WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for April 25-30: Update on the Water Board’s Oil and Gas Monitoring Program; Delta Conveyance Project update; plus all the top news stories and more …

A wrap-up of posts published on Maven’s Notebook this week …

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This week’s featured articles …

STATE WATER BOARD: Update on the Oil and Gas Monitoring Program

A look at how the state is (or is not) regulating fracking and aquifer exemptions

One of the most controversial areas of current environmental policy is the debate over hydraulic fracturing (or fracking).  The process involves the injection of pressurized fluid deep underground to break apart the subsurface layers to enhance oil and gas recovery.  Hydraulic fracturing has occurred in California and nationwide for decades; however, recent advancements in horizontal drilling technologies and “well stimulation” techniques have been instrumental in triggering an oil and gas boom, making the U.S. the world’s largest producer of oil and gas reserves.  California produces more oil than all but three other states (Texas, North Dakota and Alaska), and Kern County is responsible for more than 70 percent of the state’s oil production.

Click here to read this article.


DELTA STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL: Delta Conveyance Project update: Environmental review, community benefits

At the April meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Councilmembers received an update on the Delta Conveyance Project, including the status of the environmental review process and the results of the recent environmental justice survey.

First, Graham Bradner, Interim Executive Director of the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority, provided an update on the Authority.  Then Carrie Buckman, Environmental Manager for the Department of Water Resources, provided an update on the Delta Conveyance Project environmental review process, community benefits program, and environmental justice survey results.

Click here to read this article.


WEBINAR: Delta Hydrology 101

Presentation by Dr. Ted Sommer, Lead Scientist at the Department of Water Resources, for the 2021 Bay-Delta Science Conference.

Click here to watch webinar.

 


DELTA LEAD SCIENTIST REPORT: Ecological metrics for conservation planning and monitoring, Delta Lead Scientist office hours, and more …

At the April meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Delta Lead Scientist Laurel Larsen spotlighted a research article that studied ecological metrics for conservation planning and monitoring, introduced the new Sea Grant Science Fellows, and updated the Council on the latest activities of the Delta Science Program.

Click here to read this article.


ESTUARY PEARLS: Thiamine deficiency in salmon; Restoration tradeoffs; Salmon life histories and strategies; Mudflats and shorebirds; Bird biodiversity

Click here to read this article.


ESTUARY PEARLS PART 3: Pesticides, HABs, New Neural Network, Ship Channel, Tule Red, Quake Risk Levees and more

Click here to read this edition of Estuary Pearls.

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In California water news this week …

Sierra snow survey canceled due to impacts of dry weather

There is dry dirt where water should be at Folsom Lake. A lack of wet weather is taking a toll on the state’s water supply.  Chris Orrock is a spokesperson for the California Department of Water Resources. He said while drought-like conditions are very common for the state, this year is worse than normal, especially considering back-to-back dry winters with little snow and rain.  “In fact, this year is a critically dry year,” Orrock said.  It is so dry, in fact, that DWR canceled Thursday’s snow survey at Phillips Station because there was not enough snow on the ground. ... ”  Read more from KCRA Channel 3 here:  Sierra snow survey canceled due to impacts of dry weather

Q&A with Peter Gleick: From dust bowl to California drought: a climate scientist on the lessons we still haven’t learned

California is once again in a drought, just four years after the last dry spell decimated ecosystems, fueled megafires and left many rural communities without well water.  Droughts are a natural part of the landscape in the American west, and the region has in many ways been shaped by its history of drought. But the climate scientist Peter Gleick argues that the droughts California is facing now are different than the ones that have historically cycled through the Golden State.  “These are not accidental, strange dry periods,” said Gleick, the co-founder of the Pacific Institute, a global thinktank that has become a leading voice on water issues in California and around the world. “They’re increasingly the norm.” ... ”  Read more from the Guardian here: Q&A with Peter Gleick: From dust bowl to California drought: a climate scientist on the lessons we still haven’t learned

Drought-depleted rivers force salmon hatcheries to truck fish to the Pacific

Millions of young salmon raised at fish hatcheries in the Central Valley will be trucked to San Francisco Bay and other coastal sites for release, because the rivers they’d normally travel to get to the ocean are drying up, state and federal officials said Wednesday.  The ambitious trucking program, a response to the state’s escalating drought, is intended to maximize survival of the hatchery fish that prop up California’s fall-run of chinook — the mainstay of the state’s commercial and recreational salmon industries.  Officials in charge of the five major inland hatcheries that rear the fish say convoys of tanker trucks are the only way to ensure the 3-inch smolts make it to sea. The rivers are either too low or too warm for the fish — or both. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Drought-depleted rivers force salmon hatcheries to truck fish to the Pacific

