DAILY DIGEST, 7/8: Drought spreads to unprecedented 93% of the West while La Nina threatens return; UCLA study shows human influence on heavy rain, snow since 1980s; Pace of wildfires well ahead of disastrous 2020; What does a Colorado River shortage look like for the agency managing Lake Mead?; and more …


On the calendar today …

  • LEG HEARING: Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water will meet upon adjournment of the session. Bills to be heard include AB 72 coastal adaptation projects: sea level rise: regulatory review and permitting: report; AB 442 Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1975: exemption: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California: single master reclamation plan; AB 754 Sustainable groundwater management: groundwater sustainability plan; and AB 1164 Dams and reservoirs: exclusions.  Click here for agenda and audio listening link.

In California water news today …

Drought spreads to 93 percent of west—that’s never happened

The western United States is experiencing its worst drought this century, threatening to kill crops, spark wildfires and harm public health as hot and dry conditions are expected to continue this month.  More than 93% of the land in seven Western states is in drought conditions, and nearly 59% of the area is experiencing extreme or exceptional drought—the two worst conditions—according to the latest figures released by the U.S. Drought Monitor.  Both figures are the highest this century for the area that covers all of Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and most of Utah. … ”  Read more from Scientific American here: Drought spreads to 93 percent of west—that’s never happened

California drought: Bay Area, state hit 126-year lows for rainfall this year

California and the Bay Area experienced the driest rainy season on record, with average statewide precipitation reaching 126-year lows, according to Golden Gate Weather Services, a meteorological consulting firm.  The Bay Area got only 9.88 inches of rain this season, 39% of its normal amount of 25.28 inches, Golden Gate Weather Services said. That’s the least ever, going back to 1895. California got 11.46 inches, or 49% of its normal 23.61 inches. That’s also the least ever. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: California drought: Bay Area, state hit 126-year lows for rainfall this year

La Nina threatens to return and worsen drought in U.S. West

The possible return of La Nina threatens to give the drought-ravaged U.S. West another winter without much rain or snow. The U.S. Climate Prediction Center issued a watch for La Nina on Thursday, saying there’s a 66% chance the phenomenon will return for a second straight year some time in the November-January period. La Nina occurs when the equatorial Pacific Ocean cools, triggering an atmospheric chain reaction that can cause droughts across the western U.S. and roil weather systems globally. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Green here:  La Nina threatens to return and worsen drought in U.S. West

Radio show: California farmers are feeling the heat as crippling drought persists

With a severe drought and extreme temperatures, farmland looks drastically different across California right now.  Scott Seus is a third-generation farmer and owner of Seus Family Farms in Tule Lake. He grows garlic, onions, grains, and other crops.  “We’ve had a pretty tough growing season. … A lot of what we would normally count on to have as moisture in the soil, that wasn’t there because of a dry winter, then got exacerbated by winds and cold temperatures early in the spring that dehydrated a lot of the perennial crops,” Seus tells KCRW. … ”  Read more / listen to radio spot at KCRW here: Radio show: California farmers are feeling the heat as crippling drought persists

Heat wave ‘virtually impossible’ without climate change

The blistering heat wave that scorched the Pacific Northwest last month would have been “virtually impossible” without the influence of climate change, scientists say. In fact, it was nearly impossible even with it.  That’s according to a new study from World Weather Attribution, a climate research initiative that investigates the influence of climate change on individual weather events.  “We’ve never seen a jump in record temperature like the one in this heat wave, as far as I can remember,” said Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, a climate scientist at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and co-leader at World Weather Attribution, in a briefing yesterday. … ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Heat wave ‘virtually impossible’ without climate change

UCLA study shows human influence on heavy rain, snow since 1980s

A UCLA study shows that abnormally heavy rain and snowfall events since as early as the 1980s are intensifying globally due to human-driven climate change, researchers said Tuesday.  “These findings further elevate the urgency of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to prevent even larger impacts down the road,” said senior author Alex Hall, director of the UCLA Center for Climate Science, which is a part of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.  “We can now say that extreme precipitation is increasing globally due to human-induced climate change.”  The study was published Tuesday in Nature Communications and shows the human influence in issues like floods, soil erosion, crop damage and problems with water resource management. … ”  Read more from the Long Beach Press Telegram here: UCLA study shows human influence on heavy rain, snow since 1980s

