WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for July 11-16: The Yuba-Feather FIRO program, Suisun Marsh and climate change; La Niña could dash hopes of wet winter; and all the top water news of the week

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

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This week’s featured articles …

CA WATER COMMISSION: The Yuba-Feather Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations Program

Reservoirs are often constructed and operated for multiple purposes, such as water supply, flood control, hydropower, recreation, and environmental enhancement. However, managing the reservoir for multiple purposes is challenging and often involves tradeoffs between sometimes competing needs.

Forecast-informed reservoir operations (FIRO) is a reservoir-operations strategy that uses enhanced monitoring and improved weather and water forecasts to inform decision making to selectively retain or release water from reservoirs to optimize water supply reliability and environmental co-benefits and to enhance flood-risk reduction.  FIRO provides an effective means of increasing the efficiency and resiliency of existing water resources infrastructure – all without costly construction projects.

John Leahigh is the Water Operations Executive Manager for the Department of Water Resources with 25 years of experience either in or overseeing the State Water Project Water Operations Office for the Department.  At the May meeting of the California Water Commission, he spoke about the Yuba-Feather FIRO program, the promise of Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations, and how it can be an adaptive response to the effects of climate change.

Click here to read this article.


BAY DELTA SCIENCE CONFERENCE: Suisun Marsh: On the edge of resilience in an era of rapid change

Dr. John Durand is a senior scientist at UC Davis who, along with his colleagues, Teejay O’Rear and Dr. Peter Moyle, run the Suisun Marsh fish study, a project founded over 40 years ago.  In this presentation from the Bay-Delta Science Conference, he discusses the dynamics of the Suisun Marsh and the effects of climate change on it.  He dedicated his talk to the memory of Dr. Larry Brown, whom he described as a wonderful collaborator and his academic sibling.

Click here to read this article.

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In California water news this week …

La Niña could dash hopes of desperately needed rain this winter

“The punishing drought conditions afflicting most of California are expected to endure for months, climate experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association said Thursday.  There is a 60% chance, NOAA experts said, of a La Niña event this winter — conditions that would likely bring about a cool and very dry winter.  NOAA climatologists presented a stark portrait of the fiercely dry conditions gripping a huge portion of the country: 46% of the contiguous U.S. is in a state of drought, they said. … ”  Read more the San Francisco Chronicle here: La Niña could dash hopes of desperately needed rain this winter

With drought worsening, should California have much tougher water restrictions?

When Gov. Gavin Newsom asked Californians to voluntarily conserve water last week as he stood in front of the retreating shoreline at Lopez Lake in San Luis Obispo County, some must have had déjà vu.  It was only six years ago when former Gov. Jerry Brown stood in a field near Lake Tahoe that was bereft of normally plentiful snow and called for water restrictions amid the state’s punishing years-long drought.  … As Californians wonder when mandatory water restrictions might be coming, officials and experts including those who played roles in addressing the 2012-2016 drought say the pace and strategy of Newsom’s current response sufficiently incorporates insights gained from the past. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: With drought worsening, should California have much tougher water restrictions?

Extreme heat will soon kill nearly all young salmon in the Sacramento River, officials say

California officials anticipate nearly all juvenile chinook salmon in the Sacramento River could die due to abnormally hot underwater conditions as heat waves continue to bake the West.  There will be a “near-complete loss” of the endangered species of salmon because temperatures above 100 degrees for extended periods of time are overheating the river, making it uninhabitable for the fish to grow beyond their egg stage, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) confirmed to CNN on Tuesday. … ”  Read more from CNN here: Extreme heat will soon kill nearly all young salmon in the Sacramento River, officials say

Heat isn’t the only thing that could kill ‘nearly all’ young salmon in the Sacramento River

On Tuesday, CNN reported that “extreme heat” from California’s searing temperatures could kill “nearly all juvenile chinook salmon” in the Sacramento River. But the potential grim fate of the salmon isn’t just due to climate change—human meddling in California’s rivers is also to blame.  This year’s extreme heat, which has seen all-time records fall across the West, is playing a role in the salmon crisis. But to truly understand the sad salmon story, you need to go back to the early 1940s when the Shasta Reservoir, the largest reservoir in California, was formed by damming the Sacramento River. The manmade lake is the centerpiece of the system of dams, canals, and pumps called the Central Valley Project, a vast network that supplies water to 29 of the state’s 58 counties. That includes large amounts of water used by the sprawling agriculture industry in the Central Valley. … ”  Continue reading at Gizmodo here: Heat isn’t the only thing that could kill ‘nearly all’ young salmon in the Sacramento River

