DAILY DIGEST, 7/19: Costa gives Padilla first-hand look at Valley’s complex water needs; CA’s missing forecast flows in Spring 2021; St. Paul’s Hmong city council members wade into CA water; Megadrought poses ‘existential’ crisis; and more …


On the calendar today …

In California water news today …

Costa gives Padilla first-hand look at Valley’s complex water needs

The community of Dos Palos is pinning their hopes of restoring consistent supplies of clean water on action in Washington.  For Rep. Jim Costa (D–Fresno) the calls from neighbors who had their taps turned off last June amid scorching temperatures and algae backlog served as a much-needed alarm for change in basic water infrastructure.   It’s arguably the tip of the spear in his slate of Community Project Funding requests (formerly known as earmarks) for the current appropriations season.  Costa is carrying a $279,664 funding request to finance Dos Palos’ replacement water plant clarifier, ensuring consistency and reliability in the municipal water supply. ... ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Costa gives Padilla first-hand look at Valley’s complex water needs

California’s Missing Forecast Flows in Spring 2021 – Challenges for seasonal flow forecasting

California’s 2021 water outlook became grimmer this spring as the state did not get fabulous February or miracle March precipitation. …  In early May a significant revision of forecasted spring flow estimated substantial reductions from forecasts of just one month earlier – in some cases a 28% reduction. Aggregated over the Sacramento River Basin, total forecasted flow for April-July dropped by 0.8-1.0 million-acre feet. This reduction in forecasted water supply turned a bad water year into a dreadful one with an amplified conundrum of long-standing water conflicts.  What led to such a drop-off in forecasts? Where did all that snow go if not into flow? While there is an official review of the procedures that led to the differences in forecasts underway, in this blog we look at five possible culprits. ... ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here: California’s Missing Forecast Flows in Spring 2021 – Challenges for seasonal flow forecasting

Unpaid utility bills? California will pay off $2 billion worth to avoid shutoffs

Official estimates of unpaid water and energy bills accumulated during the pandemic verge on $2.7 billion, affecting a few million Californians — and those figures have been growing rapidly.  The state has so far prioritized rent relief — keeping people housed — over utilities relief. A spokesperson for the state’s COVID-19 Rent Relief program said that of the $158 million distributed as of July 16, less than $40,000 had gone to utilities relief. Utility debt makes up about 6% of all assistance requested so far.  On July 11, lawmakers revealed a plan to use one-time federal relief money to address the debt. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Unpaid utility bills? California will pay off $2 billion worth to avoid shutoffs

St. Paul’s Hmong city council members wade into California water, cannabis dispute

Two St. Paul City Council members are lending their political platforms to a conflict in rural California involving water restrictions, cannabis growers, a deadly police-involved shooting and the Hmong community. Minnesota and California are home to the largest Hmong populations in the country.  Council members Dai Thao and Nelsie Yang, who are both Hmong, have called for a federal investigation into the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office. … ”  Read more from Yahoo News here: St. Paul’s Hmong city council members wade into California water, cannabis dispute

State Water Board and the battle for clean aquifers

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. … ”  Continue reading from LA Progressive here: State Water Board and the battle for clean aquifers

Megadrought poses ‘existential’ crisis in California and the West

The American West was once seen as a place of endless possibilities: grand vistas, bountiful resources and cities that somehow grew out of deserts. Now, manifest destiny has become a manifest emergency.  A scorching drought made worse by climate change is draining reservoirs at an alarming pace, fueling massive wildfires and deadly heat waves and withering one of the most important agricultural economies in the country.  “I’m really concerned, I’m really worried,” said Joe Del Bosque, who has been growing melons and other crops in California’s Central Valley since 1985. He has weathered droughts before but nothing quite like this. ... ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento here: Megadrought poses ‘existential’ crisis in California and the West

A harrowing California fire season is here, fueled by historic drought

Two years of record dry winters and scorching early summer heat waves have primed forests across California to burn, just as the state heads into the hottest months of summer.  Fire season is here; fast, furious and early — exacerbated by dry conditions across most of the state, Paul Rogers, with the Mercury News, reported, writing that “memories of last year’s destructive fires are still fresh.”  Remember, last year we saw the most acres burned in California as we’d ever seen in recorded history — 4.3 million acres burned,” Rogers said. “One out of every 24 acres of land in California burned last year. This year, like last year, it’s all about drought.” … ”  Read more from KQED here: A harrowing California fire season is here, fueled by historic drought

