DAILY DIGEST, 4/19: Villapudua presses Newsom over drought emergency; Research inside hill slopes could help wildfire and drought prediction; Klamath Drainage District exercises state permit for diversion of water; Battle lines set over proposal to drill for natural gas in Suisun Marsh; and more …


On the calendar today …

  • MEETING: The State Water Board meets at 9am.  Agenda items include an update on monthly water production and conservation data reported by urban retail water suppliers; a presentation on the Small Water Systems and Rural Communities Drought and Water Shortage Contingency Planning and Risk Assessment Report; an update on the annual Needs Assessment for the Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) Program; and Drought and response to impacted drinking water systems – lessons learned from the previous drought.  Click here for the full agenda and remote access instructions.
  • PUBLIC WORKSHOP: Sacramento Valley Regional Workshop on Expanding Nature-Based Solutions and Advancing 30×30 from 4pm to 6pm.  Join the California Natural Resources Agency and our partners for a Sacramento Valley regional workshop to provide input on meeting the State’s commitment to conserve 30 percent of California’s lands and coastal waters by 2030 and accelerate nature-based solutions to address climate change.  The April 20th Sacramento Valley regional workshop encompasses Sacramento, Yolo, Sutter, Yuba, Colusa, Glenn, Butte, Tehama, Shasta, the eastern half of Solano, and western part of Placer counties. All meetings are open to the public, regardless of you or your organization’s geographic location.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

Villapudua presses Newsom over drought emergency citing unmet, long-term water needs

Following efforts from California legislators to call on Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency over the drought, one Central Valley Democrat is urging the governor to go one step further by making long-lasting investments to solve the state’s water crisis.   Earlier this month, a group of bipartisan legislators wrote a letter to Newsom making their case for an emergency declaration.  Assemblyman Carlos Villapudua (D–Stockton) did not join in that effort. However, last week he penned a letter to Newsom that noted the key benefits of declaring an emergency with the focus on long-term solutions. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here:  Villapudua presses Newsom over drought emergency citing unmet, long-term water needs

A number of factors in declaring drought in California

There are a number of factors to consider when declaring a state of emergency. After a dry water year, little to zero water allocations, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declaring drought conditions in counties up and down the state and even the entire republican delegation sending letters Governor Gavin Newsom, Congressman Jim Costa said declaring drought can be tricky.  “Certainly the governor has the ability to declare a drought status but its tricky to understand the state and federal water projects, how they operate.” Costa said. ... ”  Read more from Ag Net West here:  A number of factors in declaring drought in California

23ABC takes in-depth look at California’s drought concerns impacting agriculture

State officials have conducted their annual snowpack survey earlier this month. According to federal statistics 90% of California is already experiencing some form of a drought. It comes after a dry winter and is raising fears that drought conditions could get worse. Although most cities have plenty of water storage to get through the year there is worry that there won’t be enough water for farmers and rural wells could also run dry.  23ABC Meteorologist Brandon Michael’s explains current drought conditions and rain averages. … ”  Read more from Channel 23 here: 23ABC takes in-depth look at California’s drought concerns impacting agriculture

Can dryland farming help California agriculture adapt to future water scarcity?

Large areas of California farmland, particularly in the San Joaquin Valley, face future restrictions on groundwater pumping to meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. We talked to Caity Peterson—an adjunct fellow at the PPIC Water Policy Center and a consulting agroecologist—about a joint research project* on the potential for dryland farming to reduce the amount of land needed to be retired from production to balance water budgets.  PPIC: What is dryland farming, and how might it help the San Joaquin Valley achieve groundwater sustainability?  CAITY PETERSON: Dryland farming can mean different things, but at a fundamental level it means growing crops using primarily soil water and rainfall rather than irrigation. ... ”  Read more from the PPIC here: Can dryland farming help California agriculture adapt to future water scarcity?

Research inside hill slopes could help wildfire and drought prediction

A first-of-its-kind study led by The University of Texas at Austin has found that rock weathering and water storage appear to follow a similar pattern across undulating landscapes where hills rise and fall for miles.  The findings are important because they suggest that these patterns could improve predictions of wildfire and landslide risk and how droughts will affect the landscape, since weathering and water storage influence how water and nutrients flow throughout landscapes. … The research site is in Northern California and is part of a national network of Critical Zone Observatories. … Read more from the University of Texas here: Research inside hill slopes could help wildfire and drought prediction

Radio show: California increases wildfire budget, but will it be enough?

