DAILY DIGEST, 4/19: Could a super typhoon bring late-season rain to parched CA?; Is CA suffering a decades-long megadrought?; Changes to Shasta water release designed to protect salmon; Interstate water wars are heating up along with the climate; and more …


In California water news today …

Could a super typhoon bring late-season rain to parched California? Here’s one expert’s take

A weather event known as a super typhoon just set the record as the strongest tropical cyclone during the month of April in the Western Hemisphere — and may help bring some much needed rain to bone-dry California at the end of the month.  Super Typhoon Surigae reached a Category 5 level on Saturday with winds reaching 190 mph as it barreled past the Philippines.  UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain said that while the storm’s intensity is waning, its indirect effects could impact Northern California’s worrisome lack of precipitation, possibly resulting in a 40% to 50% chance of some rain at the end of this month. … ”  Read more from the SF Chronicle here: Could a super typhoon bring late-season rain to parched California? Here’s one expert’s take

Persistent warmth to maintain grip on parched Southwest

Although a large portion of the United States has been transported back to winter in recent days, the western U.S. has been mostly exempt from dealing with a winterlike chill. In fact, some areas have been dealing with a surge of summerlike warmth.  Over the weekend, record-breaking heat was common across portions of the Pacific Northwest while much of the rest of the West Coast stayed nearly seasonable. While Seattle soared to a record-tying high of 80 degrees Fahrenheit Saturday, 21 degrees above normal, Los Angeles topped out at a comfortable 71, 2 degrees below normal for mid-April. By Sunday, Los Angeles had soared to 89 degrees while Seattle remained above average at 79 degrees. ... ”  Read more from AccuWeather here: Persistent warmth to maintain grip on parched Southwest

Is California suffering a decades-long megadrought?

California has entered another drought.  But depending on who you ask, the last one may have never really ended.  Some researchers believe the region is actually more than two decades into an emerging “megadrought” — a hydrological event that is on par with the worst dry spells of the past millennium. Except this time, they say, human-caused climate change is driving its severity — and will make it that much harder to climb back out of.  “If this drought was totally due to natural variability, then we would at least have the comfort of knowing at some point, good luck is very likely to show up again, and this is going to end,” said Park Williams, a bioclimatologist and associate professor at UCLA. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Is California suffering a decades-long megadrought?

Changes to Shasta water release designed to protect salmon

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Sunday will begin releasing warmer water from the upper layers of the Shasta Reservoir directly into the Sacramento River to maintain flows, while saving colder water for the winter-run Chinook salmon migration.  “The only remaining population of winter-run Chinook salmon in the Central Valley is in the Sacramento River downstream of Shasta Dam,” David Mooney, Reclamation’s Bay-Delta office manager, said in a statement released Friday. “Last year, despite dry conditions, we effectively shaped cold water for higher survival rates, but other factors reduced survival to very low levels. Protecting egg incubation in this second year will help support this endangered species for the future.” ... ”  Read more from the Daily Republic here: Changes to Shasta water release designed to protect salmon

H2O Hackathon: to solve harmful algal blooms in San Joaquin County

After a year hiatus because of COVID-19, the H2O Hackathon returned to San Joaquin County on Saturday with middle school, high school and college students tackling a virtual challenge to help solve California’s water problems.  Students compete using their coding skills to create an app that will help solve a specific water problem affecting San Joaquin County. Teams consisted of four students and a coach who worked together to develop an app to help solve a water problem.  “The H20 Hackathon is a community-supported event that taps into the problem-solving skills of San Joaquin County students to help find solutions to the state’s water issues.” San Joaquin County Office of Education said in a statement. ... ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  H2O Hackathon: to solve harmful algal blooms in San Joaquin County

Commentary: Water infrastructure package needed to deal with drought

Mike Wade, Executive Director of the California Farm Water Coalition, writes, “California is once again into a critically dry year with memories of the last drought all too fresh. Scientists warn that “boom or bust” water years are the new normal, and we all knew we’d be back here again. The question is, what have we learned and what have we done about it?  One of the first things our last drought reminded us is that as Californians, we’re all in this together. If drought pits us against one another, we all lose. ... ”  Read more from Cal Matters here:  Commentary: Water infrastructure package needed to deal with drought

