WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for Feb 14-19: What is Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM)?; Climate change adaptation, equity, and water; plus all the top water news stories of the week and more …

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

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This week’s featured articles …

What is Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM)?

Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) is an initiative led by the Department of Water Resources that seeks to support collaborative efforts among agencies, NGOs, Tribes, and stakeholders within a region that identify and implement water management solutions to increase regional self-reliance, reduce conflict, and manage water to achieve multiple objectives. Integrated Regional Water Management has the potential to deliver higher value for investments by considering all interests, providing multiple benefits, and working across jurisdictional boundaries.

But what exactly is Integrated Regional Water Management (or IRWM)?  In September of 2020, a webinar hosted by the IRWM Roundtable of Regions and the Local Government Commission covered the basics of the program, how it works, the benefits, the implementation, and success stories from regions across the state.

Click here to read this article.


WATER LAW SYMPOSIUM: Climate change adaptation, equity, and water

State Water Board member Laurel Firestone talks about the need to bring equity into our climate adaptation actions; Professor Karrigan Bork looks at temperature projections for California

The California Water Law Symposium is an annual collaborative student-run event that brings together leading minds in water law to discuss California’s critical water issues. Led this year by UC Davis School of Law, participant schools included USF School of Law; UC Hastings College of the Law; UC Berkeley School of Law; Golden Gate University School of Law; and University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law.

The theme of this year’s conference focused on climate change and adaptation.  Professor Karrigan Bork, a UC Davis King Hall’s environmental law faculty member, gave the introductory presentation to set the stage for the rest of the conference that highlighted the heat impacts that are projected for California over the next century.  Then, State Water Board member Laurel Firestone gave the keynote address, focusing on the climate change impacts that are disproportionately impacting frontline communities and the need to bring equity into how we adapt to these impacts.

Here’s what they had to say.

Click here to read this article.

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In California water news this week …

Trump’s California water plan troubled federal biologists. They were sidelined

Federal scientists and regulators repeatedly complained they were sidelined by Donald Trump’s administration when they warned of risks to wildlife posed by a California water management plan, according to newly unveiled documents.  The plan, finalized in late 2019, favored the former president’s political allies – farmers upset with environmental protections that kept them from receiving more irrigation water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the hub of California’s water network. A top California fisheries regulator questioned whether officials with the Trump administration were violating her agency’s “scientific integrity” policy and warned her boss that the administration’s methodology “definitely raises a flag”. A scientist said he feared “the pendulum was always going to swing in the favor of political decisions”. Another vowed to stand up for science even if “someone tries to bury it”. ... ”  Read more from The Guardian here: Trump’s California water plan troubled federal biologists. They were sidelined

California now has a futures market for water. Some farmers are skeptical

Investors, farmers, and Reddit users can now all hedge bets on the price of water in California thanks to the launch of the first water futures market in the country late last year. It represents a new financial outlook on water in California — one driven by the market.  Since its launch Dec. 7, the futures the market has seen 180 trades — equivalent to over 550 million gallons of actual water. But the water futures market has nothing to do with the movement of real water: it’s just about money.  “We’re not delivering water,” Tim McCourt of the CME Group, which manages the marketplace, said at the California Department of Food and Agriculture last week. “This is really the financial value.” … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here: California now has a futures market for water. Some farmers are skeptical

Delta study examines climate change effect

For the better part of the last two centuries, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has been modified in any number of ways to meet the demands of Californians. But a new wide-ranging study looks at what might be the most serious Delta threat that doesn’t come in the form of an excavator – global warming.  “Delta Adapts: Creating a Climate Resistant Future” was released by the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) with an overarching goal of building climate resilience in the Delta by improving the understanding of the region’s vulnerabilities to worldwide climate change. ... ”  Read more from The Press here:  Delta study examines climate change effect

Is this winter’s sketchy snowpack the new normal?

On Saturday, skiing the fall line of Crystal Mountain’s Right Angle Trees in Washington’s Cascade Range, I made turns without hitting bottom for the first time this season, and felt that perfect zero-G float of powder skiing. This past week has felt like a reprieve: snowy, cold, and deep. The winter I’ve been waiting for finally showed up.  But of course, there was a bottom to the snowpack. And the better-late-than-never storms have had a real dark side. Like almost everyone who backcountry-skis, I’ve been spending a lot of the past few weeks thinking about the layers in this year’s skinny snowpack, and how snow, or the lack thereof, stacks up to become dangerous. … ”  Read more from Outside Online here: Is this winter’s sketchy snowpack the new normal?