It’s not just water supply: Drought harms water quality, too

A June heat wave sparked an earlier-than-expected algae bloom in the drought-ravaged drinking water reservoir in Price, Utah—a sign of climate change-related water quality challenges to come in the tinder-dry West.  Extreme heat and wildfires are engulfing the region amid a historic drought that scientists think may be the region’s worst in at least 1,200 years. In response, some drinking water systems are beginning to grapple with maintaining both water supplies and water quality as they deal with potential legal and regulatory concerns.  Climate change-driven heat and drought are exacerbating long-standing water shortages in the West, said Anne Castle, a senior fellow at the University of Colorado Law School and a former water lawyer at Holland & Hart LLP. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg here: It’s not just water supply: Drought harms water quality, too

A Delta in distress

Global warming has already left its mark on the backbone of California’s water supply, and represents a growing threat to its first developed agricultural region, state experts have warned in a new study.  The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fuels California’s $3 trillion economy, including its $50 billion agricultural industry, sustains more than 750 plant and animal species and supplies 27 million people with drinking water.  But global warming is likely to destabilize the landscape that made the delta a biodiversity and agricultural hotspot, according to a study released late last month by a state agency charged with preparing the region for the climate crisis. … ”  Read more from Inside Climate News here: A Delta in Distress

One way to save California salmon threatened by drought: Truck them to the mountains and back

In California, it’s not unusual for wildlife officials to truck salmon between their native river habitat and the Pacific Ocean. That’s especially true during droughts, when the Sacramento River runs too low and too warm for the young fish to survive.  But a long-stalled plan to save Sacramento winter-run chinook salmon, a critically endangered species, proposes trucking them twice in their lifetimes. Spawning adults would get a lift from the too-hot Sacramento River over Shasta Dam and be driven up Interstate 5 to a cold mountain habitat in the McCloud River. Later, their offspring would catch a ride back to the Sacramento and head to the ocean to start the cycle again.  A scientist from the National Marine Fisheries Service said the rescue project, which almost got off the ground in 2019 before being called off by the U.S. Forest Service under the Trump administration, is vital to the species’ survival in light of the extreme droughts the state is expected to face regularly with climate change. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  One way to save California salmon threatened by drought: Truck them to the mountains and back

DWR to use innovative airborne technology to map state’s groundwater basins

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) is using an innovative, helicopter-based technology to gather information about the state’s groundwater aquifer structure to support drought response and the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).  DWR’s use of airborne electromagnetic (AEM) surveys advances Governor Newsom’s Water Resilience Portfolio goal of using technology to support the State’s understanding of groundwater resources.  “The data collected during these surveys will provide a better understanding of California’s groundwater systems, and in turn support more informed and sustainable groundwater management and drought preparedness and response approaches,” said Steven Springhorn, DWR’s SGMA Technical Assistance Manager. … ”  Read more from DWR here: DWR to use innovative airborne technology to map state’s groundwater basins

East Bay ‘warlock’ uses ancient method to find water for building wells amid drought

Upper Bollinger Canyon is as arid as any place in our region. You’ll find no sign of water, but that doesn’t stop a determined dreamer like Michael Carilli.  “I want to put a house up here,” he said. Carilli must dig a well to make that happen — but where?  Enter Rob Thompson of Thompson Well Location.  “I’m a dowser. A diviner. A Witcher. Some people call me a warlock,” said Thompson. … ”  Read more from Channel 7 here: East Bay ‘warlock’ uses ancient method to find water for building wells amid drought

Could meters be the key to conserving water in California agriculture? Watsonville growers explain

As he set goals last Thursday for the Bay Area to conserve water, Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged the lack of metering provides no sense of how much water is used by California agriculture. Growers in the Watsonville area in Santa Cruz County, however, are metered, and the meters have resulted in significant water conservation. … This time of year, the fields around Watsonville are producing berries, lettuce, broccoli and celery — crops valued at close to $1 billion. Something else has sprouted in the fields — about one thousand meters that measure how much groundwater is being tapped to irrigate the crops. As agriculture boomed, so did concerns about the aquifer and an incursion of saltwater. ... ”  Read more from Channel 7 here: Could meters be the key to conserving water in California agriculture? Watsonville growers explain

California oil lobby seeks to strip environmental protections for groundwater amid drought