SEE ALSO: CDFW Takes Proactive Measures to Increase Salmon Smolt Survival, press release from the Department of Fish and Wildlife

Marin explores revival of Richmond Bridge water pipeline

The potential for water shortages in Marin has become so acute that the Marin Municipal Water District is in early talks with East Bay officials to build a pipeline across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to pump water into the county.  The last such drastic move was during the 1976-1977 drought, when the district cut water use by 57% and faced running out of water within four months. The 6-mile pipeline gained statewide and federal attention and became a symbol of the state’s drought of record.  Rebuilding the pipeline is one of several options being considered by the district, including adding a temporary desalination plant, should this upcoming winter be as dry as 2019 and 2020, said Ben Horenstein, the district general manager. ... ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Marin explores revival of Richmond Bridge water pipeline

Facing drought, Southern California has more water than ever

The cracked and desiccated shoreline of Lake Mendocino made a telling backdrop for California Governor Gavin Newsom’s message at a news conference last week: Drought conditions are here, and climate change makes the situation graver. But water supplies vary across regions, which is why the governor limited a drought emergency declaration to just two northern counties. In fact, highly urbanized Southern California has a record 3.2 million acre-feet of water in reserve, enough to quench the population’s needs this year and into the next. That’s thanks in large part to tremendous gains in storage infrastructure and steady declines in water use — driven by mandates, messaging, and incentive programs — belied by the region’s storied reputation for thirst. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Quint here:  Facing drought, Southern California has more water than ever

San Diego County Water Authority offers help to regions in need during drought

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors yesterday authorized staff to explore opportunities to help other water districts weather an emerging drought across California.  Three decades of investments in supply reliability, along with a continued emphasis on water-use efficiency, mean the San Diego region has sufficient water supplies for multiple dry years. Those investments include high-priority conserved water from the Imperial Valley, seawater desalination, and access to the Semitropic Original Water Bank in Kern County, where the Water Authority has stored about 16,000 acre-feet of water.  Yesterday’s Board authorization allows Water Authority staff to assess selling, leasing, or swapping its Semitropic water with agencies that need it. Increasingly severe impacts of drought are already being felt in Central and Northern California. Any agreement recommended by staff would be brought to the Board for approval. ... ” Read more from the San Diego County Water Authority here: San Diego County Water Authority offers help to regions in need during drought

California Senate proposes to spend $3.4 billion on drought

Mired in yet another drought that threatens drinking water, endangered species of fish and the state’s massive agriculture industry, Democrats in the California Senate on Thursday detailed a $3.4 billion proposal designed to gird the state for a new crisis on the heels of a deadly and disruptive pandemic.  The proposal would equal all of the state’s combined spending during the previous drought, which lasted from 2012 to 2016, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. That drought occurred after the Great Recession, when California routinely battled multibillion-dollar budget deficits and struggled to pay for state services. … ”  Read more from NBC Bay Area here:  California Senate proposes to spend $3.4 billion on drought

Revitalizing California’s floodplains benefits people and wildlife

Throughout California’s history, rivers have been diverted, rerouted and contained by concrete. While these actions have brought agriculture and communities to arid land, and reduced large-scale flooding, it has also eliminated some of the natural benefits provided by untamed rivers. Today, efforts are underway to restore some of the natural riparian areas to the benefit of both humans and wildlife.  “Over the past few decades, the Sacramento Valley has seen a lot of riparian restoration projects,” said Jennifer Hobbs, a senior wildlife biologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sacramento office who oversees consultations on federal water projects. “These projects are targeting areas where the agricultural and development value is low due to flood risk, but connectivity between wildlife areas is high.” ... ”  Read more from the US FWS here:  Revitalizing California’s floodplains benefits people and wildlife

Studies find Sierra fuel treatments benefit trees and streamflow, though not together

Predicting the effects of forest fuel treatments is difficult and uncertain — it is unclear whether the treatments are more helpful to forest health or streamflow. According to new research by disturbance ecohydrologist Ryan Bart and his colleagues at the Sierra Nevada Research Institute (SNRI), the answer is both, though not at the same time.  Fuel treatments for forest management include prescribed burns, tree thinning and pruning, for example, each of which are done to reduce fire risk and severity. Bart recently conducted two studies to examine the effect of these fuel treatments in the Sierra Nevada on both the streamflow in rivers and overall forest health of the trees.  “The focus of these two papers was trying to understand how and when water made available from fuel treatments is allocated to forest health and/or streamflow,” Bart said. “Many studies have investigated these issues separately, but they have rarely been examined in tandem. This is important because fuel treatments cannot provide full hydrologic benefits to both forest health and streamflow simultaneously. They can be allocated to forest health or to streamflow, or partially to both.” … ”  Continue reading at UC Merced here: Studies find Sierra fuel treatments benefit trees and streamflow, though not together 

