Salton Sea by Kevin Dooley

DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: Proposal to import seawater to Salton Sea is biggest since Hoover Dam; Bills to fund canal repairs moving forward; The West is the driest it’s been in 1,200 years; Biden releases his first regulatory agenda; and more …

In California water news this weekend …

How to save the Salton Sea: Proposal to import seawater across California desert is biggest since Hoover Dam

Time is running out to come up with a plan to save the Salton Sea. Water levels in California’s largest lake continue to drop, subjecting nearby communities to harmful levels of toxic dust stirred up from the dry, exposed lakebed.  For more than a century, the shallow lake has been a beneficiary of the Colorado River water that feeds the nearby Imperial Valley farm fields. As water was sold off and diverted, more than 15,000 acres of lakebed containing years of fertilizer and pesticide runoff were exposed to the air and desert winds.  The dwindling water supply increases the lake’s salinity, killing off fish, destroying once-lush migratory bird habitats and making children sick from the airborne toxins stirred up in the dust. The California Natural Resources Agency was tasked with coming up with a long-term fix by the end of 2022, and 11 plans on the table focus mainly on one big idea: pulling in water across the U.S.-Mexican border from the Sea of Cortez north to the Salton Sea.  … ”  Read more from USA Today here: How to save the Salton Sea: Proposal to import seawater across California desert is biggest since Hoover Dam

Clock is ticking on dreams of saving Salton Sea with water from Mexico’s Sea of Cortez

Coachella Valley-based architect Nikola Lakic knows how to fix the withering Salton Sea. Or, at least he says he does.  Lakic believes it’s possible to import water from Mexico’s Sea of Cortez — or, perhaps, from the Pacific Ocean off the California coast — through a multi-billion-dollar system of pipes. He would construct mangrove habitat for natural water filtration, send desalinated water to geothermal plants and, amid all this, restore California’s largest lake.  “This is the project of the century,” he said.  His idea is more than a sketch on the back of a napkin. It’s highly engineered, and he’s not alone. Lakic is the author of one of 11 formal proposals for a “sea-to-sea” solution that the state of California is currently evaluating. ... ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here: Clock is ticking on dreams of saving Salton Sea with water from Mexico’s Sea of Cortez

Commentary: The Salton Sea, long a disaster, is on the brink of a major collapse

Frank Ruiz, director of Audubon California’s Salton Sea Program, writes, ” …   Despite its persisting beauty, the sea continues to recede, due to water transfers and ever-increasing summer temperatures already regularly hitting triple digits. That may very well make these algal blooms more frequent. Public respiratory health in this region is already stressed with high levels of windblown dust from the exposed lakebed; microcystins add another potent irritant that residents of nearby communities have to worry about.  The urgent need for the implementation of the Salton Sea Management Plan and the development of a long-term vision for the Sea’s future is becoming much more evident — residents need a well-managed body of water and birds need cleaner habitats. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here:  Commentary: The Salton Sea, long a disaster, is on the brink of a major collapse

Bills to fund canal repairs moving forward

The Friant-Kern canal flows south from Friant Dam, delivering water to agricultural lands in Fresno, Kern, and Tulare counties.  Carl Costas / DWR

California’s canals are sinking.  Excessive groundwater pumping has collapsed the land beneath several key canals, crimping their ability to move water. Fixing them will be expensive.  There are two bills moving through the state Legislature and Congress that could provide some funding.  This is the second try for the state bill, Senate Bill 559 by Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger). Her first attempt in 2020, was vetoed by Gov. Newsom, so she is trying again this year with a new version. Meanwhile, Representative Jim Costa (D-Hanford) and Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Ca.) introduced S. 1179, the Canal Conveyance Capacity Restoration Act, on April 15. It is also the reincarnation of a 2020 bill which died in Congress. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Bills to fund canal repairs moving forward