A prominent oil and gas lobbying group seeks to strip environmental protections from groundwater sources designated by the state for agricultural use and which may grow increasingly important to California’s water-scarce future, according to a memo obtained through a records request.  The proposal, which hasn’t been publicly announced, suggests removing protections for groundwater reserves underneath 1,500 square surface miles in western Kern County, where the upper groundwater zone alone can extend down thousands of feet. That region, near communities like McKittrick, Taft and Maricopa, is home to intensive oil drilling.  Under the proposed change, companies could have an easier time maintaining petroleum-tainted water in existing open-air ponds, which contaminate groundwater reserves. (One barrel of produced oil results in 16 barrels of water tainted by petroleum.) … ”  Read more from Capitol & Main here: California oil lobby seeks to strip environmental protections for groundwater amid drought

Legal analysis: Lawsuit will test application of requirement that a county consider public trust resources in permitting groundwater extraction

Last month, California Coastkeeper Alliance (Coastkeeper) filed suit seeking to enjoin Sonoma County from issuing groundwater well permits until it adopts a program to consider and protect public trust resources in the Russian River watershed.  This case is the first of its kind to attempt to enforce the holding of Environmental Law Foundation v. State Water Resources Control Board (2018) 26 Cal.App.5th 848, in which the Third District Court of Appeal held that the County of Siskiyou, when issuing groundwater well permits, is obligated to apply the public trust doctrine by considering whether groundwater pumping could adversely impact the Scott River, a navigable water. … ”  Read more from Somach Simmons & Dunn here: Legal analysis: Lawsuit will test application of requirement that a county consider public trust resources in permitting groundwater extraction

Report: Piloting a water rights information system for California

California’s complex water management challenges are growing and intensifying. Systemic stressors like the more frequent and severe droughts and floods driven by climate change are only making it harder to respond. Accordingly, California needs to dramatically improve the ability of local, regional, and State entities to make agile and effective water management decisions. Doing so will require enhanced understanding of our water resources and how they align with the needs of agencies and stakeholders. Water rights data provide a crucial opportunity for advancing this understanding.  Through a multi-year process of research and engagement, we developed analytical background on how water rights data plays into water management, combined with legal and institutional analysis of the role of data in California and other states. We then designed and built the foundation of a water rights documents database, scanning, digitizing, and assigning metadata to over 130,000 pages of water rights documents from the Mono Basin. The resulting pilot provides a concrete proof of concept for a searchable digital database of legal records.  Ultimately, we find that a modernized water rights data is feasible, affordable, and can increase clarity for better decision making. Our report Piloting a Water Rights Information System for California offers a vision and roadmap for making it a reality.”  Read/download report from the Center for Law, Energy, and Environment here:  Report: Piloting a water rights information system for California

Law journal article: A Clean Water Act, if you can keep it

The Clean Water Act has traveled a successful but tortuous path. From combustible beginnings on the Cuyahoga River; through the Lake St. Clair wetlands; to reservoirs near the Miccosukee; and eventually discharged (or “functionally” discharged) off the Maui coast. With each bend, the nearly fifty-year-old Act has proven to be not just resilient, but among our most successful environmental laws. … This article begins by posing a thesis: The Clean Water Act regulates all “waters of the United States.” It then suggests a two-part antithesis: Congress violated the nondelegation and void-for-vagueness doctrines by defining the Clean Water Act only as reaching “waters of the United States.” And it resolves the conflict with a synthesis: a call for Congress to amend the Clean Water Act by providing the statute with a more stable and intelligible jurisdictional reach. Federal oversight in water quality regulation is a necessity. But to what degree is a policy decision that Congress has yet to make.”  Read the full article here: Law journal article: A Clean Water Act, if you can keep it

California expands floodwater capacity

For more than 60 years, California officials and experts have discussed expanding the Sacramento River bypass and levee system.  The original system, designed in response to two floods in 1907 and 1909, was completed in 1955 and tested that year by its largest flood to date. Three more major floods, including the largest on record in 1986, demonstrated that more floodwater capacity and protection should be built into the system.  In summer 2020, contractors broke ground on the first project to expand that capacity, the Lower Elkhorn Basin Levee Setback (LEBLS) project. … ”  Read more from Engineering News-Record here: California expands floodwater capacity

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In commentary this week …

Californians will adapt to living with drought, as we always have

Jay Lund, professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis, writes, “Climate change is exacerbating droughts and accelerating the transformation and decline of California’s native forest and aquatic ecosystems. As a state, we are poorly organized to manage these effects, which need extensive focused preparation. We need to adapt (and we will make mistakes in doing so). Our human, economic and environmental losses will be much greater, however, if we manage poorly because of delay, complacency or panic.  We are a bit better prepared for this drought than for the 2012-2016 drought, but Californians, individually and collectively, will always need to expect and prepare for drought. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Californians will adapt to living with drought, as we always have

In Delta, is Habitat Restoration an Endangered Species?