‘Save our water’: Meet the rain harvesters taking on the US west’s water woes

The American west has a sprawling network of dams, reservoirs and pipelines that brings a supply of water to its cities and farms. But overexploitation and a two-decade dry spell have put a severe strain on the resources, with reserves dwindling to historic lows in some areas. … When Jamiah Hargins started growing fruits and vegetables in the front yard of his West Adams, Los Angeles, property, it was mostly because he felt the duty as a parent to make fresh food accessible to his newly born daughter, Trianna. … Today Hargins cultivates more than 600 plants on his urban farm and feeds about 50 families throughout the majority Black neighborhood where he lives. The whole operation is supported by two basins that capture rainwater and irrigate the crops from the top, imitating rainwater falling during times of drought. … ”  Read more from The Guardian here: ‘Save our water’: Meet the rain harvesters taking on the US west’s water woes

How solar panels on farmland could help California fix its water and power crises

To the extent most Californians are thinking about energy right now, they’re probably wondering whether the lights will stay on during the next heat wave.  It’s a reasonable fear, especially after the state’s power grid operator issued an urgent call for electricity supplies last week and warned of possible shortfalls this summer. …  So the next few months could be a wild ride, with more rolling blackouts a possibility.  But the challenge of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy, without sending us plunging into darkness, will extend far beyond this summer. With that in mind, let’s zoom out and look at an enormous solar project in California’s farm country that helps tell the story of the state’s energy future — and its water future, too. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here: How solar panels on farmland could help California fix its water and power crises

How California’s complex water delivery system robs its ‘rainforests’ of resources

California’s perennially drought-parched Central Valley bears little resemblance to the vibrant landscape of the pre-Gold Rush days, when wild rivers sustained lush woodlands and floodplains teeming with life.  Trees at the center of these biodiversity hotspots evolved in an arid landscape sculpted by finely tuned exchanges between free-flowing rivers and the shallow aquifers below them. Streamside, or riparian, trees hitched their reproductive cycles to the rhythms of these water bodies, which ebbed and flowed through the seasons and with recurring floods and droughts.  But California’s massive system of dams and canals has robbed riparian trees of the resources they need to regenerate, recent research shows. … ”  Read more from KQED here: How California’s complex water delivery system robs its ‘rainforests’ of resources

Commentary: Water Act would keep water clean and affordable

Alexandra Nagy, California director for Food & Water Watch, writes, “California has a long history of treating public water as a commodity instead of a human right and entrusting it to industries that fail to manage it responsibly. Water is a public trust resource that needs protection. The federal Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act would put water systems back in the hands of the people who depend on it for life and livelihood.  This bill would set aside $35 billion annually to shore up drinking and wastewater systems. It would ensure no one lacks access to water because they can’t afford it. With a federal budget reconciliation package in the works, S. 611 needs the support of Californians and our lawmakers. U.S. Sens. Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, all Democrats, must co-sponsor this critical legislation and shepherd it into law. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Commentary: Water Act would keep water clean and affordable

New research on aquaculture feed will test alternative ingredients to help minimize water pollution

Researchers from UC Santa Cruz’s ecological aquaculture lab won a three-year, $1 million grant from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative at the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.  This funding will support collaborative research to develop, test, and evaluate new low-polluting fish feed formulas for farm-raised rainbow trout.  Associate Research Professor of Environmental Studies Pallab Sarker will lead this work alongside Environmental Studies Professor Anne Kapuscinski and Luke Gardner, a California Sea Grant extension specialist affiliated with UC San Diego. The team will use a marine microalga as an ingredient in their fish feed, and the resulting experimental formulas will be field-tested at working trout farms in California. … ”  Read more from Lookout Santa Cruz here: New research on aquaculture feed will test alternative ingredients to help minimize water pollution

CA oil industry has used 1.8 billion gallons of freshwater for drilling operations since Fall 2018

