DAILY DIGEST, 5/11: Governor expands drought declaration, announces relief plans; Reactions from water interests, NGOs; Groups urge Biden Admin not to endorse voluntary agreements; Could Dos Rios Restoration Project help with droughts?;Western lawmakers take aim at Biden’s 30×30 plan; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • MEETING: California Environmental Flows Workgroup from 10am to 12:30pm.  Agenda items include CEFF guidance document updates; RAPTR performance updates, and the bEta streamflow duration assessment method for the Arid West.   Click here for the full agenda.  Microsoft Teams meeting:  Click here to join the meeting
  • EVENT: CalDesal spring brief breakout from 3pm to 4:30pm.  We are welcoming back the engaging Dr. Peter Fiske to update CalDesal on developments with NAWI since last fall on Tuesday, May 11, 3:00-4:30pm during ACWA Virtual Spring Conference week.  We will also brief attendees on the current state and federal desal funding picture.  We will conclude by offering breakout room opportunity to get caught up and socialize with your colleagues on the Zoom platform.  Click here to register.
  • PUBLIC WORKHSHOP: San Diego Regional Workshop on Expanding Nature-Based Solutions and Advancing 30×30 from 4pnm to 6pm.  Join the California Natural Resources Agency and our partners for a San Diego 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 May 11th San Diego regional workshop encompasses San Diego County. All meetings are open to the public, regardless of you or your organization’s geographic location.  Click here to register.

In California drought news today …


Drought: Newsom expands drought emergency to most of California, including parts of Bay Area

Photo by Ken James / DWR

Acknowledging the state’s worsening drought, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday declared a drought emergency in 39 of the state’s 58 counties, including Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano and Napa counties in the Bay Area, marking the beginning of a new crisis just as California begins to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.  The move is the broadest drought emergency in the state since 2017 when former Gov. Jerry Brown declared the end of California’s last drought after drenching rains that winter.  Speaking at a news conference on the banks of San Luis Reservoir, a massive lake located between Gilroy and Los Banos, Newsom stopped short of announcing mandatory water conservation targets or restrictions for cities, as Brown did in 2015. But his emergency proclamation further highlighted the growing water crisis in the state and set in motion a variety of rules and policies aimed at reducing potential water shortages. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Drought: Newsom expands drought emergency to most of California, including parts of Bay Area

Gavin Newsom declares drought emergency for most of California, announces relief plans

Gov. Gavin Newsom expanded his drought emergency declaration to 39 more counties Monday, underscoring the rapid deterioration of California’s water supply in recent weeks. The governor broadened his earlier drought order, which was limited to two counties on the Russian River, to cover most of parched California, which is plunging into its second major drought in less than a decade.  The new order covers the Sacramento and San Joaquin river watersheds, the Tulare Lake basin region and the Klamath region in far Northern California. About 30% of the state’s population is now covered by the declarations, including the greater Sacramento area and Fresno, Merced and Stanislaus counties in the San Joaquin Valley. … ”   Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Gavin Newsom declares drought emergency for most of California, announces relief plans

Newsom extends drought emergency to 41 California counties

In a stark indication of California’s growing water crisis, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday declared a drought emergency in 41 counties, including areas of the Central Valley that had urged action on behalf of agricultural growers.  Newsom’s proclamation dramatically expands the drought emergency he declared in Sonoma and Mendocino counties last month, and now covers 30% of the state’s population.  “With the reality of climate change abundantly clear in California, we’re taking urgent action to address acute water supply shortfalls in Northern and Central California while also building our water resilience to safeguard communities in the decades ahead,” Newsom said in a prepared statement. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Newsom extends drought emergency to 41 California counties

Newsom, in ‘urgent action,’ expands drought emergency to 41 of California’s 58 counties

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency Monday for 39 more California counties, a step he earlier resisted despite calls from elected officials in both parties.  The governor said swift action is needed to protect counties from the severe environmental and public health effects of two years of minimal rainfall. His proclamation includes Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, and Solano counties in the Bay Area, and it brings the total to 41 of the state’s 58 counties now under drought emergency.  Newsom last month had declared a drought status for Sonoma and Mendocino counties. Combined, the 41 designated drought counties include about 30% of the state’s population. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Newsom, in ‘urgent action,’ expands drought emergency to 41 of California’s 58 counties

Salmon advocates say water injustice highlighted by Governor’s drought declaration

Dan Bacher writes, “Governor Gavin Newsom today expanded his drought emergency declaration to 39 additional counties, including the Klamath River, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Tulare Lake Watershed counties where he said “accelerated action is needed to protect public health, safety and the environment.”  A total of 41 of California’s 58 counties are now under a drought state of emergency, representing 30 percent of the state’s population.  Meanwhile, juvenile Chinook salmon are already dying of disease in the low water conditions in the main stem of the Klamath River. … ”  Read more from the Daily Kos here: Salmon advocates say water injustice highlighted by Governor’s drought declaration

After much prodding, Newsom declares statewide drought emergency, $5.1bil in spending

After weeks of cajoling, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a proclamation of a state of emergency on California’s ever-worsening drought.  The proclamation expands his earlier two-county drought declaration for Mendocino and Sonoma counties to include 41 of the state’s 58 counties – including San Joaquin Valley counties that touch the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the Tulare Lake watersheds.  The proclamation came just before he joined Rep. Jim Costa (D–Fresno), Sen. Anna Caballero (D–Salinas) and Asm. Adam Gray (D–Merced) at San Luis Reservoir to announce $5.1 billion in spending on a water resiliency portfolio. … ” Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: After much prodding, Newsom declares statewide drought emergency, $5.1bil in spending

Drought emergency declared in Central Valley, Klamath region

California Gov. Gavin Newsom today declared a drought emergency in 39 additional counties, including most of the parched Central Valley and Klamath River area.  The declaration comes amid mounting pressure from lawmakers and growers in the Central Valley, who this year are receiving only 5% of their expected water allocations from the state. Growers say the sharp cutbacks in state and federal water supplies will mean they will suffer huge economic losses and be forced to fallow fields and sell off cattle. ... ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Drought emergency declared in Central Valley, Klamath region