John Brennan, land manager and conservationist, writes, “Late in 2015 two sisters contacted me to help sell their family farm property in Solano County next to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. They had decided it was time.  The property is marginal pastureland that was marshland until levees were constructed around 100 years ago and the land was “reclaimed”.  It is located within the thin band that surround the Delta at the perfect elevation to be flooded by the daily pulse of the tides making it ideal for conversion back to intertidal wetland habitat.  Creation of this category of habitat has been called for in every plan written for the Delta over the past 50 years. ... ”  Continue reading this guest commentary at Maven’s Notebook here:  In Delta, is Habitat Restoration an Endangered Species?

Stewardship of the Delta requires protecting recreation and other Delta values in habitat restoration projects

Dan Ray, the Delta Stewardship Council’s retired chief deputy executive officer, writes, “Outdoor recreation is among the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta’s pleasures. Leisure time spent there can reward recreationists with not just a stringer of striped bass, a brace of waterfowl, or a basket of pears, but refreshed reconnections with nature, family, and a culture that extends back to California’s origins. Each visitor may become an ambassador for the Delta, promoting its charms to neighbors and colleagues and championing its resources’ protection and restoration.  Recreation in the Delta is also important to the region’s economy. … ”  Read more from Maven’s Notebook here: Stewardship of the Delta requires protecting recreation and other Delta values in habitat restoration projects

Independent science to solve Delta water problems is slipping away

Phil Isenberg, founding chair of the Delta Stewardship Council, and David Guy, president of the Northern California Water Association, write, “When the legal battle over employees vs. contractors wrapped up in California, no one thought it could throw a wrench into the long-established independence of the scientific body charged with protecting a precious California resource in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta: water.  That is, however, precisely what happened.  State counsel advised members of the Delta Independent Science Board that they were employees, contrary to the independent status required by the board. This threatens the independent science on which our state’s water decisions depend. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Independent science to solve Delta water problems is slipping away

Governor Newsom is playing politics with the very lifeblood of California, our water

Dennis Wyatt, editor of the Manteca Bulletin and others, writes, “It has not rained in Las Vegas for a record 240 consecutive days.  This has been the third driest year in Northern California since at least the 1870s.  The pace of wildfires in California is ahead of 2020 when a record 10.1 million acres burned.  The dismal snowpack on the Stanislaus River Basin — the third lowest in 115 years — is healthier than virtually every other watershed in the state.  The state power providers are scrambling to find other electricity sources as hydroelectric generation is expected to fall to almost nothing as the summer drags on.  Given all that, the best Governor Gavin Newsom can muster is to ask people to voluntarily reduce water 15 percent? ... ”  Read more from the Turlock Journal here: Governor Newsom is playing politics with the very lifeblood of California, our water

In drought-stricken California, who owns water rights can still be a mystery

Michael Kiparsky, director of the Wheeler Water Institute in the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment at UC Berkeley School of Law,” writes, “As we careen deeper into drought, California will face increasing impacts to urban and agricultural economies, rivers and forests, and wildlife.  In response, government agencies will need to determine how to allocate water among competing needs. Water users will scramble to buy and sell water — if they can — or reduce their use. But the current lack of information hobbles the ability to make difficult decisions about water management. For California to cope with persistent shortages, water rights data need to be accessible to decision-makers and the public.  Most residents assume that because their home water use is metered we would understand water use in the state as a whole, and that water management is a routine matter. This could hardly be further from the truth. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: In drought-stricken California, who owns water rights can still be a mystery

State should help fund local water resilience projects

Sean Bigley, chair of the Sacramento Regional Water Authority Board, and Gary Croucher, chair of the San Diego County Water Authority Board, write, “Emergency conservation orders address short-term water shortages, but don’t move us toward the long-term goal of drought resilience. That requires strategic investments in local drought-resilient water supply projects, costs mostly borne at the local level.   The state recently took a step in the right direction by approving $3.5 billion in budgeted funds for water projects, but the details of how that money will be used are still being worked out. It is important that funds are directed to local drought-resilience projects. That would go a long way toward accelerating the 21st-century water solutions we need. ... ”  Continue reading at Cal Matters here: State should help fund local water resilience projects

California says water is a human right. Our politicians need to act like it.