Can managed aquifer recharge mitigate drought impacts on California’s irrigated agriculture? The role for institutions and policies

MAR is a set of practices and institutions that allows the recharge of water of various types and qualities (surface water, recycled wastewater, and even groundwater from different locations) into a given aquifer. Therefore, it can reduce subsidence (pumping-induced land sinking) damages, prevent saline water intrusion, protect wetland habitat, provide flood protection, and more. In this work, we examine the role of MAR in the Kings Groundwater Basin. Using several climate-change scenarios, we evaluate how MAR applicability is impacted by possible institutional arrangements and regulatory policy interventions. … ”  Read the full article here:  Can managed aquifer recharge mitigate drought impacts on California’s irrigated agriculture?

Tracking nitrate in farm fields

For years it’s been relatively easy to measure pollution from, say, a factory. At a factory, there might be just one pipe of waste to measure. Easy enough.  But what about a farm? We might not typically think of farms as sources of pollution. But they can have big impacts on the land over time. Unlike at a factory, the waste filters slowly through soil across the whole plot of land.  This waste — excess nutrients from fertilizer — can eventually reach groundwater. If too much nitrogen enters groundwater, it can be dangerous to drink. … Thomas Harter, a member of the Soil Science Society of America, is trying to solve one of the most complex puzzles in farming: how to track nitrate as it moves through farm fields. ... ”  Read more from Newswise here:  Tracking nitrate in farm fields

Newsom takes action to ban fracking by Jan. 2024, phase out oil extraction by 2045

Dan Bacher writes, “In a move forecasted in a Politico report yesterday, Governor Gavin Newsom today took action to ban new fracking permits by January 2024 and to phase out oil extraction in California by 2045.  The Governor directed the Department of Conservation’s Geologic Energy Management (CalGEM) Division to “initiate regulatory action to end the issuance of new permits for hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) by January 2024.”  In addition, Governor Newsom requested that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) “analyze pathways to phase out oil extraction across the state by no later than 2045,” according to a press release from the Governor’s Office.  “The climate crisis is real, and we continue to see the signs every day,” said Governor Newsom. “As we move to swiftly decarbonize our transportation sector and create a healthier future for our children, I’ve made it clear I don’t see a role for fracking in that future and, similarly, believe that California needs to move beyond oil.” ... ”  Read more at the Daily Kos here:  Newsom takes action to ban fracking by Jan. 2024, phase out oil extraction by 2045

Valley dems, business leader blast Newsom’s fracking ban

Two Democratic lawmakers and a business group leader from the Valley blasted Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision Friday to ban hydraulic fracking by 2024.  “The Governor’s actions could not come at a worse time for the Central Valley, which is already reeling from a drought that – together with this decision – may cause a national food crisis,” said state Sen. Melissa Hurtado of Sanger.  “Energy makes up 19 percent of the American food supply chain. Make no doubt the cost of food will increase and severely impact the health of vulnerable communities who are already struggling. We cannot repeat the food crisis of 1974. The potential consequences of a food crisis extend beyond the Central Valley and California. We can all do better and be part of the solution.” … ”  Read more from GV Wire here: Valley dems, business leader blast Newsom’s fracking ban

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In regional water news this week …

Klamath water illegally diverted to farming during severe drought

The federal government is strictly curtailing irrigation this year in an attempt to protect endangered fish important to Indigenous tribes. Farmers say this will make it all but impossible to farm, while tribal nations say the plan doesn’t go far enough to save their fisheries.  In mid-April, a farming region in southern Oregon began to release water from the Klamath River into its irrigation canals. According to the local water authority, this was a standard move to jumpstart the farming season during one of the driest seasons in recent memory. But according to the federal government, it was an illegal maneuver that could further jeopardize the survival of multiple endangered species and food sources important to Indigenous tribes and fisheries in the region. ... ”  Read more from the High Country News here: Klamath water illegally diverted to farming during severe drought

‘We need water in our rivers’: Tribes call for action as salmon numbers dwindle

As the state prepares for another year of drought, California tribes, environmental advocacy groups and fishermen are calling upon Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Biden administration to direct state resources to provide water to protect California’s dwindling salmon populations.  During a virtual State of the Salmon address on Wednesday evening, Save California Salmon tribal water organizer Morning Star Gali criticized the state’s decision to prioritize farmers over salmon.  “During the last drought, California prioritized almond and alfalfa producers over salmon and killed over 90% of winter-run salmon within the Sacramento River and over 90% of juvenile salmon also died in the Klamath River,” Gali said. “We are at a time again where we are facing impending fish kills. Emergency flows from the Trinity River did not stop an adult fish kill in the Klamath during the last drought. … We cannot let the salmon die again.” … ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here: ‘We need water in our rivers’: Tribes call for action as salmon numbers dwindle