California is adding $536 million to the budget for wildfire prevention. The money will go toward efforts including forest and vegetation management and the retrofitting and fireproofing of homes. As the state enters a second year of drought following 2020’s record number of acres burned, some experts are raising concerns that the state isn’t going far enough to avoid a crisis. We’ll hear about efforts underway to prevent another catastrophic wildfire season.”  Listen at KQED here: Radio show: California increases wildfire budget, but will it be enough?

Beware of Coastal Act Violations: Court upholds Coastal Commission’s authority to impose up to $20 million penalty

The California Legislature gave sharper teeth to the Coastal Act in 2014 by authorizing the Coastal Commission to impose a staggering penalty against any person in violation of the Coastal Act’s public access provisions. Under Public Resources Code section 30821, the Coastal Commission could impose a penalty of up to $11,250 for each day the violation persists for up to five years.  As potential penalties could exceed $20 million, questions have swirled around section 30821’s constitutionality. In Lent v. California Coastal Commission, the Second District Court of Appeal upheld the constitutionality of section 30821 and the Coastal Commission’s imposition of a nearly $4.2 million fine. While the decision was handed down earlier this month, the court certified it for publication on Friday – meaning it sets a precedent. … ”  Read more from Best Best & Krieger here: Beware of Coastal Act Violations: Court upholds Coastal Commission’s authority to impose up to $20 million penalty

Clock’s running out on climate change. California says it’s time for giant carbon vacuums

Solar panels, wind turbines and electric cars will go far in helping California and the Biden administration meet their aggressive climate goals — but not far enough. As time runs short, scientists and government officials say the moment to break out the giant vacuums has arrived.  The art of industrial-scale carbon removal — sucking emissions from the atmosphere and storing them underground — has long been an afterthought in climate-action circles: too expensive, too controversial, too unproven.  But as the deadline to avert climate catastrophe barrels nearer, the Biden administration is making the technologies prominent in its plans, and California is scrambling to figure out how to put them to use. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Clock’s running out on climate change. California says it’s time for giant carbon vacuums

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Klamath irrigators open canal as [federal] officials order them to cease

The Klamath Drainage District began delivering water Thursday night after its board voted to operate under a state permit, the legality of which is in question.  A day later, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation told the district to stop all diversions from the Klamath River or the drainage district may face penalites.  According to a news release from the drainage district, it acquired the permit from the Oregon Water Resources Department in 1977 for the use of live flow from the Klamath River for irrigation. … ”  Read more from the Bend Bulletin here: Klamath irrigators open canal as [federal] officials order them to cease

Klamath Drainage District exercises state permit for diversion of water

On Thursday evening [4/15/21], the Klamath Drainage District (KDD) began deliveries of water after its Board of Supervisors voted to operate under its state permit. KDD acquired the permit from the Oregon Water Resources Department in 1977 for the use of live flow from the Klamath River for year-round irrigation like all other private irrigators on the river currently diverting.  The water right permit is supplemental to other KDD water rights determined in the Klamath Basin Adjudication, generally known as the Reclamation Project Water Users Claim (“Project water”). The supplemental water right has historically been treated as independent from “Project” water. … ”  Read more from Klamath Falls News here: Klamath Drainage District exercises state permit for diversion of water

Poor conditions in the Klamath River trigger fishery closures

Federal fishery managers are recommending that Chinook salmon fisheries along 200 miles of Oregon and California coast be closed or severely restricted due to conditions in the Klamath River.  The restrictions would extend through the Klamath Basin Zone, which runs between Coos Bay, Oregon, and Fort Bragg, California. ... ”  Read more from Jefferson Public Radio here: Poor conditions in the Klamath River trigger fishery closures

The Yurok tribe is using California’s carbon offset program to buy back its land

In January, the Yurok Tribe in California bought a 40-acre farm. Located next to an elementary school and the tribe’s Head Start program, the farm will serve as an outdoor classroom for children as well as a source of organic produce for the tribe. This will not only help address the food insecurity exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is also part of the tribe’s bid to reclaim its ancestral territory.  Land is important to Native nations for myriad reasons. Land enables the Yurok to maintain cultural traditions such as gathering traditional foods and practicing place-specific religious ceremonies. Like all sovereign entities, land defines the Yurok as a nation, both culturally and politically. Land offers economic development opportunities. It also bolsters climate resilience as the tribe restores wetlands, coastal prairies, and old-growth forests using traditional land management techniques.  In the past three and a half decades, the tribal land base has grown twentyfold, to a total of 100,000 acres, funded in large part by sequestering carbon. … ”  Read more from Yes Magazine here:  The Yurok tribe is using California’s carbon offset program to buy back its land