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 the Desert Sun here: California says water is a human right. Our politicians need to act like it.

How much are you willing to pay for drought?

Romeo Agbalog and John C. Moore III with the Kern County Farm Bureau write, “Millions of Americans joined friends, families and neighbors to celebrate our nation’s Independence Day. This year’s Independence Day took on additional meaning marking the first time in more than a year and a half that we could gather free of restrictions, social distancing and the looming specter of quarantine and lockdowns. Backyard barbecues, cookouts and potlucks featuring hamburgers, steaks, baked potatoes, mixed green salads, and sweet and savory fruit are as much of a tradition as the fireworks that illuminate the skyline and every neighborhood corner. In fact, many of the delectable items featured on picnic tables across the country came from California, and from Kern County in particular. For example, Kern produces 80 percent of the country’s carrots, 44 percent of our nation’s grapes, 17 percent of citrus, and 10 percent of the world’s pistachios, to name a few. And much like the streamers that lit up the sky just a few days ago, we are seeing a new trend in a different item skyrocketing. This time it’s food prices. But why? ... ”  Continue reading at the Bakersfield Californian here:  How much are you willing to pay for drought?

In regional water news this week …

Klamath Dams: California regulator advances historic dam removal project

The largest dam removal project in U.S. history came one step closer to fruition Thursday with a California regulator’s approval of a plan to transfer ownership licenses for four Klamath River dams.  “Our decision today is another step forward to advance this historic dam removal project,” said Marybel Batjer, president of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).  The $450 million project will remake California’s second largest river and drain massive reservoirs, opening hundreds of miles of habitat previously closed to salmon and steelhead trout for the last 100 years. ... ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: California regulator advances historic dam removal project

Poor Klamath River water conditions, deadly parasite, prompts fish hatchery to delay salmon release

Due to poor water conditions and an increase in a parasite called C. Shasta in the river, the hatchery, located in Hornbrook, California, will keep the tiny fish until fall.  Now, the hatchery is dealing with the logistics of moving millions of fish to other facilities because they cannot accommodate all of the growing salmon.  “ We trucked over a million fish three hours from Iron Gate reservoir,” says Mark Clifford, an environmental scientist with California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We took them to our Trinity hatchery facility and those trucks went through Redding when it was like 115 degrees. And I am happy to say that the fish arrived safely. They are doing great.” … ”  Read more from Jefferson Public Radio here: Poor Klamath River water conditions, deadly parasite, prompts fish hatchery to delay salmon release 

Yolo County decides on vision for Tule Canal/Yolo Bypass through stakeholder workshop

On June 24, Yolo County released a report on a recent design charrette for the Tule Canal in the Yolo Bypass. The two-day virtual workshop included 71 participants from a wide swath of stakeholders — farmers, policy makers, landowners, hunters, conservation scientists, educators, engineers and ecologists.  Led by consultants Robert Suarez and Teal Brown Zimring, with generous funding from the State Water Contractors and Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, the executive summary and full report are now available on Yolo County’s Delta e-library … “Charrette is a term used in landscape design and architecture. It’s a fancy way of saying a design workshop,” Elisa Sabatini, Yolo County’s natural resources manager, said. “It was fascinating to be part of a process that involved so many people, who all came together around a vision for the Tule Canal in two days.” … ”  Read more from the Daily Democrat here: Yolo County decides on vision for Tule Canal/Yolo Bypass through stakeholder workshop

“Water battery” being considered on Mokelumne River

Earlier this year, GreenGenStorage received a renewal of their licensing period to submit Pre-Application Documents (PAD) to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for their proposed Mokelumne Pumped Storage Water Battery Project. The developer hopes to submit their PAD by the end of the year for the project, which would utilize excess solar and wind energy to power their pumped storage technology, thereby generating electricity for the grid at peak energy-usage hours.   “During the midday peak of solar energy generation, we would pump water uphill to an upper reservoir,” Nicholas Sher, manager at GreenGenStorage said. “Then in the evening where energy usage is consumed the most, we would release that water downstream and it would drive a turbine, thus generating energy. Then by soaking up wind power in the evenings for release in the morning peak hours, we’re essentially just time-shifting renewable energy.” … ”  Read more from the Sierra Nevada Ally here: “Water battery” being considered on Mokelumne River

