DAILY DIGEST, 3/8: Pattern shift to bring snow and rain to California as multiyear drought builds in the West; Managing water and crops with groundwater salinity; Fewer salmon in the sea in 2021; Microplastics’ hidden contribution to snow melting; and more …


On the calendar today …

FREE WEBINAR: Getting Warmer? Ocean Temperatures off the California Coast from 6pm to 7pm.  Local fishermen, surfers, and beachgoers know that ocean temperatures off California’s coast vary, often expectedly, but sometimes unexpectedly. Join Scripps oceanographer Katherine Zaba to learn how scientists deploy innovative ocean technology to monitor and understand ocean warming phenomena, like marine heatwaves and El Niño events, that affect California’s coastline.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

Pattern shift likely to bring much-needed rain, snow to parts of California, the west this week

Much-needed rain and mountain snow will push into California this week as a weather pattern change develops along the West Coast.  A southward dip in the jet stream will hold its grip along the West Coast, and multiple disturbances will bring the chance for more rain and mountain snow to parts of California and the Northwest.  Additional rounds of rain and mountain snow will spread across California Monday into Wednesday. … ”  Read more from The Weather Channel here:  Pattern shift likely to bring much-needed rain, snow to parts of California, the west this week

SEE ALSO: Cool, unsettled pattern setting up over the Western states, from AccuWeather

Multiyear drought builds in western US with little relief in sight

While much has been written this year about atmospheric rivers, avalanche warnings and even flash flooding, the western half of the United States is experiencing a crushing drought.  The weather patterns have left parts of the Northwest soggy. Still, 80% of the land in the western states face some official category of drought.  That is nearly half of the entire continental US, or put another way, the size of New York State times 25. The drought is affecting more than 70 million people. … ”  Continue reading from CNN here:  Multiyear drought builds in western US with little relief in sight

Deadly avalanche season imperils skiers, snowboarders: ‘Everywhere is sketch’

The mountains are calling, but the siren song has been especially dangerous this year.  From Alaska to Wyoming, dozens of skiers, snowboarders and other outdoor enthusiasts who see the backcountry as a refuge have been caught in barreling waves of snow and ice in one of the deadliest avalanche seasons in modern history.  On Feb. 27, four snowmobilers were caught in an icy deluge on Tiger Peak, north of a ghost town in Idaho. Two riders were buried, and one died while trapped under the snow. The week before, two other snowmobilers died in back-to-back avalanches over two days. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Deadly avalanche season imperils skiers, snowboarders: ‘Everywhere is sketch’

Managing water and crops with groundwater salinity – a growing menace

Aerial view of fields in western San Joaquin Valley suffering from severe salinization. Photo by Scott Bauer/USDA

Salinity is an eventual threat to agriculture and groundwater sustainability in parts of California, and other irrigated parts of the world. Irrigation, lower groundwater levels, and natural conditions have dramatically increased groundwater salinity in parts of California over the last 150 years (Hansen et al. 2018). Nearly two million tons of salt accumulates per year in the San Joaquin Valley (CV-SALTS), where 250,000 acres of irrigated land have been fallowed, 1.5 million acres are potentially salt-impaired (Great Valley Center 2005), with $1.2 – $2.2 billion/year losses by 2030 (Howitt et al. 2009) without management. Managing groundwater with salinity can differ fundamentally from conjunctive water management without salinity, which was summarized in a previous blog post. … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Managing water and crops with groundwater salinity – a growing menace

The most vulnerable levees in the nation have a lot in common

The U.S. levee system — once considered the second largest piece of the country’s infrastructure “rivaled only by the highway system” — is now nearly a century old and failing inspections far more often than it passes them. Only one in 25 federal levees are rated Acceptable.  Newsy’s data analysis of the National Levee Database in the spring of 2020 focused on two things: the status of the overall infrastructure and finding the nation’s most vulnerable levees. … Those systems can be found nationwide, from the Sacramento region in California to the south Florida seaboard; from Appalachia to North Dakota to the Mississippi River Valley. … ”  Read more from the Denver Channel here: The most vulnerable levees in the nation have a lot in common

Commentary: How ‘Cutting Green Tape’ can make California more resilient

Ashley Boren, CEO of Sustainable Conservation writes, “California is one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots – home to more unique species of plants and animals than any other state in the U.S. This biodiversity makes up the beautiful land and seascapes of the world’s fifth-largest economy and sustains our health, cultures and quality of life.  Yet it is disappearing at alarming rates. Today’s environmental, economic and social challenges – climate change, wildfires, habitat loss and the millions of Californians facing pandemic-related unemployment – threaten our Golden State’s resilience like never before. … ”  Read more from CalMatters here: How ‘Cutting Green Tape’ can make California more resilient

