DAILY DIGEST, 5/17: Relentless droughts strain farming town; Budget revision puts surplus to good use for agriculture; Could trading water on the stock market actually be good for the environment?; Klamath Tribes rally to defend their water and fish; and more …

On the calendar today …

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In California water news today …

California’s relentless droughts strain farming towns

” … On May 10, after two dry winters in a row, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared the second drought emergency in less than a month. The declaration now covers 41 counties, from the Oregon border to the southern Central Valley, which produces more than 250 crops, worth $17 billion a year, and accounts for roughly three-quarters of the state’s irrigated land.  Exceptionally warm temperatures in April and early May distinguished “this critically dry year” from all others on California record, the governor’s office said. High temperatures accelerated snowmelt in watersheds that feed California’s major reservoirs, while the bone-dry ground sucked up meltwater that normally rejuvenates rivers and streams.  To mitigate severe drought impacts, the governor authorized state officials to direct water flows where they’re needed most. But some observers worry that the drought will aggravate long standing inequities in access to the state’s dwindling water supplies. ... ”  Read more from Inside Climate News here:  California’s relentless droughts strain farming towns

A few lessons for California’s new drought

Jay Lund writes, “We asked some colleagues for lessons that might be useful in managing California’s new drought. Here is a first sampling of thoughts.  1: Market-based approaches to water management will lessen the costs of drought. Katrina Jessoe. Agricultural and Resource Economics, UC Davis:  Climate models indicate that California’s droughts will become more frequent and severe. Warming temperatures will further reduce surface water availability, by increasing evaporation from soil, reservoirs, and irrigated land. While reductions in surface water supplies will be costly to agriculture, residential users and the environment, these costs could be substantially reduced through the reallocation of scarce supplies. Supplying water to those who value it most will not eliminate the costs of drought, but will make them less painful. … ”  Continue reading at the California Water Blog here:  A few Lessons for California’s New Drought

Budget revision puts surplus to good use for agriculture

The latest budget revision from Governor Gavin Newsom will bring additional support to California’s farmers and ranchers. Several important programs for agriculture are set to receive substantial investment beyond what was initially proposed back in January. Newsom submitted the $267.8 billion budget last week. Funding for critical programs administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) will be getting a significant boost.  “After a year of so many disruptions, it’s really exciting that the May revise builds on the $285 million that was proposed in the Governor’s January budget with an additional $641 million over the next two years,” CDFA Secretary Karen Ross said during a call with reporters. “It is very important that we use that money as efficiently and as effectively as possible for an investment in agriculture’s ongoing sustainability and resilience.” … ”  Read more Ag Net West here: Budget revision puts surplus to good use for agriculture

Could trading water on the stock market actually be good for the environment?

Last year, for the first time, it became possible to trade water on Wall Street through futures contracts. Normally reserved for commodities like oil or precious metals, water became the latest asset to join the stock market. But how could this practice impact the planet?  The trading in the future prices of highly-prized commodities, where buyers agree to purchase an asset at a set date in the future for an agreed price, began in Japan in the seventeenth century with the trading in rice futures.  The latest commodity to begin trading in futures is water supplied in American’s most populous state, California. … ”  Read more from EuroNews Green here:  Could trading water on the stock market actually be good for the environment?

Gov. Newsom’s May budget revision allocates $200 million to plug abandoned and orphaned oil wells

Dan Bacher writes, “California Governor Gavin Newsom on May 14 unveiled his May budget revision that allocates $200 million to plug abandoned and orphaned oil and gas wells, many located near low-income residential areas where the majority of residents are Latino and Black.  In January 2020, a report by the California Council on Science & Technology revealed that California taxpayers could be on the hook for more than $500 million to plug thousands of “orphan” wells drilled and abandoned by oil and gas companies.  “An initial analysis of readily available information suggests that 5,540 wells in California are, as defined, likely orphan wells or are at high risk of becoming orphan wells in the near future,” the report stated. “The State’s potential net liability (subtracting available bonds held by CalGEM) for these wells is estimated to be about $500 million.”   … ”  Read more from the Daily Kos here: Gov. Newsom’s May budget revision allocates $200 million to plug abandoned and orphaned oil wells

Exhuming California’s St. Francis Dam disaster

All that remains of the St. Francis Dam 45 miles north of Los Angeles after the dam failed, causing hundreds of deaths and millions in property loss. 3-14-1928. Photo courtesy Water Archives.

