DAILY DIGEST, 4/8: Advances in remote sensing provide first glimpse of groundwater recharge in the Valley; CA greenlighting oil wells linked to groundwater pollution; Saving clean drinking water…with math!; and more …


On the calendar today …

In California water news and commentary today …

Advances in remote sensing are providing a first glimpse of groundwater recharge in the San Joaquin Valley

Groundwater is a key resource for water users in California’s Central Valley, a major agricultural hub with an economic output of tens of billions of dollars annually. Surface deformation in the Central Valley has long been linked to changes in groundwater storage, but the timing and movement of water flow beneath the surface has been poorly understood due to a lack of reliable data.  Now, for the first time, scientists at the University of California San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and School of Global Policy and Strategy, as well as the U.S. Geological Survey are using advanced satellite data to map the “pulse” of groundwater flow through the San Joaquin Valley, the southern portion of the Central Valley. … ”  Read more from UC San Diego here: Scientists map “pulse” of groundwater flow through California’s Central Valley

California is greenlighting oil wells linked to groundwater pollution

Throughout 2020 and early 2021, California issued more than 300 permits to oil and gas companies for new underground injection wells — an intensive form of oil production and wastewater disposal.  But the actual number of new injection wells is likely higher, owing to the state’s opaque approval process that has drawn scrutiny from auditors and environmentalists. Some of these undercounted wells may be polluting groundwater used for public drinking and agricultural purposes, according to regulatory filings reviewed by Capital & Main.  The impact of injection wells on groundwater in California is understudied, regulators say. … ”  Read more from Capitol & Main here: California is greenlighting oil wells linked to groundwater pollution

Saving clean drinking water…with math!

Nearly every resident of California has experienced an earthquake. Even the youngest schoolchildren have the safety procedure drilled into them: duck under a table, hold on, and pray that it’s only a small one. Barring a truly catastrophic quake, the situation usually ends there. You go on with your day as if nothing had happened, the near catastrophe completely forgotten.  Most people assume that the danger ends after the last remnants of the tremor share the ground. But there is a much more sinister side effect of earthquakes that affects daily life around California and much of the rest of the world: contaminating the groundwater supply. … ”  Read more from USC here: Saving clean drinking water…with math!

State Water Resources Control Board adopts resolution approving state wetland definition and dredge and fill procedures

On April 6, 2021, the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) approved the application of the State Wetland Definition and Procedures for Discharges of Dredged or Fill Material to Waters of the State (Procedures) as a water quality control policy, carefully avoiding the scope of a recent court order. This resolution will allow the Board to directly apply the water Procedures to waters of the State as an exercise of its policy-making authority rather than the water quality control planning process. … ”  Read more from Somach Simmons & Dunn here:  State Water Resources Control Board adopts resolution approving state wetland definition and dredge and fill procedures

Commentary: California needs comprehensive groundwater management

Jeanette Howard, director of the freshwater science team at The Nature Conservancy; Melissa M. Rohde, groundwater scientist at The Nature Conservancy; and Barton H. Thompson, senior fellow of the Woods Institute for the Environment, and faculty director of Water in the West at Stanford University, write: “While California’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act promised comprehensive protection of the state’s groundwater, significant gaps remain in its coverage.   The Department of Water Resources now has an opportunity to reduce or eliminate those gaps and should seize the moment. We know all Californians will experience another year of water shortages and warmer, drier conditions that will require conservation and which are likely to fuel destructive wildfires in our forests and around our communities. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: California needs comprehensive groundwater management

Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative releases framework for resilience

Collaborative efforts to promote resilience across large landscapes often struggle to develop a shared concept of resilience, slowing the pace of restoration efforts. In the Tahoe-Central Sierra, state, federal, nonprofit, and private industry stakeholders have been working together on a shared Framework for Resilience in the 2.4-million acre landscape. It is an example of the regional approach at the heart of our Watershed Improvement Program.  And it’s one that we think may prove useful beyond the borders of the Tahoe-Central Sierra. … ”  Read more from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy here: Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative releases framework for resilience

Beavers can help fight drought and fire say Central Coast experts at CA Beaver Summit

April 7 is International Beaver Day and the San Luis Obispo Beaver Brigade is celebrating this year by participating in the first free, virtual California Beaver Summit.  Beavers are native to California. San Luis Obispo County has populations in the Salinas River and Arroyo Grande Creek. Beavers also live in the Arroyo Seco River in Monterey County and in the Santa Ynez River in Santa Barbara County. … ”  Continue reading at KCBX here: Beavers can help fight drought and fire say Central Coast experts at CA Beaver Summit

