DAILY DIGEST, 4/7: Farmers try to plan for a critically dry year; Markets, water availability prove key in land values; SSJID, OID still waiting for federal approval of plan to help fish & farmers; Q/A with Delta Conveyance Project Executive Director Tony Meyers; and more …


On the calendar today …

  • FREE WEBINAR: Colorado River Basin Water Supply Webinar from 9am to 10am.  The National Weather Service Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (CBRFC) produces water supply forecasts for the Colorado River Basin and the eastern Great Basin. CBRFC conducts these webinars through the run-off season, explaining the forecasts and current conditions.  Click here to register.
  • FREE EVENT: Beaver Essentials: History and Management from 1pm to 5pm.  Keynote Address: Beaver Habitat and Salmonids – Michael Pollock. Topics include Beaver Introduction, California Beaver History, Climate change and how beavers can help, Tribal Restoration Partners, and more.  Click here for more information and to register.
  • FREE WEBINAR: Restoring Critical Habitat within the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Region from 1pm to 1:30pm. In honor of Earth Day, DWR’s April Water Wednesdays will feature different restoration projects throughout California. Join Charlotte Biggs to discuss the importance of the Delta region, how it has changed over the past 150 years, and what DWR is doing to restore Delta ecosystems for the benefit of people, fish, and wildlife.  Watch on YouTube or join with Zoom to ask Charlotte questions.
  • PUBLIC WORKSHOP: Salton Sea Management Program, Phase 1 beginning at 2pm.  The State Water Board will hold a public workshop on Phase 1 of the Salton Sea Management Program.  The workshop is being held for the State Water Board to receive information related to the progress of Phase 1 of the Salton Sea Management Program from state agencies and to receive written and oral comments from the public, in compliance with Water Right Order (WRO) 2017-0134.  Click here for the full notice and remote access instructions.

In drought and hydrology news …

Farmers try to plan for a critically dry year

With all signs pointing to a critically dry year in California, farmers are trying to add flexibility to help them make it through the season.  Tulare County farmer and dairy operator Tom Barcellos said he expects to receive “almost nothing” this year when it comes to water supply.  “This year, it doesn’t look like we’re going to get much out of the Tule River; there’s just basically no water coming,” Barcellos said. “We’ve got more acres than we’ve got water, so naturally we’re going to have to fallow some and concentrate on what we can irrigate.” … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here: Farmers try to plan for a critically dry year

Third-driest year reported in California

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has marked 2021 as the third-driest water year, a period marked from October to March, on record for the Golden State, potentially setting up another deadly wildfire season after last year’s record setting blazes.   The department’s annual snow survey released this month recorded precipitation levels at 50 percent the annual average for the water year.   The dry conditions can also be seen in the state’s water supply, with the department reporting that California’s major reservoirs are at just 50 percent of overall capacity. … ”  Read more from The Hill here: Third-driest year reported in California

California is on the brink of drought – again. Is it ready?

California is at the edge of another protracted drought, just a few years after one of the worst dry spells in state history left poor and rural communities without well water, triggered major water restrictions in cities, forced farmers to idle their fields, killed millions of trees, and fueled devastating megafires.  On Thursday, the unofficial end of California’s wet season, officials announced that the accumulation of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Cascades was about 40% below average levels. The state doesn’t have enough snow and rain banked to replenish its groundwater supplies, feed its rivers and streams or fill depleted reservoirs. … ”  Read more from The Guardian here: California is on the brink of drought – again. Is it ready?

Study: Climate change has made rainstorms more erratic, droughts much longer in U.S. West

Rainstorms grew more erratic and droughts much longer across most of the U.S. West over the past half-century as climate change warmed the planet, according to a sweeping government study released Tuesday that concludes the situation is worsening.  The most dramatic changes were recorded in the desert Southwest, where the average dry period between rainstorms grew from about 30 days in the 1970s to 45 days between storms now, said Joel Biederman, a research hydrologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Southwest Watershed Research Center in Tucson, Arizona.  The consequences of the intense dry periods that pummeled areas of the West in recent years were severe — more intense and dangerous wildfires, parched croplands and not enough vegetation to support livestock and wildlife. And the problem appears to be accelerating … ”  Read more from KTLA here: Study: Climate change has made rainstorms more erratic, droughts much longer in U.S. West

