery leaks 600 gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay

Bay Area weather: Rain returning Thursday and Saturday

After a stretch of sunny, dry weather, the first significant rainfall is heading to the Bay Area since an atmospheric river storm pummeled Northern California two weeks ago.  A new storm is forecast to roll in Thursday night, forecasters said Tuesday. It won’t be anywhere near as big as the late January storm that triggered landslide warnings and evacuations in Santa Cruz County communities, and washed out a big chunk of Highway 1 in Big Sur.  But the rains, which are expected to begin in the North Bay and fall throughout the night into Friday morning, will bring up to half an inch to Bay Area cities, and up to 1 inch in the North Bay hills, Santa Cruz Mountains and Big Sur area. The system, from the Gulf of Alaska, also is forecast to bring 1 to 2 feet of new snow in the Sierra Nevada. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Bay Area weather: Rain returning Thursday and Saturday

Santa Cruz: Dry summer and fall could lead to water rationing in spring

There is a possibility that residents of Santa Cruz could be asked to ration water usage in the spring after dry summer and fall seasons.  Santa Cruz Water Director Rosemary Menard gave a preliminary presentation of the city’s water outlook to the City Council on Tuesday, shortly after the second half of the wet season began.  The presentation evaluated four factors to project what the city’s water outlook will look like and whether residents will need to ration water as the dry season approaches. Those factors are rainfall in the area, streamflow in the San Lorenzo River, reservoir storage and San Lorenzo cumulative discharge. … ”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel here: Santa Cruz: Dry summer and fall could lead to water rationing in spring

Fresno-area households owe over $15 million in water debt. Will they get a bailout?

Thousands of households in Madera, Fresno, Tulare and Kings counties that fell behind on their water bills are at risk of a lien on their property and potential water shutoffs. Administrators and legislators are working to strengthen a safety net for low-income residents with water debt, but proposed solutions may still leave some in financial crisis or without running water. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Fresno-area households owe over $15 million in water debt. Will they get a bailout?

Paso Robles: Grape growers use app to measure vine stress

Nearly a year after the soft launch of Tule Vision, the latest offering from Tule Technology is now even better positioned to help grape growers make informed irrigation decisions for their vineyards.  Growers can use Tule Vision to take midday leaf water potential readings by simply taking short iPhone videos of their vines. Photos from each video are then fed into a model that reports the readings in real-time to the grower on their phone. Water stress readings and photos are also displayed on Tule’s web applications. … ”  Read more from the Paso Robles Daily News here:  Paso Robles: Grape growers use app to measure vine stress

Commentary:  Till the well runs dry – Pasadena’s devastating water plan

Tim Brick, the Managing Director of the Arroyo Seco Foundation, and former Metropolitan Board member writes, ” … Eighty years ago, Pasadena officials identified a serious decline in the groundwater levels beneath our community that had occurred in the first four decades of the last century. Groundwater levels had fallen more than one hundred feet during that period. Pasadena brought together all the local water pumpers and developed a plan to stabilize water levels based on a “safe yield” that would match pumping with natural replenishment through rainfall and stream flow. In 1944 Judge Frank Collier approved the plan, the Raymond Basin adjudication.  That was a historic adjudication, the first of its kind in California, but since then groundwater levels have fallen an additional 250 feet on a consistent downslope. The Raymond Basin adjudication has failed to achieve its goal; the safe yield has not been recalibrated to adjust for actual conditions. ... ”  Read the full commentary at Pasadena Now here: Commentary:  Till the well runs dry – Pasadena’s devastating water plan

Upland mayor nominates himself and local developer to water company board

A plan by Upland Mayor Bill Velto to appoint himself and a local developer to the San Antonio Water Co. board of directors was halted Monday night, Feb. 8, after City Council members raised concerns over conflicts of interest and transparency.  Velto nominated himself along with Dan Richards, co-managing partner of the Colonies Partners, developer of a 440-acre master planned commercial and residential community in Upland known as Colonies Crossroads.  Velto, who would join Mayor Pro Tem Rudy Zuniga already on the board, said he and Zuniga would be making sure the water rates charged to Upland residents do not rise. … ”  Read more from the Inland Daily Bulletin here: Upland mayor nominates himself and local developer to water company board

