DAILY DIGEST, 3/10: A ‘megadrought’ in CA: The effects of extreme weather on Lake Oroville; Editorial: Newsom should kill plan to drain state reservoirs; Implications of CA’s water futures market; When it comes to U.S. climate, what’s normal is about to change; and more …


In California water news today …

A ‘megadrought’ in California: The effects of extreme weather on Lake Oroville

This year is likely to be critically dry for California. Winter storms that dumped heavy snow and rain across the state are not expected to be substantial enough to counterbalance drought conditions. Lake Oroville plays a key role in California’s complex water delivery system.  This 65km-square body of water north of Sacramento is the second-largest reservoir in California.  Not only does Lake Oroville store water, it helps control flooding elsewhere in the region, assists with the maintenance of water quality and boosts the health of fisheries downstream.  In 2014, more than 80% of California was in the grip of an “extreme drought”. Against this backdrop, Oroville’s capacity fell to 30% – a historic low level. … ”  Read more from BBC here: Then and now: A ‘megadrought’ in California

Video:  California Farm Bureau on the state’s drought concerns

Drought concerns are looming for California producers. Highlight the second dry winter in a row, the Sierra Nevada snowpack is just 60 percent of its historical average for this time.  California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson speaks with RFD-TV’s own Tammi Arender on current conditions in the state, the ag implications, and what they are keeping an eye on moving forward. … ”  Watch video at RFD TV here: Video:  California Farm Bureau on the state’s drought concerns

Editorial: Newsom should kill plan to drain state reservoirs

The Mercury News and East Bay Times Editorial Boards write, “On the tail end of the second dry winter in a row, with water almost certain to be in short supply this summer, California water officials are apparently planning to largely drain the equivalent of the state’s two largest reservoirs to satisfy the thirst of water-wasting farmers.  Gov. Gavin Newsom must stop this irresponsible plan, which threatens the environmental health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the water supply for about one-third of the Bay Area residents. We should be saving water, not wasting it. Employing conservation measures now will lessen mandatory water restrictions in the event of a long-term drought. … ”  Continue reading this editorial at the Mercury News here: Editorial: Newsom should kill plan to drain state reservoirs

Jared Huffman: Support is needed to help pay water bills

State residents have been struggling to keep up with their water bills during the COVID-19 pandemic, but government officials say help is on the way.  …  North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman issued a news release stating the American Rescue Plan, making its way through the House of Representatives once again to incorporate Senate changes, includes a “one-time federal allocation for water assistance,” but ongoing relief is needed. … ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here:  Jared Huffman: Support is needed to help pay water bills

State Senator Bill Dodd’s wildfire safety bills approved in committee

A pair of bills advanced on Tuesday from Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, that would improve wildfire safety and community resiliency as the state faces the coming, drought-fueled wildfire season.  “Wildfire prevention and response are top priorities in California,” said Sen. Dodd. “My legislation directs more resources to local government while tapping innovation to address this urgent threat. I thank my Senate colleagues for throwing their unanimous support behind these much-needed measures.” … ”  Read more from the Sierra Sun Times here: State Senator Bill Dodd’s wildfire safety bills approved in committee

Study finds climate change alters West Coast trees

Every two weeks for over 13 years, students at UCSC checked nets set up around a 40-acre forest. They painstakingly counted trapped seeds and measured every nearby tree.  Now, the data is helping scientists understand some of the subtler effects of climate change.  A new study combined the students’ work with data from 48 institutions across North America to reveal a concerning trend: climate change limits the seed production of large trees in West Coast forests. … ”  Read more from Good Times here: Study finds climate change alters West Coast trees

Implications of California’s water futures market

In California’s Water Futures Market: Explained, Cora Kammeyer describes how futures markets operate generally and the particulars of California’s version. This new water futures market has attracted considerable attention and hyperbole. Here we explore the potential implications of this novel financial tool through the lens of California water supply reliability.  The water futures market opened on December 7, 2020, intended to improve the transparency of water trade prices and to enable participants to hedge their financial risk. This futures market is still in its infancy. Daily trade volumes of futures contracts (on the future price of 10 acre-feet per contract) average 11; the maximum daily trade volume was 53 on February 10, though there have not been more than 17 in any day since then. It is not clear how many of these contracts simply changed hands, rather than constitute new contracts; the net volume of futures traded could be much lower. … ”  Continue reading at the Pacific Institute here: Implications of California’s water futures market