Dan Bacher writes, “In a new report, Food and Water Research reveals that since Governor Newsom was elected, from Fall 2018 to June 2021, the oil and gas industry used 1,804,566,792 gallons of freshwater, nearly 2 billion gallons, for drilling operations that could otherwise have supplied domestic systems.  For a comparison of what that looks like, the nearly 2 billion gallons of water used to drill oil and gas wells in the state would fill about 2,732 Olympic-sized pools or supply local California households with over 72 million showers, according to the report. It also exceeds the amount of water that Californians are recommended to use on a daily, per capita basis during drought, 55 gallons/day. … ”  Read more from the Daily Kos here:  CA oil industry has used 1.8 billion gallons of freshwater for drilling operations since Fall 2018

Pace of California wildfires well ahead of disastrous 2020

The number of wildfires and amount of land burned in parched California so far this year greatly exceed totals for the same period in disastrous 2020.  Between Jan. 1 and July 4 there were 4,599 fires that scorched 114.8 square miles (297.3 square kilometers), according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.  In the same time frame last year there were 3,847 fires that blackened 48.6 square miles (125.8 square kilometers). … ” Read more from KPBS here: Pace of California wildfires well ahead of disastrous 2020

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Klamath River canoe trips showcase Redwoods, Yurok culture

Christopher Reynolds writes, “We were about to nudge our dugout canoes into the Klamath River when Sammy Gensaw spoke up.  “These are the rarest vessels in the world,” said Gensaw, a guide for the Yurok tribe’s fledgling canoe tour business. “There are only about 10 in existence, and these two are the only ones open to the public.”  I ran one hand along the boat, a single solid piece of redwood carved according to millennia of tribal custom. Then we shoved off into the river.  We were in California’s Del Norte County, 40 miles south of the Oregon border and about five miles upstream from the spectacular estuary where the river meets the Pacific at a sand bar under jagged cliffs. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Klamath River canoe trips showcase Redwoods, Yurok culture

Karuk Tribe petitions CA Water Board to regulate Scott Valley water users

Today the Karuk Tribe filed a formal petition with the California State Water Resources Control Board demanding that it use its emergency powers to curtail water use in the Scott River to prevent the extinction of the Southern Oregon- Northern California Coho Salmon (Coho). “The worst water conditions in history led federal agencies to shut off 1,300 farms in the Upper Basin, but in the Scott Valley water users continue business as usual,” said Karuk Chairman Russell ‘Buster’ Attebery. “They are dewatering the last stronghold of Coho salmon in the Klamath basin driving them to extinction.” … ”  Read more from the Karuk Tribe here:  Karuk Tribe petitions CA Water Board to regulate Scott Valley water users

NorCal: Water tenders still finding water to douse flames even in drought

As the hot and dry conditions keep getting worse, battling wildfires is becoming even more important.  “Getting to remote places is key because that is where fires get out of hand,” said David Schreiber, a Camp Fire survivor.  CAL FIRE uses water tenders to put fires out in those hard to access areas.  “They are basically like a mobile fire hydrant and then can hook up to an engine and keep them going,” said Rick Carhart, from CAL FIRE Butte County.  With most of California in an extreme drought, is there enough water to fill up? ... ”  Read more from Action News Now here: NorCal: Water tenders still finding water to douse flames even in drought

2020 Lake Tahoe clarity report: Trends holding but threats remain

Lake Tahoe’s water clarity measurements, which are indicators of the health of the watershed, averaged 62.9 feet through 2020, the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency announced today.  Lake Tahoe’s clarity peaked in February 2020 when it was deeper than 80 feet. It was at its lowest in mid-May when it measured at slightly more than 50 feet. These readings were within the average range of the last decade. Average clarity in 2020 was just slightly better than the previous year’s average of 62.7 feet. … ”  Read more from UC Davis here: 2020 Lake Tahoe clarity report: Trends holding but threats remain

Water conservation efforts lead to larger toxic algae blooms in Natomas

City officials have placed warning signs at four North Natomas parks where California water inspectors have found signs of algae blooms that can be harmful to people and pets.  Algae blooms are not uncommon during warm spells when there is stagnant water around, but the toxins in the bacteria they produce can be harmful.  “Keep yourself, your children, keep your pets out of these waterways,” said Carlos Eliason of the City of Sacramento Department of Utilities.  The toxin’s effects can include flu-like symptoms like fever, headaches, breathing and stomach ailments. … ”  Read more from Channel 40 here: Water conservation efforts lead to larger toxic algae blooms in Natomas