SEE ALSODroughts Longer, Rainfall More Erratic Over the Last Five Decades in Most of the West, press release from the USDA

In other California water news today …

Markets, water availability prove key in land values

Despite market unknowns created by the pandemic and lower commodity prices, California agricultural land values remained largely stable, an indication buyers have confidence in the long-term land market in the state: This was a key takeaway from a virtual business conference held by the California Chapter of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers.  The conference also discussed impacts of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act on California land values.  Even though record supplies of the state’s highest-value crops led to lower prices for farmers last year, appraisers said the softer prices also helped move those products.  ... ”  Read more from the California Farm Bureau here: Markets, water availability prove key in land values

South San Joaquin ID, Oakdale ID still waiting for federal approval of plan to help threatened fish & stressed farmers

” … OID and SSJID — which have invested considerable money into improving salmon habitat on the Stanislaus River and as well as conservation measures aimed at reducing growers’ use of water — have proposed pushing the spring pulse flow from an anticipated 1,400 cfs at Vernalis to almost 3,000 cfs. … The SSJID and OID have also worked with the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority and State Water Contractors that may get only 5 percent of the water they need from the Bureau this year to purchase the [water] by diverting it once it enters the Delta.  In order to do so, SSJID and OID need the blessing of the federal Interior and Commerce departments to make the release as well as allow the transfer to the water once it has helped step up the spring pulse flow.  … ”  Read the full story at the Manteca Bulletin here: SSJID, OID still waiting for federal approval of plan to help threatened fish & stressed farmers

Q/A with Delta Conveyance Project Executive Director Tony Meyers

In the first episode in the Delta Conveyance Team Spotlight video series, we spoke with the project’s Executive Director Tony Meyers about his long and eventful career in engineering, including work on some of DWR’s most ambitious and significant infrastructure projects. In this excerpt, he reflects on the appeal of large-scale engineering projects and speaks about the importance of the Delta Conveyance Project in protecting the security of California’s water supply.”  Read the article at DWR News here: Q/A with Delta Conveyance Project Executive Director Tony Meyers

LaMoreaux tapped for Delta Conveyance Design Authority

The general manager for a local water utility company joined the Board for the Delta Conveyance Design Authority.  Palmdale Water District announced on Monday that Dennis LaMoreaux has been appointed as an alternate director for the Authority.  “It is a true honor to be an alternate director on the DCA Board,” he said. “The future of water availability in our state, especially in Southern California, is dependent on improving the infrastructure at the Delta. I look forward to taking part in this important process.” … ”  Read more from the Antelope Valley Press here: LaMoreaux tapped for Delta Conveyance Design Authority

Playing the right card with stormwater basins

Despite its semi-arid climate, characterized by mild, moist winters and hot, dry summers, the area in and around Fresno, California, has experienced numerous flood events. From elevations reaching 5,000 feet in the Sierra-Nevada mountain range, streams carry runoff from a 175-square-mile area flow onto the valley floor, where they periodically inundate farmland and urban development, including downtown Fresno. Storm flows have caused local streams and canals to overflow an average of once every four years since 1953. … ”  Read more from Stormwater Solutions here: Playing the right card with stormwater basins

Are ants and termites nibbling their way into MS4 program pocketbooks?

In June 2017, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Central Valley Region (Central Valley RWQCB) adopted a Basin Plan Amendment for the Sacramento River and San Joaquin River Basins for the control of pyrethroid pesticide discharges. The amendment establishes controls for pyrethroid discharges, including prohibition of discharges of pyrethroid pesticides above certain concentrations, total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) for pyrethroid pesticides, recommendations for agency regulation of pyrethroids and potential monitoring requirements. … ”  Read more from Stormwater Solutions here:  Are ants and termites nibbling their way into MS4 program pocketbooks?