Sen. Padilla proposes bill to clean up toxic chemical on military bases

Military bases across California, including some in San Diego, have tested positive for a toxic chemical. A bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla attempts to find the money to finally clean up the legacy of PFAS.  The Department of Defense has known for decades that a chemical found in aviation fire fighting foam contains potentially toxic polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which has been linked to cancer when found in groundwater, Padilla said.  “In California alone there are 62 facilities that are known or suspected to be a source of PFAS chemical contamination and that’s just California,” said Padilla, during a news conference to unveil a bill that would provide money for remediation. … ”  Read more from KPBS here: Sen. Padilla proposes bill to clean up toxic chemical on military bases

California approaches budget deadline with a bill — but no deal

Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers are gearing up to spend record amounts to address California’s most intractable problems, but the sheer amount of cash is proving too much to handle.  Lawmakers face a Tuesday deadline to pass the budget under threat of losing pay, and it’s looking increasingly likely that the plan will be a placeholder that satisfies state law but does not reflect a deal with Newsom. Negotiations are ongoing, but Democratic legislators and Newsom remain at odds on various pieces, and lawmakers plan to vote Monday on a main budget bill regardless. … ”  Read more from Politico here: California approaches budget deadline with a bill — but no deal

In California drought news this weekend …

Western soils and plants are parched

For the second year in a row, drought has parched much of the United States from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast. Following one of the planet’s warmest years on record, and with precipitation this year well below average in the western U.S., scientists and government agencies are watching for diminished water resources and potentially severe fire seasons.  According to the June 10 report from the U.S. Drought Monitor, 88.5 percent of the land area in the West—defined as California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington—is experiencing some level of drought, with 55 percent being classified as “extreme.” ... ”  Read more from NASA’s Earth Observatory here: Western soils and plants are parched

The West is the driest it’s been in 1,200 years – raising questions about a livable future

Trees are dying. Riverbeds are empty. Lake Mead’s water level dropped to its lowest point in history, and Utah’s governor asked residents to pray for rain.  Water is increasingly scarce in the Western U.S. — where 72 percent of the region is in “severe” drought, 26 percent is in exceptional drought, and populations are booming.  Insufficient monsoon rains last summer and low snowpacks over the winter left states like Arizona, Utah and Nevada without the typical amount of water they need, and forecasts for the rainy summer season don’t show promise. … ”  Read more from KSBY here: The West is the driest it’s been in 1,200 years – raising questions about a livable future

California’s biggest heat wave of the year heightens drought and fire fears

With a worsening drought gripping the West and wildfire season looming, California is bracing for the most severe heat wave of the year — one that promises to tax the state’s power supplies while also offering a grim preview of challenging months to come.  The heat wave will bring triple-digit temperatures to the valleys and inland regions of Southern California as well as many parts of the rest of the state, heightening fire risks. It comes as parts of Northern and Central California are turning to water restrictions as the drought rapidly alters the landscape.  In Lake Oroville over Memorial Day weekend, dozens of houseboats sat on cinder blocks because there wasn’t enough water to hold them. At Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, the water level dropped to about 1,072 feet Wednesday night — a low not seen since it was filled in the 1930s. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: California’s biggest heat wave of the year heightens drought and fire fears

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In people news this weekend …

Brenda Burman to join Central Arizona Project

While most people would agree that the 2020-2021 pandemic has been a time to remember, for Central Arizona Project it has been compounded by also being the years leading up to a new era of shortage on the Colorado River. Collaboration, vision and coordinated action will be more important than ever to all water users dependent on the river entering 2022 and beyond.CAP is an integral part of the Arizona water community and recognizes the importance of being prepared for shortage locally and regionally, and is pleased to announce that Brenda W. Burman will be joining the organization on July 7 as Executive Strategy Advisor and a member of the senior management team. Brenda’s expertise, most recently serving as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) Commissioner, and her deep understanding of shared resources and strong relationships will benefit Arizona water users and CAP. … ”  Continue reading from the Central Arizona Project here: Brenda Burman to join Central Arizona Project

Thomas R. Gibson, 53, of West Sacramento, has been appointed Chief Counsel at the California Department of Water Resources