Marin to be first big Bay Area water agency to push ahead with water restrictions

As drought conditions worsen across Northern California, the Marin Municipal Water District is about to become the Bay Area’s first major water agency to make the leap to mandatory water restrictions.  The utility is expected to adopt a plan Tuesday that would require nearly 200,000 residents of southern and central Marin County to limit outdoor watering to one day a week as well as to stop washing their cars, refilling their swimming pools and power-washing their homes, among other things. Offenders could face fines of up to $250. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Marin to be first big Bay Area water agency to push ahead with water restrictions

Editorial: How the federal government is wasting the Bay Area’s mud

The San Francisco Chronicle editorial board writes, “We’ve come a long way on stewardship of San Francisco Bay since 1955, when the local head of the Army Corps of Engineers enthusiastically told The Chronicle, “We’ve been nibbling at bay tidelands for a long time, but before long we can attack acres and acres, building new land.”  Unfortunately, we haven’t come far enough. It’s good to have moved past the idea that shallow waters exist only to be filled. But if we want to nurture the marshes and mudflats that remain while restoring former wetlands — steps that can help protect our shorelines from climate change — then all branches of government need to work together, and soon. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Editorial: How the federal government is wasting the Bay Area’s mud

Battle lines set over proposal to drill for natural gas in Suisun Marsh

A new proposal to drill for natural gas in the East Bay has environmentalists up in arms, and not just because it’s a polluting fossil fuel. It’s the location that has people really upset.  That’s because it’s in the Suisun Marsh, the largest marshland on the West Coast, a highly protected natural habitat for migratory birds, fish and wildlife.  “You have got to be kidding!” was former Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson’s first reaction when she found out about a plan to drill in the marsh. … ”  Read more from CBS 13 here: Battle lines set over proposal to drill for natural gas in Suisun Marsh

Bill allows water district to select ‘best contractor’ for Anderson Dam retrofit

The state assembly on Monday unanimously approved a bill that would assist with the retrofitting of Anderson Dam in Morgan Hill.  Assembly Bill 271, which was introduced and authored by Assemblymember Robert Rivas, passed in the assembly April 19 on a vote of 71-0, according to Rivas’ office. The bill now proceeds to the state senate.  The legislation builds on Rivas’ previous efforts to expedite the construction of Anderson Dam, which has been deemed seismically unsafe and is currently undergoing a significant retrofit.  “Given the seriousness and the complexity of the Anderson Dam Project, I’m grateful that my colleagues in the Assembly passed AB 271, which will help ensure our region is protected from potentially devastating flooding,” Rivas said. “As it stands today, Anderson Dam is over 70 years old and was built before engineers knew about the two nearby fault lines, including one directly under the dam. Valley Water must have the ability to pick the best team to construct this project and is not forced simply to pick the cheapest option.” … ”  Continue reading at the Morgan Hill Times here: Bill allows water district to select ‘best contractor’ for Anderson Dam retrofit

SEE ALSO: Bill to Assist Timely, Expert Completion of Anderson Dam Project in Santa Clara County Passes Off Assembly Floor, from Assemblymember Robert Rivas

Free bottled water is coming to up to 42,000 Stanislaus-area homes with tainted wells

Up to 42,000 people in Stanislaus and Merced counties soon will get free bottled water because their wells are high in nitrate.  The cost of at least $1 million a year will be borne by farmers and other parties whose land contributed in the past to the problem. Nitrate can impede the body’s uptake of oxygen, especially in infants and pregnant women.  The program is set to launch May 7, under the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. It is one of several about to start in high-priority parts of the Valley. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here: Free bottled water is coming to up to 42,000 Stanislaus-area homes with tainted wells

SEE ALSO: Free Bottled Water Coming To Thousands of Homes With Contaminated Water, from CBS Bay Area

Owens Valley: Region angles for return of Fishmas

Eastern Sierra locals and visitors alike are gearing up for “Fishmas” on Saturday, April 24, the official start to regular fishing season.  The California Department of Fish and Wildlife changed many of the fishing regulations this year, opening many area streams and backcountry lakes to year-round fishing.  The agency did, however, keep the traditional Fishmas Day celebration in place for all of the major resort lakes in the area after months of lobbying from local resort owners, guides and government officials.  There are 19 lakes that only will be open for fishing during the traditional season. ... ”  Read more from the Inyo Register here:  Region angles for return of Fishmas