Newsom expands drought emergency to include Central Valley

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday expanded a drought emergency declaration to a large swath northern and central California, including Fresno County, amid “acute water supply shortages.”  The drought declaration now covers 41 of 58 California counties, encompassing 30% of California’s population of nearly 40 million people.  It comes as Newsom prepares to propose more spending on both short- and long-term responses to dry conditions. The U.S. Drought Monitor shows most of California and a huge swath of the American West is in extensive drought. … ”  Read more from GV Wire here: Newsom expands drought emergency to include Central Valley

VIDEO: ‘Any help we can get … it’s good for all of us’: NorCal farmer reacts to drought relief plan

The governor’s $5.1 billion emergency drought response package announced Monday includes nearly a dozen provisions for various water interests and infrastructure projects, including $60 million in state water efficiency and enhancement program grants.  The governor’s office said that funding is designed to help farmers reduce irrigation water use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural pumping.” Watch news spot from KCRA here: ‘Any help we can get … it’s good for all of us’: NorCal farmer reacts to drought relief plan


California drought continues to intensify; Cooler temperature and robust marine layer to offer some temporary relief

Dr. Daniel Swain writes, “Well, unfortunately, the overall drought trajectory has not changed since the last post: it’s still getting worse. And pretty rapidly worse, at that, across much of NorCal. There, virtually no precipitation at all has fallen in places that are usually still pretty wet in April/May, and unusually persistent/recurrent north/northeast “blow drier” winds have resulted in even more evaporation and snowmelt across the landscape.  The statewide Sierra Nevada snowpack is now down to an absolutely abysmal 8% of average for the calendar date–from 15% 5 days ago–and at this rate could be completely gone in just another week or so. Additionally, because soils underneath the snowpack have been so parched, and the air above the snowpack so dry, the majority of the snowpack we *did* have this year has either soaked into the soil (without runoff) or even sublimated directly back into the atmosphere. This means that streamflows are even lower than would otherwise have been expected in this very low precipitation year, and reservoirs will see very little further recharge for the rest of spring and summer. ... ”  Continue reading at the Weather West here: California drought continues to intensify; Cooler temperature and robust marine layer to offer some temporary relief

California has been in a drought since 2000. What’s in store for the future?

Meteorologist John Lindsay writes, “In 2002, now retired climatologist Bill Patzert predicted a decades-long drought for California due to changes in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and global warming, which he now calls global heating.  “Rainfall in California is controlled by natural forces like the decadal PDO signal and the shorter-term phases of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO),” said Patzert, who made the prediction while he was at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “The (global) heating of our state is an important new element in rain patterns. The rain season has become compressed, starting later and ending earlier. Finally, how we manage our water can impact droughts, for example, over drafting of aquifers and groundwater basins cause self-inflicted water shortages.” … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here: California has been in a drought since 2000. What’s in store for the future?

This is how California’s water use has changed since the last drought

California is in a serious drought. The National Drought Mitigation Center’s drought monitor puts most of the state in extreme drought zones for the first time since 2015.  The latest instance of drought has once again put the state’s water use under the microscope to identify opportunities for conservation, a task that’s expected to become more challenging as the impacts of climate change intensify.  “We’re shifting toward a future where we’re going to be using water more judiciously and having to manage it in a way that still makes it more available during the drought,” said Ellen Hanak, director of the Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  This is how California’s water use has changed since the last drought

This image shows dry air blanketing California

Water vapor imagery from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Sunday night showed that “aside from some moisture across portions of the Sierra, dry air has pretty much blanketed the entire State,” the National Weather Service said.   It’s hot, dry and windy with a high risk for wildfire in the middle of May.  A spell of critical wildfire weather that started in the San Francisco Bay Area on Friday is persisting longer than expected as temperatures remain warm, humidity levels drop into the teens and dry, hot northeasterly winds knock the region’s mountaintops. ... ”  Read more from SF Gate here: This image shows dry air blanketing California

Video: Is California ready for drought?

California is now in its second year of drought, hard on the heels of the last one in 2012-16. But drought is not an equal-opportunity crisis; it can be more or less disruptive depending on geography, storage, how water supplies are managed—and, of course, precipitation. And some sectors—notably rural water water systems and the environment—are more vulnerable.  “Are we ready to avoid the worst outcomes that we saw in 2012-16? Knowing what’s changed since then and what’s different this time could help us,” said Alvar Escriva-Bou at a virtual event last week. … ”  Read more from the PPIC here: Video: Is California ready for drought?

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Reactions to Governor Newsom’s expanded drought declaration and water infrastructure package …

Association of California Water Agencies

From Dave Eggerton, Executive Director: “ACWA appreciates the governor’s targeted and strategic approach to expanding the emergency drought proclamation in California and his strong commitment to increased investment in water infrastructure, drought response and improved climate resilience.  The extended drought emergency covers areas of the state hardest hit by drought while recognizing the significant investments in water reliability made by local water managers across the state.  The governor’s funding plan includes $1 billion to address water customer debt that has accumulated due to the financial impacts of COVID-19. This funding is essential to recovering from the pandemic in a way that helps impacted Californians, while preserving the operational viability of water systems. 

“ACWA is keenly aware of the growing impacts of climate change on local water managers’ ability to provide a reliable water supply and has strongly advocated for funding investments aimed at increasing water resilience. From droughts, floods, catastrophic wildfires, and sea level rise, water managers are faced with growing challenges exasperated by climate change. For these reasons, ACWA supports state funding for immediate drought relief and longer-term projects that will increase California’s water resilience.”

Environmental Defense Fund

Statement from Ann Hayden, Senior Director, Western Water and Resilient Landscapes: “The exceptional high temperatures of the past several weeks and the accompanying scant runoff underscore how vulnerable our water systems are in the face of climate change. EDF applauds Gov. Gavin Newsom’s swift, yet targeted response to these critically dry conditions, including the administration’s proposal to spend $5.1 billion for drought infrastructure, preparedness and response to ensure our state’s water systems are more resilient to climate change. The size of this investment reflects the scope and urgency of the water challenges facing our state as temperatures rise and droughts become more intense and frequent. 