Klamath Water Users Association moves to reopen lawsuit, questions Klamath operations

As the Klamath Basin braces for a historically dry year, the region’s water wars have once again spilled into court.  The Klamath Water Users Association filed a motion April 19 to reopen a lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, seeking clarity on legal issues that may determine future irrigation water availability in the Klamath Project. … Paul Simmons, KWUA executive director, said there is nothing irrigators can do to change this year’s dire situation. Instead, the association is asking a federal judge to rule on future project operations, and what obligations the bureau has to protect several species of endangered fish. … ”  Read more from the Capital Press here: Klamath Water Users Association moves to reopen lawsuit, questions Klamath operations

Humboldt County receives grant to develop water management plan for Trinity River contract water

The Wildlife Conservation Board today approved a grant award of $574,980 to Humboldt County to develop a water management plan for Humboldt County’s 1959 contract for water releases from Trinity Reservoir. Completion of the water management plan is necessary to make Humboldt County’s contract water available to support fishery resources and other beneficial uses in the Trinity River and lower Klamath River.  “Commercial, recreational, and tribal fisheries are a vital part of Humboldt County’s economy and cultural identity,” said Steve Madrone, Humboldt County Fifth District Supervisor. “Humboldt County is committed to protecting and restoring our natural and cultural resources. For far too long, Humboldt County’s contract right for releases of additional water into the Trinity River has been denied. This grant from the Water Conservation Board is a major breakthrough toward performing the required studies and addressing unresolved legal questions that will enable putting more water into the Trinity River at optimal times for the benefit of Humboldt County residents.” … ”  Continue reading at the Redheaded Blackbelt here: Humboldt County receives grant to develop water management plan for Trinity River contract water

Stinson Beach residents must reckon with abandoning their homes as sea levels rise

Many residents in one of the Bay Area’s most popular day-trip destinations are being told that they may need to abandon their homes as sea levels rise, KPIX reported this week, and the state coastal commission and county is now battling over the town’s future.  Studies show that numerous homes in Stinson Beach will flood with just one foot of sea rise, an unavoidable result of human-caused climate change. Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) projects that this will likely happen in under 20 years (the same data set shows a rise of nearly four feet by the end of the century.) … ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  Stinson Beach residents must reckon with abandoning their homes as sea levels rise

3 more Bay Area water districts take drastic steps with drought looming

Three more big Bay Area water agencies are calling on residents to conserve water as drought looms in California following two consecutive extraordinarily dry winters.  Board members with both the East Bay Municipal Utility District and Sonoma Water approved proclamations Tuesday to declare drought emergencies.  Santa Clara Valley Water District’s board voted at its April 27 meeting to increase the recommendation for voluntary reduction in water use from 20% to 25%. It also approved doubling the price it pays homeowners to use drought-tolerant landscaping, with the Landscape Rebate Program going from offering an incentive of $1 per square foot to $2 a square foot, according to ABC 7. ... ”  Read more from SF Gate here: 3 more Bay Area water districts take drastic steps with drought looming

Are Chinook salmon native to the Guadalupe river? Ancient DNA might give us a clue

For nearly 250 years, tiny fish bones were buried under the campus of Santa Clara University. Likely the refuse from a long-ago Mission resident’s lunch or dinner, archaeologists dug them up between 2012 and 2016 along with brightly colored glass beads, shells, abalone pendants, bone tools, grinding stones, spindle whorls, and bits of pottery originating locally and from Mexico.  These fish bones are the first evidence that the iconic Chinook, or king salmon, are historically native to the Guadalupe River in San Jose. While Chinook are occasionally spotted today in the Guadalupe watershed, it’s not clear if the fish seen in the river now populated the area before human and industrial impacts disrupted the ecosystem. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Are Chinook salmon native to the Guadalupe river? Ancient DNA might give us a clue

When an old dam in Santa Cruz Mountains comes down, coho will be free to swim home again

Deep in the Santa Cruz Mountains, hidden by dense patches of conifer and far from any paved road, a century-old, abandoned dam whose purpose remains lost to history is quietly choking a small, yet important waterway.  But not for long.  The unnamed, 30-foot-wide dam on Mill Creek, home to one of the southernmost runs of endangered coho salmon, will be toppled this summer. The demolition is part of a broader effort to both open up passage for struggling fish along the Central Coast and restore a cherished forest known as San Vicente Redwoods. “With the scale of this property, there’s really just nothing like it,” said Ian Rowbotham, land stewardship manager for the Sempervirens Fund, one of four conservation groups that owns and manages the sprawling woodlands above the community of Davenport, before driving 30 minutes up a dirt road to the dam on Tuesday morning. “We’ve been doing a lot of restoration work here.” … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  When an old dam in Santa Cruz Mountains comes down, coho will be free to swim home again

Fate of Pure Water Monterey expansion now sits in hands of Cal Am.