” … Just before midnight on March 12, 1928, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s St. Francis Dam collapsed, inundating the canyon below with some 12 billion gallons of water. … Over 90 years later, the dedicated advocacy of a group of scholars, descendants of victims, and local activists has created the St. Francis Dam Disaster National Monument. The site’s federal land manager, the US Forest Service, is laying plans for a visitor center and trails, and has launched a public competition to design the site’s memorial. The competition offers a vital chance to reflect on both regional and national histories of unnatural disaster, impermanent landscapes, and chronic effacement of the past.  The new memorial’s stated purpose will be “to recognize and honor those who perished during the failure of the Saint Francis Dam.” Truly memorializing the disaster’s victims, though, will mean reflecting not only on the flood itself and its immediate context, but also on the century of silence to which the dead have also been victim. … ”  Read the full story at Nation here:  Exhuming California’s St. Francis Dam disaster

Poseidon’s desalination plant’s supplemental EIR holds water according to the Court of Appeal

“In California Coastkeeper v. State Lands Commission, the Third District Court of Appeal upheld the State Lands Commission’s decision to prepare a supplemental environmental impact report (EIR) for a desalination plant in Huntington Beach, overturning an earlier trial court ruling that invalidated the EIR.  Limited changes to a desalination project were proposed in order to comply with desalination-related amendments to the State’s Ocean Plan.  Because the prior EIR retained informational value, and the proposed changes to the Project were minor, it was appropriate for the Commission, in its capacity as a responsible agency, to prepare a supplemental EIR under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  After initially releasing its opinion informally, the Court on May 7, 2021, certified the opinion for publication. … ”  Read more at the CEQA Chronicles here: Poseidon’s desalination plant’s supplemental EIR holds water according to the Court of Appeal 

California is headed toward another brutal wildfire season

A wildfire in Southern California grew to 1,325 acres on Sunday as roughly 1,000 Topanga Canyon residents had to be evacuated from their homes. Just like that, fire season has started again in California. As an extreme drought worsens across much of the state, 2021 is shaping up to be potentially another deadly year.  The state’s warm climate and lack of rainfall makes it especially prone to wildfires, but nature is not the only reason large parts of California are regularly set ablaze every summer. … ”  Read more from Mother Jones here:  California is headed toward another brutal wildfire season

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Klamath Tribes rally to defend their water and fish

About 25 vehicles rolled into downtown Klamath Falls to eventually gather at the waterfront at Veterans Memorial Park, after starting at the Klamath Tribes Administration building in Chiloquin earlier that morning.  Tribe members recalled their history and the disappointment of having their cultural and resource needs marginalized and devalued in the homeland where they have lived for thousands of years. While the tribes have held other public demonstrations, the caravan was the first of its kind in recent memory, according to the tribe.  Tribal members emphasized the event was not a celebration, but a call to action for many who feel they have been pushed into silence out of fear of retaliation. … ”  Continue reading at Jefferson Public Radio here: Klamath Tribes rally to defend their water and fish

Klamath fish kill update from Yurok Tribe

Dan Bacher writes, “Yurok Vice Chairman Frankie Myers joined the Yurok Fisheries Department’s fish disease monitoring team this weekend while they documented the catastrophic juvenile salmon kill on the Klamath River, according to a statement from the Yurok Tribe.  “When we see our juvenile fish dying, it’s heartbreaking,” said Myers. “It’s heartbreaking because you know it’s not the end. In two, three and four years, when these fish are supposed to come back, we will relive it again. We’ll see low numbers of salmon returning again, It’s hard. You see fish dying today and you know what’s to come in the future.”  The Tribe said Ceratonova Shasta, a pathogenic parasite, is expected to kill nearly all of the baby salmon in the river. The deadly fish disease infected 97 percent of sampled fish, according to a recent assessment. ... ”  Continue reading at the Daily Kos here:  Klamath fish kill update from Yurok Tribe