We are particularly encouraged that the governor’s proposal addresses the needs of diverse water users, including people who lack access to clean drinking water, native fish and agricultural communities. We are pleased to see the plan proposes $500 million for multibenefit land repurposing, which aligns with an EDF proposal in state bill AB 252 to establish a Multibenefit Land Repurposing Incentive Program to help farmers transition to groundwater sustainability while creating new benefits for the Central Valley. It is also important to highlight that the governor’s proposal dedicates nearly $700 million for nature-based solutions, including projects to restore ecosystems for fish and wildlife that are on the brink of collapse. Finally, we appreciate the inclusion of $91 million for critical data collection to improve drought response through innovative tools.”

Senator Melissa Hurtado

Drought conditions in the Central Valley and across California continue to worsen, with a majority of the state in a ‘severe,’ ‘extreme’ or ‘exceptional’ drought status,” said Senator Hurtado. “The State Water Resiliency Act of 2021 will provide much needed funding for canal conveyance repairs throughout the Central Valley that will impact more than 31 million Californians. While Governor Newsom’s allocation of $200 million towards the funding of SB 559 is much needed, it does not fully address the total costs to repair the state water conveyance systems. I commend the Governor for declaring a local emergency in Kings, Tulare, Kern and Fresno Counties. That declaration provides funding to mitigate some of the drought related impacts we know are on the horizon. To avoid a food crisis like that of 1974, California must do more.”

Senator Hurtado’s legislation, SB 559, will allocate $785 million to repairing vital water delivery systems that provide drinking water to communities throughout California and water to sustain the state’s leading agricultural economy. The funds would go to fixing the Friant-Kern Canal, the Delta-Mendota Canal and major portions of the California Aqueduct, all of which have degraded and are losing water as a result of subsidence – the actual shrinking of land. Senator Hurtado authored similar legislation last year (also called SB 559), but it was vetoed by the Governor at the end of the last legislative session.

Click here to read the rest of this statement.

It’s estimated that California has seen an estimated decrease of 500,000 gallons of water per acre feet this year—an amount equivalent to a city of 1 million people’s annual usage. The United States Senate held an Agricultural Committee earlier this year, where it announced that 15 crop plants provide 90% of global energy intake, with three crops—wheat, maize and rice as top producers. The Central Valley has had to fallow 100,000 acres of rice to provide water to Southern California. For every acre, farmers yield an estimated 8,000 pounds of rice.

The Senator is also a co-author of the Water Innovation Act of 2021, which will create the Office of Water Innovation at the California Water Commission-furthering new technologies and other approaches within the water sector. The Senator has also introduced Senate Bill 464, which will expand the eligibility for state funded food benefits to undocumented immigrants, ensuring all residents can access food assistance. Senator Hurtado’s Senate Bill 108 which will declare it to be state policy that all people have access to sufficient, healthy food.

Metropolitan Water District

Jeffrey Kightlinger, General Manager, issued the following statement: “This year has evolved from dry to historically dry. The meager Sierra snowpack has disappeared in recent weeks and the state’s runoff forecasts have dropped. In light of these worsening conditions, the governor’s expanded emergency declaration to additional counties is necessary to ensure proper management of the limited supplies that do exist. That declaration has not yet been extended to Southern California, where years of investments by ratepayers, coupled with conservation that has continued since the last drought, has positioned this region to withstand and adapt to the latest water supply challenges. While our region does not face mandatory water use reductions, we support residents looking into actions they can take to use water efficiently around their homes and businesses. Metropolitan has rebates available at bewaterwise.com to help people take these actions.

Restore the Delta

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director:  “Governor Newsom’s latest declaration tears pages from the playbook Governor Brown used in 2013 and 2014.  Everyone gets something except the Delta. We get salinity barriers. This will disrupt waterways and create stagnant pools with larger harmful algal blooms throughout the summer and fall. These algal blooms pose dangers to public health through water contact to people and dogs, but also from the emission of airborne contaminants.
Under this plan, multiple fish species in the Delta, like Chinook salmon and Delta smelt, may become part of the sixth great mass extinction on Governor Newsom’s watch.”

Tim Stroshane, policy analyst:  “Governor Newsom’s latest declaration signals that “temporary urgency change” petitions will be sought by the US Bureau of Reclamation and the Department of Water Resources to waive water quality objectives in the Delta.  Today’s proclamation also gestures in the direction of preserving existing cold-water pools in the upstream reservoirs, particularly at Shasta and Oroville lakes. This is likely too little too late. Unfortunately, these reservoirs are already extremely low, and their cold-water pools were dissipated over this past winter when supplies were shipped to southern California and San Luis Reservoir south of the Delta.”

San Luis-Delta Mendota Water Authority

Federico Barajas, Executive Director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, issued the following statement:  “The all of government approach announced today by the Governor is a positive step to responding to the evolving drought conditions facing California. The historic drought conditions have negatively impacted nearly 1.2 million acres of farmland, over 2 million people, many of whom live in economically disadvantaged communities, and 200,000 acres of critical habitat and managed wetlands are reliant on the water provided by members of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority.” 

“Water supplies for our members have been severely reduced as a result of this year’s dry conditions and an ongoing lack of necessary investment in water infrastructure. These types of water reductions are unsustainable and will have severe negative impacts on California’s agricultural economy, the communities that support it, and critically overdrafted groundwater subbasins throughout the Central Valley. Years like this only reinforce the need for improved water conveyance and increased water storage – so that water can be moved in the years when it’s available and stored for those years when nature fails to provide adequate water for all of California’s needs. Local agencies have made a commitment to advance needed projects and we look forward to increased investments from the state and federal governments to secure a more resilient water future for our member and the communities and ecosystems reliant on the water they provide.”

Click here to continue reading the rest of this statement.