With a unanimous vote that one board member called “unexpected,” Monterey One Water’s board of directors on April 26 paved the way for an expansion of its Pure Water Monterey recycled water project that many hail as a crucial piece to the Peninsula’s longstanding water puzzle.  The fate of the expansion now sits in the hands of California American Water, the region’s embattled investor-owned utility that has long opposed the project in favor of its own proposed solution—a desalination plant criticized as too expensive that now sits in bureaucratic limbo.  Cal Am owns the water distribution infrastructure necessary to get water produced by Pure Water Monterey to customers. The board for Monterey One Water, the region’s sewage treatment facility, said it does not have the money to finance the expansion on its own. In order for the expansion to be logistically and financially feasible, Cal Am has to agree to purchase the recycled water from a rival project. … ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly here: Fate of Pure Water Monterey expansion now sits in hands of Cal Am.

Monterey Peninsula water district files complaint against Cal Am

Attorneys for the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District filed a complaint with state regulators Tuesday asking that California American Water Co. be forced to purchase water from the expansion of a recycling project because Cal Am is failing to meet a deadline for its part in increasing the local water supply, according to language in the complaint.  Any decision by regulators is important because it will affect the ability of the Monterey Peninsula to generate an alternative water source. Cal Am in 2009 was hit with a state cease-and-desist order to stop over-pumping from the Carmel River basin. Over pumping was feared to cause environmental damage that included a threat to federally protected steelhead trout. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Monterey Peninsula water district files complaint against Cal Am

Shandon-San Juan Water District applies for Nacimiento and Santa Margarita lake water

A North County water district representing irrigated agriculture near Shandon is asking the state for allocations of Lake Nacimiento and Santa Margarita Lake water, which it proposes to pipe into the nearby Paso Robles Groundwater Basin.  While pitched as a potential solution to the Paso basin’s overdraft, the proposal is already getting blowback from two county supervisors.  “My job is not to work for special interests,” 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold said. … ”  Read more from New Times SLO here:  Shandon-San Juan Water District applies for Nacimiento and Santa Margarita lake water 

With drought looming, Santa Barbara County strikes compromise on state water

With the specter of another of intense drought looming, the county supervisors unanimously voted in favor of a compromise deal that now enables the Central Coast Water Agency (CCWA) ​— ​which is responsible for bringing state water into the county ​— ​to buy supplemental water supplies on the open market throughout the state.  Had this compromise ​— ​over new rules easing restrictions on the purchase of out-of-county water ​— ​not been approved, the water authority would have been severely hamstrung in its ability to compete for water on the open market. During the last drought, for example, CCWA bought 33,000 acre-feet from private and public water companies, without which Santa Barbara County water customers would have been eating proverbial “dirt sandwiches.” … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent here: With drought looming, Santa Barbara County strikes compromise on state water

LA Department of Water and Power continues to advance landmark Mono Basin Restoration Project

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) Board of Commissioners voted today to approve the environmental impact study for the Mono Basin Water Rights Licenses project, further advancing one of the largest environmental restoration projects in the Eastern Sierra. The project includes a structure at Grant Lake Reservoir in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains which, once completed, will fulfill LADWP’s commitment to a landmark 2013 Settlement Agreement that brought numerous diverse stakeholders together to chart a unified path forward for the final stages of stream and habitat restoration in the Mono Basin. The Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) environmental document that was approved today studied all potential environmental impacts of both building and operating the Grant Lake spillway structure. The studies found that short-term and long-term impacts were “less than significant” when coupled with specific mitigation measures. The MND also provides the State Water Resources Control Board with the tool it needs to adopt the proposed Water Rights Licenses 10191 and 10192 while ensuring the ongoing protection of the region’s public trust resources, as required by state law. … ”  Read more from the LADWP here:  LA Department of Water and Power continues to advance landmark Mono Basin Restoration Project

Inyo County wants LADWP to pump 8% less than planned

The Inyo County Water Department drafted its recommendation on the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power pumping plan for the 2021-22 water year, asking the department to pump 8-percent less than its minimum of 64,600 acre-feet. Citing areas in the Owens Valley that have yet to recover from the 2012-16 drought, plus the strong possibility the drought patterns of the past 35 years will continue into the future, Water Department Director Aaron Steinwand recommended a maximum pumping volume of 59,377 a-f, based on the water required for in-valley uses in addition to exports. ... ”  Continue reading at the Sierra Wave here:  Inyo County wants LADWP to pump 8% less than planned

