DAILY DIGEST, 2/22: ‘Mega-miracle’ will be needed to overcome dry February; Groundwater salinization in Tulare Basin; Fortuna Coho salmon spotted higher upstream this year; New data reveal where flood damage is an existential threat; and more …


In California water news today …

‘Mega-miracle’ will be needed to overcome dry February in Los Angeles

February is normally the wettest month of the year in downtown Los Angeles, when 3.8 inches of rain would usually fall. This year, next to nothing has fallen.  L.A.’s rainfall to date has been 4.39 inches, less than half of normal for this point, which is 9.71 inches.  In January, normally the second-wettest month, when L.A. should expect to receive 3.12 inches, only 2.44 inches fell. That makes January the wettest month so far this winter.  The outlook favors below-normal precipitation through the end of this month and, as climate scientist Daniel Swain writes, there is at least a chance that some areas of Southern California could see a complete February shutout. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  ‘Mega-miracle’ will be needed to overcome dry February in Los Angeles

Drought-stricken West holds out for more than just dry snow

It’s a picture-perfect scene — the snow-dusted Sandia Mountains providing a backdrop to the dormant willow and cottonwood trees lining the Rio Grande.  While the recent snow has provided a psychological salve to the pains of a persistent drought, it won’t go far in easing the exceptional conditions that have taken hold of New Mexico over the past year.  Every square mile of the arid state is dealing with some level of dryness, with more than half locked in the worst category — exceptional drought. And much of the West is no better off, with parts of Arizona, Utah and Nevada among the hardest hit. … ”  Read more from the AP here: Drought-stricken West holds out for more than just dry snow

SEE ALSO: Pacific Northwest facing increased flood, avalanche threat as stormy pattern continues, while most of California, Desert Southwest to bask in springlike warmth this week.

Groundwater salinization in California’s Tulare Lake Basin, the ABCSAL model

Lower groundwater levels can prevent drainage of water and salts from a basin and increase aquifer salinity that eventually renders the groundwater unsuitable for use as drinking water or irrigation without expensive desalination. Pauloo et al. (2021)  demonstrate this process for the Tulare Lake Basin (TLB) of California’s Central Valley. Even if groundwater pumping does not cause overdraft, it can cause hydrologic basin closure leading to progressive salinization that will not cease until the basin is opened by allowing natural or engineered exits for groundwater and dissolved salt. The process, “Anthropogenic Basin Closure and Groundwater Salinization (ABCSAL)”, is driven by human water management. … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Groundwater Salinization in California’s Tulare Lake Basin, the ABCSAL model

Despite discrimination and drought, Punjabi Americans farm on

On a bright February morning, Kulwant Singh Johl, a third-generation Punjabi American farmer, checked the rain gauge in front of his neat stucco home in Northern California’s Yuba-Sutter area. Gusts and drizzles had battered his peach orchard nonstop for a week, but it still wasn’t enough to quench the recent drought.  …  Even Johl, who is better cushioned for tough times than many other farmers, has had to scale down production and tighten his budget. But he fears that thousands of his fellow farmers of Punjabi origin in the Central Valley — especially those who came later and own less land — will fare much worse.  … ”  Read more from High Country News here: Despite discrimination and drought, Punjabi Americans farm on

How about wind? California explores plan for wind energy along coast to combat climate change.

About an hour-and-a-half southwest of Sacramento, hundreds of nearly 20-stories tall windmills line the Montezuma Hills in Solano County. On back roads through these rolling peaks, the windmills’ shadows steadily move with the sun over farms, sheep and cows.  This mechanical forest alongside the Delta mirrors what California lawmakers want to replicate out on the ocean: an idea is being floated to allow wind turbines to be built about 20 miles off the coast from Santa Barbara to the Oregon border. It is seen by many as a necessary move to help California reach its climate goals — perhaps the most important carbon neutrality by 2045.  … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here: How about wind? California explores plan for wind energy along coast to combat climate change.