Fewer salmon in the sea in 2021

The news wasn’t pretty at Thursday’s annual Ocean Salmon Information meeting. Not only are the Klamath salmon stocks struggling, the Sacramento stocks took a nosedive, as well. The Klamath River fall Chinook ocean abundance forecast in 2021 is 181,500. This is slightly higher than the 2020 forecast but still well below the long-term average. California Department of Fish and Wildlife hinted there will likely be constraints to fishing opportunities north of Point Arena this season. … ”  Read more from the North Coast Journal here: Fewer salmon in the sea in 2021

Nevada Dept. of Wildlife:  Some aquarium products sold online, at pet stores, contaminated with invasive mussels

A harmful, aquatic invasive species has been discovered in some aquarium products sold online and at Nevada pet stores, officials announced Friday.  The Nevada Department of Wildlife said it is investigating reports that invasive zebra mussels have been found in aquarium products sold through online retailers and local and national pet stores in various states throughout the country, including Nevada. … ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune here: Nevada Dept. of Wildlife:  Some aquarium products sold online, at pet stores, contaminated with invasive mussels

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Wiyot Tribe secures $250K grant to plan for sea-level rise resiliency

The Wiyot Tribe recently received a $250,000 grant from the Ocean Protection Council to develop a Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Humboldt Bay. The Wiyot Tribe is one of 15 grant recipients striving to improve resilience to sea-level rise along the coast.  In the first phase of the project, the Tribe will begin the process of identifying cultural and natural resources that are vulnerable to sea-level rise and climate change, according to natural resources specialist and grant writer Adam Canter. ... ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here: Wiyot Tribe secures $250K grant to plan for sea-level rise resiliency

Arcata Bottom mega-grow in the works

Major changes to the pastoral Arcata Bottom ranchland west of town, including industrial and housing developments, continued to roil online fora last week. Already on edge over the unexpected annexation of agricultural/residential land into the City of Arcata, the revelation that a massive industrial cannabis project is in the works further intensified alarm among area residents and environmentalists.  Arcata Land Company, LLC, an entity controlled by Lane Devries of Sun Valley Floral Farm, is seeking county approval for a 38-acre cannabis cultivation operation on two parcels located between 27th Street and Foster Avenue. … ” Read more from the Mad River Union here: Arcata Bottom mega-grow in the works

Tahoe Fund releases biomass resource study for Loyalton area

Committed to helping increase the pace and scale of forest restoration in the Tahoe Basin, the Tahoe Fund has released a new resource study it commissioned from TSS Consultants in partnership with Sierra Valley Enterprises. Titled the “Biomass Fuel and Log Supply Availability and Cost Assessment for a Biomass Power Facility and Sawmill Collocated at Loyalton, California,” the report outlines the available forest biomass and log supply within 75 miles of Loyalton, California, including the Tahoe Basin. Currently, the Loyalton site hosts a non-operating 18MW biomass power facility. The report shows a more than adequate supply of resources for a collocated facility that can play an important role in the restoration of Tahoe’s forest. … ”  Read more from the Sierra Sun here:  Tahoe Fund releases biomass resource study for Loyalton area

Stinson Beach to devise sea-level rise defense plan

Stinson Beach will launch a multi-year effort to craft its first sea-level rise defense plan as oceans threaten to swallow up beaches, roads and waterfront homes by the end of the century.  The community is the most immediately vulnerable to sea-level rise on Marin’s ocean coast and could face a water level as much as 10 feet higher by 2100 in a worst-case scenario, according to county officials and state projections. In 2018, the county outlined strategies Stinson Beach could adopt, including elevating roads and homes, building sea walls and dunes, boardwalking entire neighborhoods and building a new sewage system. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here:  Stinson Beach to devise sea-level rise defense plan

Commentary: Climate change will reshape Silicon Valley as we know it

Tim O’Reilly, author of WTF? What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us writes, “High-profile entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, venture capitalists like Peter Thiel and Keith Rabois, and big companies like Oracle and HP Enterprise are all leaving California. During Covid-19, Zoom-enabled tech workers are discovering the benefits of remote work from cheaper, less congested communities elsewhere…. Is this the end of Silicon Valley as we know it? It is my belief that it is—but the reasons why the Silicon Valley party may soon be over run far deeper than the flight of talent. One of the most compelling is that the greatest opportunities will no longer be found in the overbuilt sector of consumer and business internet applications. Instead, they’ll be found in climate tech. … ”  Read more from Wired Magazine here: Climate change will reshape Silicon Valley as we know it