History of North Bay wildfires shadows another ominous year in drought-parched region

Four years after it roared into Santa Rosa, the Tubbs fire remains a menacing presence in Fountaingrove, where it consumed nearly 1,600 homes and a new fire station in the fall of 2017.  Dead trees and regrown Scotch broom — both highly flammable — now abound in the canyons and drainages of Fountaingrove, where the windblown wildfire ripped through oak and conifer woodlands that hadn’t seen a major fire in more than a half century.  Residents are jolted by the sound of limbs crashing to the ground and avoid entering the forest of skeletal trees.  And it’s by no means an isolated concern as the drought-stricken North Bay heads into a foreboding fire season with a legacy of 23 major blazes totaling nearly 1.5 million acres — the equivalent of 130% of Sonoma County — from 2015 through 2020. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: History of North Bay wildfires shadows another ominous year in drought-parched region

Marin: Ross selects plan for flood project at park

The Ross Town Council has selected an alternative plan for a flood control project at Frederick Allen Park, sparing dozens of creekside trees.  The council voted unanimously Thursday in favor of “alternative 1,” which would preserve 80 trees slated for removal in the park. It would also nix the fish ladder and add four large fish resting pools into the concrete channel between the tennis courts and the post office.  “Nary a stone or leaf will be turned or touched in the park,” said Richard Simonitch, the public works director. “It’ll look just like it does today with the concrete channel there behind the shrubs.” … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here:  Ross selects plan for flood project at park

Solano Irrigation District directors to consider pipeline replacement options, agencies’ capital plans

Three options for replacing non-reinforced concrete pipelines will be reviewed by Solano Irrigation District directors when they meet Tuesday.  The recommended option calls for replacing the entire pipeline over 28 years at a cost of $73 million, using a combination of financing and $2.3 million in annual Rehabilitation and Betterment funding.  The proposed 2021-22 Suisun Solano Water Authority Capital Improvement Program is also on the agenda, as is the Gibson Canyon Improvement District Storage and Hardening Capital Improvement Plan for bond funding. … ”  Continue reading at the Daily Republic here: Solano Irrigation District directors to consider pipeline replacement options, agencies’ capital plans

Commentary: Wastewater recycling got derailed in Los Angeles. Now it’s back on track

Marc Haefele, freelance writer in Santa Monica covering state and local politics for nearly 30 years, writes, “Twenty years ago, in the 2001 Los Angeles mayoral race, a topic usually seen as dull became the most lurid issue of the campaign. The topic was water recycling, and we are still being hurt by the rhetoric from that election today.  Candidate Joel Wachs, a longtime member of the City Council, didn’t even make the runoff that year. But during the primary he alarmed voters across the city by insisting that Los Angeles was furtively planning to pipe recycled sewage to millions of unsuspecting Angelenos — without, according to Wachs, adequate public input or scientific research.  The recycling idea became widely known as “toilet to tap,” implying that Department of Water and Power customers would soon be drinking wastewater.  In the years that followed, the city put aside its plans for recycling … Continue reading at the LA Times here: Commentary: Wastewater recycling got derailed in Los Angeles. Now it’s back on track

Toxic chemicals sullied a Lincoln Heights site. Now, new housing is planned next to it

Nancy Smith remembered that children had called it “the sick land” — the wedge of property alongside the 110 Freeway where a dry cleaning facility had laundered aprons and uniforms for decades across from a Lincoln Heights elementary school. Decades after the old Welch’s laundry was shuttered, California regulators worked to clean up the soil and check the groundwater for the chemicals used there — volatile organic compounds such as tetrachloroethylene that could damage the human liver and nervous system and have been tied to an increased risk of cancer. The Department of Toxic Substances Control oversaw a cleanup effort that lasted for years and has continued to monitor groundwater at the site. Now, neighbors are worried about what lies beneath the land next to it — a plot where real estate developers are planning a five-story housing project with underground parking. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Toxic chemicals sullied a Lincoln Heights site. Now, new housing is planned next to it