” … Gibson has been Assistant Chief Counsel at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife since 2020. He held multiple positions at the California Natural Resources Agency from 2014 to 2020, including Deputy Secretary and Special Counsel for Water, Undersecretary and Deputy Secretary and General Counsel. Gibson held multiple positions at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife from 2007 to 2014, including General Counsel and Assistant Chief Counsel. He was a Partner at Best, Best & Krieger LLP from 2005 to 2008, where he was an Associate from 2002 to 2005. Gibson was an Associate at Hyman, Phelps & McNamara PC from 1999 to 2002 and at Kronick, Moskovitz, Tiedemann & Girard PC from 1997 to 1999. He earned a Juris Doctor degree from Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $189,996. Gibson is registered without party preference.” From the Office of the Governor.

Breonia Lindsey directs LADWP’s Water Distribution System

Breonia Lindsey, one of the highest-ranking African Americans at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, wasn’t recruited from another agency to lead the Water Distribution Division of the nation’s largest municipally owned utility.  Instead, he worked his way up, starting in the trenches, digging holes to lay the pipes that make up L.A.’s water distribution system. In the early years of his career, Lindsey helped construct and maintain sections of the city’s more than 7,300 miles of pipeline.  Fast forward 30+-years and Lindsey is among the leading executives at LADWP, overseeing nearly 1,000 employees and an annual budget exceeding $250 million. How did he reach the top? Some say that Lindsey’s dynamic interpersonal and leadership skills ignited his progression. While he certainly possesses those traits, a conversation with him revealed another key to his success. … ”  Read more from the Los Angeles Sentinel here: Breonia Lindsey directs LADWP’s Water Distribution System

California Urban Water Agencies appoints new executive director

The California Urban Water Agencies (CUWA) today announces Brown and Caldwell’s Wendy Broley will assume the role of executive director effective July 1, replacing Cindy Paulson after 10 years in the role.  CUWA is a non-profit corporation of 11 major urban water agencies responsible for serving drinking water to over two-thirds of California’s population. The collective voice for the largest urban water purveyors in the state, CUWA provides a technical perspective to promote common understanding and consensus solutions among the urban water community. … ”  Read more from Water World here: California Urban Water Agencies appoints new executive director

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Podcasts …

WATER TALKS PODCAST: Drought and disease in the Sierra

A conversation with Dr. Joan Dudney (UC Davis) about drought, disease, and pest interactions on forest communities in California’s Sierra Nevada.


ECO NEWS REPORT: The Bundy Bunch Crash the Klamath (and Other News)

Drought-related tension threatens to boil over in the Klamath. Ammon Bundy’s posse of right-wing terrorists are threatening to open irrigation gates of Upper Klamath Lake, by force if necessary, to illegally divert water held in reserve to protect endangered fish. Meanwhile in the mainstem of the Klamath River, juvenile salmon are experiencing a mass die-off caused by a disease-causing parasite (Ceratonova shasta) that thrives in the hot, warm waters resulting from the Klamath dams. “Flushing flows,” big pulses of water from Upper Klamath Lake used to prevent this mass die-off, have been called off because of drought. It is a mess.  Meanwhile on the coast, Gang Green reacts to the good news that Nordic Aquafarms and Humboldt County have agreed to do a full environmental impact report for their proposed on-shore fish farm. What does this mean? Listen to find out.”  Click here to listen to podcast at the Lost Coast Outpost here:  ECO NEWS REPORT: The Bundy Bunch Crash the Klamath (and Other News)


WATER IS A MANY SPLENDOR’ED THING PODCAST: Collateral Damage

Steve Baker writes, “Running a processing plant requires the raw food products be in close proximity. When fields lay fallow, the food processing plan must receive its tomatoes from a greater distance and then it’s all about economics? Water is a Many Splendor’ed Thing brings you another water relationship that has a personally significant impact to your life. Podcasts here Produced by Steven Baker, Operation Unite® Bringing People Together to Solve Water Problems, Online at www.operationunite.co

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In regional water news this weekend …