UC Merced study: Solar panels over California canals ‘makes a lot sense’ in renewable future

For Roger Bales, the future of California could be an iconic one with renewable energy. In that vision of the future, he sees trips from Sacramento to Los Angeles in an electric car, where you can stop and charge your car with solar energy that was generated over some of California’s canals.  “I think it’s really cool… I think it can help people say ‘yes, this is the direction we need to be going. We need to have built smart infrastructure,’” Bales said. “So, I think it can have a snowball effect for public education and public appreciation for where we can be headed in terms of a sustainable future for children.” … ”  Read more from ABC 10 here: UC Merced study: Solar panels over California canals ‘makes a lot sense’ in renewable future

In California drought and hydrology news today …

CW3E End of Winter Summary:  Water Year 2021 Characterized by Persistent Dry Weather and Worsening Drought in California

Total precipitation has been well below normal throughout much of California during water year (WY) 2021.  In some regions, drier than normal conditions extend back to the start of WY 2020.  Drought has expanded and intensified across the state, and current water storage levels are below normal in many reservoirs.  Below-normal snowpack in the Sierra Nevada may limit water resource availability as summer approaches.  The abnormally dry conditions were driven by a lack of landfalling atmospheric rivers (ARs) and persistent ridging/blocking over the Northeast Pacific Ocean.  Drought is expected to continue through spring 2021, thereby increasing the threat of significant wildfire activity in summer 2021.” Dive into the details from the Center for Western Water and Weather Extremes here:  CW3E End of Winter Summary:  Water Year 2021 Characterized by Persistent Dry Weather and Worsening Drought in California

Valley lawmakers ask Newsom to declare statewide water emergency

With California in drought conditions amid the third-driest precipitation totals in state history, Valley lawmakers want Gov. Gavin Newsom to take immediate action.  On Wednesday, a bipartisan group asked Newsom to declare a statewide water emergency.   The group cited a 5% water allocation for farmers announced March 23 by the state Department of Water Resources — down from the 10% announced in December — among the reasons for the request. … “As Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I have repeatedly stressed how water and food security is a key component of our national security,” said state Sen. Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno). “This bipartisan request from Valley legislators demonstrates the dire need for the Governor’s administration to take action and deliver more water to farms and rural communities.” … ”  Read more from GV Wire here:  Valley lawmakers ask Newsom to declare statewide water emergency

Dry weather harms California farmers and reinforces need for advocacy

Barring an unlikely April miracle that brings heavy rains and snow to fill California reservoirs, farmers around the state can expect to receive drastically reduced amount of water from state and federal water systems this year.  For example, the state Department of Water Resources in March slashed its allocations to farms it serves to just 5%, and water projects with more junior rights, such as the Westlands Water District, were recently informed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation that the scant 5% allocation earlier promised is now on hold.  The dry weather that has plagued the state for most of the past decade is why groups like the California Water Alliance (CalWA) work hard to remind policymakers that farmers can’t grow the crops we need without water – and that the water must be allocated equitably among competing needs. … ”  Read more from Wine Business here: Dry weather harms California farmers and reinforces need for advocacy

Radio show: California faces new drought, but Southern California might avoid water restrictions

After another dry year, drought is coming back to California. The state’s largest reservoirs are half full and the wet season ended last week. But California officials say the state’s in better shape than in 2012: when the last drought hit the golden state. Southern California might be well positioned to handle the dry year due to major conservation efforts taken over the last decade. LA’s water use has declined to 1970’s levels.  Southern California might also avoid water restriction due to record amounts of water stored in regional reservoirs and groundwater banks, according to Bettina Boxall, an LA Times reporter covering California water and the environment. … ”  Read more from KCRW here: Radio show: California faces new drought, but Southern California might avoid water restrictions

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In regional water news and commentary today …

‘Eel Zoom Friday’: Fun evening talks focus on the Eel River watershed

The Eel River Recovery Project will be presenting “Eel Zoom Friday” at 5 p.m. starting this Friday through May 28 on topics of interest about the Eel River watershed, including forest health, salmon run trends, Sacramento pikeminnow management, how watersheds work, how flow has changed, salmon parks, toxic cyanobacteria and more.  These free presentations will be made by various experts, but in a fun and playful way suited for the Friday “happy hour” timing of presentations. … ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here: ‘Eel Zoom Friday’: Fun evening talks focus on the Eel River watershed

Reopening a Northern California creek to threatened steelhead—part 2: using natural sediment to benefit fish