Poseidon wins key permit for desalination plant in Huntington Beach

Poseidon Water’s controversial proposal for a desalination plant in Huntington Beach won a key permit Thursday, April 29, when the Santa Ana Regional Water Board cast a split vote approving a compromise less stringent than the environmental terms proposed at board’s April 23 hearing.  Poseidon, which has been working on the project for 22 years, now needs a permit from the state Coastal Commission before it can negotiate a final contract with the Orange County Water District to buy the water. And, in the wake of the regional board’s decision, there’s likely an additional obstacle, as opponents of the project said they plan to appeal. … ”  Read more from the OC Register here:  Poseidon wins key permit for desalination plant in Huntington Beach

Nestlé doesn’t have valid rights to water it’s been bottling, California officials say

California water officials on Friday issued a draft order telling Nestlé to “cease and desist” taking much of the millions of gallons of water it pipes out of the San Bernardino National Forest to sell as Arrowhead brand bottled water.  The order, which must be approved by the California Water Resources Control Board, caps years of regulatory probes and a public outcry over the company’s water pipeline in the San Bernardino Mountains, where opponents argue that siphoning away water harms spring-fed Strawberry Creek and the wildlife that depends on it. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here: Nestlé doesn’t have valid rights to water it’s been bottling, California officials say

Imperial Irrigation District responds to false claims of private property right ownership of Imperial Valley’s water

In what amounted to a routine request for more information, the clerk of the United States Supreme Court requested the Imperial Irrigation District to file a response to Michael Abatti’s petition for certiorari on Monday, April 26, according to a press release.  The following day, the Imperial County Farm Bureau issued a press release incorrectly suggesting that the US Supreme Court is concerned that the California Appellate Court’s ruling on the Abatti case would deprive Imperial Valley residents of water.  Among other things, the Farm Bureau’s statement and brief filed with the court suggested that Imperial Valley’s water rights are property rights enjoyed by those who own agricultural land and described doomsday scenario consequences if the Supreme Court does not intervene to create private property rights to water where none exist, according to the release. ... ”  Read more from the Desert Review here:  Imperial Irrigation District responds to false claims of private property right ownership of Imperial Valley’s water

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Along the Colorado River …

Cuts to CAP water called “planned pain”

In a note of consolation for the pain some Arizona water users will feel if Central Arizona Project supplies are cut next year, state water leaders said Thursday: It will be planned pain.  Federal officials have said it’s likely Lake Mead at the Nevada border will be low enough at the end of 2021 to trigger the first major cutback in CAP deliveries to the Arizona’s parched midsection. Arizona will lose 512,000 acre-feet of its CAP supply — almost one-third of the $4 billion project’s total supply, according to a 2019 drought contingency plan. ... ”  Read more from Tuscon.com here:  Cuts to CAP water called “planned pain”

In commentary this week …

Dan Walters: As drought hits California, long-term issues loom

Dan Walters writes, “By the time this column is published, Northern California may be receiving some much-needed rain, and possibly some snow.  However, late-season precipitation does not change the reality that California is in one of its periodic droughts after two dry years.  Major Northern California reservoirs are only about half-full due to scanty runoff from mountain snowpacks, farmers are getting tiny percentages of their normal water allotments, and local water agencies are beginning to impose restrictions on household use.  We’ve seen many droughts, but this one seems somehow different, perhaps because it’s occurring just as Californians are trying to recover, personally and economically, from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.  In fact, some aspects will be different, particularly for farmers who generally consume three quarters of the water distributed for human use in California. ... ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Dan Walters: As drought hits California, long-term issues loom

Editorial: The drought isn’t coming, California. It’s already here

The San Francisco Chronicle writes, “Longtime Bay Area residents are all too familiar with ground-parching droughts, those years when our hills are late turning green and early turning brown. Now it looks like we’ve entered another dry patch barely four years after emerging from the last one — an ominous sign that our meteorological cycles of boom and bust are picking up speed.  This shouldn’t surprise anyone who has paid attention to the scarce rainfall of the past two winters; precipitation throughout the region this year is well under half the annual average. It’s so obvious, in fact, that state and local governments are starting to respond. ... ”  Continue reading at the SF Chronicle here:  Editorial: The drought isn’t coming, California. It’s already here