Interior Secretary pens letter supporting Klamath Dam removal

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland released a letter today to the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee in support of Klamath dam removal.  “Dam removal will restore salmonid fisheries, reestablish fish passage, improve water quality and bring new recreation and economic opportunities to the Basin,” Haaland, the nation’s first Native Interior Secretary, wrote. “Moreover, removal will advance the Biden-Harris administrations’ commitments to combat the climate crisis, increasing resilience to the impacts of climate change; protect public health; conserve our lands, waters, and biodiversity; deliver environmental justice; and fulfill the Federal Government’s trust and treaty responsibilities.” ... ”  Read more from theNorth Coast Journal here: Interior Secretary pens letter supporting Klamath Dam removal

Biologists, irrigators empty Tule Lake to improve habitat, fight disease

Once spanning 100,000 acres at the foot of the Medicine Lake Volcano, it’s unlikely that Tule Lake has been as low as it is now for millions of years.  What used to be a massive network of open water and fringe wetlands is now essentially a giant mud puddle, spelling trouble for migratory birds that have used it as a rest stop for thousands of years. The solution, at least for now? Dry it up. … ”  Read more from the Herald & News here:  Biologists, irrigators empty Tule Lake to improve habitat, fight disease

Dropping lake levels reveal hidden gems at Shasta Lake

Local walnut grower Steve Lambert has been a rancher since he was 22 years old.  To him, he has never seen a drought this bad.  But he’s not worried about water levels right now.   “We are worried about what we are going to be doing in the fall,” Lambert said. “We’ve got water now, but we know that in the next month or two, water is going to drop down and we are going to be tighter. We are seeing a lot more usage on our trees because it’s been so hot early on.” … ”  Read more from Action News Now here: Dropping lake levels reveal hidden gems at Shasta Lake

Public sounds off on Samoa onshore fish farm plans

Humboldt County gave the public two chances to air concerns this week surrounding Nordic Aquafarms’ proposed onshore fish farm on the Samoa Peninsula.  County planners held two public scoping meetings Thursday to gather input from the public and affected governmental agencies on areas that should be covered in the project’s environmental impact report (EIR). The Humboldt County Planning and Building Department had released a mitigated negative declaration (MND) for the project in April but a coalition of environmental groups argued that the assessment didn’t go far enough. In response, last month Nordic agreed to pursue further environmental analysis through an EIR. … ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here: Public sounds off on Samoa onshore fish farm plans

Drought measures: Lake Tahoe water released to meet goals downstream

Water outflows at the Tahoe City dam remain high, not despite of, but because of drought conditions.  The Lake Tahoe Basin experienced its second dry winter in a row, so despite the lake being full in 2019, it is expected to drop below its natural rim this summer.“  Conditions this spring have remained dry and warm, with streamflow to date much below normal,” said Jeff Anderson, hydrologist for Nevada Natural Resources Conservation Service in the June forecast report. “April-May precipitation measured at SNOTEL sites has been 30-45% of average in the Sierra basins and 37-66% elsewhere in northern Nevada.” … ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune here: Drought measures: Lake Tahoe water released to meet goals downstream

Airplane discovered at the bottom on Folsom Lake

An El Dorado County company says it’s made a surprising discovery at the bottom of Folsom Lake: an airplane.  Company Seafloor Systems was testing its underwater survey equipment when it spotted what appeared to be a small aircraft 160 feet underwater.  The crew then sent down a remote camera and took pictures they say show the plane’s tail and propeller. That plane still appears mostly intact, despite being at the bottom of the lake. … ”  Read more from KCRA here: Airplane discovered at the bottom on Folsom Lake

Developers funded Sacramento County climate action plan. Environmentalists see a conflict

Sacramento County leaned on developers last year to help fund its long-delayed climate action plan, raising conflict of interest concerns among environmentalists who say the early drafts do not have enough detail to be an effective blueprint for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  The climate plan has been mired in delays and funding setbacks over the last ten years. Last spring, the cash-strapped planning department said it would need to spend $300,000 to hire a consultant to complete the report. The county had already spent at least $400,000 on the report.  The only problem? The department didn’t have money in the budget for the consultant. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Developers funded Sacramento County climate action plan. Environmentalists see a conflict