Most dam removal projects view sediment as a problem. Biologists often worry that releasing the stored sediment will harm fish and wildlife or disperse in unpredictable ways to change the course of streams. Others see releasing stored sediment as a catalyst for flooding. In some cases, though, sediment can be a solution.  Biologists working to remove the dam on York Creek knew that sediment spreading naturally through the York Creek and Napa River watersheds could benefit the ecoystem. It could replenish gravel and restore spawning beds, rearing habitat, and resting habitat for steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act. ... ”  Read more from NOAA here:  Reopening a Northern California creek to threatened steelhead—part 2: using natural sediment to benefit fish

City of Calistoga issues mandate for water customers to conserve

The City of Calistoga has declared a Stage II Water emergency and starting May 1, residents and businesses will be required to conserve water. The move is a response to a recent reduction in the State’s water allocation. Citing back-to back dry years and limited precipitation in the northern part of the State, on March 23, the California Department of Water Resources reduced the State Water Project allocations for Napa County from 15% to 5%. The reduction represents a loss of approximately 25% of Calistoga’s annual demand. … ”  Read more from the Napa Register here:  City of Calistoga issues mandate for water customers to conserve

Marin Municipal Water District proposes mandatory conservation

The Marin Municipal Water District is proposing mandatory conservation rules for the first time since 1988 in response to record-low rainfall levels akin to those of the notorious 1976-77 drought.  The proposed ordinance would require customers to limit outdoor watering to one day per week starting May 1 and adhere to other restrictions. The district board of directors plans to vote on the ordinance on April 20.  The district has received just 20 inches of rain this year, its second-lowest amount in 143 years of records. The lowest was 18 inches in 1924. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Marin Municipal Water District proposes mandatory conservation

Home on the Range:  Tule elk have returned to roam across Point Reyes National Seashore, but the park is getting crowded

Point Reyes sits at the western edge of Marin County, California, a pick-axe shaped peninsula that juts between the pounding waves of the Pacific. It’s a landscape of stark beauty; a patchwork of windswept headlands, broad leeward bays, wildflower-strewn meadows, and dripping evergreen forest. State and federal agencies list more than a hundred plant and animal species within the park as threatened or endangered, among them the California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii), western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus), and coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). This natural richness draws around 2 million visitors a year.  In 2013, one of them was Diana Oppenheim.  … ”  Read more from Bay Nature here: Home on the Range

SEE ALSO: True to boom and bust, fenced herd shrinks in drought, from the Point Reyes Light

Monterey urges state to allow relief from Carmel River pumping order

Elected officials in Monterey approved a letter Tuesday in support of a petition that the state provide relief from a specific portion of a cease-and-desist order governing the amount of water that can be pumped out of the Carmel River basin. If granted, the relief would allow for hundreds of new housing units to be built in the city and along the Monterey Peninsula.  The issue is important because additional housing, particularly affordable housing, is important to workers and businesses such as the hospitality industry because many of these low-income employees can no longer afford to live in the city. That in itself causes environmental damage from additional climate-altering greenhouse gases generated by longer commutes workers are forced to make. ... ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Monterey urges state to allow relief from Carmel River pumping order

Monterey: Water restrictions and housing shortage converge in a request for additional Carmel River water

The Monterey Peninsula Water Management District has made an unprecedented request to the state’s water board: amend a restrictive cease-and-desist order and allow more water to be drawn from the Carmel River. Do it, they said, in the name of affordable housing.  Housing advocates have come out in support of the water district’s proposal to the State Water Resources Control Board, which would allow California American Water to take an additional 75 acre-feet – about 326,000 gallons – from the Carmel River to facilitate affordable housing projects in the region. The additional water would be allowed but not drawn until the projects come online, which could take years. However, Cal Am and the Sierra Club say it’s a bad idea with worse timing. ... ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly here: Monterey: Water restrictions and housing shortage converge in a request for additional Carmel River water

San Luis Obispo Supervisors discuss land use permits and water issues

… the Board discussed item 24 to hear from Tim Reed from Pozo Management Group for an appeal of the Planning Commission’s denial of a Conditional Use Permit to establish 2.98 acres of outdoor cannabis cultivation. Supervisor Debbie Arnold recused herself from the discussion because of personal property in the area.  The Planning Commission denied the project on the basis of lack of water, as well as stating that the project doesn’t fit the existing community. ... ”  Read more from the Paso Robles Press here: San Luis Obispo Supervisors discuss land use permits and water issues

Nevada Irrigation District completes vital Combie Phase 1 Canal and Bear River Siphon Project