The humble shrub that’s predicting a terrible fire season

If you’re kind of judgmental when it comes to plants, you might describe the chamise plant as “meh.” Technically it’s a shrub, which in the hierarchy of plant types barely outranks a weed. Chamise grows up to a dozen feet tall and sprouts needle-like leaves less than a half-inch long, making it look like overgrown rosemary. Only it doesn’t really smell, even though it’s a member of the rose family.  Appearances and scents aside, chamise turns out to be a fascinating plant, one critical not only to the California landscape but to the safety of its human residents. When fire scientists want to know how flammable the state’s vegetation might be, they don’t rely on some newfangled gadget. They rely on chamise. … ”  Read more from Ars Technica here:  The humble shrub that’s predicting a terrible fire season

Congressman Kevin McCarthy joins LaMalfa in calling for better forest management in California

For years, Democrats in Sacramento and Washington have blocked commonsense reforms to improve forest health while environmental groups have filed endless litigation to block forest management activities. This, combined with regular drought, has made fire season an almost year-round occurrence in California. Last year in the midst of an already overwhelming pandemic, California experienced some of the most devastating wildfires in our State’s history.  This needs to change, and California House Republicans are working to make this happen. … ”  Read more from Congressman Kevin McCarthy’s website here: Congressman Kevin McCarthy joins LaMalfa in calling for better forest management in California

How bad will California’s fire season be? Experts on the threat – and what can be done

Hillsides typically decked in colorful flowers are parched and splotched with brown. The so-called desert “superbloom” never materialized.  California is facing a critically dry year. America’s most populous state only received half its average amount of rain this spring, making 2021 the third-driest year it has ever recorded.  The dry conditions raise fears the state could see another devastating wildfire season, mere months after some of the worst blazes in the state’s recorded history scorched 4m acres from north to south. ... ”  Read more from The Guardian here:  How bad will California’s fire season be? Experts on the threat – and what can be done

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Reclamation’s Klamath operations plan draws concerns and criticisms from Yurok, Karuk tribes

Dan Bacher writes, “The Klamath River Basin is in a dire situation this year. The plan curtails irrigation diversions to less than 10% of demand while failing to meet the biological needs of salmon and other fisheries downstream.  “It is unfortunate that a severe drought and climate change, coupled with risky decisions made in 2020, have left us all in this impossible bind this year,” said Frankie Myers, the Yurok Tribe’s Vice Chairman. “Based on the current conditions, the Yurok Tribe is acutely concerned about the health of the entire river from the headwaters to the sea, because it is the beating heart of all the Tribes in the basin. The Klamath salmon are now on a course toward extinction in the near term.” ... ”  Read more from Red, Green, and Blue here: California is in a severe drought – but hasn’t adjusted its water use plans (Could be deadly for salmon)

Klamath Fishermen, Tribes brace for another abysmal salmon season

Glen Spain, the Northwest regional director for the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, is running out of adjectives to describe how bad things have gotten for the West Coast’s salmon fisheries.  Due in part to years of drought in the Klamath Basin, hundreds of miles of ocean will be completely closed to commercial fishing boats this summer.  The attitude of fishermen, Spain said, is: “Oh God, not again.” ... ”  Read more from Herald & News here: Fishermen, Tribes brace for another abysmal salmon season

California’s McCloud River one of nation’s most imperiled

Last Tuesday, American Rivers released its annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers list for 2021. Because of a Trump-era proposal to raise Shasta Dam, the group named northern California’s McCloud River as the nation’s 7th most threatened river.  During the Trump administration, then Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt advanced plans to increase the height of Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet and to expand Shasta Lake by more than 200 billion gallons. In their listing of the McCloud, American Rivers and their partners are calling on the Biden Administration to overturn the Trump-era plan to raise Shasta Dam. ... ”  Read the full story at Sierra Nevada Ally here:  California’s McCloud River one of nation’s most imperiled

Lawsuit filed over Woodland Flood Risk Management Project

The Yolo County Farm Bureau as well as two former Farm Bureau presidents have filed a lawsuit against the City of Woodland and the Woodland City Council over the Woodland Flood Risk Management Project.  The suit — which was filed on March 25 — is a Verified Petition for a Writ of Mandate and Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, or a way to get the judicial branch to reaffirm previous contracts.  In this situation, the Farm Bureau, as well as former presidents Nancy Lea and Eric Paulsen are alleging that the city’s February decision to move forward with the Flood Risk Management Project directly violates Measure S, a Woodland voter initiative that passed in 2004. ... ”  Read more from the Woodland Daily Democrat here:  Lawsuit filed over Woodland Flood Risk Management Project