City of Napa looks at drought-related water-trucking restrictions

Amid a reservoir-sapping drought, Napa may reduce the amount of water trucked from its boundaries to rural homes and farms — a move that would hit even as rural users themselves deal with the drought.  For the city, the move is about water conservation. “We’ve got to be proactive to what we do and make sure we are not letting ourselves get into an extreme situation as we go forward,” city Deputy Utilities Director Joy Eldredge said. … ”  Read more from the Napa Valley Register here: City of Napa looks at drought-related water-trucking restrictions

Santa Cruz to hold public meetings on possible water rights update

City of Santa Cruz water rights — that were established more than 50 years ago — are up for revision and will be discussed at two forthcoming public meetings.   The rights, allocated by the California State Water Resources Control Board, dictate where and how water suppliers can use and move water.  “The San Lorenzo River water rights are from the ’50s, so imagine a substantially smaller community and probably what seemed like ‘this amount of water would be enough for forever,’ ” said Rosemary Menard, Santa Cruz Water Department director. … ”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel here: Santa Cruz to hold public meetings on possible water rights update

Persistent and continuing air quality violations at Mono Lake due to dewatering

Particulate air standards of PM10 (dust) continue to be violated from sources at the recently exposed Mono Lake bed while Los Angeles continues to divert water from tributaries.  The Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District‘s letter emphasizes how the historical water diversions by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) from Mono Lake have lowered the lake level and caused the persistent and continuing violations of law regarding the PM10 standards; the only feasible solution is to allow the lake level to rise to inundate the emissive areas of the lake bed; water savings from Owens Lake dust mitigation efforts would completely offset exports from Mono Lake; and applying a portion of these acre feet of water would allow Mono Lake to reach the required surface elevation to end PM10 emission violations and public health impacts. … ”  Read more from Keep Long Valley Green here: Persistent and continuing air quality violations at Mono Lake due to dewatering

Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency approves proposed groundwater extraction fee

The Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency Board made quick work of approving the agencies proposed extraction fee of $9.08 per acre foot during its meeting on Friday.  A public hearing was held on the matter at Friday’s meeting but no comments directly related to the fee were presented during the brief hearing. The board then approved the fee. The fee will be charged during the 2021-2022 fiscal year through June 30, 2022.  Property owners within the ETGSA’s territory which essentially includes Southeastern Tulare County who pump groundwater will be subject to the fee. Those who have less than two acres of property will be exempt from the fee. … ”  Read more from the Porterville Recorder here: Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency approves proposed groundwater extraction fee

San Joaquin Valley rivers going dry

Southern San Joaquin Valley Rivers are running at near historic lows — again.  In fact, the Bakersfield City Council passed a resolution Wednesday officially declaring the Kern River as running at only 17% of normal, it’s second driest year since record keeping began in 1893.  The driest year on record was 2015, the worst year of the 2012-2016 drought.  The resolution notes the river is so low this year, the city won’t have any “excess” water to sell to local agricultural irrigation districts. This is the first time the City Water Resources Department has made such a resolution. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: San Joaquin Valley rivers going dry

Ridgecrest: First court hearing August 19 in water district adjudication case

A first court hearing is scheduled for Aug. 19 in the Indian Wells Valley Water District’s comprehensive adjudication case. The hearing will be held in the Orange County Superior Court.  The board believes the action to be “necessary to protect and conserve the limited water supply that is vital to the public health, safety and welfare” of everyone in the basin, according to the district.  What exactly is an adjudication? … ”  Read more from the Daily Independent here: Ridgecrest: First court hearing August 19 in water district adjudication case

‘Unacceptable, irresponsible’: How 17 million gallons of sewage fouled Santa Monica Bay

There is growing scrutiny over a 17-million-gallon sewage spill into the Santa Monica Bay, with many asking how the spill occurred and why it took so long to alert the public.  “What happened yesterday was unacceptable and irresponsible,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said Tuesday. “We need answers from L.A. City Sanitation about what went wrong and led to this massive spill, but we also need to recognize that L.A. County Public Health did not effectively communicate with the public and could have put swimmers in danger.”  Here is a breakdown of what we know — and what we don’t. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: ‘Unacceptable, irresponsible’: How 17 million gallons of sewage fouled Santa Monica Bay