Video: SoCal: Meeting Stormwater Regulations During a Dry Year

Storm Water Solutions Managing Editor Katie Johns is joined by Garth Englehorn. Garth is a senior project manager with NV5, formerly Alta Environmental, and has over 16 years of experience implementing water quality monitoring programs with 11 years directly supporting municipalities in Southern California with NPDES permit regulations. The two discuss water regulations during a dry year versus a wet year and how businesses and municipalities can comply with those regulations.”  Watch video from Stormwater Solutions here: Video: Meeting Regulations During a Dry Year

Water usage down sharply in San Diego, shrinking city’s reliance on expensive imported supplies

San Diego’s vulnerability to water shortages and drought is shrinking significantly because residents and businesses are using less water and city officials are boosting the local supply.  A new city analysis shows local water use dropped sharply from 81.5 billion gallons in 2007 to about 57 billion gallons in 2020, even though the city’s population has grown about 1 percent per year over that time.  The new data has prompted city officials to revise downward long-term projections of local water use by about 20 percent compared to their estimates from 2015, the last time the city conducted such an analysis. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here: Water usage down sharply in San Diego, shrinking city’s reliance on expensive imported supplies

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Along the Colorado River …

Arizona’s aquifers remain at risk from ‘unsustainable’ pumping

The goal of balancing the groundwater we pump with what we can replenish through natural and human forces is increasingly out of reach in Arizona, a new study finds.  The study raises a long list of concerns about the state’s ability to balance groundwater supplies with pumping. That balance is an idea commonly known as “safe yield” — and it’s the cornerstone of Arizona’s pioneering 1980 groundwater law.  Only the Tucson area will be at safe yield by 2025, when the law said safe yield is supposed to occur in much of urban and suburban Arizona. … ”  Read more from the Arizona Daily Star here: Arizona’s aquifers remain at risk from ‘unsustainable’ pumping

Dry soils and drought mean even normal snowpack can’t keep up with climate change in the West

Brian Domonkos straps on a pair of cross-country skis and glides through the trees along Mosquito Creek west of Fairplay.  It’s May, but there’s still snow in Colorado’s mountains near the headwaters of the South Platte River.  Domonkos, the Colorado Snow Survey supervisor, gets to work measuring how much snowpack is left from the winter to runoff into streams, rivers and reservoirs this summer. These mountains trap snow in a natural reservoir. As it melts, it becomes the primary source of water for Colorado and much of the West.  Climate change is disrupting this delicate system in multiple ways. The overall trend shows less snowpack accumulation due to warmer temperatures. What does collect melts sooner and faster, which means less snow on the ground and a greater chance for wildfires. … ”  Read more from Colorado Public Radio here: Dry soils and drought mean even normal snowpack can’t keep up with climate change in the West

9th Circuit rebukes U.S. on native interests in Colorado River rights

A federal appeals court has rebuked the U.S. government for failing to properly consider the interest of Native American nations in developing allocation guidelines for the Colorado River Basin’s waters and ordered it to prioritize obligations assumed when it signed a treaty with the Navajo Nation in 1868. The April 28 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals may boost Native American negotiating clout as the basin’s states ponder how to address impacts of ongoing drought in the region.  Coming 18 years after the Navajo Nation (Naabeehó Bináhásdzo) first sued the Department of Interior in an effort to assure that its interests are protected by the federal government in any move to reallocate Colorado River waters, the decision opens the door to a possible federal district court decision directing the Biden administration or a successor about how to fulfill trust and treaty responsibilities owed to the Navajo Nation. … ”  Read more from Law Week Colorado here: 9th Circuit rebukes U.S. on native interests in Colorado River rights

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In national water news today …

Greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions are lengthening and intensifying droughts