Kern County: Plan to allow thousands of California oil wells faces vote

After a state appeals court blocked Kern County’s effort to speed up new oil and gas drilling, officials overseeing the state’s prime oil patch have revised an ordinance that could permit tens of thousands of new wells over the next 15 years.  The Kern County Board of Supervisors is poised to vote Monday on the plan that would streamline the permitting process by creating a blanket environmental impact report for drilling as many as 2,700 wells a year. … ”  Read more from the AP via SC Now here: Plan to allow thousands of California oil wells faces vote

Editorial: Sexual misconduct at the Metropolitan Water District hints at deeper problems

The LA Times editorial board writes, “What does sexual harassment have to do with our water supply? Far more than you might think.  The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California imports, stores and sells the drinking water used by nearly half of the people in this state. As a consequence, the MWD is at the center of the state’s battle with ongoing drought, the agricultural sector’s demands for irrigation water and the degrading natural environment’s inability to sustain iconic species such as migrating salmon.  On top of those challenges, the organization is in the midst of a rare leadership change, as a search to replace departing General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger moves closer to a conclusion and as the MWD approaches its second century. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Editorial: Sexual misconduct at the Metropolitan Water District hints at deeper problems

Storm due to bring rain, snow to Southern California starting Tuesday

A cold storm with gusty winds is expected to bring rain and snow to Southern California beginning Tuesday but will do little to make up for Los Angeles’ rainfall deficit this season.  An extended period of rain or showers is expected to begin Tuesday night and continue into Thursday, bringing a total of 0.5 to 1 inch of rain in most areas. Some areas may receive up to 1.5 inches. … ”  Continue reading at the LA Times here:  Storm due to bring rain, snow to Southern California starting Tuesday

San Diego starts building Pure Water sewage recycling system

The US-City of San Diego relies on importing 85 percent of its water supply from the Colorado River and Northern California Bay Delta. The cost of this imported water has tripled in the last 15 years and continues to rise.  With San Diego’s existing water system, only 8 percent of the wastewater leaving homes and businesses is recycled; the rest is treated and discharged into the ocean. The Pure Water Program should transform the City’s water system into a complete water cycle that maximizes our use of the world’s most precious resource—water. … ”  Read more from Waste Management World here: San Diego starts building Pure Water sewage recycling system

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Along the Colorado River …

Commentary: Colorado River study predicts even bigger water cuts. That’s not why it’s so intriguing

Joanna Allhands, opinion writer for Arizona Central writes, “A new Colorado River study predicts we may need to make even deeper cuts to keep our reservoirs from tanking over the long haul.  But the dire conclusions within the study aren’t what make it so intriguing.  It’s how the group arrived at them.  The Future of the Colorado River project, an effort based out of Utah State University, has produced six white papers to evaluate new approaches to water management along the river. And, most notably, it is using the Colorado River Simulation System (CRSS), the same modeling tool the Bureau of Reclamation uses to develop its long-term water availability forecasts for the basin. … ”  Read more from Arizona Central here: Colorado River study predicts even bigger water cuts. That’s not why it’s so intriguing

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In national water news today …

Amid rising seas and record storms, Louisiana’s water is running low

Louisiana has a water problem. But it has nothing to do with its losing battle against rising seas, rivers that routinely spill their banks or increasingly violent storms that pummel its coast.  This problem is buried in aquifers deep beneath the state’s swampy landscape, where the groundwater that nearly two-thirds of Louisianans rely on for drinking and bathing is rapidly diminishing.  Groundwater levels in and around Louisiana are falling faster than almost anywhere else in the country, according to U.S. Geological Survey data. A monthslong investigation by the Investigative Reporting Workshop and WWNO/WRKF traced the problem to decades of overuse, unregulated pumping by industries and agriculture, and scant oversight or action from legislative committees rife with conflicts of interest. … ”  Read more from New Orleans Public Radio here: Amid rising seas and record storms, Louisiana’s water is running low

Calls for the Biden administration to prioritize our water infrastructure

Last week, the Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policy joined Food & Water Action and nearly 550 other national and regional organizations including Action Center on Race & The Economy, Center for Biological Diversity and Corporate Accountability in support of the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act. This legislation was introduced in the House and the Senate last week by Reps. Brenda Lawrence and Ro Khanna and Sen. Bernie Sanders and is backed by 71 other Democratic lawmakers. … ”  Read more from Common Dreams here: Calls for the Biden administration to prioritize our water infrastructure