Calaveras County: Local JPA working to enlist private capital for forest restoration

While fuel reduction can play an important role in limiting the severity of wildfire, lack of funding often hinders forest management efforts.  The Upper Mokelumne River Watershed Authority (UMRWA), a joint powers authority comprised of Alpine, Amador and Calaveras counties and six water districts, recently initiated a novel funding approach to improve forest resilience to wildfire and safeguard communities and water resources.  “As it enters its fifth year developing and implementing forest health projects on the Stanislaus and El Dorado national forests, the UMRWA is initiating work with conservation finance nonprofit Blue Forest Conservation on development of a Forest Resilience Bond (FRB),” a press release from UMRWA reads. ... ”  Read more from the Calaveras Enterprise here: Calaveras County: Local JPA working to enlist private capital for forest restoration

Healdsburg adopts mandatory 40% water conservation level

Residents of Healdsburg are under new orders to reduce their water use by 40% compared to a year ago — a challenging new threshold that doubles a mandatory 20% conservation level established in May that the city so far has been unable to meet.  In fact, May 2021 water consumption was 3% higher than in May 2020, though more recent usage figures demonstrate a rolling seven-day average reduction of 15%, according to a city staff report.  Still, a deeper cut was necessary because of recent restrictions placed by state water regulators on diversions from the Russian River, reducing the availability of supplies the city depends on to provide water for its consumers. ... ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: Healdsburg adopts mandatory 40% water conservation level

SEE ALSO: Healdsburg bans sprinklers; sets personal water use to 74 gallons a day, from CBS San Francisco

Sonoma Valley well owners invited to preview sustainability indicators of future groundwater issues

Well owners in the Santa Rosa Plain, Petaluma Valley, and Sonoma Valley have been invited to participate in local community meetings on groundwater conditions and sustainable management of this critical water source. The Sonoma Valley virtual meeting will take place June 23 at 5:30 p.m.  The meetings will preview proposed sustainability indicators, developed with stakeholder input, that are the heart of the Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) being developed by these three groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs). The plans identify issues with current and future groundwater resources and provide means to address the problems. … ”  Read more from the Kenwood Press here:  Sonoma Valley well owners invited to preview sustainability indicators of future groundwater issues

Marin improves water saving efforts but not enough

More Marin residents are heeding the call to conserve water during this historic drought, but their efforts are still falling far short of the conservation mandates meant to preserve local reservoirs holding less than a year’s worth of water.  The 191,000 central and southern Marin residents served by the Marin Municipal Water District cut back water use by 18% from June 4-10, according to data released on Friday.  While this is double the water conserved in late May, it’s still less than half of the district’s mandate to cut back water use by 40% compared to the average use from 2018-2020. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Marin improves water saving efforts but not enough

Marin Column: Exploring options to increase supply only part of charge for water agencies

Columnist Dick Spotswood writes, ” … Marin’s two water agencies have a duty to explore all options to increase water supply while promoting conservation to expand the utility of the water we have.  The MMWD, branded as “Marin Water,” has been outstanding in promoting water conservation. They’ve pushed “water-wise” conservation tips for landscapers, free water-efficient fixtures, rebates and incentive programs to encourage efficient use of what we have. It’s worthwhile, but insufficient to get its customers through an era of drought.  The obvious alternative is desalination. The question is whether it’s the next best alternative or instead an aspirational concept not ready to be an efficient, cost-effective source of substantial water.  Either way, desal needs to be included in all advanced water generation portfolios.Column: Exploring options to increase supply only part of charge for water agencies

Drought: Point Reyes supplies emergency water for tule elk

The Point Reyes National Seashore took unprecedented action this week to supply emergency water to its largest tule elk herd in response to historic drought conditions to prevent the deaths of more animals, the National Park Service said Friday.  Three water troughs have been placed at the southern end of the 2,600-acre Tomales Point Preserve where about half of the park’s 600 tule elk reside within an enclosure. The water troughs will be refilled using gravity-fed water from 2,000-gallon tanks on Pierce Point Road and will include ramps to prevent smaller animals from drowning, according to the park service. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Drought: Point Reyes supplies emergency water for tule elk