At least 70 large wildfires burning in US west as fears mount over conditions

At least 70 large wildfires are burning across the US west and nearby states – engulfing more than 1m acres in flames – as fears mount that shifting conditions can worsen an already dire situation. Significant areas of these states are in the grips of drought conditions that are considered “extreme” and “exceptional” – the most severe categories.  In California, a rapidly growing wildfire south of Lake Tahoe jumped a highway, prompting more evacuation orders and the cancellation of an extreme bike ride through the Sierra Nevada on Saturday.  The Tamarack Fire, which was sparked by lightning on 4 July, exploded overnight and was over 20,000 acres as of Saturday evening, according to the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. … ”  Read more from The Guardian here: At least 70 large wildfires burning in US west as fears mount over conditions

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In commentary today …

Feeling the drought on my family farm

David “Mas” Masumoto, farmer and author, writes, “I can see my future: It’s dry, thirsty and bleak. On our farm, we live with drought daily, working with limited groundwater and learning to adjust and adapt, or to fail and abandon our fields. Water will determine a farmer’s survival.  I farm organically outside Fresno, part of one of the world’s richest and most productive agricultural oases, providing, of course, that we have water. Typically, we make use of two sources of the liquid gold: annual rainfall and snowmelt captured from the Sierra, and also the pool of groundwater lying beneath our land. Both are threatened by a lack of rain and snow, exacerbated by the slow depleting and over-pumping of our aquifers. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Feeling the drought on my family farm

Secure California’s future water supply and invest in recycled water

Jennifer West, managing director of WateReuse California, writes, “Climate change is forcing our state to reimagine our water supply future. How do we do that? Easy — we reuse water.  Just like recycling a plastic bottle, we can safely use recycled water to drink, irrigate parks, support environmental uses, grow crops, produce energy, and much more. More than just a new source of water, water recycling projects provide a degree of local water independence.  Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature are considering a drought funding package this summer that will use some of the budget surplus to mitigate drought effects and prepare our state for our new water-scarce future. ... ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Secure California’s future water supply and invest in recycled water

Letters to the Editor: Newsom isn’t doing enough on water use. Blame the recall

To the editor: Gov. Gavin Newsom’s response to the drought — asking but not requiring Californians to cut their water use by 15% — is being described as too little, late. Yet last year, he was willing to show leadership during the pandemic.  Newsom is acting like a politician trying to maintain high favorability so he can keep his job. California’s current situation is normal — we’ve seen droughts before — however, his political situation is not.  Thus we see the true costs of the irresponsible, pointless and distracting recall election. … ”  Read more at the LA Times here: Letters to the Editor: Newsom isn’t doing enough on water use. Blame the recall

Letters to the Editor: Unchecked office construction harms local workers

Regarding “Bay Area worst at creating housing for jobs” (Front Page, July 9): The ratio of new jobs to new housing would not be an issue if the jobs were going to people who already live here. But since local unemployment is low among qualified office workers, the unchecked construction of new office towers has required recruitment of workers from outside the area, fueling gentrification and exacerbating our water shortage. I often see a report of a new mixed use development touting that it includes new housing, overlooking the fact that the included housing will accommodate only a small fraction of the workers in that same project’s new offices. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Letters to the Editor: Unchecked office construction harms local workers

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Out of the spotlight, thousands of birds face a dry year at Klamath Basin refuges

Upper Klamath Wildlife Refuge is one of six refuges in the Klamath Basin. These marshes provide temporary habitat and breeding grounds for countless songbirds and waterfowl that migrate as far as Mexico and Alaska. When the refuges are dry, however, that habitat is gone.  In this highly managed basin, the refuges routinely end up being the lowest priority for water, after local tribes and endangered fish, and farmers who irrigate with water from the federally managed system known as the Klamath Project. Being at the end of the line can have devastating consequences. … ”  Read more from Jefferson Public Radio here: Out of the spotlight, thousands of birds face a dry year at Klamath Basin refuges

Napa: Scorched, parched and now uninsurable: Climate change hits wine country

In Napa Valley, the lush heartland of America’s high-end wine industry, climate change is spelling calamity. Not outwardly: On the main road running through the small town of St. Helena, tourists still stream into wineries with exquisitely appointed tasting rooms. At the Goose & Gander, where the lamb chops are $63, the line for a table still tumbles out onto the sidewalk.  But drive off the main road, and the vineyards that made this valley famous — where the mix of soil, temperature patterns and rainfall used to be just right — are now surrounded by burned-out landscapes, dwindling water supplies and increasingly nervous winemakers, bracing for things to get worse. … ”  Read more from the New York Times here: Scorched, parched and now uninsurable: Climate change hits wine country

Marin water hookups suspension spurs housing debate

Marin water managers’ strategy to suspend most new water service hookups during the historic drought is drawing criticism from some who say little water will be saved with a policy that comes at the expense of the county’s poorest residents.  Such a tradeoff would impact everyone from service workers to businesses to the elderly on fixed incomes, critics say.  “I’m extremely disappointed that they continue to be looking at this as something that would make any kind of difference in saving water at this point,” said Linda Jackson, program manager for the Aging Action Initiative organization in San Rafael. “The drought danger is much greater than anything we would be doing with this little action and the harm would be enormous.” … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Marin water hookups suspension spurs housing debate