Vice President Kamala Harris warns of looming ‘wars fought over water’

For the first time since her election, Vice President Kamala Harris was in her hometown of Oakland Monday, returning to the Bay Area to promote the Biden administration’s American Jobs Plan and the need to rebuild the country’s water delivery infrastructure.  Air Force Two arrived at Oakland International Airport from Los Angeles just before 10 a.m. She was greeted at the airport by Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, Senator Alex Padilla — who filled the Senate seat Harris vacated with her election — and Congresswoman Barbara Lee. ... ”  Read more from KPIX Channel 5 here: Vice President Kamala Harris warns of looming ‘wars fought over water’

Working clean: A guide to curbing the introduction of invasive species

As outdoor professionals, we have an obligation to minimize the spread of invasive species. When we travel from site to site, sometimes across large areas, we can inadvertently bring invasive species along with us from one site and introduce it to the next.  Unfortunately, there isn’t enough attention paid to this topic, but we know that the introduction of alien invasive species into an ecosystem is the second leading cause of species decline (second only to habitat degradation and ahead of pollution, overexploitation, and disease). In other words, introducing an invasive species that was stuck in the grooves of your boot to a new area can be much more destructive than littering.  So, with an understanding of the seriousness of the issue, how can we make sure we’re doing our part to mitigate it? … ”  Read more from ESA here: Working clean: A guide to curbing the introduction of invasive species

Assembly agriculture chair reports on farm tour results

Following visits to more than 50 sites around the state, the chairman of the Assembly Agriculture Committee has issued a report with recommendations for legislative and regulatory actions he said would help farmers and ranchers remain competitive and recover from recent crises.  Assemblyman Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, became agriculture committee chair last September. He and other legislators took part in farm visits around the state last fall; some scheduled stops had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The tour led to the report, issued late last month, with recommendations in half a dozen categories—competitiveness, resiliency, diversity, worker protections, food security, and sustainability and innovation. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  Assembly agriculture chair reports on farm tour results

Commentary: Why isn’t California safer from wildfires?

Sashi Sabaratnam McEntee, Councilmember and former mayor of Mill Valley, writes, ” … The severity of the 2020 fire season and the number of forest fires that move from the floor up to the canopy are clear evidence that we have not done enough. Our forests are not healthy, and lives and property continue to be at risk.  We know all this. Wildfire risk is a top concern of fire agencies, legislators, and residents alike. So why aren’t we safer?  The biggest hurdle is the well-intentioned California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which introduces layers of uncertainty and complication, holding up much of the fire prevention work identified after 2017. … ”  Continue reading at Reason here:  Why isn’t California safer from wildfires?

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Sonoma editorial: Getting ready for another dry year

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat Editorial Board writes, “It’s been a dry year, bone dry. And the water levels at Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino — which supply drinking water for more than 600,000 residents across three counties — reflect the impact of extremely low rainfall. It’s not too soon to start conserving.  Lake Sonoma is at 63% of its storage capacity for this time of year, and Lake Mendocino is even lower at about 45%. The problem isn’t just local, either. The latest statewide survey found that the winter snowpack from which California gets much of its water was about half of the average for April 1. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  Sonoma editorial: Getting ready for another dry year

Petaluma cattle ranchers brace for ‘worst drought ever’ as rainwater runs dry

In the Sonoma County dairy belt known as the Two Rock Valley, people find comfort in seasonal predictability.  Flowers bloom. The cows come home. That’s how it’s supposed to be, but this is 2021. “What is the one thing you haven’t gotten?” we asked Bonnie DeBernardi.  “Rain, which we need really, really bad,” said DeBernardi. “My roses were so beautiful last year. But the cows need it.” ... ”  Read more from KGO here: Petaluma cattle ranchers brace for ‘worst drought ever’ as rainwater runs dry

Sunnyvale fined $187,000 after spilling nearly 300,000 gallons of wastewater into San Francisco Bay