‘Dire situation’: Silicon Valley cracks down on water use as California drought worsens

Santa Clara County, the home of Silicon Valley, issued mandatory water restrictions this week during a severe drought that has already reached historic levels.  The move was championed by analysts and researchers who have pushed for more conservation efforts across California amid concerns that the state will fall deeper into a drought disaster through the hot, dry summer and autumn.  “We are indeed in a dire situation,” said Rick Callender, the CEO of the water district serving Santa Clara county, during a public hearing Wednesday. “When you see a storm about to hit your community, the responsibility of government is not to wait until the storm hits to call for emergency action. The responsibility of government, as we all know, is to act before the storm can actually cause the devastation.” ... ”  Read more from the Guardian here: ‘Dire situation’: Silicon Valley cracks down on water use as California drought worsens

Central Coast farmers concerned over ‘extreme drought’ conditions happening throughout region

Farmers are concerned for their crops as dry conditions have worsened throughout the Central Coast.  Earlier this year, it started off a major storm. Ever since, farmers have not seen much rainfall.  According to the National Weather Service, the ‘extreme drought’ conditions has expanded throughout Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo County.  The entire state has seen an increase of a drought. The NWS said “the cumulative percent area of extreme to exceptional drought across CA increased from 74.46% to 85.20% this past week.”  ... ”  Read more from KEYT here: Central Coast farmers concerned over ‘extreme drought’ conditions happening throughout region

Carmel River floodplain project goes before Monterey County Board of Supervisors

A $45 million project that will partially reshape the area around the mouth of the Carmel River promises to increase flood control and restore the biodiversity in the area.  Called the “Carmel River Floodplain Restoration and Environmental Enhancement,” the nonprofit Big Sur Land Trust, Monterey County, the Monterey Regional Parks District and the state are collaborating to restore the historic floodplain of a portion of the Carmel River where it meets Highway 1.  “It’s a quintessential public-private partnership,” said Rachel Saunders, the director of conservation for the Land Trust.  She heralded it as a flagship effort because of the enormous benefits it provides to homes, businesses and the rich riparian life in the area. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Carmel River floodplain project goes before Monterey County Board of Supervisors

Amador County: Castle Oaks contamination is par for the course

At 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 9, 2021, the City of Ione Tertiary Treatment Plant began accepting contaminated effluent from Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP) known to contain VOCs, SVOCs, industrial waste and other unknown and untested components. The partially treated, but nonetheless contaminated, effluent will be used to irrigate the Castle Oaks Golf Course to keep the course green.  This is a complete reversal from the cease and desist orders sent by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) on May 13 and May 14, 2021. Those letters outlined the “evidence of historical discharge of untreated or partially treated wastewater or sludge to unlined basins from vacuum trucks … with potential impact to groundwater,” among numerous other violations at the City of Ione Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Ione Tertiary Treatment Plant. … ”  Continue reading at the Ledger Dispatch here: Castle Oaks contamination is par for the course

Increased flow releases from New Melones Dam means more hazardous conditions on Stanislaus River

The Stanislaus River is seeing faster, colder and more unpredictable conditions as the Bureau of Reclamation announced increasing flow releases from the New Melones Dam.  The annual releases especially impact the lower portion of the Stanislaus River from Knights Ferry to San Joaquin County, including Riverbank’s Jacob Myer’s Park, where visitors Friday enjoyed the view.  Nina Serhan took in the Stanislaus River’s beauty — as well as its potential dangers. … ”  Read more from KCRA here: Increased flow releases from New Melones Dam means more hazardous conditions on Stanislaus River