U.S. had its coldest February in more than 30 years

Temperatures plunged to historic lows in some parts of the country last month, including nearly all of Texas, as an Arctic air mass gripped much of the nation.   Despite the chilly February, winter wrapped up warmer than normal, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.  Here are more highlights from NOAA’s latest monthly U.S. climate report … ”  Read more from NOAA here:  U.S. had its coldest February in more than 30 years

NOAA to release new climate ‘normals’ for temperature and precipitation

You hear the word almost every time you watch a weather forecast. The term “average” or “normal” is tossed around as frequently as your 7-day forecast. That’s because it helps give context on how unusual the current cold spell or heat wave is for any given season.  As meteorologists, one of our favorite tools of the trade is to compare the daily conditions to past observations over a course of many years. These are what’s called climate normals, and right now those normals are getting a vast refresh of sorts.  The Natonal Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) is currently compiling and reviewing 30 years of weather and climate data from across the US. This data will serve as the nation’s official climate normals for the next 10 years. … ”  Read more from CNN here:  NOAA to release new climate ‘normals’ for temperature and precipitation

Microplastics’ hidden contribution to snow melting

Black carbon particles, produced by combustion of gasoline, diesel fuel, coal, and other organics, have been found to be the second-largest driver of climate warming, after carbon dioxide (CO2), since the Industrial Revolution [Myhre et al., 2013]. Much of black carbon’s role in this warming results from the fact that it contributes to the melting of snow and ice and thus to darkening of Earth’s surface, reducing the amount of sunlight the planet reflects and increasing the amount it absorbs.  These processes have been thoroughly studied, yet measurements made in the past of black carbon particles in snow and determinations of their effects on melting may be inaccurate. To date, most studies have overlooked a major and potentially complicating factor: microplastics. … ”  Read more from EOS here: Microplastics’ hidden contribution to snow melting

CRS Report: The Endangered Species Act: Overview and Implementation

This report discusses selected provisions of the ESA and selected federal regulations that implement the ESA. It discusses several major provisions of the act, generally, in the order they appear in the U.S. Code. These sections include Section 4, on listing species under the ESA; Section 6, on cooperating with states in recovering listed species; Section 7, on interagency cooperation and consultation; Section 9, on prohibitions under the ESA; Section 10, on exceptions to prohibitions; Section 11,on penalties and enforcement under the ESA; and Section 8, on the implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora(CITES), among others.”  Read the report from the Congressional Research Service here:  CRS Report: The Endangered Species Act: Overview and Implementation

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More news and commentary in the weekend edition …

In California water news this weekend …

  • California is bone dry. Will March bring more misery or a miracle?
  • Multi-agency collaboration restores critical habitat for endangered Delta smelt, other native species
  • Video: In California, the Northfork Mono Tribe brings ‘good fire’ to overgrown woodlands
  • Design of Yorba Linda Water District’s new 19 MGD PFAS treatment plant
  • Legal brief: Proposed “California Clean Water Act” (AB 377) would restrict ability to secure schedules of compliance in water quality permits or other water quality-related orders
  • Legal brief: Must CEQA compliance precede project approval? When State Water Board water quality certifications are involved, the answer is as “clear as mud”
  • Heather Dyer: Former Fish and Wildlife Service biologist now leads So Cal water agency
  • Northern California: Weekly evapotranspiration reports assist farm water management
  • The collapse of Northern California kelp forests will be hard to reverse
  • Arizona seeks to create surface water protections after Clean Water Act rollback
  • What about us? Ute Tribe asks as Utah moves to protect its share of the Colorado River.
  • PFAS in pesticides: ‘A problem of epic proportions’
  • NASA Snow Report
  • And more …

Click here to read the weekend edition.

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Today’s featured article …

GUEST ARTICLE: Why the Sacramento region’s watershed is ‘super,’ and a buffer against climate change

The words “climate change” conjure up a variety of worries for each of us, and rightly so. But here in the Sacramento region, we’re working hard to shrink those worries by making the most of our watershed.

How is that possible? Because the Sacramento metro area is blessed to occupy a unique watershed. It is so unique, in fact, that we’ve coined a special term for it: We call it our Supershed.

Click here to read this article.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOTICE: Announcing the Final 2021 Nationwide Permit (NWP) Regional Conditions for California, Nevada, and Utah

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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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