Santa Barbara County preparing for next drought

California is nearing the end of the rainy season. Most of California’s rainfall tends to be between November to April. And so far this year has fallen below average.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), most of the Central Coast is around 50% of the rainfall we’d normally expect. The highest rain total is near Cachuma Dam at 60%. While the lowest is near Santa Barbara Airport at 46%. San Luis Obispo is in the middle at 54%. … ”  Read more from KEYT here: Santa Barbara County preparing for next drought

Commentary: A new way to look at drought

Carolee Kreiger writes, “It shouldn’t be a surprise that Montecito will have this year’s State Water Project deliveries cut by 95 percent. The Department of Water Resources is reducing all contractors to 5 percent of expected water deliveries because of the drought.  That means that instead of 3,000 acre-feet of water, the annual amount that Montecito was promised by its state water contract, delivery will be reduced to 150-acre feet. This means that Montecito Water District customers will pay over $38,000 per acre foot for this year’s 150-acre feet allotment. That is $5.8 million dollars the district has to squeeze out of its customers and fork over to the state in this water year. … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent here:  Commentary: A new way to look at drought

Board overseeing Ojai Valley water agency, Lake Casitas has a vacancy. Here’s how to apply

Casitas Municipal Water District has set a May 3 deadline to apply for a vacant seat on its board.  Former board member Angelo Spandrio resigned last month. Now, the rest of the board members plan to appoint someone to fill the seat for the remainder of his four-year term, set to expire in December 2022.  Spandrio, of Ojai, announced his decision at a March 10 board meeting, saying he and his wife plan to move to Arizona. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star here: Board overseeing Ojai Valley water agency, Lake Casitas has a vacancy. Here’s how to apply

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Along the Colorado River …

The future of Western water restrictions is here

The West is dry and getting drier. Federal officials said this week that a major source of water for the Southwest could face some of its first official water restrictions later this year if water levels keep dropping.  New projections issued by the Bureau of Reclamation predict that the water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead, two manmade reservoirs along the Colorado River, will reach historically low levels in the coming months. The water level at Lake Mead is sitting at just 39%, while Lake Powell is at 36%. The government predicts that Lake Mead’s water level will fall below 1,075 feet (328 meters) by June, the level which triggers official government water shortage procedures for the seven states that get their water from the Colorado River. … ”  Read more from Gizmodo here: The future of Western water restrictions is here

Large decreases in Upper Colorado River salinity since 1929

Salinity levels in the Upper Colorado River Basin, which covers portions of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, have steadily decreased since 1929, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study analyzing decades of water-quality measurements.  Salinity is the concentration of dissolved salt in water. High salinity levels in the Colorado River Basin cause an estimated $300-400 million per year in economic damages across U.S. agricultural, municipal and industrial sectors, as well as negatively impact municipal and agricultural users in Mexico. Reducing high salinity levels can benefit crop production, and decrease water treatment costs and damage to water supply infrastructure. … ”  Read more from the USGS here:  Large decreases in Upper Colorado River salinity since 1929

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In national water news today …

Citizens across the country are questioning, and sometimes fighting, chloramines in drinking water

” … In late 2015, Stephens was one of many residents in Hannibal, a city of 17,000 people on the Mississippi River, who complained about the quality of the city’s drinking water. That was after the Hannibal Water Treatment Plant introduced ammonia to their chlorine disinfection system, a move that aimed to meet federally regulated standards by lowering levels of total trihalomethanes (TTHM). Trihalomethane is a disinfection by-product and known carcinogen. The disinfectant created by the chlorine-ammonia mix, chloramine, was effective at eliminating trihalomethanes, and provided protection against waterborne diseases. However, the use of chloramine raised a new problem: As the new chemical interacted with organic materials in the water, it created more, unregulated disinfection by-products — which coincided with “the crud” that concerned Stephens and other people drinking the water in Hannibal. … ”  Read more from Ensia here:  Citizens across the country are questioning, and sometimes fighting, chloramines in drinking water

NASA scientists complete 1st global survey of freshwater fluctuation

To investigate humans’ impact on freshwater resources, scientists have now conducted the first global accounting of fluctuating water levels in Earth’s lakes and reservoirs – including ones previously too small to measure from space.  The research, published March 3 in the journal Nature, relied on NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite 2 (ICESat-2), launched in September 2018.  ICESat-2 sends 10,000 laser light pulses every second down to Earth. When reflected back to the satellite, those pulses deliver high-precision surface height measurements every 28 inches (70 centimeters) along the satellite’s orbit. With these trillions of data points, scientists can distinguish more features of Earth’s surface, like small lakes and ponds, and track them over time. ... ”  Read more from NASA JPL here:  NASA scientists complete 1st global survey of freshwater fluctuation