We applaud the Governor for the actions taken today to streamline water transfers, which improve water supply in the near term, and for proposing a $200 million up-front investment to restore critical conveyance facilities like the Delta-Mendota Canal, which improves long-term climate resilience.

Parts of the Central Valley Project infrastructure that conveys water to member agencies of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority has lost up to 30% of its conveyance capacity over time due to subsidence. This lost capacity, combined with higher operational and power costs, results in millions of dollars of increased ratepayer expenses to convey less water through the system and reduces long-term climate resilience. The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority is a lead sponsor of a broad coalition supporting Senate Bill 559 (Hurtado) and S. 1179 (Feinstein) / H.R. 2552 (Costa), companion state and federal legislation designed to address this issue.

During California’s last extended drought, over 500,000 acres of productive farmland were fallowed due to inadequate water supplies, resulting in the loss of 21,000 farm and farm-related jobs and a $3.8 billion hit to the economy, according to a 2018 journal article by Professor Jay Lund.

Save California Salmon

Today Central Valley lawmakers and Governor Newsom used the drought, which is the result of climate change, to advocate for  taxpayer-funded pork projects, such as private canals and the Sites Reservoir, for industrial agriculture, which uses up to 80% of the state’s developed water. Poor water management during the last drought led to 90% of the salmon dying and toxic algal blooms in cities’ water supplies. Tribal and fishing communities are suffering,” said Regina Chichizola, from Save California Salmon.”The fact is we can’t dam our way out of climate change. Industrial agriculture uses most of the state’s water, while exporting their crops and offering little benefit to residents of this state. California’s antiquated water rights system leaves cities and the environment high and dry while almonds get clean water.”

These talks about water storage, drought relief, and voluntary agreements are happening without consent with the California Tribal communities and other salmon and clean water advocates,” pointed out Morning Star Gali Pit River Tribal Member and Save California Tribal Organizer.

State Water Contractors

““Drought doesn’t come in cycles anymore; it is our new normal and we should act accordingly. We appreciate the Governor’s actions today in proposing funding for critical drought-resilient projects that will mitigate the immediate impacts of the current drought as well as ensure better water management in the future,” said Jennifer Pierre, General Manager of the State Water Contractors.

While substantial investments have been made to develop more local sources of water supplies and to implement sustainable water management practices throughout the state, helping to reduce the pain of this current drought for many of the larger urban areas, we must not rest on our laurels. Capitalizing on the immense progress Californians have made to reduce their annual water use, conservation must become our way of life if we are to successfully adapt to this new normal. Conservation is important, but it is also not enough. To secure California’s water future, we must continue to invest in our state’s water infrastructure, the storage and conveyance facilities that help us move and store water when its wet, for use when it’s not.

Congressman David Valadao

Last month, Governor Newsom declared a drought state of emergency for only two counties – Mendocino and Sonoma – an outrageous decision to make while counties in the rest of the state are also experiencing severe drought conditions. For weeks, my colleagues and I repeatedly urged Governor Newsom to expand the drought emergency declaration in California to provide relief to the dozens of other struggling counties. I am encouraged that Governor Newsom finally listened to our serious concerns and granted our request,” said Congressman Valadao. “We need to continue to work together and look for ways to alleviate the devastating consequences of this drought until it is over. It is imperative we do all we can as elected leaders to ensure our constituents, and the communities they live in, have access to the resources they need.”

Water Forum (Sacramento)

Statement from Jessica Law, Executive Director of the Water Forum, and Jim Peifer, Executive Director of the Regional Water Authority:   “Earlier in the year, we were cautiously optimistic that near-average snowpack levels in the upper watershed would provide a buffer for Folsom Reservoir. However, inflow levels are lower than expected and predicted. Folsom Reservoir storage levels are lower than historic drought conditions in 2014 and 2015, and this year’s snowpack is evaporating or soaking into the soil rather than flowing into Folsom Reservoir.  Water flowing from Folsom Reservoir feeds the Lower American River and supports recreation and supports fish species such as fall-run Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead trout that depend on both adequate flows and temperatures. 

While the Sacramento region is in a strong position to meet the water supply needs of people, the Drought Emergency Proclamation released today underscores how dry conditions are looking increasingly dire for the environment of the Lower American River. ... ”

Click here to continue reading this statement from the Water Forum.

Applying the lessons learned during California’s most recent historic drought, the Sacramento Water Forum, which brings together water providers, environmental groups, and local government and business groups, and the Regional Water Authority, working with local water providers, have been coordinating with each other, as well as federal and state agencies, on the possibility of drought this year and what can be done to alleviate its effects.

“Actions include:

  • Working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages Folsom Reservoir, and other state and federal partners, to preserve as much water as possible in the reservoir to support the health of the river and water supply reliability.
  • Shifting to using more groundwater: Over the past several decades local water providers have been working together to sustainably shift the region’s water use to surface water or groundwater according to conditions. This has allowed more groundwater to be available for dry times. We know this approach works as demonstrated during the most recent drought when the Sacramento region used more groundwater than typical to leave more in our waterways for fish and wildlife (see graph at right). In the wet years since the last drought, when there was surplus water beyond environmental needs, more surface water was used and the groundwater basin recovered. Since this is a dry year, we are planning to use more groundwater than normal in 2021.
  • Sharing water around the region: Since the last drought, water providers have invested in new pipelines, interties, pumps and groundwater wells to move water where it’s needed. This system builds on the existing ability to shift between surface and groundwater and is ready to assist the communities most directly impacted by lower levels at Folsom Reservoir.
  • Asking residents to be vigilant about stopping water waste: We ask residents to use water efficiently no matter the weather, and regional water use is already lower than it was in 2013, before the last major drought. Now, residents must be even more focused on efficiency and stopping water waste.