Sacramento city leaders ask residents to cut water use amid drought conditions

With drought conditions impacting Northern California, Sacramento city leaders are asking residents to cut their water use by 10%.  The request is part of the county’s Water Shortage Contingency Plan, which is divided into six stages with water convservation activities increasing with each stage based on the severity of the water storage.  City leaders have dubbed the city’s water reduction efforts as “Water Watch” and the first stage is centered around utility customers reducing their water usage by a tenth of their normal use.  “In response to drought conditions affecting the Sacramento region and state, the City will be asking City residents and businesses to voluntarily reduce their water use by 10 percent,” Sacramento City Manager Howard Chan in a news release. … ”  Read more from Channel 40 here: Sacramento city leaders ask residents to cut water use amid drought conditions

Lawsuit alleges lax groundwater oversight in Sonoma County threatens Russian River

An environmental group dedicated to promoting healthy waterways around California is taking Sonoma County to court over permitting policies it says too liberally allow people to drill groundwater wells, potentially endangering Russian River stream flows.  California Coastkeeper, an affiliate of the locally based Russian Riverkeeper and a dozen or so other organizations around the state, filed the first-of-its-kind lawsuit late last month amid the intensifying drought and a surge in well drilling around the region.  It seeks a court order preventing Sonoma County from issuing any more drilling permits until officials enact new requirements for site-specific and watershed-wide assessments of the effects of well water extraction on the Russian River and its tributaries. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: Lawsuit alleges lax groundwater oversight in Sonoma County threatens Russian River

Bolinas makes exceptions in advance of rationing

The Bolinas Community Public Utility District has granted water use exceptions to almost all customers who applied for them, with rationing on the horizon if the district’s overall use averages over 66,000 gallons per day. The district received 24 exception requests by its June 29 deadline, and at a special meeting last Thursday, it approved all but six. Five of those were customers with two or more water meters, and the board determined they did not need exceptions to remain under the ration amount. … ”  Read more from the Point Reyes Light here: Bolinas makes exceptions in advance of rationing

Marin Municipal Water District enacts one-day sprinkler limit

Most Marin residents will only be allowed to turn on their sprinklers on one assigned day per week under stricter drought rules passed by the Marin Municipal Water District.  The district voted unanimously on Tuesday evening to enact the one-day limit, down from two unassigned days under the prior water use restrictions it approved in May. Drip irrigation will be limited to two unassigned days per week, down from three, and hand-watering will remain exempt. The rules took effect upon passage. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Marin Municipal Water District enacts one-day sprinkler limit

Marin commentary: Environmental consequences of pipeline, desalination plans must be considered

Tom Flynn, team lead at GreenChange.net and principal of TSF Group consulting, writes, “How can Marin County effectively address the severe drought we’re in?  Right now, many are reasonably urging the Marin Municipal Water District to explore desalination and a water supply line on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Apparently our water district is proceeding expediently with this exploration, so they can implement those measures as quickly as possible if needed.  However, we should recognize that with urgent competition for water throughout the southwestern U.S., these measures have uncertainties, will take time and require very large expense and energy use.  Unfortunately, these solutions also do little to solve (and may even aggravate) the underlying problem: climate change. Desalination is increasing in many countries, but the lion’s share of that increase is in arid Middle East countries with large oil reserves. ... ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Commentary: Environmental consequences of pipeline, desalination plans must be considered

State facing worsening drought; San Mateo County experts go over water supply, conservation efforts

Assemblymember Marc Berman met with experts July 1 to discuss California’s drought in an online town hall going over updates on the decreasing water supply and water conservation efforts.  “Climate change is here. It is impacting our lives in a very real way. And it’s not going to get better unless we do something about it,” Berman, D-Palo Alto, said.  Jeanine Jones, interstate resources manager and drought manager at the California Department of Water Resources, emphasized the dryness of this year. … ”  Read more from the San Mateo Daily Journal here: State facing worsening drought; San Mateo County experts go over water supply, conservation efforts

Contra Costa Water approves 10% voluntary cutback

The Contra Costa Water District board voted Wednesday night to ask customers to reduce water use by 10%. Meanwhile, customers are raising concerns about another change that is literally leaving a bad taste in people’s mouths.  “Yeah, it’s a little weird. The smell. There’s a weird smell, yes,” says Jessica Padilla who has lived in Concord her entire life. … ”  Read more from CBS Bay Area here: Contra Costa Water approves 10% voluntary cutback