Double blast of lawsuits fired at proposed Kern groundwater bank

A major water banking proposal northwest of Bakersfield that won coveted Proposition 1 funding in 2018, was hit by two lawsuits earlier this month, one claiming it is nothing more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing intent on selling Kern River water to southern California.  The City of Bakersfield and the Kern County Water Agency filed separate complaints Feb. 2 against the Kern Fan Groundwater Storage Project seeking to have the project’s recently approved environmental impact report deemed inadequate. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here:  Double blast of lawsuits fired at proposed Kern groundwater bank

Millions of steelhead to be released throughout Central Valley

Steelhead season is underway in the Central Valley as three major hatcheries are set to release over 1.1 million fish into the Feather, Nimbus and Mokelumne rivers later this month.  Steelhead are the migratory form of rainbow trout that make their journey to the Pacific Ocean and return to freshwater streams.  Unlike salmon, steelhead don’t die after spawning and can make the journey from freshwater to saltwater and back multiple times in their lives, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. … ”  Read more from KCRA Channel 3 here:  Millions of steelhead to be released throughout Central Valley

The path to healthy headwater forests

The worst wildfire year in California history has prompted new interest in and increased efforts to better manage Sierra forests to improve their resilience to fire, drought, and pests. “It is both a daunting and remarkable time to be engaged in headwater forest management issues,” noted PPIC researcher Henry McCann at a virtual event last week.  McCann summarized PPIC’s new analysis of recent forest stewardship practices on public and private lands in the headwaters region, which shows that the amount of land treated is below what experts say is needed to keep forests healthy. ... ”  Read more from the PPIC here: The path to healthy headwater forests

Column:  California’s climate change future is being written – in its waterways

Wayne Western writes, “Much like COVID-19 is changing our election practices and day-to-day business operations, climate change could change your water rights, according to the State Water Resources Control Board.  In the past, I have eluded to the shift from historical facts used for analysis and forecasting to a fear-based guessing game that allows an unelected bureaucracy backed by a one-party-rule elected body to usurp your property rights.  From the State Water Board: “Hydrologic modeling informed by long-term measurement data sets can constrain the functional uncertainty of global climate model-based future hydrology projections.” ... ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Column:  California’s climate change future is being written – in its waterways

Expert panel: Food grown with produced water safe for human consumption

An expert panel has concluded that the decades-old practice of irrigating agricultural food crops with“produced water” from oil fields shows no evidence of increased risk to human health. The panel’s 35-page Food Safety Project White Paper is the result of five years of extensive crop sampling and a thorough evaluation of data, along with a review of existing literature. Central to the data analysis is an evaluation of toxicity related to the water and its potential impact on crops. The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board is inviting members of the public to comment on the white paper at its next meeting on Feb. 18-19, along with an option to submit written comments until March 5. … ”  Continue reading this press release from the State Water Board here: Expert panel: Food grown with produced water safe for human consumption

What California needs to do to avoid a Texas-style electricity crisis

California and Texas, the country’s two most populous states, have each faced major energy crises within the past six months that share a primary cause: extreme weather.  This week, millions of Texans lost power amid a historic winter storm that blanketed the state in snow and ice and sent temperatures plunging to uncommonly frigid depths. … The Lone Star State’s plight is many orders of magnitude worse than the rolling blackouts Californians endured over two blistering days in August. Yet both situations have exposed the extent to which the United States’ vital energy infrastructure is threatened by erratic and extreme weather conditions that are becoming increasingly common as climate change advances. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: What California needs to do to avoid a Texas-style electricity crisis

Forest thinning to reduce wildfire risk gives opportunity to new startups

As the risk of wildfire grows, scientists say the U.S. needs to aggressively thin out overgrown forests. That’s expensive and it can create massive piles of worthless brush and branches. Sam Brasch of Colorado Public Radio reports some businesses see a new market. … ”  Read transcript/Listen to radio show from Valley Public Radio here: Forest thinning to reduce wildfire risk gives opportunity to new startups

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In regional water news this week …

Northern California: Private trout farm works with Service, others for conservation

When you think of a private fish farm, you don’t typically think of conservation, but through a new partnership that is changing.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Coleman National Fish Hatchery and Mt. Lassen Trout Farm have come together to raise endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon and release them into Battle Creek as part of the Jumpstart Project aimed at reintroducing winter-run to the watershed.  Phil Mackey has been raising trout for nearly 50 years at the trout farm, so when biologists approached him about using one of their hatcheries as a location to raise endangered winter-run Chinook salmon he didn’t hesitate. ... ”  Read more from the US FWS here:  Private trout farm works with Service, others for conservation