“In addition, the Sacramento Water Forum is increasing its monitoring of fish conditions in the Lower American River to help inform decisions by federal and state agencies, and is implementing its 10th habitat restoration project in the river near Ancil Hoffman Park in Carmichael to improve conditions for salmon and steelhead spawning and rearing.
“There is no doubt that many challenges lie ahead for the environment of the Lower American River this year. We appreciate the collaboration and partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to help ensure sufficient storage in Folsom and adequate flows in the Lower American River.
“Beyond this year, we’re working hard to prepare for the more frequent and intense cycles of drought projected to come with climate change.
“The region’s water providers have developed a comprehensive water resilience portfolio called WaterFuture, which encompasses our entire ‘supershed’ from the mountain tops of the American River watershed to the groundwater basin below the valley floor. You can learn more about this at rwah2o.org/WaterFuture.”

Western Growers Association

Western Growers President & CEO Dave Puglia issued the following statement:  “Governor Newsom took a measured step in the right direction, but caution is needed in implementation of this proclamation. The declaration provides regulatory flexibility for water transfers to mitigate water shortages, and parallel executive action allocates $200 million to repair some damaged sections of key water delivery systems as proposed by Senator Hurtado’s Senate Bill 559. However, the emergency authority granted to the State Water Board to curtail water deliveries should give all water users pause.

“Water curtailments disproportionately impact rural and disadvantaged communities. During the last drought from 2014-2016, regulatory restrictions on water deliveries resulted in the fallowing of half a million acres of productive San Joaquin Valley farmland and cost farms nearly $4 billion in economic activity. With many South-of-Delta farmers slated to receive between zero and five percent of their water allocations, 2021 is shaping up to be another catastrophic year for rural farming communities in the Valley.

“In implementing the Governor’s proclamation, we urge state water officials to lead with voluntary transfers and curtailments, giving our smart and capable public and private water agencies the space they need to maximize limited water supplies and achieve balance between the environmental and economic needs of the state. Beyond the immediate crisis, state agencies must help mitigate the impacts of changing hydrology by removing the red tape that has long prevented meaningful investments in water storage infrastructure.”

Westlands Water District

Tom Birmingham, Westlands Water District general manager, today issued the following statement:  “The realities of a changing climate mean California must prepare for longer, hotter droughts that can only be effectively mitigated through collaborative approaches that focuses equally on our state’s economic and environmental sustainability. We applaud Governor Newsom’s action to mitigate the impacts of a second year of drought in the Central Valley, which has already manifested itself in fallowed fields and lost jobs due to lack of water.

In particular, his move to streamline water transfers and provide $200 million in funding for critical water infrastructure repairs as outlined in Senator Hurtado’s Senate Bill 559 will both help local communities manage drought impacts in the short term and improve drought resiliency by maximizing the beneficial use of every drop of water in the long term. Westlands appreciates the leadership of both Governor Newsom and Senator Hurtado in championing these critical water infrastructure repair investments, and we look forward to continuing to work with local, state and federal leaders to develop collaborative, holistic solutions to more effectively address the impacts of drought on our most vulnerable communities.”

Click here to read the rest of this press release.

Subsidence has caused the Central Valley Project canals, which carry water to Westlands and other water agencies, to lose up to 30% of their conveyance capacity over time. This lost conveyance capacity results in less water available at higher costs for farms, communities, and wildlife. Westlands is among a broad coalition of water agencies supporting Senate Bill 559 (Hurtado), S. 1179 (Feinstein) and H.R. 2552 (Costa) companion state and federal legislation designed to address this issue. Governor Newsom’s commitment of $200 million represents approximately one quarter of the state funding outlined in SB 559.

The immediate challenge facing State agencies that are responsible for ensuring competing demands are met is achieving a reasonable balance among all competing beneficial uses. The State agencies must consider all demands being made on the limited water supplies available and the values involved with the beneficial uses of water – including economic and social values. Governor Newsom’s drought emergency declaration will provide State agencies with the tools needed to achieve that balance, and it is Westlands’ hope that water needs of people and the economy will not be made subordinate to the needs of the environment.

Past studies indicate that statewide economic losses as a result of California’s 2014-2016 drought totaled $3.8 billion, with thousands of jobs lost in the Central Valley alone and many rural drinking water wells running dry. Earlier this year, Westlands urged Governor Newsom to help mitigate the impacts of a 5% water allocation from the Central Valley Project, which is currently not available for delivery. Over the last 10 years, Westlands and other South-of-Delta agricultural service and water repayments contractors have received a 100% allocation of water only once and have received a 0% allocation two times.

In all other California water news today …

Conservation organizations, fishing groups, and Tribes send letter urging Biden Administration not to endorse the Voluntary Agreements

The letter says the voluntary agreements propose inadequate environmental requirements for the Delta and negotiations have been held behind closed doors, without participation from environmental organizations, fishing groups, and tribes.  “We understand that these negotiations are being pursued based on the wholly inadequate proposed Framework for voluntary agreements announced by the State in February 2020.the 2020 Framework for voluntary agreements, which is guiding the current negotiations, fails to provide adequate instream flows and other critical environmental protections for fish and wildlife and lacks adequate consideration of the impacts of impaired water quality on communities in the Delta and Central Valley tribes. Moreover, negotiations over BayDelta voluntary agreements over the past decade have unacceptably delayed the adoption of updated water quality standards that would actually protect fish and wildlife and water quality in the Delta. … “

Click here to read the full letter.


Could this $36 million Central Valley river restoration project help with California’s droughts?

As California enters what could be a record-breaking drought, a just-completed nine-year floodplain restoration project at the confluence of the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers offers an ambitious attempt at one mitigation solution.  At a 1,600-acre former dairy ranch called Dos Rios, the conservation organization River Partners removed berms that farmers had originally constructed to protect their alfalfa and wheat crops from the river. It turned fields into seasonal pools where endangered baby salmon and migratory birds can rest, and water can trickle down to refill aquifers. Last month, it planted the last of more than 350,000 native grasses, shrubs and trees — acres of towering willows, flowering elderberry and creeping wild rye chosen to thrive in flood or drought. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Could this $36 million Central Valley river restoration project help with California’s droughts?