Greenhouse gases and aerosol pollution emitted by human activities are responsible for increases in the frequency, intensity and duration of droughts around the world, according to researchers at the University of California, Irvine.  In a study published recently in Nature Communications, scientists in UCI’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering showed that over the past century, the likelihood of stronger and more long-lasting dry spells grew in the Americas, the Mediterranean, western and southern Africa and eastern Asia.  “There has always been natural variability in drought events around the world, but our research shows the clear human influence on drying, specifically from anthropogenic aerosols, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases,” said lead author Felicia Chiang, who conducted the project as a UCI graduate student in civil & environmental engineering. ... ”  Read more from the UC Irvine here: Greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions are lengthening and intensifying droughts

Core Concept: Often driven by human activity, subsidence is a problem worldwide

Earth’s surface is ever changing. Sinkholes swallow neighborhoods, river deltas slowly slide beneath the waves, and fertile fields lose elevation as farmers draw large amounts of water for irrigation from underlying aquifers. Whether gradual and subtle, or sudden and dramatic, these phenomena are known as subsidence—the lowering of the ground’s surface owing to the subterranean movement of material.  Many instances of subsidence stem from natural processes. For instance, the same flows of groundwater that dissolve limestone to form caves far below ground can also operate at shallower depths, sculpting caverns that grow until their roofs can no longer support overlying strata. When those roofs collapse, a sinkhole can form.   But now, researchers are finding that subsidence more often results from human activity. According to the US Geological Survey, in the United States, more than 80 percent of the known subsidence—which together covers an area that’s nearly 17,000 square miles and spread across 45 states—stems from groundwater use. Worldwide, almost one-fifth of the planet’s population lives in areas where subsidence driven by groundwater withdrawals is a major threat, a new analysis finds.  ... ”  Read more from PNAS here: Core Concept: Often driven by human activity, subsidence is a problem worldwide

Agricultural ecosystem asset credit opportunities changing rapidly

The market for agricultural ecosystem asset credit opportunities, such as carbon, is developing rapidly, according to Economist Shelby Myers, American Farm Bureau Federation.  “They’re changing regularly. I’ve changed this presentation multiple times,” Myers said at the “Carbon Farming in Texas Seminar,” Tuesday, May 11.   Agricultural ecosystem asset credit opportunities are voluntary, incentive-based national markets designed to put buyers and sellers together on one platform and allow the exchange of Agricultural ecosystem asset credits.  “Farmers and ranchers who want to earn money selling these have to opt into some version of data monitoring and measurement to participate,” said Myers. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Agricultural ecosystem asset credit opportunities changing rapidly

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More news and commentary in the weekend edition …

Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park.
  • San Francisco sues state over bid to restrict its Sierra water supplies
  • State plans to order drought restrictions, but it doesn’t have good water data to do it
  • Gavin Newsom offers billions to fight climate change, drought, wildfires in California
  • Newsom proposes record climate spending, casts doubt on 2022 bonds
  • How California’s drought impacts wildlife populations and their behavior
  • Slideshow: The entire state of California is in drought—but the impacts are just beginning
  • Here’s where household water use is highest in California
  • Another record almond crop forecasted by USDA
  • $4.3M cliff-top home inflames fight over coastal retreat
  • Water crisis ‘couldn’t be worse’ on Oregon-California border
  • Protesters ask irrigation district to open Klamath canal, defy Reclamation
  • RADIO SHOW: Journalist Steven Greenhut On California’s Drought Emergency Declaration
  • WATER TALK PODCAST: “Why not just start with the question? What if we just gave land back to Indigenous peoples?”
  • And more …

Click here to for the Daily Digest, weekend edition.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOTICE: Tudor Mutual Water Company files petition to transfer 1,200 AF to State Water Project Contractor’s service areas

NOTICE: Carmichael WD files petition to transfer up to 1,889 AF to Santa Clara Valley Water District and State Water Contractors Dry Year Transfer Program

IRRIGATED LANDS REGULATORY PROGRAM: Example Revisions Available: Preliminary DRAFT Resolution for Managed Wetlands in the ILRP

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS for the 11th International Symposium on Managed Aquifer Recharge

CA DROUGHT: Natural Resource Agency launches Drought Preparedness Webpage and 2021 State Adaption Strategy Kick-Off Webinar

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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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