Editorial: Newsom’s drought plan lacks vision and bold action

The LA Daily News editorial board writes, “It’s déjà vu all over again. Four years ago this month, California’s historically severe six-year drought ended. A lot has happened since then – e.g., COVID-19 lockdowns and a presidential election – so policymakers have had other things on their minds. But California and the West are unusually dry again, with nearly the entire state facing severe drought conditions or worse. … We’re left asking this important question: What has the state done to prepare for this new drought in the years since the cessation of the last drought? ... ”  Read more from the LA Daily News here: Editorial: Newsom’s drought plan lacks vision and bold action

Editorial: California drought declaration is a difficult dance

The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board writes, “Gov. Gavin Newsom made headlines last week when he declared a drought emergency for our severely dry state — but only in two of California’s 58 counties, Mendocino and Sonoma. Some farmers in the Central Valley and others with water interests had hoped for a statewide edict.  Instead, Newsom said conditions vary so widely a one-size-fits-all approach makes no sense now. In an interview Thursday with The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board, State Water Resources Control Board Chair Joaquin Esquivel, Environmental Protection Secretary Jared Blumenfeld, Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth, Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, and Fish and Wildlife Director Chuck Bonham offered a strong defense of Newsom’s decision and his water policies in general. And they said the administration will continue to monitor conditions and reevaluate the tricky balancing act between conservation recommendations and requirements. San Diego should be thankful, for now. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here:  Editorial: California drought declaration is a difficult dance

Newsom promises while the Delta dies

Jacques Leslie writes, “The West Coast’s most important estuary is dying, and Gov. Gavin Newsom has hastened its demise.  As he took office two years ago, Newsom promised to generate voluntary agreements among farmers, environmentalists and government officials on the rules for allocating water that flows through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. One year ago, in a CalMatters op-ed, he said again that agreements were the way forward to “protect, restore, and enhance … the Delta.”  Not only have no voluntary agreements emerged, but conditions in the delta have grown so dire that in March the National Marine Fisheries Service estimated that high water temperatures could kill 90% of endangered winter-run Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River this year. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Newsom promises while the Delta dies

Recall politics? No thanks, because the Delta keeps losing either way

Barbara Barrigan Parilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, writes, “Today’s commentary breaks my heart.  Why?  Because Restore the Delta is focused on water quality issues, flood control issues, future planning, and training the next generation of local water experts – for that is where hope exists.  We are focused on the future because in some ways we have become very cynical about any positive meaningful change to Delta management presently — from the lack of care at the highest levels of government, to local pockets of Delta communities that will not acknowledge the deterioration of the estuary before their eyes. At all levels, we see leaders who want what they want from the estuary: unrestricted water exports; a destructive mega-tunnel; discharge of pollutants without regulatory oversight; delisting of endangered fisheries; limited, private recreation and access to waterways, so as to keep urban people (people of color) away; denial around sea level rise and needed mitigation for flood threats, unless there are deal sweeteners; elimination of the Delta’s family farms and their proud history … ”  Continue reading at the Sacramento News & Review here: Recall politics? No thanks, because the Delta keeps losing either way

Column: California finds itself rationing water – and reality. It’s time for a change.

Wayne Western, Jr. writes, “Millions of dollars and thousands of hours are spent every year by agriculture interests in an attempt to educate people about the importance of the origins of the food on their table.  Hundreds of articles are written to do the same, while hundreds more are written to harm that effort and the industry itself.  With no regard for credibility or fear of marginalizing themselves, environmental groups issue dire warnings that the big, bad Central Valley farmers are set to drain the state’s reservoirs.  Meanwhile, those same farmers will receive a 0 percent allocation of surface water this year.  Yes, 0 percent – as in nothing. ... ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Column: California finds itself rationing water – and reality. It’s time for a change.

How to save beaches and coastlines from climate change disasters

Michael W. Beck, research professor in the Institute of Marine Sciences at UC Santa Cruz, writes, “The frequency of natural disasters has soared in recent decades. Total damage topped $210 billion worldwide in 2020. With climate change, the costs attributed to coastal storms will increase dramatically.  At the same time, coastal habitats such as wetlands and reefs are being lost rapidly. Some 20% of the world’s mangroves were lost over the last four decades. More than half of the Great Barrier Reef was degraded by bleaching in 2020 alone. In California, we have lost more than 90% of our coastal marshes.  Coastal habitats serve as a critical first line of defense, and their loss puts communities at even greater risk from coastal flooding. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: How to save beaches and coastlines from climate change disasters

Trump-era water rules should be reversed

Caty Wagner and Brandon Dawson with the Sierra Club write, “On the way out the door, the Trump administration committed many environmental and financial scandals. One can cost low-income water users while lining the pockets of one of California’s largest and most powerful water districts.  The focus of one scandal was the failure of the Trump administration to collect required fish and wildlife mitigation costs set out in the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. Passed by Congress in 1992, it established new financing rules. …  Significantly, the law specified that water contractors, not taxpayers, would pay for restoration and maintenance of the fishery and wildlife refuge damages. After a very long fight leading up to 1992, the Hoopa, fishing groups and conservationists thought we had won.  Then President Donald Trump entered the picture. ... ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Trump-era water rules should be reversed