Reclamation increases flow releases from New Melones Reservoir for Bay-Delta requirements

Today, the Bureau of Reclamation announced a plan to increase flow releases from New Melones Reservoir to assist with meeting Delta salinity and outflow requirements.  Additional flow releases will begin on the lower Stanislaus River on May 10 and will reach a total flow of 1,000 cubic feet per second and again on May 11 to reach 1,500 cfs. This increased flow of 1,500 cfs will likely occur for an extended duration.   During the increased releases, water levels will be higher and currents faster. Visitors should use caution when near or on the Stanislaus River during these increased flows.   For more information on Central Valley Project operations, visit https://www.usbr.gov/mp/cvo/ .

Gov. Newsom proposes $220M for Salton Sea as part of $5.1B water plan

“Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $5.1 billion water infrastructure, drought response, and climate resilience proposal includes $220 million for the Salton Sea, and Assembly member Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, applauded the announcement.  Garcia, chair of the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife, stated in a press release from his office that the funding would maximize habitat outcomes and provide immediate economic relief to the community.  “The Governor’s new water infrastructure proposal brings big news and potentially big dollars for the Salton Sea. Working in active coordination with the Governor and his administration, we are grateful to have the Governor’s support to ramp up Salton Sea mitigation efforts and excited for this opportunity to build on our progress with an additional $220 million state investment,” Garcia stated in a May 10 release. … ”  Read more from the Holtville Tribune here:  Gov. Newsom proposes $220M for Salton Sea as part of $5.1B water plan

Humanity’s challenge of the century: Conserving Earth’s freshwater systems

Many dryland cities like Los Angeles, Cairo and Tehran have already outstripped natural water recharge, but are expected to continue growing, resulting in a deepening arid urban water crisis. According to NASA’s GRACE mission, 19 key freshwater basins, including several in the U.S., are being unsustainably depleted, with some near collapse; much of the water is used indiscriminately by industrial agribusiness.  Many desert cities, including Tripoli, Phoenix and Los Angeles, are sustained by water brought from other basins by hydro megaprojects that are aging and susceptible to collapse, while the desalination plants that water Persian Gulf cities come at a high economic cost with serious salt pollution.  Experts say that thinking about the problem as one of supply disguises the real issue, given that what’s really missing to heading off a global freshwater crisis is the organization, capital, governance and political will to address the problems that come with regulating use of a renewable, but finite, resource. … ”  Read more from Mongabay here: Humanity’s challenge of the century: Conserving Earth’s freshwater systems

Rare sight: Odd-looking deep water fish found washed up on SoCal beach

A odd-looking sea creature that typically lives in deep ocean waters and rarely seen off Southern California was found washed up at Crystal Cove State Beach.  The sharp-toothed, black fish with a large antenna-like stalk that comes out of its head and dangles in front of it was spotted on Friday, May 7, in the park’s Marine Protected Area. It appeared to officials to be a kind of anglerfish. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Rare sight: Odd-looking deep water fish found washed up on SoCal beach

And lastly … US water generation company creates innovative plan to prevent forest fires in California (press release)

Ed Russo, CEO of RussKap Holdings LLC, announced today that his company stands ready and able to assist California in its ongoing quest to fight forest fires. “By using atmospheric water generators we can have constant water flowing into traditionally dry parched areas which will help prevent a simple spark from igniting into a large brushfire.”  Over the past few years, California has been racked by fires and many companies and government agencies have tried to come up with effective solutions. “Creating water from the air is the best solution aiming at prevention, not reaction. Keeping the ground foliage moist can stop a spark from becoming a blaze.” ... ”  Read the rest of this press release at EIN Presswire here: US water generation company creates innovative plan to prevent forest fires in California

In regional water news and commentary today …

Ripple Effect: Recovery of ecosystems after wildfires

Eight months after the six September fires spanning Southern Oregon and Northern California, local experts have now moved their focus from the destruction caused to the ecosystems’ recovery.  Chris Adlam is one of Oregon’s six regional fire experts in the new Oregon State University Extension Fire Program. He said it’s important to understand all sides of the story of the effects of the recent wildfires.  “We’re going to get more fires. And I think it’s important to see the benefits as well as the costs,” Adlam said. ... ”  Read more from ABC 10 here:  Ripple Effect: Recovery of ecosystems after wildfires

North Coast leaders call for ‘all hands on deck effort’ to combat drought

As California’s water supply continues to dwindle and drought conditions worsen, state lawmakers are working with scientists and communities across the state to seek solutions ahead of a potentially catastrophic fire season this summer.  More than a dozen North Coast leaders joined U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman’s (D-San Rafael) emergency drought summit Monday to discuss declining conditions throughout the region. The discussion focused on funding needs for water supply, agriculture and fish as well as collaborative approaches. … ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here:  North Coast leaders call for ‘all hands on deck effort’ to combat drought

South Lake Tahoe boat ramp closed due to low water levels after dry winter

A least one boat ramp at Lake Tahoe won’t be opening to motorized vessels this summer due to low water levels caused by an unusually dry winter.  The city of South Lake Tahoe, California announced on Friday the city’s boat ramp at El Dorado Beach will remain closed to motorized boaters for the 2021 season. … ”  Continue reading at CBS San Francisco here:  South Lake Tahoe boat ramp closed due to low water levels after dry winter

El Dorado Irrigation District to assess aging water treatment plants

Thinking deep thoughts about four water treatment plants went into phase 2 April 26.  After awarding a nearly $300,000 contract to consultant Carollo Engineers in June 2019, the El Dorado Irrigation District Board of Directors added $566,600 plus $50,000 for capitalized labor costs, primarily for district engineering staff to work on the phase 2 study.  Having looked deeply into the status and operation of treatment plants in Strawberry, Pollock Pines, Sly Park and El Dorado Hills, the consultant will now develop “an asset management plan for the district’s water treatment plants” that will “provide cost-effective solutions for aging assets, improve operational efficiency and maintain regulatory compliance.” … ”  Read more from the Mountain Democrat here: El Dorado Irrigation District to assess aging water treatment plants

Sonoma County officials to cut pumping from Russian River by 20% amid deepening drought