Pleasanton: Bathroom byproduct will supplement DSRSD irrigation water supply

Dublin San Ramon Services District’s new temporary supplemental recycled water supply project not only aims to boost their irrigation water, but it also doesn’t let anything go to waste — especially human waste.  Putting a new spin on the old adage “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” DSRSD recently launched a program to divert one to two million pounds of sewage a day for three years from its sister agency Central Contra Costa Sanitary District to the Jeffrey G. Hansen Water Recycling Plant in Pleasanton, according to a statement from DSRSD. … ”  Read more from Pleasanton Weekly here: Pleasanton: Bathroom byproduct will supplement DSRSD irrigation water supply

Livermore: Zone 7 aims to secure its local water reliability

While a pair of reports recently completed by the Zone 7 Water Agency stated that the agency is well positioned to meet the water needs of the Tri-Valley for the next 20 years, the agency is investing in a number of projects to improve the reliability of the region’s water supply.  The Delta Conveyance Project — a version of what was once known as the Twin Tunnels project — figures prominently in Zone 7’s long-term plans. The tunnel project has had several names and gone through a number of iterations over the years, including the change from two tunnels to one. The current version of the plan will draw water from the northern reaches of the Delta and deliver it to pumping plants in Tracy via a 35-mile-long tunnel buried 150 feet below ground. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) states that its project will protect Delta-based water delivery from earthquakes and saltwater intrusion. However, environmentalists wishing to protect the Delta from saltwater intrusion and other impacts continue to express concerns. ... ”  Read more from the Livermore Independent here: Livermore: Zone 7 aims to secure its local water reliability

Photos: Santa Clara Valley Water District breaks ground on 1,700-foot-long tunnel at Anderson Dam

Officials from the Santa Clara Valley Water District — along with U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, and Ro Khanna, D-Santa Clara — broke ground Wednesday on a $648 million project to replace Anderson Dam, the largest in Santa Clara County. Crews will construct a 1,700-foot-long outlet tunnel and then rebuild the 240-foot earthen dam, which was first constructed in 1950.  Because the reservoir near Morgan Hill had to be drained, the project — which was ordered by federal dam regulators over concerns the dam could fail in a major earthquake — has worsened water shortages in Santa Clara County this summer. It is scheduled to be finished by 2031. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Photos: Santa Clara Valley Water District breaks ground on 1,700-foot-long tunnel at Anderson Dam

Monterey: A crucial water source for agriculture has been overdrafted for decades. A new plan aims to fix that.

In Monterey County, water is a scarce resource. This is an obvious statement to locals who see how rarely water falls from the sky and how depleted streams and rivers can become in drought years. Less obvious is the health of the water pumped out of the ground through wells connected to subterranean lakes and streams known as aquifers. These aquifers provide drinking water to some residents and offer a lifeline to the multi-billion-dollar agriculture industry that fuels the local economy.  Decades of over-pumping have threatened the health of one local group of aquifers, known as the 180/400 foot aquifer subbasin. Water has been pumped out of these aquifers faster than they can recharge. … ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly here: A crucial water source for agriculture has been overdrafted for decades. A new plan aims to fix that.

Cal Am and Monterey One Water to meet in hearing conference

Attorneys for the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District will meet their California American Water Co. counterparts in a conference hearing with state regulators Thursday to address a filed complaint asking that the water retailer be forced to purchase water from a planned expansion of a water recycling project.  The California Public Utilities Commission, or PUC, will hold a pre-hearing conference via Zoom video platform beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday. Typically, these conferences allow administrative law judges to determine whether the filing is a legitimate due process complaint, to ensure that issues are clearly defined and to set the time and dates for the hearing. It’s also a time when judges often encourage the parties to settle the case. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Cal Am and Monterey One Water to meet in hearing conference

LADWP, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and U.S. Forest Service announce partnership to protect and enhance the Inyo Forest