Marin commentary: More housing and more drought calls for more thought

Rick Johnson, formerly with the San Francisco Water Department, writes, “Although 41 of California’s 58 counties are in drought conditions, legislators are debating bills, such as Senate Bill 9 and Senate Bill 10, that address the construction of housing to meet the state’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation.  Between 2023 and 2031, the state mandate for the nine-county Bay Area is 441,000 units, representing an expected population increase of 1,102,500. The allocation for Los Angeles County is 1,327,000 housing units to accommodate an expected population increase of 3,317,500.  The state’s propensity to accept the RHNA numbers ignores our drought conditions. Nowhere does the legislation indicate where the additional water for these units will come from, nor does it address impact on infrastructure, such as sewer lines. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Marin commentary: More housing and more drought calls for more thought

Sustainable Solano walk looks at prospect of flooding in Suisun City

The third and final Flood Walk, sponsored by Sustainable Solano, took 12 participants on a journey through the marshlands, by the docks and through some residential areas in Suisun City.  All are spots that could be affected by flooding.  “It seems weird talking about flooding when we are in a drought,” said Sustainable Solano program manager Jonathan Erwin.  Sustainable Solano is a grassroots movement to unite people in working toward a future that is ecologically regenerative, and economically and socially supportive of local communities. ... ”  Read more from the Daily Republic here: Sustainable Solano walk looks at prospect of flooding in Suisun City

Commentary: Water districts vs. Santa Barbara County

Lis Wiehl, legal analyst and author, writes, “Just two weeks into home ownership in Santa Barbara, I awakened to the sound of what I thought were sprinklers. But the sound was actually a main water pipe bursting. I hurried off to cut off the water supply.  As I watched the liquid gold flowing down my property and onto the street, I thought of the pending lawsuit between our local water districts and Santa Barbara County.  The lawsuit may have a big impact on how water rights are managed and administered in the entire county.  I’ve analyzed the pending case as if I were the judge writing a decision. As a judge, I (first) identify the issues; then, (second), I outline the arguments on both sides and (third), I offer a decision in the form of a ruling. … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent here: Commentary: Water districts vs. Santa Barbara County

Pasadena: Arroyo Seco Canyon project back before council

A public hearing on an environmental impact report (EIR) on a controversial project that local preservationists say threatens fish living in a local stream is scheduled to go before the City Council on Monday.  The Pasadena Water and Power Department (PWP) 0is seeking two conditional use permits (CUPs) to repair and replace facilities within the Arroyo Seco Canyon area that were damaged or destroyed by the Station Fire-related events of 2009.  Preservationists say the project threatens trout that are swimming in streams in the area. … ”  Read more from Pasadena Now here: Pasadena: Arroyo Seco Canyon project back before council

Orange County Coastkeeper says region is well-equipped to handle drought for now

While Governor Gavin Newsom has declared many California counties in a state of emergency due to worsening drought conditions, some Southern California counties such as Orange County remain well-equipped to handle the drought. The conservation practices enacted during the last drought have decreased water usage and added to the region’s reservoirs.  Orange County Coastkeeper emphasizes that the region is able to handle the drought due to its actions conserving water in previous droughts and investing in systems like the groundwater replenishment system that treats sewage to almost distilled water to replenish the city’s aquifer. … ”  Read more from the OC Breeze here: Orange County Coastkeeper says region is well-equipped to handle drought for now

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Along the Colorado River …

CRS REPORT: Management of the Colorado River: water allocations, drought, and the federal role

The Colorado River Basin covers more than 246,000 square miles in seven U.S. states (Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California) and Mexico. Pursuant to federal law, the Bureau of Reclamation (part of the Department of the Interior) manages much of the basin’s water supplies. Colorado River water is used primarily for agricultural irrigation and municipal and industrial (M&I) uses; it is also important for hydropower production, fish and wildlife, and recreational uses.Apportioned Colorado River water is widely acknowledged to be in excess of the river’s natural flows, and consumptive use of these waters typically exceeds natural flows. This causes an imbalance in the basin’s available water supply and demand. Stress on basin water supplies is exacerbated by a longterm drought dating to 2000. In the future, observers expect ongoing strain on the basin’s limited water supplies, which will be further stressed by climate change. ... ”  Read the report from the Congressional Research Service here: CRS REPORT: Management of the Colorado River: water allocations, drought, and the federal role