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Fortuna Coho salmon spotted higher upstream in Rohner Creek this year

Coho salmon have recently been observed higher upstream in Fortuna’s Rohner Creek than in previous years, thanks in part to stream and habitat improvements completed last year.  Flow monitoring for fish passage at the 12th Street culvert has been underway and the results are being finalized according to city consultant, GHD Civil Engineer Brett Vivyan.  “California Department of Fish and Wildlife staff have conducted biological monitoring and confirmed that coho, previously only found downstream of the culvert, have been observed upstream of the culvert following the fish passage remediation project,” he said. ... ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here: Fortuna Coho salmon spotted higher upstream in Rohner Creek this year

Great Redwood Trail, to stretch from SF Bay to Humboldt Bay, enters planning phase

Over 1,000 people logged onto a virtual town hall last week to hear an update on the Great Redwood Trail, the ambitious, expensive 316-mile foot and bike path which, when complete, will be the longest rail-to-trail project in the nation.  This pathway, to be constructed along the right of way overseen by the North Coast Railroad Authority, will stretch from San Francisco Bay to Humboldt Bay, offering hikers, cyclists and equestrians new access to towering redwood forests and the stunning Eel River Canyon. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: Great Redwood Trail, to stretch from SF Bay to Humboldt Bay, enters planning phase

Sacramento salmon run fun

Grad students from Chico State have been working alongside nonprofit and federal organizations to reestablish and analyze the success of habitats for juvenile salmon in the tributaries of the Sacramento River. Salmon play a crucial role in the Sacramento River’s ecosystem by being one of its top predator fish.  The Coleman National Fish Hatchery on Feb. 4 partnered with the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife to release more than 300,000 juvenile Chinook salmon into the Sacramento River, and more than  53,000 juvenile winter Chinook salmon into Upper Battle Creek. … ”  Read more from the Orion here: Sacramento salmon run fun

Woodland council adopts initial phase of Cache Creek flood plan

Despite objections from some of the same landowners who have complained for nearly a decade that their property is being put at risk, the Woodland City Council has advanced its Lower Cache Creek Flood Feasibility Study.  Acting this past week, the council voted unanimously to put the financial well-being of residents and businesses first in adopting an environmental impact report which favors a multi-million dollar project to divert Cache Creek floodwaters. … ”  Read more from the Woodland Daily Democrat here: Woodland council adopts initial phase of Cache Creek flood plan

Stanislaus River watershed snow at 53% of average

Despite the atmospheric river that dumped upwards of 80 inches of snow on the highest points of the Stanislaus River watershed last month, the Central Sierra snowpack is just at 53 percent of average for Feb. 18.  South San Joaquin Irrigation District General Manager Peter Rietkerk in a memo to the board describes the 2020 water year that started Oct. 1 as being “off to a very dry start.” ... ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here: Stanislaus River watershed snow at 53% of average – Manteca Bulletin

Can struggling oyster population be revived using shells on a string?

A marine science experiment is underway in the Alamitos Bay, with boaters from the Long Beach Yacht Club giving a helping hand to the Orange County Coastkeeper for a project that hopes to boost spawning of the once-abundant Olympia oyster.  The hope is oyster shells hanging from strings that the boaters helped distribute around the bay on Saturday, Feb. 20, will be an enticing home for Olympia oyster larvae to spawn and create a healthy habitat where they can thrive. … ”  Read more from the OC Register here:  Can struggling oyster population be revived using shells on a string?

San Diegans, how much would you tax yourself to prevent floods, boost water quality?

San Diego officials plan to spend the next five months analyzing what size tax increase city voters would likely support in November 2022 to pay for projects that boost flood prevention and water quality.  The ballot measure would be the first opportunity for San Diegans to vote to raise taxes on themselves to tackle an estimated $6 billion infrastructure backlog that city officials began calling San Diego’s No. 1 challenge eight years ago. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here:  San Diegans, how much would you tax yourself to prevent floods, boost water quality?

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Along the Colorado River …

Why all that snow we’re shoveling may not rescue Utah from a bad water year

Old Man Winter has been busy of late, bringing much-needed relief to Utah’s dangerously low snowpack. But don’t let the piles of fresh snow fool you. After near-record low precipitation over the past year, Utah water supplies remain in serious trouble even with the recent return of long-absent wet weather. “We are definitely seeing significant improvement from this storm,” Jordan Clayton, a hydrologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said Wednesday. However, “it’s not the end-all, be-all for our drought and snowpack situation. In all likelihood, we are still going to have below-average snowpack by the time we get to April 1. We are still anticipating a well-below-average runoff.” … ”  Read more from the Salt Lake Tribune here: Why all that snow we’re shoveling may not rescue Utah from a bad water year