Effects of Creek Fire get a closer look

Another episode of “Outside Beyond the Lens” (Currently available on YouTube) hits close to home for the mountain communities in California living with the effects of wildfire.  The Creek Fire ignited in September 2020 and burned nearly 400,000 acres in Central California. To date, this is the largest wildfire event in the state’s recorded history. Portions of the Sierra National Forest were badly damaged, and familiar landscapes have been transformed forever. Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, Jeff Aiello, and the “Outside Beyond the Lens” team explore the Sierra Scenic Byway to see how this beloved road trip route through the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains has changed. In this episode, they learn how to live with the effects of wildfire after the flames are out. ... ”  Read more from the Madera Tribune here: Effects of Creek Fire get a closer look

Valley communities lost water in last drought. Are small water systems ready this time?

Arturo Rodriguez and his colleagues on the Poplar Community Services District board are responsible for keeping clean water flowing to 2,500 residents in the middle of a global pandemic and drought.  Of the community’s three wells, two are in production right now, although Rodriguez doesn’t know how long they’ll last through another drought. The other well is inactive because it is contaminated with nitrates. As the aquifer lowers this summer, even if the wells don’t run dry, they run a greater risk of becoming contaminated. Water suppliers are often forced to choose between a contaminated well or no running water. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Valley communities lost water in last drought. Are small water systems ready this time?

Kern County: Dam repairs on track

On schedule is probably the sweetest phrase a project manager can hear.  For projects that are the size and scope of repairs to the Isabella and Schafer dams, being on schedule is especially important.  “It’s been a long time coming and now we’re close to the finish line,” said Richard Brown, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, of the extensive repairs to Isabella Dam in Kern County.  Both projects have been “on the books,” for years, Brown said.  “All these projects take years and years,” he said. “It’s harder to make repairs to existing dams than it is to build a whole new dam.”  … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Kern County: Dam repairs on track

Commentary: Another water war washes over the Metropolitan Water District

Rick Cole, former mayor of Pasadena, deputy mayor of Los Angeles and city manager of Azusa, Ventura and Santa Monica, writes, “In the final scene of “Chinatown,” the noir movie version of Los Angeles’s original water grab, anti-hero Jack Nicholson confronts the brutal triumph of the film’s “pillar of the establishment” villain. The cops don’t want to hear his story.  They invoke the racist trope that the law of the jungle rules in the ethnic enclave where the scene occurs: “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.”  The real life water wars continue, however, and it remains to be seen who will win the current power struggle at the Metropolitan Water District.  Water is power in Southern California and the MWD, or Met as insiders call it, controls our water supply. … ”  Read more from the Pasadena Star News here: Commentary: Another water war washes over the Metropolitan Water District

Life on the Amargosa—a desert river faced with drought

Rivers are often seen as nature’s lifeline. That is certainly true here, in one of the hottest places on Earth, where life prevails because of a waterway that, for the most part, can’t be seen.  The river is the Amargosa, and for much of its 180-mile course, from the desert highlands of southern Nevada through California’s Mojave Desert and into Death Valley, it runs below ground, underneath a barren moonscape of crag and crust. But in the stretches and springs where the river surfaces, an explosion of life occurs; some of the plants, birds, and fishes found here exist nowhere else in the world. But for all its richness, life in the Amargosa River Basin is intensely fragile, and appears to be growing increasingly so. … ”  Read more from National Geographic here: Life on the Amargosa—a desert river faced with drought

Along the Colorado River …

Lake Mead water level dips to record low

Lake Mead’s water level reached a historic low late Wednesday, according to federal officials.  U.S. Bureau of Reclamation data shows the lake dipped below the previous record to reach 1,071.56 feet about 11 p.m. The lowest the lake level reached Thursday morning was 1,071.48 feet about 6 a.m.  The record comes as Lake Mead is nearing its first federally declared water shortage, a result of a two-decade drought that has strained the Colorado River. Water from the river serves 40 million people in seven states and Mexico.  “This is something that has been anticipated for a while, with respect to climate change and the impacts it would have on our water supply in the long term,” said Kristen Averyt, a UNLV research professor specializing in climate resilience and urban sustainability. … ”  Read more from the Las Vegas Review Journal here:  Lake Mead water level dips to record low