Sonoma County calls for sewage pipeline study

In a potential solution to a two-decade-old problem, Sonoma County’s water agency has commissioned a $156,000 study of a potential pipeline carrying Occidental’s wastewater to a treatment plant in neighboring Graton.  A pipeline between the two west county hamlets would resolve the dilemma dating back to a 1997 state order banning Occidental from discharging effluent into a tributary of the Russian River.  Since 2018, the Occidental wastewater system — one of eight managed by Sonoma Water — has been trucking raw sewage 18 miles through Graton to a county treatment plant at the airport, an expensive program seen as a stopgap measure. ... ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: Sonoma County calls for sewage pipeline study

Marin district might reduce water releases for fish

In response to paltry rainfall and worsening drought, the Marin Municipal Water District is studying whether it could curtail reservoir water releases meant to support fish in Lagunitas Creek.  The district is required to release water from its largest reservoir at Kent Lake to bolster the fish population, including the largest population of endangered coho salmon remaining between Monterey and Mendocino counties. The construction of district dams and reservoirs since the 19th century has cut off half of the historic habitat and spawning grounds for the endangered salmon, threatened steelhead trout and other species, significantly reducing their populations. Once believed to run in the tens of thousands, coho salmon have dwindled to dangerously low levels in Lagunitas Creek and are listed as a federally endangered species. ... ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here:  Marin district might reduce water releases for fish

Marin on front line in war against invasive species

It’s nothing less than an invasion. Interlopers are coming into California by land, by sea … and by FedEx.  That’s what happened with the European green crab, a voracious cannibal that stowed away in packages of worms sent by overnight delivery to commercial fishermen in California. Unknown to anyone, the tiny crustaceans were concealed in seaweed that wrapped the cargo and were freed into the Pacific when fishermen tossed it overboard.  Then the green crabs, which a century ago decimated the East Coast’s shellfish industry, began to dine out in the Pacific, munching nearly everything in sight. Authorities made plans to rid the ocean of the pests. ... ” Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Marin on front line in war against invasive species

With help from American Rescue Plan, Thousand Oaks plans $111 million of infrastructure projects

Thousand Oaks plans to upgrade much of its aging infrastructure over the next two fiscal years, with help from President Joe Biden’s newly enacted American Rescue Plan.  “The city is nearing 60 years old and our infrastructure is aging,” Jaime Boscarino, Thousand Oaks’ finance director, said in presenting the proposed capital improvement budget for fiscal years 2022 and 2023 at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. Thousand Oaks was incorporated in 1964. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star here: With help from American Rescue Plan, Thousand Oaks plans $111 million of infrastructure projects

The role of asset management in support of OC Sanitation’s mission

Publicly owned treatment works in California have been observing a trend of permit requirements issued by EPA Region 9 and the State to develop and utilize an Asset Management Program as part of their NPDES/Wastewater Discharge Order. In the case of OC San, an Asset Management Plan has already been in place; however, with many of its major assets aging, the development of a more robust AMP became a priority for the agency. … ”  Read more from the Orange County Water Association here: The role of asset management in support of OC Sanitation’s mission

Rainbow MWD places $1.3M in reserves

The San Diego County Water Authority was successful in its rate lawsuit against the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and the SDCWA provided a check to the Rainbow Municipal Water District for Rainbow’s share of the settlement. On March 23, the Rainbow board voted 5-0 to place the money into the district’s reserves rather than to attempt to provide refunds to each individual ratepayer.  “I believe that it’s not worth the time and money to return the money to potential and past ratepayers,” board member Pam Moss said. ... ”  Read more from the Village News here: Rainbow MWD places $1.3M in reserves