The crucial pipeline system that transports more than half of the water delivered by the Nevada Irrigation District (NID) has been completed.  The Combie Phase I and Bear River Siphon Project replaces aging infrastructure from below the Combie Reservoir to customers in southern Nevada and western Placer counties.  The complex project had two components: replacement of the 50-year old Combie Canal, a flume along steep terrain above the Bear River, and the Bear River Siphon. … ”  Read more from YubaNet here: Nevada Irrigation District completes vital Combie Phase 1 Canal and Bear River Siphon Project

Stockton: Floating data center up and (quietly) running

The barge that’s been placidly docked in the Port of Stockton since last year is now quietly — very quietly — up and running as a data center.  San Joaquin County moved its data backup and disaster recovery operations from a data center in Stanislaus County to the barge in Stockton in January, after several years of building and fine-tuning and dealing with COVID-related delays. The county is the anchor tenant on the barge, said Chris Cruz, San Joaquin’s chief information officer and director of technology. … ”  Read more from Tech Wire here:  Stockton: Floating data center up and (quietly) running

Oakdale: Salmon restoration effort gets go ahead

Oakdale City Council members unanimously approved moving forward with Phase II of the Stanislaus River Salmonid Habitat Restoration Project at Monday night’s council meeting, April 5, which will put an additional $361,400 of grant funding into play for the extensive project.  According to city documents, in 2018-2019, the City of Oakdale was awarded a grant through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) in the amount of $341,036 to financially support and assist the implementation of the Stanislaus River Salmonid Habitat Restoration Project (River Restoration Project) at the Stanley Wakefield Wilderness Area. These grant funds were to be utilized to fund the efforts to provide baseline data and analysis for 100 percent design plans that would ultimately lead to the enhancement and restoration of up to 28 acres of channel, floodplain and upland habitats. … ”  Read more from the Oakdale Leader here: Salmon restoration effort gets go ahead

Mono County Supervisors look at LADWP’S Long Valley/Sage Grouse Plan

The Mono County Board of Supervisors heard an analysis of the management plan for Long Valley prepared by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power at its Tuesday meeting. While that plan focused on the protection of Bi-State Sage Grouse, the Supervisors pointed out the issue of irrigation for grazing leases was not included. Those leases were frozen in place by court order until LADWP completes environmental studies. ... ”  Read more from the Sierra Wave here: Mono County Supervisors look at LADWP’S Long Valley/Sage Grouse Plan

Kern River could have driest year on record, state says

It’s been a dry year so far for the Kern River, and if the trend continues, it could be the driest one on record.  “Currently, we are looking at 26% of average for the Kern River inflow into Lake Isabella,” Chris Orrock, a spokesperson for the California Department of Water Resources, told the Kern Valley Sun.  There just wasn’t a lot of snow in the Southern Sierra mountains this winter, Orrock said. … ”  Read more from the Kern Valley Sun here:  Kern River could have driest year on record, state says

Column: How I got beyond the concrete and learned to love my watershed

Journalist Sammy Roth writes, “A year ago, when stay-at-home orders were a newly disorienting fact of life, I started taking long walks through my neighborhood on L.A.’s Westside. Wandering south from Palms into Culver City, I realized I live near a huge concrete channel — a creek, trapped in place — with a bike path along the water, and a view of oil pumpjacks rising and falling atop the Baldwin Hills.  There were beautiful murals, too, showing a healthy, thriving waterway. They were hashtagged #KnowYourWatershed. And the more I admired them, the more I realized that I did not, in fact, know my watershed, despite growing up not far from here. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Column: How I got beyond the concrete and learned to love my watershed

Raw sewage from Mexico continues to taint Southern California beaches, efforts to stop it fall short

Raw sewage from Mexico flowing north of the border is a problem that has persisted between San Diego and Tijuana for decades.  It’s still happening.  Last year, the city of Tijuana and the state of Baja California made some repairs to Tijuana’s outdated sewage infrastructure and officials said the problem was fixed. … ”  Read more from Channel 13 here: Raw sewage from Mexico continues to taint Southern California beaches, efforts to stop it fall short

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Along the Colorado River …

The water fight over the shrinking Colorado River

Scientists have been predicting for years that the Colorado River would continue to deplete due to global warming and increased water demands, but according to new studies it’s looking worse than they thought. That worries rancher Marsha Daughenbaugh, 68, of Steamboat Springs, who relies on the water from the Colorado River to grow feed for her cattle. “That water is our lifeblood and without it we would not have the place that we do,” says Daughenbaugh, who was raised on this ranch and is hoping to pass it down to her children and the next generation.  “Ranching is not only an economic base for us, it’s a way of life.”  But with a two-decade drought in the southwestern US and record-low snowfalls, that lifestyle could be in jeopardy. … ”  Read more from the BBC here:  The water fight over the shrinking Colorado River