Invasive mussels found in pet stores in 21 states (including California)

A citizen’s report of an invasive zebra mussel found in an aquarium moss package found in a pet store prompted a U.S. Geological Survey expert on invasive aquatic species to trigger nationwide alerts that have led to the discovery of the destructive shellfish in pet stores in at least 21 states from Alaska to Florida.  Amid concerns that the ornamental aquarium moss balls containing zebra mussels may have accidentally spread the pest to areas where it has not been seen before, federal agencies, states, and the pet store industry are working together to remove the moss balls from pet store shelves nationwide. … ”  Read more from the USGS here: Invasive mussels found in pet stores in 21 states (including California)

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Cascade snowpack more vulnerable to climate change than inland neighbors, study suggests

New research suggests mountain snowpack in the Cascades is among the most vulnerable in the U.S. to the effects of climate change.  Researchers with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego say warming will likely hit coastal mountain ranges like the Cascades much harder than their northern inland neighbors.  “What’s happening in the Cascades is even a small amount of warming has this huge impact on the amount of time that the temperature’s really cool enough to have snow on the ground,” climate scientist and lead author Amato Evan said. … ”  Read more from OPB here: Cascade snowpack more vulnerable to climate change than inland neighbors, study suggests

Commissioners declare another drought for Klamath Basin

With hydrologic conditions in the Klamath Basin on track to be worse than they were last year, the Klamath County Commissioners declared a drought for the Klamath Basin on Tuesday.  The wintry mix of precipitation that rolled into the basin as the declaration was made was a dose of cruel irony. While local precipitation has been slightly higher this winter than last, the extra snow hasn’t been enough to make up for exceedingly dry soils left over from water year 2020, which will soak up a significant portion of the snow as it melts. … ”  Read more from the Herald & News here:  Commissioners declare another drought for Klamath Basin

Commentary: Russian River environment: Save water as if your life depends on it

Barry Dugan with Sonoma Water writes, ““Every drop counts.”  “Use water wisely.”  “There’s never enough to waste.”  “Our future in every drop.”  “Save water, rain or shine.”  Those of us in the water industry are always looking for new ways to ask our customers to save, conserve, and never waste water. And we do that for good reason. We live in a region prone to regular periods of drought, punctuated by sudden and catastrophic floods. ... ”  Read more from the Ukiah Daily Journal here: Commentary: Russian River environment: Save water as if your life depends on it

Hat Creek/ TLT enterprises caught illegally drilling into Portola aquifer

Opponents of the proposed industrial aggregate mine and asphalt plant in Portola today filed a formal complaint with Plumas County against Hat Creek/ TLT Construction for violation of the County ordinance (Title 6, Chapter 8) which prohibits drilling deeper than 20 feet below the surface without a permit from the Environmental Health department. Hat Creek has drilled more than 24 holes on their land, many hundreds of feet deep, without a permit, destroying established manzanita habitat, compacting soils, and damaging the aquifer. … ”  Read more from Sierra Booster here: Hat Creek/ TLT enterprises caught illegally drilling into Portola aquifer

The San Francisco Bay once teemed with oysters. What happened?

Oysters are a controversial food.  Some people slurp them down by the dozen, while others would rather go hungry for days than be forced to eat a single slimy specimen.  As one KQED staffer put it: “No matter how fresh they are, no matter where they come from, no matter what is put on them, it reminds me of being congested and having snot just slide down my throat.”  Bay Curious listener Joseph Fletcher falls into the first category: The San Francisco resident loves oysters and has been wondering if he’ll ever get the chance to eat one grown in San Francisco Bay.  “Will oysters ever make a comeback in the bay and return to the numbers they had back in the days before the Gold Rush?” Fletcher wanted to know. … ”  Read more from KQED here: The San Francisco Bay once teemed with oysters. What happened?