State water pollution officials have hit the city of Sunnyvale with $187,000 penalty after the city’s wastewater treatment plant spilled more than a quarter million gallons of partially treated sewage into San Francisco Bay last summer.  The spill occurred on July 29 when a 36-inch welded steel pipeline ruptured, releasing 292,600 gallons — the equivalent of about 12 backyard swimming pools — of partially treated sewage that had not been disinfected into channels that flow into the bay near Moffett Field.  “These types of discharges pose a threat to the environment and to human health,” said Thomas Mumley, assistant executive officer of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board. “This enforcement action will be recognized by the wastewater treatment industry, and will become a deterrent, hopefully.” ... ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Sunnyvale fined $187,000 after spilling nearly 300,000 gallons of wastewater into San Francisco Bay

Santa Cruz Water Department completes major water pipeline replacement

The City of Santa Cruz Water Department announced Tuesday the replacement of a major water pipeline, that diverts water from North Coast streams, has been completed. Less than a year after the $5 million project began, 520 feet of 1960s era steel water lines have been replaced by new ductile iron pipeline.  Majors, Laguna, and Liddell creeks feed into the newly-upgraded line. Water from those streams are then delivered to the the Graham Hill Water Treatment Plant, before arriving at customers’ taps. … ”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel here: Santa Cruz Water Department completes major water pipeline replacement

San Luis Obispo County supervisors open the door to water banking

A barely-noticed action early in March by the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors likely has placed greater control of the region’s water supply in the hands of a few individuals and private water agencies.  On a split 3-2, north-south vote, supervisors on March 3 approved an amendment to the county’s contract with the state of California for deliveries from the State Water Project (SWP). An approval that creates the opportunity, some say, for a controversial practice called “water banking.”  “I’m very worried about this amendment,” said Supervisor Debbie Arnold, who voted against the proposal along with fellow North County Supervisor John Peshong. … ”  Read more from Cal Coast News here: San Luis Obispo County supervisors open the door to water banking

Investigators reveal likely cause of fire at Ballona Wetlands

Los Angeles Fire Department revealed more information Tuesday about the heavy brush fire that burned five acres at the Ballona Wetlands near the Playa del Rey oil field last month.  It took nearly two hours and 54 firefighters to stop the brush fire March 23 at 5701 Lincoln Blvd., near Bluff Creek Drive, fire officials said. No injuries were reported and no structures were damaged. Ground crews worked with water-dropping helicopters to hit the pockets of fire along the limited access area. ... ”  Read more from The Patch here: Investigators reveal likely cause of fire at Ballona Wetlands

Commentary:  Governor Newsom needs to protect the human right to water, not water privatizers

Alejandro Sobreras, Orange County Hub Coordinator for the Sunrise Movement, writes: “Governor Gavin Newsom frequently says California is a leader in sustainability and the transition away from fossil fuels. The governor has also issued an executive order to fight climate change in response to the deadly wildfires that ravaged our state last year. Despite these public statements and official efforts, it’s puzzling that his administration has been promoting the climate-wrecking Poseidon desalination plant in Huntington Beach as an infrastructure to source additional water for California. … ”  Read more from the Voice of the OC here: Commentary:  Governor Newsom needs to protect the human right to water, not water privatizers

Watershed survey helps maintain San Diego regional water quality

The City of San Diego Public Utilities Department conducts regular surveys of its watersheds to monitor and maintain high water quality within those watersheds.  The City recently released its 2020 Watershed Sanitary Survey. Conducted and issued every five years since 1996 as required by California law, the report identifies actual or potential causes of local source water contamination that might adversely affect the quality and treatability of City of San Diego water.  The updated information is used as a basis for future watershed management and planning efforts. City of San Diego tap water meets all state and federal drinking water health standards, the primary standards for treating and monitoring water. ... ”  Read more from the Water News Network here: Watershed survey helps maintain San Diego regional water quality

San Diego County Water Authority says no water shortage, despite dry conditions throughout West

The San Diego County Water Authority is developing a water shortage contingency plan, though not implementing it, despite dry conditions in places from which the region imports much of its water.  The region draws about 20% of its water from local sources, including groundwater, desalinated seawater and local reservoirs, according to the Authority’s website. Fully one-half of regional water is imported, by various means, from the Colorado River. A minority proportion comes from Northern California.  “The state may now be entering a multi-year drought,” according to a March 17 water authority report. ... ”  Read more from The Coast News Group here:  San Diego County Water Authority says no water shortage, despite dry conditions throughout West