Ukiah Groundwater Agency moves forward with well monitoring network — expects groundwater regulation by June 2022

After a three month hiatus, the Ukiah Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency’s board held their first meeting of 2021 yesterday, at which they approved new board members, adopted an updated communication plan, and formally gained access to two parcels where they will expand their groundwater monitoring network as they work towards their goal of fully regulating and managing groundwater usage by June 2022.  In the past, no government has regulated groundwater usage in Ukiah nor in California. However, a 2015 law, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA pronounced like the Greek letter Σ), changed that. … ”  Read more from the Mendocino Beacon here: Ukiah Groundwater Agency moves forward with well monitoring network — expects groundwater regulation by June 2022

City of St. Helena reaches agreement with water watchdog group

The City of St. Helena has agreed to monitor local groundwater levels and stream flows, averting a potential lawsuit from an environmental advocacy group. Following months of negotiations, the city and Water Audit California released a joint statement Friday announcing the city will collect monthly water levels and annual extraction totals for local wells and provide a public, “scientifically useful” summary of the data. … ”  Read more from the Napa Register here:  City of St. Helena reaches agreement with water watchdog group

San Francisco Bay Area sinking under its own weight – 3.5 trillion pounds

It’s not just San Francisco’s Millennium Tower that’s sinking.  The entire Bay Area is plunging downward under the weight of its own sprawl. And that’s a concern as sea levels rise and cities try to figure out how they’ll stay above water in the coming decades.  Tom Parsons, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey, documented the problem recently. He calculated the weight of every building in the Bay Area and found the total to be so great, about 3.5 trillion pounds or the equivalent of more than 7 million Boeing 747s, that it’s pushing the Earth’s surface down. … ”  Continue reading at the San Francisco Chronicle here:  San Francisco Bay Area sinking under its own weight – 3.5 trillion pounds

SEE ALSOPhoto feature: The sinking city: Pressing business

How an atlas of San Francisco Bay is helping deal with sea level rise

Recent flooding along one of America’s great estuaries—the San Francisco Bay—is prompting local groups to take action against further climate risk.  The San Francisco Bay Trail provides more than 350 miles of walking and cycling path through the 47 cities and nine counties that ring the San Francisco Bay, and acts as a popular viewing platform for tide cycles and abundant wildlife. Because it sits at the wetland-urban interface, the trail is extremely vulnerable to sea-level rise. … To understand the Bay Trail’s vulnerability and determine ways to mitigate flood damage, planners with the East Bay Regional Park District are using SFEI’s San Francisco Bay Shoreline Adaptation Atlas, created by Beagle and her colleagues. ... ”  Read more from ESRI here: How an atlas of San Francisco Bay is helping deal with sea level rise

Wildfires can pollute drinking water. That worries some in the hills above Santa Cruz

As the first heavy rains of the season poured across the Santa Cruz Mountains last month, emergency responders and residents braced for debris flows, road closures and power outages.  Others also feared for their drinking water. These included Boulder Creek resident Dan Fitzpatrick, who amid the downpours pictured the rain washing over burned-out neighborhoods and into the catchment system of his water provider.  “Every storm that has occurred since the fire has caused the water to run black for a few days, so I know runoff is making it into the water,” said Fitzpatrick, a former member of his water district’s engineering committee. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Wildfires can pollute drinking water. That worries some in the hills above Santa Cruz

Tuolumne Utilities District moving closer to acquiring water rights and infrastructure

The Tuolumne Utilities District hosted a joint meeting to provide local stakeholders an update on efforts to acquire PG&E assets like Pinecrest Reservoir and Lyons Dam, and water rights from New Melones.  The informational meeting included the Tuolumne County Supervisors, Sonora City Council and local tribal representatives.  TUD Board Chair Barbara Balen opened by stating, “I’d like us to think about what local control of water could mean to the people who live here,” and moving from “uncertainty and fear of not having enough water for fire protection, or even fire insurance, to the direction of certainty, and local control.” … “  Read more from My Mother Lode here: Tuolumne Utilities District moving closer to acquiring water rights and infrastructure

State, Boeing mediating cleanup dispute at former nuke site near Simi, worrying activists

The state and Boeing have quietly begun mediating the long-planned cleanup of the former Santa Susana Field Laboratory site near Simi Valley, a move activists and Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks fear will water down the cleanup.  In a Jan. 22 letter, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, which is overseeing the cleanup, offered the aerospace giant, which owns most of the contaminated site, an opportunity to enter non-binding, confidential mediation.  The mediation would be an attempt to resolve Boeing’s “dispute with DTSC’s direction … regarding Boeing’s groundwater corrective measures study,” the letter states. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star here:  State, Boeing mediating cleanup dispute at former nuke site near Simi, worrying activists