Sonoma County supervisors are expected to offer their formal support Tuesday for a plan to pump 20% less water than normal from the Russian River for the remainder of the year, preserving dwindling supplies in local reservoirs but making less water available to more than 600,000 consumers in Sonoma and northern Marin counties.  The move means communities that rely partly or fully on Sonoma Water, the county agency that serves as the region’s main wholesaler, will have to find ways to live with at least 20% less water than a year ago, depending how much worse the drought gets. The reduced diversion level also applies to Healdsburg and Camp Meeker, who take water under Sonoma Water water rights. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  Sonoma County officials to cut pumping from Russian River by 20% amid deepening drought

Marin Commentary:  Stop new hookups before turning to iffy, expensive plans for more water

Rick Johnson, formerly senior inspector with the San Francisco Water Department, writes: “Water is grabbing big headlines as Marin girds for another drought.  Ideas put forward to find an alternate water source for Marin range from reconstruction of the 1977 East Bay supply line to the construction of a desalination plant.  Rebuilding the East Bay/Marin water pipeline might have been a realistic option in 1977, but it’s not likely to fly in 2021. The difference between then and now is the internet. Folks on both sides of the bay are quite “woke” when it comes to water.  Folks in the East Bay are conscious of how they might be affected in a water transfer to Marin. They very well might organize to litigate against a transfer, especially if they have to bear the brunt of higher water charges. ... ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Marin Commentary:  Stop new hookups before turning to iffy, expensive plans for more water

Customer of EBMUD? Your water bill might get higher

Customers of the East Bay Muncipal Utility District may have to dig deeper into their pockets to keep the taps and faucets flowing as the utility proposes increasing rates.  The utility is seeking to raise water and wastewater rates each by 4% in the fiscal year starting July I, and an additional 4% starting July 1, 2022.  The potential move comes as EBMUD reviews and adjusts its budget, which happens every two years.  General Manager Clifford Chan will present a proposed budget for utility for the next two years to the EBMUD board of directors on Tuesday. ... ”  Read more from the East Bay Times here: Customer of EBMUD? Your water bill might get higher

Valley Water to discuss upcoming construction at Anderson Dam

In June, Valley Water will start building a 1,700-foot long tunnel next to Anderson Dam that will allow us to release more water safely during major storms or emergencies. This work is a significant milestone in our efforts to strengthen Anderson Dam and protect our communities. … Once complete, this larger outlet tunnel will increase Valley Water’s ability to release water from the reservoir during an emergency or major storm by five times. This will allow our agency to better manage water levels in the reservoir and protect the community. We anticipate construction on the tunnel to last two to three years. … ”  Read the full commentary at the Gilroy Dispatch here:  Valley Water to discuss upcoming construction at Anderson Dam

As Kings River dries up, concern for water availability grows

It’s night and day on the Kings River from the 2019 with flooding to now off-roading and even horse riding on the dry, sandy sections of the River.  “Where we’re walking now would have been all underwater just two years ago and this was all flooded out along here and the river was carrying about 8,000 to 9,000 thousand cubic feet per second and now we have none,” said Randy McFarland, from the Kings River Water Association. … ”  Continue reading at Fox 26 here:  As Kings River dries up, concern for water availability grows

Indian Valley Groundwater Authority threatens to cut off water for only U.S.-headquartered company supplying vaccine vials

Thickeners at the Westend facility of Searles Valley Minerals in Trona, CA. Photo courtesy Searles Minerals.

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority (Authority) conducted a public hearing Thursday to determine whether to shut off the water supply to Searles Valley Minerals Inc. (Searles) for nonpayment of an exorbitant, unlawful and arbitrary fee that threatens the existence of Searles, a company that has supported the local economy with pioneering technologies and good-paying jobs since its founding in 1873. The Authority ultimately recognized that it didn’t have enough information and postponed any decision.  “The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s board of directors rightly decided that rather than rush forward with a vote, it was wise to take time to better understand how local residents, particularly senior citizens and vulnerable populations who have already been affected by the pandemic and recent earthquakes, could be impacted by a decision to shut off Searles’ water supply,” said Burnell Blanchard, Vice President of Operations for Searles. ... ”

Click here to read the full press release.

Indian Wells Valley: New report indicates slower groundwater decline in valley basin

The annual report for the valley’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan suggests that the Indian Wells Valley groundwater table is declining on average by some 8 inches per year – in stark contrast to the 1.5- to 2-foot figure that the IWV Groundwater Authority has broadcasted over the years.  The report – delivered by Heather Steele of Stetson Engineers during the GA’s April 14 meeting – includes new information on the El Paso sub basin in the southeastern area of the valley, which has risen an estimated 18,000 acre-feet since 2015. While most other areas of the basin are experiencing more substantial decline, the El Paso findings have a significant impact on the basin-wide average. … ”  Read more from The News Review here:  Indian Wells Valley: New report indicates slower groundwater decline in valley basin

Pasadena faces its water future in meeting today

On the heels of Governor Gavin Newsom’s emergency drought declaration expansion on Monday, representatives of the Raymond Basin Management Board will present its 25-year water recovery plan to the City Council Municipal Services Committee Tuesday.  The plan includes, among other elements, pumping groundwater out of lower basins back to the Arroyo Basin north of Hahamongna.  … According to the Raymond Basin presentation, the proposed recovery plan would work to determine “new safe yields” from the pumping areas, and re-evaluate spreading credits. ... ”  Read more from Pasadena Now here: Pasadena faces its water future in meeting today

 San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District to lead local headwaters resiliency partnership

On May, 4, 2021, the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District Board of Directors announced the establishment of a new, ongoing Headwaters Resilience Partnership (Partnership) aimed at identifying big solutions to confront the worsening challenges with water supply and natural resources that we currently face in our forest headwaters. The Partnership will also focus on identifying innovative ways to fund proactive investments in the long-term health of our National Forests.  “Our region is experiencing a changing climate, ongoing drought conditions, and increased risk of wildfires and more extreme storm events, creating severe impacts on sensitive environmental resources, and drinking water supplies,” said Board President Paul Kielhold.  The first meeting of the new Headwaters Resilience Partnership, on May 12, 2021, will be with the staff of the San Bernardino National Forest, followed by meetings with other public agencies (local, state, and federal) and numerous highly-invested community stakeholders to address environmental issues that affect our quality of life and sustainability in the San Bernardino mountains and valley. ... ”  Read more from the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District here:  San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District to lead local headwaters resiliency partnership