City and regional goals clash as Newark pushes ahead with low-density housing in a bayshore flood zone

” … In 1985 [Florence] LaRiviere began the Citizens’ Committee to Complete the Refuge, an all-volunteer organization committed to protecting more of the Bay shoreline. Now in her late nineties, with a voice barely above a whisper, with 60 years of activism experience and a marsh named in her honor in the wildlife refuge, LaRiviere and the Citizens’ Committee are still at work. One of their primary goals is expanding the boundaries of the refuge so that it can include neighboring areas, some of which were diked off from the Bay in the past and used to create salt ponds or duck hunting preserves. One of these parcels is Newark’s “Area 4.” In November 2019, the city of Newark approved the “Sanctuary West” project for Area 4, a plan to construct 469 single family homes and 2,739 parking spaces. … ”  Read more from Bay Nature here: City and regional goals clash as Newark pushes ahead with low-density housing in a bayshore flood zone

A herculean effort by Valley Water to protect an endangered plant species

Coyote ceanothus is no ordinary plant. It is a white-flowered shrub endemic to Santa Clara County, meaning it grows nowhere else in the world. This federally listed endangered species is only found in three locations within the county because it can only grow on a particularly rocky, nutrient-poor soil called serpentine soil made from serpentine rock, California’s State Rock. The largest population of Coyote ceanothus is located at Anderson Dam. ... ”  Read more from Valley Water News here:  A herculean effort by Valley Water to protect an endangered plant species

Weighing a merger of Scotts Valley and San Lorenzo Valley Water Districts

The San Lorenzo Valley Water District (SLVWD) and Scotts Valley Water District (SVWD) are weighing whether to join forces in a potential consolidation.  Both boards have hosted Joe Serrano, the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) executive officer, who presented a roadmap for the potential consolidation process. SLVWD hosted an impassioned—and at times vitriolic—meeting about the merger on Feb. 4, and SVWD hosted its own meeting a week later, passing a conditional motion that staff should begin analysis of consolidation if, and only if, SLVWD also directs staff to explore the possibility.  … ”  Read more from Good Times here: Weighing a merger of Scotts Valley and San Lorenzo Valley Water Districts

LADWP invites public comments on draft 2020 Urban Water Management Plan

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) will be hosting two virtual public hearings on the Draft 2020 Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP) to provide stakeholders with an opportunity to review and provide public comment. …  With a 25-year planning horizon, the UWMP serves as the City’s master plan for reliable water supply and resources management. The Draft 2020 UWMP calls for reducing the City’s reliance on purchased, imported water supplies through strategies that include building resilient, sustainable local water supplies through groundwater recharge, stormwater capture, additional conservation and maximizing water recycling. … ”  Read more from LA DWP here: LADWP invites public comments on draft 2020 Urban Water Management Plan

Editorial: Newsom right to boost Huntington Beach desalination facility

The Daily Bulletin et al Editorial Board writes, “Opponents of a proposed desalination facility along the Huntington Beach coastline are aghast that Gov. Gavin Newsom has taken steps to help end a years-long regulatory logjam. Although an environmentalist, the governor clearly recognizes the importance of developing new water sources to meet California’s needs.  Privately funded facilities plants that turn saltwater into drinking water aren’t the only solution to California’s water shortages, but they are one solution. For instance, a similar plant in Carlsbad has the capacity to meet 9 percent of San Diego County’s water needs. That’s an enormous contribution, especially with another drought looming. … ”  Read more from the Daily Bulletin here: Newsom right to boost Huntington Beach desalination facility

Discarded restaurant oyster shells used to help struggling species

After a lifetime on the water, Long Beach Yacht Club member Mike Gehring knows Alamitos Bay expertly, but there’s something new below the surface.  It’s a string of Pacific oyster shells from local seafood restaurant garbage that has been cleaned and strung together. They could become a home for Olympia oysters. … ”  Read more from Spectrum 1 here: Discarded restaurant oyster shells used to help hurting species

Arguments in Los Cerritos Wetlands land swap lawsuit set for Thursday, March 11

The fate of a land-swap deal between a public agency trying to restore the Los Cerritos Wetlands and an oil company that owns a portion of that land could be decided in a Los Angeles courtroom this week, even as the final draft plans for the initial phase of restoration work come under public review.  A Superior Court judge will hear arguments Thursday afternoon, March 11, in a lawsuit that seeks to invalidate a deal between the Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority and Beach Oil Minerals LLC that would move the latter’s oil operations behind the pumpkin patch east of the Marketplace shopping center in exchange for the company restoring and eventually transferring to the authority 150 acres of wetlands. … ”  Read more from the OC Register here:  Arguments in Los Cerritos Wetlands land swap lawsuit set for Thursday, March 11