Egret at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. Photo by CDFW/Kirsten Macintyre

Tentative order released for controversial Poseidon water project

The Santa Ana Regional Water Board released a tentative order Friday detailing proposed revisions to Poseidon Water’s controversial proposed $1.4-billion water desalination project in Huntington Beach.  The board’s tentative order would make Poseidon responsible for five mitigation projects, including four projects within the Bolsa Chica Wetlands and the restoration of a 41.5-acre rocky reef offshore of Palos Verdes. The four proposed wetlands projects include the long-term preservation of the wetland’s ocean inlet, restoration of the wetland’s intertidal shelf, restoration of the wetland’s muted tidal basin and creation of the muted tidal basin water circulating system. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Tentative order released for controversial Poseidon water project

State launches Salton Sea restoration effort

California is poised to begin the first major restoration project at the Salton Sea.  The state is investing more than $200 million in a project that will create flooded ponds and other habitats on the exposed lakebed at the southern edge of the lake.  “We’ll complete the work over the next two-and-a-half years, I believe completing the project in 2023,” said Wade Crowfoot, secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency. … ”  Read more from KPBS here: State launches Salton Sea restoration effort

Water agencies disagree on how much water San Diego needs

The San Diego Water Authority thinks the region is going to need way more water over the next few decades, but the smaller agencies that buy water from them aren’t so sure.  They think the Water Authority is projecting too much growth in future water demand, and they’re worried that if they’re right, residents are going to end up paying for it, even as they curtail their own water usage.  “If demand is inaccurate, we underset rates and then we have a deficit,” said Sarah Davis, a management analyst for Oceanside’s Water Utilities Department. “But if we overestimate, we can get into a situation where rates are set too high.” ... ”  Read more from the Voice of San Diego here: Water agencies disagree on how much water San Diego needs

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In national water news this week …

Texas power outage underscores looming climate tests

Texas’ electric grid nearly melted down in the summer of 2019, when searing temperatures sent electricity demand soaring.  The state’s grid operator was able to keep the lights on, but many observers were worried. They wondered if Texas power plants would be able to match the rising demand, driven largely by residents reaching for the dial on their air conditioning units.  When the grid locked up again this week, leaving 4 million people in Texas without power, it was for an entirely different reason: extreme cold, the likes of which the state had never seen. ... ”  Read more from Scientific American here: Texas power outage underscores looming climate tests

69 dams removed in 2020

Despite the challenges of working through a pandemic, river restoration practitioners continued to pursue dam removal projects in 2020 to revitalize local economies and communities and reconnect 624 upstream river miles for fish, wildlife and river health. Sixty-nine dams were removed in 2020 across 23 states, including: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. … ”  Read more from American Rivers here:  69 dams removed in 2020

How water utilities are responding to covid-19 with GIS

” … Many water utilities use geographic information every day to help manage their assets, monitor their operations, analyze their systems, and make more informed decisions. In today’s environment, the same issues and challenges exist but with the added complexities of the pandemic. Many organizations are turning to their geographic information system (GIS) for support. Esri provides a variety of data layers, apps, and solutions that can be used to meet a number of challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.  … ”  Read more from ESRI via Water Online here: How water utilities are responding to covid-19 with GIS

Weekly features …

BLOG ROUND-UP: Dry year myths revisited; A swiss cheese model for fish conservation; Sacramento River salmon redd dewatering; How to Save the Colorado River; and more …

Click here to read this article.


SCIENCE NEWS: Private trout farm works with Fish & Wildlife Service, others for conservation; If you look deep into the eyes of a fish, it will tell you its life story; New method to track salmon, trout genetic diversity; How an atlas of SF Bay is helping deal with sea level rise; and more …

Click here to read this article.

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Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

ANNOUNCEMENT: Join the Delta Adapts Climate Resilience Scavenger Hunt and Adaptation Scoping Meetings

NOTICE: New Cybersecurity Advisory on Compromise of Florida Water Treatment Facility

WATER PLAN eNEWS: ~~Lake Mendocino~ Water Data~ NASA Article~ Headwaters Study~ Water Replenishment~ WateReuse Symposium~ Forest Stewardship ~~

DELTA eNEWS: ~~ Engineering Pioneer~ Ferry Closure~ Delta Internet~ DSC Meeting~ NHA Meeting~ Delta Voice~~

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