Climate change makes the case for infrastructure investment now rather than later

Steve Lamar, president of ACWA, and Pamela Tobin, vice president of ACWA, write, “It is neither a surprise that drought conditions in California are returning, nor a mystery how we can adapt for a future of dryer dry periods and wetter wet periods. After all, climate change is now a major factor in water management, and resilience has become the water community’s  one-word call to action.  Today, that call to action speaks louder than ever. The latest snow survey results confirm a second consecutive dry winter, and the Department of Water Resources recently lowered its initial State Water Project allocation for the 2021 water year from 10% to 5% of requested supplies, while the Bureau of Reclamation has suspended deliveries altogether. This sobering development makes it abundantly clear that action must be taken now at the state and federal levels to invest in improving our aging water infrastructure. This is the only way we can realize a more reliable, resilient water supply for Californians, the food supply and the environment as climate change extremes grow more severe. … ”  Continue reading at ACWA’s Voices on Water here:  Climate change makes the case for infrastructure investment now rather than later

Commentary: Increasing drought brings challenges, opportunities

Dan Keppen, Executive Director of the Family Farm Alliance, writes, ” … The severe drought punishing much of the West only emphasizes the need to plan now for future droughts and provide the funding needed to not only fix, but also “build back better” the national system responsible for delivering water to homes, businesses, farms and the environment.  Unfortunately, the $2 trillion infrastructure plan recently announced by President Joe Biden does not contemplate the complete suite of projects needed to tackle the drought and put citizens of the rural West to work. Now is the time to urge Congress to make that happen. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here:  Commentary: Increasing drought brings challenges, opportunities

In national water news today …

Senate approves $35B to repair US water infrastructure

The cup runneth over on Capitol Hill Thursday as the U.S. Senate approved, 89-2, $35 billion for upgrades to the nation’s aging water and wastewater infrastructure in addition to funding for grants servicing water lines in low-income communities.  The hefty investment built into the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act will go to the Environmental Protection Agency and will be parceled out over the next five years. Over 40% of the bill’s funds are specifically tailored to overhaul the water systems in low-income, rural and tribal lands as well as those in communities predominantly of color. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here:  Senate approves $35B to repair US water infrastructure

Federal aid for overdue water bills is slow to arrive

In December, when Congress completed the 2021 budget, lawmakers added to the package more funding to help low- and middle-income Americans withstand the coronavirus pandemic.  In addition to a second round of stimulus payments, lawmakers included $638 million for households that were behind on their water bills. It was the first time that Congress had set aside federal funding for that purpose.  Little more than two months later, Congress doubled down on the approach, adding $500 million to what is now officially called the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program, or LIHWAP. In total, more than $1.1 billion will be available to relieve households of water debts. … ”  Read more from the Circle of Blue here: Federal aid for overdue water bills is slow to arrive

Biden races courts for chance to torpedo Trump water rule

President Biden has gone full throttle in his first 100 days seeking to reverse Trump-era environmental rollbacks. But on one controversial rule, the president’s team may not be able to outpace the judicial system.  Key lawsuits that could define the reach of the Clean Water Act are working their way through federal courts — despite Biden administration attempts to stop them so it can craft its own regulations.  The cases concern what waterways and wetlands qualify for federal protections, a question that has befuddled judges for two decades. ... ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Biden races courts for chance to torpedo Trump water rule

Weekly features …

California Coastal Monument: Photo by Bob Wick/BLM

BLOG ROUND-UP: Water and drought deceit: More dubious policies; The Bay-Delta salmon crisis that didn’t have to be; DWP originally designed for a six year drought; and more …

Click here to read the blog round-up.

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Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

NOTICE of immediate curtailment for water right holders in Central Valley and the Delta with Term 91 as a condition of their permit or license

NOTICE: Participate in Administering O&M Funding to Eligible Drinking Water Systems

WATER PLAN eNEWS: ~~Climate Goals~ Flood-MAR Economics~ Basin Funding~ IRWM Workshop~ Nature-based Solutions~ Sustain SoCal~ Enhancing Equity ~~

DELTA eNEWS: ~~ DPAC Meeting~ Grant Workshop~ ISB Meeting~ Heritage Meeting~ Progress Summary ~~

YOUR FEEDBACK WANTED: 2017-2021 Science Action Agenda Progress Summary

NEW BOOK: Rediscovering the Golden State: California Geography

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