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Along the Colorado River …

Coalition blasts plans to divert Colorado River amid drought

Farmers, environmentalists and small-town business owners gathered at the Hoover Dam on Thursday to call for a moratorium on pipelines and dams along the Colorado River that they said jeopardizes the 40 million people who rely on it as a water source.  They’re pushing for the moratoriums as parts of the U.S. West are gripped by historic drought and hotter temperatures and dry vegetation provide fuel for wildfires sweeping the region. Federal officials expect to make the first-ever water shortage declaration in the Colorado River basin next month, prompting cuts in Arizona, Nevada and Mexico. … ”  Read more from US News and World Report here: Coalition blasts plans to divert Colorado River amid drought

SEE ALSO: At shrinking Lake Mead, a new coalition says status quo on Colorado River is failing, from the Arizona Central

Opposition to Lake Powell Pipeline heats up as activists call for a federal investigation

Environmental groups opposed to the Lake Powell Pipeline project have submitted a letter to the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General asking that a federal investigation of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District (CUWCD) be launched.  Their allegations against this largest water district in the state center around what they say has been a misuse of federal funds intended to advance the Central Utah Project (CUP) as well as statewide water conservation efforts. The CUP is currently the second-largest proposed diversion system aimed at bringing Colorado River water to Utah, in this case the Wasatch Front, after the Lake Powell Pipeline, which would transport water to Washington County. ... ”  Read more from The Spectrum here: Opposition to Lake Powell Pipeline heats up as activists call for a federal investigation

Colorado River basin reservoirs begin emergency releases to prop up a troubled Lake Powell

Emergency water releases from reservoirs upstream of Lake Powell are underway to preserve the nation’s second-largest reservoir’s ability to generate hydroelectric power.  The Bureau of Reclamation started releasing additional water Thursday from Flaming Gorge reservoir in Wyoming. Additional water releases from Blue Mesa reservoir in Colorado and Navajo reservoir in New Mexico are planned to commence later this year. Emergency releases could last until at least December, and could extend into 2022.  Lake Powell is projected to hit a record low in July. It’s situated on the Colorado River, a drinking and irrigation water source for more than 40 million people in the Southwest. Spring and early summer inflows to the massive reservoir were the third lowest on record in 2021. That followed a meager runoff in 2020. … ”  Read more from KUNC here: Colorado River basin reservoirs begin emergency releases to prop up a troubled Lake Powell

Severe drought threatens Hoover dam reservoir – and water for US west

Had the formidable white arc of the Hoover dam never held back the Colorado River, the US west would probably have no Los Angeles or Las Vegas as we know them today. … The engineering might of Hoover dam undoubtably reshaped America’s story, harnessing a raucous river to help carve huge cities and vast fields of crops into unforgiving terrain. But the wellspring of Lake Mead, created by the dam’s blocking of the Colorado River and with the capacity to hold enough water to cover the entire state of Connecticut 10ft deep, has now plummeted to an historic low. The states of the west, primarily Arizona and Nevada, now face hefty cuts in their water supplies amid a two-decade drought fiercer than anything seen in a millennium. … ”  Read more from The Guardian here: Severe drought threatens Hoover dam reservoir – and water for US west

Dusty snow is making the western drought worse

Hydrologist Jeff Derry thrusts a shovel into one of the season’s last snowfields on the jagged granite flank of the Continental Divide. He’s looking for something specific: dust.  Standing thigh deep in an icy pit at 11,000 feet above sea level, Derry scrapes his square blade across the dirty snow and dumps its contents into a 1.5-gallon plastic jug. Geologists will analyze the dust to determine its mineral content and pinpoint where it came from—in this case Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert, carried by a historic blizzard a few months earlier. … ”  Read more from National Geographic here: Dusty snow is making the western drought worse

The Colorado River is drying up faster than federal officials can keep track. Mandatory water cuts are looming.

A blunt new report based on June runoff conditions from the Colorado River into Lake Powell and Lake Mead shows the reservoirs fast deteriorating toward “dead pool” status, where stored water is so low it can’t spin the massive hydroelectric power generators buried in the dams, and large swaths of Arizona farmland going fallow.  The enormous, life-sustaining buckets of water in the drought-stricken West are emptying so fast that the Bureau of Reclamation added a new monthly report – on top of three already scheduled this year – to keep up with the dam. … ”  Read more from the Colorado Sun here:  The Colorado River is drying up faster than federal officials can keep track. Mandatory water cuts are looming.