Sewage flows continue to foul south San Diego County beaches

South Bay officials are beginning to run out of patience over the continued cross-border flow of sewage-tainted water.  The pollution warning signs have been up most of 2021 on the sand in Imperial Beach. Last Friday, the pollution flowed north to Coronado, forcing beach closures there.  Imperial Beach’s top officials are fed up. … ”  Read more from KPBS here:  Sewage flows continue to foul south San Diego County beaches

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Next door in Nevada …

Nevada farmers and conservationists balk at ‘water banking’

Rural water users are panicking over a proposal to create a market for the sale and purchase of water rights in Nevada, unconvinced by arguments that the concept would encourage conservation.  Lawmakers on Monday weighed whether so-called “water banking” would be preferable to prevailing water law doctrines that govern surface and groundwater rights disputes in the driest state in the U.S.  A legislative hearing about two proposals to allow water rights holders to sell their entitlements pitted state water bureaucrats against a coalition of farmers, conservationists and rural officials. … ”  Read more from the AP here: Nevada farmers and conservationists balk at ‘water banking’

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In national water news today …

Battle erupts over the definition of ‘infrastructure’

Republicans are trying to draw the Biden administration into a fight over the meaning of “infrastructure.” And Democrats seem happy to oblige.  With polls showing broad bipartisan support for infrastructure spending, Republicans are trying to recast President Biden’s $2.3 trillion package as something else. Along with corporate tax increases, they’re attacking the plan for lumping social and climate programs together with traditional public works.  “The roads, the bridges, the airports, the ports — all the money they propose spending on that is exceeded by the amount of money that they are willing to spend to set up electric [vehicle] charging stations all over America,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said Monday on Fox Business. … ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Battle erupts over the definition of ‘infrastructure’

American Jobs Plan gives water infrastructure a much needed boost

A week ago, President Joe Biden proposed a welcome proposal that includes $111 billion investment in water infrastructure. It would fund strong measures to protect millions of Americans from water contaminated by lead, other toxic chemicals and pathogens. The package would create a bevy of new living wage jobs while protecting our health. Congress should take prompt action to move these priorities forward.  Investing in water infrastructure is investing in equity. … ”  Read more from Green Biz here: American Jobs Plan gives water infrastructure a much needed boost

What’s crucial in Biden’s infrastructure bill: water investments

Last week, the White House announced the American Jobs Plan, a far-reaching, economy-wide infrastructure and jobs investment proposal. While the plan proposes $621 billion for transportation infrastructure — what people typically think of when they hear the word “infrastructure” — surprisingly, the bulk of the proposal would go to community infrastructure, as in sustainable housing, broadband access, electric infrastructure and, critically, water. The proposal comes not a moment too soon. … ”  Read more from the Triple Pundit here:  What’s crucial in Biden’s infrastructure bill: water investments

Ag groups largely support $2 trillion infrastructure package

The infrastructure package announced by President Joe Biden is receiving significant support from the agricultural industry. A total of $2.25 trillion will be invested over eight years through the American Jobs Plan. Amendments to the corporate tax code would be made to help offset the overall cost of the plan. The Made in America Tax Plan would reportedly raise more than $2 trillion over the course of 15 years. So far, the plan has received significant praise from the ag community due to critical investments in rural areas. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here: Ag groups largely support $2 trillion infrastructure package

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Today’s featured articles …

CA WATER COMMISSION: Ensuring the reliability of the State Water Project, part 2: Assessing climate change vulnerabilities and addressing aging infrastructure

At the California Water Commission‘s March meeting, Commissioners heard a series of presentations on the State Water Project.  In the second and last installment, John Andrew, Assistant Deputy Director, gave a presentation on the climate change vulnerability for the State Water Project, and Behzad Soltanzadeh, Assistant Division Chief, discussed the Department’s efforts to address issues related to aging infrastructure.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

WATER PLAN eNEWS: ~~Drought Planning~ Land Repurposing~ Development Act~ Volunteer Hub~ Community Benefits~ Data 101~ Data Science~~

RULING: State Water Board’s AHO issues ruling on motions to quash in Kings River case

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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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