Arizona: Here’s how Valley utilities protect water supply amid rapid growth

Arizona is one of the fastest-growing states in the nation, gaining about 150,000 new residents annually. Along with the rise in population comes an increase in home, business and entertainment development that draws on local utilities and water supply. Despite this, the state uses less water than it did more than 60 years ago, when the population was one-seventh the size. According to the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR), the state used about 7.1 million acre-feet of fresh water in 1957; in 2017, that figure had decreased to 7 million acre-feet. An acre-foot is almost 326,000 gallons, or enough to cover a football field in one foot of water. … ”  Read more from Arizona Big Media here: Arizona: Here’s how Valley utilities protect water supply amid rapid growth

Lake Powell pipeline plans to tap water promised to the Utes. Why the tribe sees it as yet another racially based scheme.

Utah politicians and water officials have for years insisted that there is ample water in the Colorado River to fill its planned 140-mile Lake Powell pipeline to St. George in the southwestern corner of the state.  Despite impacts from climate change that have resulted in an 18% decline in river flows during the past two decades and a drop in Lake Powell’s level to just 35% of capacity, they might just be right.  Utah’s consistent argument that it has nearly 400,000 acre-feet (roughly 130 billion gallons) of undeveloped water in the river is disputed by hydrologists who say it’s using all its allotted share under the 1922 Colorado River Compact. Even so, legal experts and engineers point out that there could be room for additional development — if the state is willing to buy or take the water from someone else.  “If there is going to be a new pipeline,” Eric Kuhn, former general manager of the Colorado River District, said in an interview, “let’s not pretend that it’s going to be using new water. If they build a new pipeline, they’re going to get that from irrigation water.” … ”  Read more from the Salt Lake Tribune here: Lake Powell pipeline plans to tap water promised to the Utes. Why the tribe sees it as yet another racially based scheme.

Western states looking closely at water supplies, including some duck ponds in Colorado

Water supplies are so tight in the West that most states keep close watch over every creek, river, ditch and reservoir. A complex web of laws and rules is meant to ensure that all the water that falls within a state’s boundaries is put to use or sent downstream to meet the needs of others.  To prevent waste and avoid sparking an interstate legal battle, Colorado has started cracking down on what may seem like a drop in the proverbial bucket – illegal ponds.  Martin Mendine recently found himself in the state’s crosshairs. His family ranch is a wide, grassy expanse near southern Colorado’s Spanish Peaks. A fork of the Purgatory River meanders through the land, which supports about a hundred cattle and herds of elk. Migratory sandhill cranes pass through each year. … ”  Read more from Cronkite News here: Western states looking closely at water supplies, including some duck ponds in Colorado

In national water news this weekend …

Biden releases his first regulatory agenda

President Biden today unveiled his first sweeping regulatory plan, revealing plans to continue unraveling the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks on climate, air pollution, toxics and workplace safety.  “I’m a real reg nerd so super excited to share the Biden Administration’s first regulatory agenda out today,” Sharon Block, acting director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, tweeted this morning.  Block said in a statement that the regulatory plan “continues rolling back the obstacles to recovery, equity, and sustainability that the prior Administration put in place, such as making it significantly harder for families to challenge discriminatory housing practices and emboldening corporate polluters as they continued to harm people and communities.” ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Biden releases his first regulatory agenda

Catch up on last week’s news in the Weekly Digest …

WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for June 6-11: SGMA Implementation update; Considering surface waters and GDEs in GSPs; plus all the top water news of the week

Also on Maven’s Notebook this weekend …

KINGS RIVER HEARING: Procedural Ruling in Hearing Phase 1A

NOTICE: Reclamation announces public teleconference negotiations with Department of Fish and Wildlife regarding San Joaquin River restoration flows

NOTICE: State Launches Listening Sessions as part of Drought Executive Proclamation to Develop Drinking Water Well Principles and Strategies

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Featured image: Salton Sea, photo by Kevin Dooley

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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