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In national water news today …

Millions still without safe drinking water in Texas

More than 8 million Texans still did not have access to safe drinking water as of Sunday night, according to multiple media reports and an update from the state Commission on Environmental Quality.  Stemming from last week’s record low temperatures and severe winter weather across the state that caused massive power outages, roughly 15 million people have faced water shortages in the past several days.  The power outages and unprecedented weather and extreme temperatures caused damage to water infrastructure, resulting in counties across the state to issue boil water advisories and prompted days of officials distributing bottled water to residents. Over the weekend, about 5 million of those boil advisories were lifted, but many are not out of the woods yet. … ”  Read more from Water Finance & Management here:  Millions still without safe drinking water in Texas

A looming disaster: new data reveal where flood damage is an existential threat

Pastor Aaron Trigg was at home when the water arrived in Rainelle. .. Rainelle is one of hundreds of small towns where climate-driven flooding potentially poses an existential threat. Sea level rise and heavier rainstorms driven by global warming are sending more water into residential neighborhoods from the Gulf Coast to New England to Appalachia to the Pacific Northwest. And new data make it clear that many households and communities cannot afford the mounting costs. … ”  Read more from KALW here: A looming disaster: new data reveal where flood damage is an existential threat

Judge rejects Biden request for delay in Trump environmental rollback case

A federal court has rejected the Biden administration’s request for a pause before a case on a Trump administration rollback of a key environmental law wraps up.  The Biden administration wanted to review the rollback before a ruling, but Judge James Jones, of the Western District of Virginia, on Friday sided with environmentalists who argued that they are currently facing harm because of the Trump administration’s policy and didn’t want to delay a decision that could benefit them. … ”  Read more from The Hill here:  Judge rejects Biden request for delay in Trump environmental rollback case

As extreme weather events increase, what are the risks to wildlife?

” … Studies show that climate change is supercharging some weather and climate events and will lead to more severe and longer-lasting heat waves, stronger hurricanes, an increased wildfire risk and a longer wildfire season. We can also expect more heavy rain events and severe droughts, not to mention other extreme events like February’s polar vortex.  “You can’t attribute any particular storm to climate change, but what we do know is that climate change tips the odds of making many of these events more severe,” says Bruce Stein, chief scientist and associate vice president at the National Wildlife Federation.  While experts tabulate the economic losses — homes destroyed, crops ruined, businesses shuttered — ecosystems and wildlife can also sustain damage that’s harder to quantify. ... ”  Read more from the Revelator here: As extreme weather events increase, what are the risks to wildlife?

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More news and commentary in the Daily Digest, weekend edition …

This weekend in California water news …

  • Despite cool and occasionally unsettled conditions in NorCal, unusually dry conditions to persist into March
  • Southern California, Desert Southwest to bask in springlike warmth this week
  • Delta Conveyance Project Updates:  Scoping summary report addendum published, DWR approves modifications to soil investigations project, New Delta Conveyance deep dive videos available
  • Hurtado reworks bill to help Friant-Kern, but also state as a whole
  • Warmer temperatures may offer California farmers a rare silver lining: fewer frosts
  • Climate change and suppression tactics are critical factors in increasing fires, study shows
  • Antioch Dunes wildlife refuge being restored
  • Lehigh quarry update set to address residents’ ongoing concerns
  • Saratoga Creek restoration project removes more than trees: Some residents lose their backyards
  • Troubled waters: Colorado River projects head for controversy
  • And more …

Click here to read the Weekend Daily Digest.

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Today’s featured articles …

NEW BOOK: Riverflow: The right to keep water instream

Riverflow: The right to keep water instream” is the latest book authored by Paul Stanton Kibel, a professor at Golden Gate University School of Law and the Director of the Center on Environmental Law.  Riverflow examines the diverse and creative ways people are using the law to restore rivers, both here in California as well as internationally.  In Riverflow, Professor Kibel asserts that the legal tools already exist to preserve our waterways; the question is whether there is the political will to deploy them.

Click here to read this article.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOTICE OF WORKSHOP/OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT: 2020 Safe Drinking Water Plan

NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING: Proposed Changes to Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program General Orders to Incorporate CV-SALTS Requirements

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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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