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and the United States Forest Service (USFS) today announced a first-of-its-kind partnership in the Eastern Sierra dedicated to improving forest resiliency, increasing carbon capture, decreasing wildfires, improving wildlife habitats and recreation sites, and enhancing the Eastern Sierra watershed over the next two and a half years.  “We are proud to partner with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service on such a critical program,” said Nancy Sutley, LADWP Senior Assistant General Manager of External and Regulatory Affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer.  “This partnership uniquely leverages LADWP’s expertise in both water and power to protect and preserve the Inyo National Forest and safeguard the region’s watershed, while also reducing our carbon footprint.” ... ”  Read more from LA DWP here: LADWP, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and U.S. Forest Service announce partnership to protect and enhance the Inyo Forest

Drug cartels stealing millions of gallons of water for marijuana grows in Antelope Valley: Officials

Amid California’s ongoing drought, drug cartels have been stealing 2-3 million gallons of water a day to feed illegal marijuana grows in the Antelope Valley, officials said.  Asked where the water was being stolen from, Rep. Mike Garcia, who represents the state’s 25th District, said: “Right here from our local aqueduct system. The California Aqueduct flows right through the Antelope Valley. They’re taking it out of wells. They’re stealing it from fire hydrants.”  Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the cartels are “stealing water in the middle of the night from the farmers.” … ”  Read more from ABC 7 here: Drug cartels stealing millions of gallons of water for marijuana grows in Antelope Valley: Officials

LADWP hires first-ever Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer

As part of the ongoing initiatives to advance diversity and equity, Monique Earl has been named to lead the newly-created Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.  Earl will become part of the senior management team reporting to General Manager Martin Adams, and will be responsible for the oversight of policies, practices and programs designed to improve diversity and opportunities throughout LADWP and position the agency to better serve communities with the highest needs. As a Senior Assistant General Manager, Earl will also work to provide leadership, guidance and support in the internal and external development and implementation of the department’s Racial Equity Action Initiatives. … ”  Read more from LA DWP here: LADWP hires first-ever Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer

Divers remove invasive algae from Newport Harbor

Newport Harbor is saying goodbye to an invasive algae species that arrived in its waters earlier this year.  Divers set out from China Cove Beach on Wednesday morning to extract the plant from the seafloor using vacuum pumps. The algae collected is then brought onshore and placed in a container where it and other solids are filtered out of the water. Once the filtering process is complete, the water is discharged back into the harbor.  The algae, identified as Caulerpa prolifera, is a species native to Florida and other subtropical and tropical locales. It is not harmful to humans, but it is known to grow quickly and choke out native seaweeds, which could damage Newport Harbor’s ecosystem. … ” Read more from the LA Times here:  Divers remove invasive algae from Newport Harbor

Changes happening at the Salton Sea on a state & federal level

You might have smelt it a couple weeks ago, the stench of rotten eggs. Long time Coachella Valley residents know that funky smell can waft over from the Salton Sea.  It happens on some particularly hot days which helps release more hydrogen sulfide. Combine that with the stifling humidity, which tends to materialize when winds are southerly, blowing toward the Coachella Valley from the lake and you get the miasma of burnt garbage.  The Salton Sea can stink at times because of the organic matter, like dead fish rotting on the lake floor. … ”  Read more from KESQ here: Changes happening at the Salton Sea on a state & federal level

New developments push lithium mining closer to reality

As talk of the lithium potential from geothermal brine near the Salton Sea continues, progress has been measurable in the last months. Behind the scenes negotiations with IID and renewable energy companies for land under IID’s control have intensified, according to Imperial Irrigation District Director Jim Hanks. He told the Lithium Valley Commission at the last meeting, June 24, that although the closed session negotiations had non-disclosure clauses, he could report plans were moving quite rapidly, including issues with permitting.  “Interested parties are making contact weekly, many looking for incentives. The District is developing Power Purchase Agreements (PPA),” Hanks told the Commission. … ”  Read more from the Desert Review here: New developments push lithium mining closer to reality

Imperial Irrigation District pounds pavement to head off bill

Imperial Irrigation District officials are making a last-ditch effort to amend or kill proposed legislation that could fundamentally transform the governing board of the agency, Assembly Bill 1021.  At the heart of the issue is how the bill could force the district — which provides water and power to virtually all of Imperial County, and electricity to part of the Coachella Valley — to add a seat representing energy ratepayers from a small section of southeastern Riverside County to the IID Board of Directors.  IID officials are vehemently opposed to the bill, which they see as the tip of a spear that would allow outside interests to seize control of Imperial Valley’s lifeblood, its water. … ”  Read more from the Holtville Tribune here: Imperial Irrigation District pounds pavement to head off bill