Climate change could cause ‘irreversible impacts’ to lake ecosystems

New research shows that lake “stratification periods” – a seasonal separation of water into layers – will last longer in a warmer climate. These longer periods of stratification could have “far-reaching implications” for lake ecosystems, the paper says, and can drive toxic algal blooms, fish die-offs and increased methane emissions.  The study, published in Nature Communications, finds that the average seasonal lake stratification period in the northern hemisphere could last almost two weeks longer by the end of the century, even under a low emission scenario. It finds that stratification could last over a month longer if emissions are extremely high. ... ”  Read more from Eco Watch here: Climate change could cause ‘irreversible impacts’ to lake ecosystems

Climate change and the 1991-2020 U.S. Climate Normals

As soon as the 2021 New Year’s celebrations were over, the calls and questions started coming in from weather watchers: When will NOAA release the new U.S. Climate Normals? The Normals are 30-year averages of key climate observations made at weather stations and corrected for bad or missing values and station changes over time. From the daily weather report to seasonal forecasts, the Normals are the basis for judging how temperature, rainfall, and other climate conditions compare to what’s normal for a given location in today’s climate.  For the past decade, the Normals have been based on weather observations from 1981 to 2010. In early May, climate experts at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information will be releasing an updated collection—hourly, daily, monthly, and annual Normals for thousands of U.S. locations, states, regions—based on the weather experienced from 1991 to 2020. … ”  Read more from Climate.gov here: Climate change and the 1991-2020 U.S. Climate Normals

A Biden climate order fails, leaving agencies grasping

On his first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order reinstating a flood protection policy that former President Trump had revoked.  At least that’s what Biden thought his order did.  The White House told climate advocates recently that Biden’s order did not accomplish what the president intended and that Trump’s revocation remains in effect, leaving federal agencies without a mandate to incorporate climate change into new projects they fund.  “We heard from administration officials that the White House general counsel determined that reinstatement had not in fact occurred,” Joel Scata, a water and climate attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an interview. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: A Biden climate order fails, leaving agencies grasping

11 foods that are already being impacted by the climate crisis

“Food is an entrenched part of any culture. In America, we associate peaches with Georgia and shellfish with New England; we go to Napa for wine tasting, and sing songs about the heartland’s amber waves of grain. But in a few short decades, rising sea levels and changing temperatures could transform where and how we harvest our food.   We’re already seeing changes. Fruit trees are struggling to bloom after warmer winters; cranberries are being scalded by heat in the bogs they’ve grown in for centuries; in Asia, rice crops are being flooded with saltwater. And as the ocean becomes warmer and more acidic, the sea life we depend on is either moving to different waters or being decimated. … ”  Read more from the Rolling Stone here: 11 foods that are already being impacted by the climate crisis

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And lastly …

Chasing Waterfalls: See 5 of California’s best waterfalls all in a single day

One of the silver linings of the past year has been the opportunity to explore California’s natural beauty (in between lockdowns, of course).   In March of 2021, I came across an article on Northern California’s most impressive waterfalls written by Miles Howard for National Geographic. In the piece, he makes a strong case for visiting the “waterfall mecca” known as the Shasta Cascade region. Howard suggests one easy way to see five of the best waterfalls in California — all in a single day.  Always down for a mini-vacation, an adventure, and an excuse to get out of my (home) office, I jumped at the chance. I think you should, too. But let’s just say things didn’t go as planned for me. So learn from my mistakes and keep reading for tips on seeing Hedge Creek Falls, McCloud Falls (three waterfalls for the price of one!), and Burney Falls. ... ”  Read more from Channel 6 here: Chasing Waterfalls: See 5 of California’s best waterfalls all in a single day

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Today’s featured articles …

Above Lyons Dam by Bodey Marcoccia

BLOG ROUND-UP: Killing most endangered salmon is how the Trump biops “work”; If CA is facing a rare mega-drought, why is the state releasing water from reservoirs?; Recall Politics? No Thanks. The SF Bay-Delta keeps losing either way; and more …

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOTICE: End of Negotiations for State Water Project Contract Amendment for Delta Conveyance

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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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