Orange County: Transforming an Ecosystem

In the mountains of coastal Orange County, within Cleveland National Forest, a five-year project is underway to remove 81 small-sized dams across four streams. California Trout is leading an important role in this large, multi-partner and multi-level project, which addresses a key initiative for our organization: reconnecting habitat. We aim to give salmon and steelhead access to diverse habitat by removing barriers and getting obsolete dams out. For Southern California, this will help protect endangered southern steelhead. … ”  Read more from Cal Trout here:  Transforming an Ecosystem

Oceanside gets $1 million for wetlands restoration

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has awarded a $1 million grant for the first phase of construction of the Loma Alta Slough wetlands enhancement project.  The work, which could begin in late 2022, will restore and enhance six acres of coastal wetland and upland habitat along the Loma Alta Creek near Buccaneer Beach in south Oceanside. Plans include more than 1,500 feet of nature trails with educational signs and connections to nearby facilities such as Buccaneer Park. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here:  Oceanside gets $1 million for wetlands restoration

San Diego: The return of California red-legged frogs

Credit: Robert Fisher/USGS

““It was serendipitous,” said Clark Winchell from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about a recent collaborative endeavor to bring California red-legged frogs back to their natural habitat in Southern California after they were extirpated decades ago.  The effort to return the frogs to Southern California, which had been ongoing by Robert Fisher from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative Program for more than 20 years, began to move the needle in San Diego County when Winchell started working with private ranchers Judy and Chuck Wheatley who had just restored a pond on their property for the reintroduction of the Western pond turtle. … ”  Read more from Drovers here: San Diego: The return of California red-legged frogs

Bill introduced to address water pollution at U.S.-Mexico border

A coalition of San Diego County elected representatives introduced a bill on Monday to address water pollution along the U.S.-Mexico border.  The Border Water Quality Restoration and Protection Act would designate the Environmental Protection Agency as the lead agency coordinating federal, state and local agencies’ efforts to build and maintain infrastructure projects aimed at reducing pollution along the border. … ”  Read more from NBC San Diego here: Bill introduced to address water pollution at U.S.-Mexico border 

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Along the Colorado River …

Report calls for “radical changes” to Colorado River management

A recent report from Colorado River experts says it’s time for radical new management strategies to safeguard the Southwest’s water supplies. It’s meant to inform discussions on how to renegotiate certain parts of the Law of the River that will expire in 2026. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny spoke about the report with Jack Schmidt, director of the Center for Colorado River Studies at Utah State University. … ”  Read more from KNAU here: Report calls for “radical changes” to Colorado River management 

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In national water news today …

U.S. has cold February, but warm winter

Yesterday, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) released its recap of February climate across the United States, along with a review of the 2020-21 winter season. Among the highlights was that the contiguous United States had its coldest February in more than 30 years. The chill wasn’t enough to overpower the warmth of December and January in the seasonal average. Average winter temperature was 33.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 1.4 degrees F warmer than average, ranking in the warmest third of winters on record.  Precipitation-wise, February 2021 was in the middle third of the historical record, with much wetter than average conditions along the mid-Atlantic and Southeast seaboard, but drier than average conditions in California, the Southwest, and most of the Great Plains. ... ”  Read more from Climate.gov here: U.S. has cold February, but warm winter

When it comes to U.S. climate, what’s normal is about to change

Every decade, member nations of the World Meteorological Organization release an updated version of their country’s climate normals—a statistically smoothed, carefully quality-controlled, 30-year average of recent climate conditions. NOAA climate experts at the National Centers for Environmental Information are currently working on the new U.S. Climate Normals, which span 1991-2020. The new data are planned for release in May 2021. These images are a sneak peak at how the new normals for winter temperature (top) and precipitation (bottom) are different from the current normals, which cover 1981-2010. … ”  Read more from Climate.gov here: When it comes to U.S. climate, what’s normal is about to change

Scientists explore cutting-edge multi-year ENSO forecasts using climate model

El Niño and La Niña events show a wide range of durations over the historical record, but whether event duration can be predicted has remained largely unknown. Since longer-lived, multi-year El Niño and La Niña events could extend their climate and socioeconomic impacts, it’s important to have accurate predictions of their durations with the longest lead times possible.  A new study published in the Journal of Climate, funded in part by NIDIS through the NOAA Climate Program Office’s (CPO’s) Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections (MAPP) program, uses the Community Earth System Model, version 1 (CESM1) to show that event duration is highly predictable. The authors conclude that there is the potential to extend 12-month operational forecasts of El Niño and La Niña events by one additional year.  … ” Read more from NIDIS here: Scientists explore cutting-edge multi-year ENSO forecasts using climate model 