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Along the Colorado River …

Major crack closes Southern Arizona highway in heavy groundwater-pumping area

A big crack opening up to 10 feet deep in the earth forced closure of a stretch of U.S. 191 in Cochise County this week, inconveniencing drivers and deepening local concerns about the impacts of unregulated groundwater pumping on that basin’s aquifer.  The Arizona Department of Transportation closed a 5-mile section of the highway linking two rural communities lying southwest of Willcox early Tuesday after heavy rains caused cracks to open in the road through erosion.  The crack was up to 8 to 10 feet deep and opened up to 2 feet wide in spots before work crews could fill it in on Tuesday and Wednesday, although much of it was thin and almost hairline. … ”  Read more from the Arizona Daily Star here: Major crack closes Southern Arizona highway in heavy groundwater-pumping area

Arizona water utility says 2021 runoff season was 2nd-driest

The Salt River Project says the 2021 runoff season was the second driest on record but that its reservoirs in central Arizona will provide full allocations of water to cities, farmers and other users during the current drought.  The SRP said the 104,000 acre-feet of runoff from winter precipitation is the second lowest amount recorded since the public power and water utility began keeping track 109 years ago.  According to SRP, the reservoirs on the Salt and Verde rivers are 67% full with over 1.5 million acre-feet of stored water as the Phoenix area enters its heaviest-use period of the year. … ”  Read more from the Associated Press here: Arizona water utility says 2021 runoff season was 2nd-driest

Once a rich desert river, the Gila struggles to keep flowing

The confluence of the tiny San Pedro River and the much larger Gila was once one of the richest locales in one of the most productive river ecosystems in the American Southwest, an incomparable oasis of biodiversity.  The rivers frequently flooded their banks, a life-giving pulse that created sprawling riverside cienegas, or fertile wetlands; braided and beaver-dammed channels; meandering oxbows; and bosques — riparian habitats with towering cottonwoods, mesquite and willows. This lush, wet Arizona landscape, combined with the searing heat of the Sonoran Desert, gave rise to a vast array of insects, fish and wildlife, including apex predators such as Mexican wolves, grizzly bears, jaguars and cougars, which prowled the river corridors. The confluence now is a very different place, its richness long diminished. ... ”  Read more from Yale e360 here:  Once a rich desert river, the Gila struggles to keep flowing

Why trees along the Colorado River are suddenly brown

The once green and vibrant tree line along the Colorado river is now turning brown.  People near the river have noticed the rapid decline of greenery, and are growing concerned – attributing it to the heat and drought conditions,  “That’s kind of what happens; things die when we have high temperatures and not a lot of water,” says Mesa County resident, Geneva Smith as she observed the dying plants at the river.  However, RiversEdge-West says the heat has nothing to do with it. ... ”  Read more from Western Slope Now here: Why trees along the Colorado River are suddenly brown

Drought, heat, fire force fishing ban on Colorado River

Colorado wildlife officials on Wednesday urged anglers to avoid fishing along a stretch of the Colorado River because low flows during a historic drought in the U.S. West, critically warm water temperatures and sediment runoff from wildfire burn scars are all starving trout of oxygen.  The move along a 120-mile (193-kilometer) stretch of the river — unusual so early in the summer — is another consequence of the record heat and drought that’s afflicted the American West. The voluntary fishing ban runs from the town of Kremmling in north-central Colorado to Rifle in the western part of the state. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: Drought, heat, fire force fishing ban on Colorado River

What does a Colorado River shortage look like for the agency managing Lake Mead?

Last month, Lake Mead fell to its lowest level since the reservoir, held back by the Hoover Dam, was filled in the 1930s. Since then, water levels have fallen lower, and it’s about 35 percent full.  A large chalky band of rock, known as the bathtub ring, marks where water once sat when the reservoir was full. Today, the bathtub ring is a visible imprint of the long-term drought across the Colorado River watershed, which overlaps with seven Southwestern states and Mexico.  It is also a symbol of how climate change is affecting a river system that supports more than 40 million people in the Southwest. … ”  Continue reading at the Nevada Independent here: What does a Colorado River shortage look like for the agency managing Lake Mead?