‘Unrecognizable.’ Lake Mead, a lifeline for water in Los Angeles and the West, tips toward crisis

Lake Mead, a lifeline for 25 million people and millions of acres of farmland in California, Arizona, Nevada and Mexico, made history when it was engineered 85 years ago, capturing trillions of gallons of river water and ushering in the growth of the modern West. But after years of an unrelenting drought that has quickly accelerated amid record temperatures and lower snowpack melt, the lake is set to mark another, more dire turning point. Next month, the federal government expects to declare its first-ever shortage on the lake, triggering cuts to water delivered to Arizona, Nevada and Mexico on Jan. 1. If the lake, currently at 1,068 feet, drops 28 more feet by next year, the spigot of water to California will start to tighten in 2023. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  ‘Unrecognizable.’ Lake Mead, a lifeline for water in Los Angeles and the West, tips toward crisis

In national water news this weekend …

AP Interview: EPA water chief on clean water protections

To finally determine a lasting definition of waterways that qualify for federal protection under the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency’s new water director says everyone with a stake in the issue will need to be engaged.  Radhika Fox recently spoke to The Associated Press about the Biden administration’s plan to rewrite the regulation, also called Waters of the United States. The contentious rule was scaled back by the Trump administration after being expanded under President Barack Obama.  Fox joins the EPA as water issues have become a priority under President Joe Biden. She was previously CEO of the conservation advocacy group U.S. Water Alliance and policy director at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. … ”  Read more from the Associated Press here: AP Interview: EPA water chief on clean water protections

Does this city’s progress on removing lead water lines show the potential for U.S.-wide replacement?

In July 2018, tests showed that the drinking water supply serving Yvette Jordan’s home in Newark, New Jersey, contained nearly 45 parts per billion (ppb) of lead — three times the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s action level for the neurotoxic heavy metal. It was a similar story for many families across her city. A lead crisis had struck Newark, and it was drawing comparisons to the tainted water that devastated Flint, Michigan, a few years earlier.  Yet what subsequently played out in Newark — for the most part, anyway — should serve as a “national model,” says Jordan, who is a high school history teacher.  … ”  Read more from Ensia here: Does this city’s progress on removing lead water lines show the potential for U.S.-wide replacement?

Nothing icky about ‘toilet-to-tap’: water recycling explained

Wastewater that recently swirled down a toilet bowl may be coming to your tap, in purified form, especially if you’re in a drought-stricken area where drinking water is increasingly scarce.  More municipal water systems in the West are considering water recycling, known in some places as “toilet-to-tap.” And Congress may begin supporting the idea as water systems scramble to find secure water supplies amid a decades-long drought driven by climate change, which may be the worst the region has experienced in more than a millennium.  Here’s a look at the context for a national discussion about water recycling, how it’s regulated, and what’s at stake. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here: Nothing icky about ‘toilet-to-tap’: water recycling explained

Weekly feature …

BLOG ROUND-UP: Low Delta outflow not keeping bay salt water out of the Delta; San Joaquin Valley water belongs to the people; Why is a Wisconsin prof using Beijing research to push water snitching in CA?; and more …

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Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

VELES WEEKLY WATER REPORT: NQH2O down $20.35 or 2.42%. CA not running out of water, it is running out of cheap water.

DELTA BREEZE NEWSLETTER: Science News, Events on the horizon, and #SciComm corner

CEQA SCOPING MEETING: Resolution regarding estuarine habitat restoration and multi-benefit climate change adaptation projects along the shorelines in San Francisco Bay

NOW AVAILABLE: 2021 California Water Data Science Symposium Recordings, Resources, and Survey

NOTICE: Office of Administrative Law Approves Drought Emergency Regulation for the Russian River

NOTICE: Revised Notice Of Opportunity To Comment – Racial Equity Resolution

CDFW GRANTS: North Coast Coho Recovery Call for Concepts Workshop Recording and Presentation Available

NEPA DOCS: California Aqueduct San Luis Canal Geotechnical Investigations Project CGB-EA-2021-038

NOTICE: Updates to the Household Water Supply Shortages Reporting Website

WATER PLAN eNEWS: ~~Website Upgrade ~Indoor Water~ Tribal Summit~ Groundwater Rights~ Abstract Deadline~ Webinar Series ~~

DELTA PLAN eNEWS: ~~ Grant Workshop~ CWC Meeting~ Marketing Workshop~ Estuary Summit ~~

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