Crops in competition: how drier air is stealing moisture

When people hear the word ‘drought’ what comes to mind is dry soil, with plants struggling to get moisture from that soil.  But a newly published paper focuses on the moisture being pulled away from plants due to drier air circling the earth. competing for moisture is air and it takes it from the plants.  “Plants take water up from the soil, from the roots, and they transported it to the leaves, says Danielle Ray, an associate professor in the Western University Biology Department. “The water is lost through little holes in the leaves surface into the atmosphere. The drier the air is the more moisture it sucks out of it.” … ”  Read more from CTV News here: Crops in competition: how drier air is stealing moisture

Carbon-negative crops may mean water shortages for 4.5 billion people

Billions more people could have difficulty accessing water if the world opts for a massive expansion in growing energy crops to fight climate change, research has found. The idea of growing crops and trees to absorb CO2 and capturing the carbon released when they are burned for energy is a central plank to most of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s scenarios for the negative emissions approaches needed to avoid the catastrophic impacts of more than 1.5°C of global warming.  But the technology, known as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), could prove a cure worse than the disease, at least when it comes to water stress. … ”  Read more from New Scientist here: Carbon-negative crops may mean water shortages for 4.5 billion people

First comprehensive study of indoor pot farm emissions uncovers a giant climate hot spot

Since individual U.S. states began legalizing recreational cannabis about a decade ago, the industry has become a lucrative but greenhouse gas intensive slice of agriculture: Producing a kilogram of dried cannabis bud can result in carbon emissions equivalent to driving a car more than 9,000 miles, a new study of indoor growing operations reveals.  “More and more states are legalizing and decisions around how [cannabis] will be cultivated need to include environmental considerations,” says study team member Jason Quinn, director of the Sustainability Research Laboratory at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. The new study is the first comprehensive analysis of greenhouse gas emissions from large indoor growing operations typical of commercial producers for the legal market. ... ”  Read more from Anthropocene here: First comprehensive study of indoor pot farm emissions uncovers a giant climate hot spot

Senate approves COVID-19 bill with key water provisions

Members of the Senate worked into the weekend to approve an amended version of the American Rescue Plan Act (H.R. 1319), a massive $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill backed by President Biden and congressional Democrats. Before passing the measure on a strict party line, 50-49 vote, senators approved several changes to the bill including allowing states and communities to spend key assistance dollars on water and wastewater infrastructure. Several other water-related provisions closely watched by AMWA remained intact. … ”  Read more from the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies here: Senate approves COVID-19 bill with key water provisions

Federal courts help Biden quickly dismantle Trump’s climate and environmental legacy

As the Biden administration begins the daunting job of rebuilding U.S. climate policy, it has gotten help from an unexpected, and perhaps unlikely, source—the federal courts.  In Biden’s first few weeks in office, federal judges scrapped the Trump administration’s weak power plant pollution regulation, its rule limiting science in environmental decision-making and a decision opening vast areas of the West to new mining.  The rulings show that although President Donald Trump left his mark on the federal courts with his record-breaking pace of judicial appointments, his influence has not been great enough to prevent federal judges from playing a part in dismantling his deregulatory legacy. … ”  Read more from Inside Climate News here: Federal courts help Biden quickly dismantle Trump’s climate and environmental legacy

EPA staffers want to see proof of Biden’s new management style

If he’s confirmed by the Senate, Michael Regan, President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the EPA, will be walking into a beleaguered workplace full of tired, skeptical staffers, current employees say.  For many—but by no means all—Environmental Protection Agency staffers, Biden’s election signaled a return to bedrock environmental principles. But they also say they’re not taking the new administration’s promises at face value, and that Regan will have to prove to them that the EPA will follow through. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here: EPA staffers want to see proof of Biden’s new management style

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Today’s featured articles …

DELTA WATERMASTER UPDATE: Preparing for a dry year in the Delta; Addressing problems in the South Delta

At the February meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Delta Watermaster Michael George updated the councilmembers on the efforts underway at the State Water Board to prepare for the increasing possibility of 2021 being critically dry.  He also gave an update on the efforts to address the deteriorating conditions in the south Delta.

Click here to read this article.

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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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