Imperial Irrigation District defends itself over Abatti lawsuit regarding water rights

The Imperial Irrigation District (IID) says it is standing its ground on its belief the waters of the Colorado River belong to all the people of the Imperial Valley.  There’s a chance the Michael Abatti versus IID case might be heard at the U.S. Supreme court level, but the IID doesn’t think it will make it that far after it was rejected at the California state level.  Robert Schettler, public information officer for the IID, says it plans to defend that the water rights belong to all of the people of the Imperial Valley, claiming that farmers are only considering their need for water. … ”  Read more from KYMA here:  Imperial Irrigation District defends itself over Abatti lawsuit regarding water rights

Commentary: A lawyer’s view of the Abatti U.S. Supreme Court gambit

Attorney David Osias writes, “There is an old expression that describes an effort to exaggerate or magnify the significance of a dispute – “You don’t need to make a federal case out of it.” That expression describes precisely the Abatti effort to engage the U.S. Supreme Court in a review of the California Appellate Court decision that completely rejected the notion that landowning farmers in the Imperial Valley own a water right that runs with their land. Under applicable law, they have a protected right to water service from the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) that runs with their land, the same right as domestic, municipal, industrial and other landowners in the Imperial Valley. … ”  Read more from the Desert Review here: Commentary: A lawyer’s view of the Abatti U.S. Supreme Court gambit

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Along the Colorado River …

Arizona water users preparing for first-ever cuts to CAP

Arizona cities, towns, farmers and ranchers are preparing for the first-ever cuts to the state’s allotment of Colorado River water. The cuts are the result of a drought that’s lasted 26 years and will likely take effect in 2022.  The so-called “Tier 1” water shortage will affect some water users more severely than others.  “Central Arizona agriculture is going to feel the impact, probably first,” said Chris Udall, who is the executive director of Agribusiness and Water Council of Arizona.  Farmers and ranchers in Pinal County are already preparing, but it’s going to be a costly process. ... ”  Continue reading at Arizona Family here: Arizona water users preparing for first-ever cuts to CAP

Emails show mining industry, home-builders pushed for changes in water bill — and got them

Newly released emails reveal that lawyers and lobbyists for mining companies, developers and the agriculture industry had a hand behind the scenes in shaping Arizona’s newly adopted law on clean-water rules for rivers and streams.  The emails show the involvement of these influential groups went beyond their public endorsements of the legislation. Their lawyers and lobbyists were given access to offer input while the final legislation was being drafted, and the emails show they suggested specific language, offered “wordsmithing” tweaks and requested significant changes that state officials incorporated into the bill. ... ”  Read more from the Arizona Republic here:  Emails show mining industry, home-builders pushed for changes in water bill — and got them

Lake Powell could hit near-record lows from drought

In cruising Lake Powell this year, as people explore canyons and take in the beauty of the rock formations, they’ll also see first-hand what extreme drought looks like.  They could come across previously submerged trees standing bare out-of-water. Or maybe they’ll notice the “bathtub ring” lining the canyon walls, where the water used to sit. Some lucky groups might even find shipwrecked boats revealed on the shore. … ”  Read more from Fox 13 here: Lake Powell could hit near-record lows from drought

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In national water news today …

Western lawmakers take aim at Biden’s 30×30 plan

Nearly two dozen Western members of Congress have signed on to a bill that would block President Joe Biden’s “30 by 30” plan, which will seek to lock up at least 30% of all lands and waters in the country by 2030.  U.S. Reps. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., and 21 other Republicans in the House of Representatives have introduced the 30 by 30 Termination Act, which would nullify Section 216 of Executive Order 14008 containiing the plan and bars any federal money from being spent on it. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Western lawmakers take aim at Biden’s 30×30 plan

Shrinkage! — Salmon have shrunk so much that Whole Foods redid its guidelines

At OBI Seafoods, a sprawling operation with outposts throughout Alaska, there’s all sorts of extra machinery for workers to master. At Whole Foods Market, there are new guidelines for purchasing salmon from wholesalers. And at Ivar’s, a fixture on Seattle’s waterfront for eight decades, the chef is sending back skimpy salmon delivered to his kitchen.  Behind all these changes is an alarming trend that’s been building for years: The giant schools of wild Pacific salmon that can turn southeast Alaska’s ice-cold waters into a brilliant orange blur are thinning out, and those that do survive are shrinking in size. … ”  Read more from the Daily World here:  Shrinkage! — Salmon have shrunk so much that Whole Foods redid its guidelines

Millions of wells could soon run dry around the world

As the drought outlook for the Western U.S. becomes increasingly bleak, attention is turning once again to groundwater—literally, water stored in the ground. It is Earth’s most widespread and reliable source of fresh water, but it’s not limitless.  Wells that people drill to access groundwater supply nearly half the water used for irrigated agriculture in the U.S. and provide more than 100 million Americans with drinking water. Unfortunately, pervasive pumping is causing groundwater levels to decline in some areas, including much of California’s San Joaquin Valley and Kansas’s High Plains. ... ”  Read more from Fast Company here:  Millions of wells could soon run dry around the world

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Today’s featured article …

Montreal Botanical gardens, August 2013
Photo by Juraj Patekar.

BLOG ROUND-UP: Water projects exported massive amounts of Delta water over the past decade; Why do we have to choose between food, agriculture, and fish?; Voluntary agreements are a bad deal; A solution to the Klamath’s recurring water crises; and more …

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOTICE of Petitions for Change Involving Water Transfer – City of Sacramento

ANNOUNCEMENT: CA Water and Environmental Modeling Forum to hold Modeling Protocols Workshop June 2

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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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