After decades of warming and drying, the Colorado River struggles to water the West

The Colorado River is tapped out.  Another dry year has left the waterway that supplies 40 million people in the Southwest parched. A prolonged 21-year warming and drying trend is pushing the nation’s two largest reservoirs to record lows. For the first time this summer, the federal government will declare a shortage.  Climate change is exacerbating the current drought. Warming temperatures are upending how the water cycle functions in the Southwest. The 1,450-mile long river acts as a drinking water supply, a hydroelectric power generator, and an irrigator of crop fields across seven Western states and two in Mexico. Scientists say the only way forward is to rein in demands on the river’s water to match its decline. ... ”  Read more from KUNC here: After decades of warming and drying, the Colorado River struggles to water the West

Colorado River system poised for first ever official shortages

States relying on the Colorado River system for much of their water are bracing for declarations of shortage soon.  Such a declaration would be unprecedented. It would mandate steps to store water in Lake Powell from smaller reservoirs upstream, like Utah’s Flaming Gorge, that have more robust levels.  The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released a 24-month projection for Lake Powell in the spring showing they expect the lake to drop below 3,525 feet around March of 2022. … ”  Read more from Fox 13 here: Colorado River system poised for first ever official shortages

How drinking water stays clean when floods push burn scar debris into Colorado rivers

The threat of flooding is high in Colorado’s burn scar areas – whenever it rains, water pushes ash down into the state’s rivers, but there’s a robust system in place so we can still drink clean water.  Andrew Kabot’s name goes on the piece of paper that says the water is safe today and every day after that. He’s the water treatment plant manager at one of Greeley’s facilities. “It is a pretty robust process that can deal with varying water quality,” he said. A year after wildfires tore through Colorado, the concern is now on the water – when flooding brings ash into the Poudre River, the water eventually flows to Kabot’s treatment plant. … ”  Read more from Channel 9 here: How drinking water stays clean when floods push burn scar debris into Colorado rivers

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In national water news today …

Feds underestimated extent of lead water lines — survey

A new survey has found the United States may have almost 13 million lead pipes shipping water into homes and schools, surpassing federal estimates and shining a bright light on a lack of data.  The Natural Resources Defense Council released the report finding that there are at least 12.8 million pipes that are or may be made with lead across all 50 states, including those that claim to have none. In contrast, EPA’s website says, “It is estimated that there are between 6 to 10 million lead service lines in the country.”  What’s more, NRDC said, the number could be higher. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Feds underestimated extent of lead water lines — survey

Commentary: The confidence crisis in our water can be fixed

This is the time of year when water quality reports are landing in mailboxes and on doormats of homes across the country. Unfortunately most people will ignore these reports, and worse still, those that do take the time to review them will likely be left confused.  America’s 50,000 water utility companies are required by the EPA to provide customers with a water quality report by the first of July each year. The reports include vital data on drinking water quality, including any contaminants such as lead or arsenic found in the water, as well as any water violations and the subsequent corrective actions. But all too often, the reports are so complex and technical that customers struggle to decipher them — and simply give up.  That’s not surprising. … ”  Read more from The Hill here: Commentary: The confidence crisis in our water can be fixed

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Today’s featured article …

BAY-DELTA SCIENCE CONFERENCE: From California’s Water Wars to America’s Culture Wars: A Media Analysis of the Delta Smelt Controversy

In recent decades Americans’ attitudes about environmental issues have become polarized along partisan lines. Yet, while significant research demonstrates this broad trend, we know less about the meso-level processes producing and sustaining such divisions. Drawing on over 3,000 news articles, nearly 14,000 Tweets, and Google search data, Dr. Caleb Scoville, an Assistant Professor of Sociology and a 2020-2021 Neubauer Faculty Fellow at Tufts University,  analyzed the public sphere controversy surrounding the Delta smelt, an endangered species of fish caught in the center of California water politics.   At the 2021 Bay Delta Science Conference, Dr. Scoville presented the findings of his analysis.

Click here to read this article.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NEPA DOCS: Groundwater Actions to Offset Surface Water Diversions from the Sacramento River in Response to Drought in 2021

VELES WEEKLY WATER REPORT: NQH20 up $2.21 or 0.26%. Water Risk likely to be 3 times Carbon Risk

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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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