Anglers offered a bounty for catching brown trout on the Colorado River in Arizona

It’s not every day that anglers are paid to catch brown trout, but that’s what’s happening now in Arizona on the Colorado River between Glen Canyon Dam and the Paria River. The bounty program is called the “Brown Trout Bonanza” and runs Apr. 1-May 2. The Purpose of the “Bonanza” is to encourage anglers (via cash rewards) to reduce brown trout numbers in this portion of the Colorado River. This is necessary to protect native fish species from brown trout predation. Browns are notorious and ravenous finfish predators that target native river species. ... ”  Read more from Outside Online here: Anglers offered a bounty for catching brown trout on the Colorado River in Arizona

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In national water news today …

To remove lead water pipes, first you must find them

Safe drinking water for everyone in America is an important goal, and Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan makes a $111 billion investment toward that. While the majority of the funding goes to modernizing water treatment and delivery systems and remediating potentially harmful chemicals like PFAS, what’s gotten the most attention is a $45 billion initiative to “replace 100 percent of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines.”  If we could manage to do this, it would make a huge difference. … But if you want to replace all the lead water pipes in America, the first thing you have to do is find all the lead water pipes in America. ... ”  Continue reading at The American Prospect here:  To remove lead water pipes, first you must find them

Biden signals openness to compromise on infrastructure plan

President Joe Biden said Wednesday he is open to adjusting portions of his American Jobs Plan, so long as lawmakers agree to invest some amount of money in U.S. infrastructure.  “In the next few weeks, the vice president and I will be meeting with Republicans and Democrats to hear from everyone and we’ll be listening, we’ll be open to good ideas and good-faith negotiations,” Biden said. “But here’s what we won’t be open to: we will not be open to doing nothing. Inaction simply is not an option.” ... ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: Biden signals openness to compromise on infrastructure plan

Habitat restoration projects offer protection from flooding

“Habitats like tidal marshes, coral reefs, and seagrass beds serve as natural infrastructure that can help protect our coastal communities from flooding, erosion, and storms. NOAA Fisheries works to restore habitat for coastal and marine species, and many of our restoration projects provide natural infrastructure benefits as well. Two NOAA Fisheries-supported habitat restoration projects that have helped reduce flooding are highlighted in a new resource from Engineering With Nature.  Engineering With Nature is an initiative of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. … ”  Read more from NOAA here:  Habitat restoration projects offer protection from flooding

America’s toxic disasters-in-waiting

You may never have seen them, but vast open-air pools of toxic water, from hazardous mining byproducts to diluted pig waste, are a common feature at thousands of industrial and agricultural sites across the country.  One of them, a giant wastewater pond at a former phosphate mining site south of Tampa, Fla., teetered on the brink of catastrophic failure for a while this week, and that’s brought the risks of these seldom-seen pools into sharp focus. … ”  Read more from the New York Times here: America’s toxic disasters-in-waiting

Carbon dioxide levels are now higher than at anytime in the past 3.6 million years

Levels of the two most important anthropogenic greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, continued their unrelenting rise in 2020 despite the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic response, NOAA announced today.  The global surface average for carbon dioxide (CO2), calculated from measurements collected at NOAA’s remote sampling locations, was 412.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2020, rising by 2.6 ppm during the year. The global rate of increase was the fifth-highest in NOAA’s 63-year record, following 1987, 1998, 2015 and 2016. The annual mean at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii was 414.4 ppm during 2020. … ”  Continue reading at NOAA here: Carbon dioxide levels are now higher than at anytime in the past 3.6 million years

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NASA Snow Water Equivalent report …

20210401_RT_SWE_Report

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Today’s featured articles …

STATE WATER BOARD: Update on the Fresno River adjudication

With no viable interim solutions that the Board can implement, the process is expected to take years

In October of 2018, the State Water Board received a petition from Madera Irrigation District for a statutory adjudication of the Fresno River watershed.  In 2019, the Board adopted a resolution that postponed the adoption of the petition while the parties in the watershed went through a third-party facilitated effort to come up with a local solution for a pathway forward. Over the next year, stakeholders made some progress but ultimately were unable to resolve the number of contentious issues within the watershed.   So on October 20, 2020, the Board adopted the petition and directed staff to update them on potential interim solutions.

At the April 6 meeting of the State Water Board, staff from the Division of Water Rights updated the Board members on the ongoing issues and possible interim solutions for the Fresno River watershed.

Click here to read this article.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

CA WATER COMMISSION: Q&A session for applicants submitting screening information for water storage projects

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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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