Tiny Borrego Springs agrees to huge water cuts to guarantee its survival

Borrego Springs, the small desert town at the entrance to California’s sprawling Anza-Borrego State Park, has won a judge’s approval for an agreement under which large farmers, resort owners and its own water district will slash water use by 74% by 2040. Officials say the cuts are needed to keep the town of 3,000 alive.  More than a dozen major landholders, including ranchers and developers who’ve long grown crops and created lush golf greens in the parched desert by pumping large amounts of water from a rapidly depleting aquifer, signed on to the settlement agreement. … ” Read more from the Desert Sun here:  Tiny Borrego Springs agrees to huge water cuts to guarantee its survival

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In national water news today …

Interstate water wars are heating up along with the climate

Interstate water disputes are as American as apple pie. States often think a neighboring state is using more than its fair share from a river, lake or aquifer that crosses borders.  Currently the U.S. Supreme Court has on its docket a case between Texas, New Mexico and Colorado and another one between Mississippi and Tennessee. The court has already ruled this term on cases pitting Texas against New Mexico and Florida against Georgia.  Climate stresses are raising the stakes. Rising temperatures require farmers to use more water to grow the same amount of crops. Prolonged and severe droughts decrease available supplies. Wildfires are burning hotter and lasting longer. Fires bake the soil, reducing forests’ ability to hold water, increasing evaporation from barren land and compromising water supplies. … ”  Read more from The Conversation here: Interstate water wars are heating up along with the climate

What’s really in your water?

When water is safe, there is nothing better to drink. It’s good for teeth, skin, weight control and even the ability to think straight. But drinking water contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, heavy metals or other harmful substances can cause diarrhea, brain damage, infertility and cancerBottled water is no guarantee of water safety. Not only is it not always safe; bottled water is thousands of times more expensive than tap water, and the plastic packaging and transport carries heavy environmental costs.  Despite the need for safe water and the myriad pollutants that can contaminate it, there is no widely accessible method for everyone to quickly, cheaply, and accurately test their water’s safety. … ”  Read more from Scientific American here:  What’s really in your water?

Where are the lead pipes? Finding them may prove tough for EPA

Incomplete local record-keeping may stymie EPA efforts to locate the nation’s lead pipes to meet President Joe Biden’s goal of replacing them and improving drinking water quality, authorities say.  A better way to reduce lead contamination in the nation’s drinking water, a former Environmental Protection Agency water chief says, is by enforcing an existing rule requiring utilities to replace some of their lead pipes every year.  The Biden administration’s infrastructure plan, released March 31, calls for replacing all lead drinking water pipes throughout the U.S. to avoid lead contamination drinking water similar to the crisis in Flint, Mich. As many as 10 million U.S. homes have lead service lines, the EPA said. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here: Where are the lead pipes? Finding them may prove tough for EPA

30×30: How important are private lands in meeting conservation goals?

Sagebrush bulldozed for a housing development. A pipeline carved through grasslands. Forest felled for a road. Every 30 seconds in the United States, a football field-sized swath of nature is lost to development, according to research from the Center for American Progress.  This troubling trend runs counter to calls from scientists to protect more natural areas to mitigate against the effects of climate change and better protect plants and animals from extinction.  Current goals to protect biodiversity simply aren’t good enough, scientists say. … ”  Read more from The Revelator here: 30×30: How important are private lands in meeting conservation goals?

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

In California water news this weekend …

  • Placerita Canyon

    Klamath Drainage District begins water deliveries, Reclamation orders it to cease

  • Reclamation adjusts Sacramento River operations to benefit salmon amid drought conditions
  • California gold fever still reigns. New prospectors seek to reopen giant mine
  • The Southwest offers blueprints for the future of wastewater reuse
  • Another bill introduced to fund repairs for Friant-Kern Canal
  • Drought adds pressure on Central Valley farmers as other factors cause food prices to rise
  • California wants a hefty slice of that $2 trillion infrastructure pie
  • Fact Sheet: Resilient Watersheds and Fire Management
  • A STORY YOU HAVEN’T HEARD PODCAST: Julie Rentner: Bringing Laulima to the Rivers
  • ECONEWS REPORT: Redwood Creek still struggling from 1970s logging pollution
  • Governor announces Delta Stewardship Council, regional water board appointments
  • Central Coast Water Board approves Ag Order 4.0
  • Central Coast Water Authority fears Santa Barbara County at disadvantage by failing to approve amendments
  • And more …

Click here for the Daily Digest, weekend edition.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NEW BOOK: Rewilding Agricultural Landscapes

NOTICE: California 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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