Drowning in debt: Nearly 70,000 San Diego families are behind on water bills

A new report finds that nearly 70,000 San Diego families are behind on their water bills during the pandemic, with more than 11,000 owing over a thousand dollars.   That same study by the state’s Water Resources Control Board finds that one in eight California households are behind on their water bills: a a tsunami of debt adding up to more than a billion dollars. … ”  Read more from CBS 8 here:  Drowning in debt: Nearly 70,000 San Diego families are behind on water bills

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Along the Colorado River …

Monsoon has limited impact on Colorado mountain streamflow

With climate change leading to diminished snowpack in the Rocky Mountains, a new study warns that summertime rains are unlikely to significantly bolster stream levels.  The study, which focused on a snow-dominated headwater basin of the Colorado River, found that rain from the North American Monsoon generally has limited impacts on streamflow at lower elevations. Mountain forests such as dense aspen and conifer forests consume much of the water before it makes its way into streams. In drier years with reduced snowpack, the monsoon provides even less benefit for streamflow because more of the rain is absorbed into the soil and quickly evaporates back to the atmosphere. … ”  Read more from UCAR here: Monsoon has limited impact on Colorado mountain streamflow

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In national water news today …

Water plant cyberattack is wake up call, 20 years in the making

A cyberattack on a Florida water treatment plant underscores the need for strong security protections at the municipal level, attorneys and industry professionals say.  A hacker gained access to an Oldsmar, Fla. city computer on Feb. 5 and changed the level of sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, local authorities said. It isn’t yet known whether the breach originated from the U.S. or from outside the country. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is working with local authorities.  There’s been a “marked increase” in the last couple of years in cyber incidents against state and local government entities, said David Springer, a cybersecurity attorney at Bracewell LLP in Austin, Texas. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg here: Water plant cyberattack is wake up call, 20 years in the making

Hack exposes vulnerability of cash-strapped US water plants

A hacker’s botched attempt to poison the water supply of a small Florida city is raising alarms about just how vulnerable the nation’s water systems may be to attacks by more sophisticated intruders. Treatment plants are typically cash-strapped, and lack the cybersecurity depth of the power grid and nuclear plants.  A local sheriff’s startling announcement Monday that the water supply of Oldsmar, population 15,000, was briefly in jeopardy last week exhibited uncharacteristic transparency. … ”  Read more from the Seattle PI here: Hack exposes vulnerability of cash-strapped US water plants

In Florida, a river gets rights

In the summer of 2020, the Little Wekiva River appeared to die. In the span of less than two years, the creek north of downtown Orlando, Florida, had dwindled from the width of a two-lane road to a muddy trickle. Then, in the midst of one of the rainiest hurricane seasons on record, it ran dry. Locals walked the riverbed in befuddled dismay. It was as though the river had simply vanished.  The mysterious disappearance of the Little Wekiva River is an extreme example of the various plagues that bedevil Florida’s waterways. … ”  Read more from Sierra Magazine here: In Florida, a river gets rights

From electrifying rivers to dimming the sun, how humans try (and fail) to master nature

Our guest, New Yorker staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert has a new book which deals, as much of her writing does, with the enormous impact we humans have on the planet we inhabit and the species we share with it. … Her new book, she says, is about people trying to solve problems created by people trying to solve problems. She profiles specific efforts to undo damage to the natural world caused by human efforts to rid a pest or secure our water supplies or fuel our cars and factories. The stories range from a campaign to rid Australia of enormous toxic toads, originally introduced to eat beetle grubs in sugar cane fields, to plans to try and cool our warming planet by sending millions of tiny particles into the stratosphere. That might absorb some of the sun’s energy and lower temperatures, but it could also give once-blue skies a paler, bleached hue. … ”  Read more from Valley Public Radio here:  From electrifying rivers to dimming the sun, how humans try (and fail) to master nature

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Precipitation watch …

From NWS Sacramento: Unsettled weather will return to NorCal later this week as Valley rain and mountain snow chances increase during the day on Thursday. Another weather system is possible Saturday.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

WATER PLAN eNEWS: ~~ Flood-MAR Network~ Water Availability~ Federal Report~ Valley Water~ Government Guide~ Affordability Webinar~ Policies Examined ~~

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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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