Rapid growth in Arizona’s suburbs bets against uncertain water supply

The entrance to the Cadence at Gateway subdivision, a new housing development on the outskirts of Mesa, Arizona, itself a suburb of Phoenix, is a long paved road lined with towering palm trees. With homes built by several companies including Lennar, the nation’s largest homebuilder, Cadence offers a plethora of amenities: an indoor fitness center, a game room, tennis, volleyball, basketball and bocce courts, an event center called Mix, three swimming pools and two chute-style waterslides.  “Isn’t it beautiful?” asked Megan Santana, whose own home is currently under construction, as we walked toward the back of the community center, which has a large green lawn. “You feel like you’re on an island resort.” … ”  Read more from the Tucson Sentinel here: Rapid growth in Arizona’s suburbs bets against uncertain water supply

Drought in the Southwest could be making monsoon flooding worse

Monsoon rains brought extreme flash flooding to the Southwest this week, causing at least one death and scenes of vehicles bobbing down roads like rafts on rapids.  More flash flooding may occur this weekend.  A flash flood in Grand Canyon National Park killed Rebecca Copeland, 29, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the Tatahatso Camp on the Colorado River, the National Park Service said in a press release. The flood injured four others who were hospitalized and in stable condition.  Experts say the historic Western drought is to blame.  The drought has ravaged the region for decades, leaving the soil less like a sponge and more like pavement. … ”  Read more from CNN here: Drought in the Southwest could be making monsoon flooding worse

River managers take emergency steps to refill Lake Powell

The federal Bureau of Reclamation is taking emergency measures to shore up water levels in Lake Powell, to preserve the reservoir’s ability to generate hydropower.  Late last week, officials ordered an additional release of 50,000 feet per second from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming, to maintain Lake Powell’s water levels at 3,500 feet. Bureau officials project without this intervention, water levels would soon fall below the amount necessary to run the generators at Glen Canyon Dam.  Gary Wockner, executive director of the nonprofit Save the Colorado, said the upstream water release is too little, too late.  “This idea of just letting more water out of the other reservoirs is, at best, a very short-term band-aid,” Wockner argued. “It does not solve anything. It only just elongates the problem; it doesn’t actually address the problem.” … ”  Read more from the Public News Service here: River managers take emergency steps to refill Lake Powell

How water rights work in Colorado — and why severe drought makes them work differently

Whether you’re a kayaker or an angler or a hard-core gardener in Colorado, we get that this water thing is confusing.  If the eastern half of the state is getting plenty of water and the western half is literally burning up, why are we still pumping so much water east over the divide to already-green Front Range communities? Why did Colorado River supervisors at state Parks and Wildlife tell us to stop fishing the river one week, and then say the next week, “No problem, go ahead, we found some water”? … ”  Continue reading at the Colorado Sun here: How water rights work in Colorado — and why severe drought makes them work differently

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In national water news today …

Biden to reverse Trump’s showerhead rule

The Biden administration is scrapping an efficiency rule that President Trump touted as being critical for his “beautiful” hair.  The Department of Energy today issued a pre-publication notice announcing the agency will craft a new rule to revise the current definition of “showerhead” and scrap a final rule the Trump administration adopted last year.  Last summer, Trump criticized the rule during a visit to a Whirlpool manufacturing plant in Ohio. “You turn on the shower — if you’re like me, you can’t wash your beautiful hair properly,” said Trump. “’Please come out.’ The water — it drips, right?”  Shortly after Trump made those comments, DOE proposed rolling back the efficiency standards tied to showerheads.  Now DOE will return to a showerhead definition adopted in 2013 that requires that showerheads with multiple nozzles collectively meet the water conservation standard of 2.5 gallons per minute. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Biden to reverse Trump’s showerhead rule

Pivotal week for infrastructure as 2 key deadlines await

The Senate is barreling toward a showdown this week over a bipartisan infrastructure deal worth more than $1 trillion, with negotiators working to finish the text and see whether there are enough votes to move forward.  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is planning a Wednesday procedural vote on the bipartisan infrastructure framework agreed to by the White House and 22 senators last month. Sixty voters, likely all 50 Democrats and 10 Republicans, would be needed to avoid a filibuster and move ahead with debating it. Negotiations continued over the weekend, but no final accord was announced.  Republicans involved with the talks said yesterday they were not yet ready to commit to backing the plan, saying details were not yet finalized. They suggested Schumer might have to move back the vote Wednesday to buy more time for talks. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Pivotal week for infrastructure as 2 key deadlines await

Lawmakers, Biden officials vow action on PFAS

Lawmakers and regulators are increasingly mobilizing behind efforts to crack down on so-called forever chemicals as pressure to find a solution swells to a fever pitch.  At an inaugural conference pegged to issues around per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, EPA Administrator Michael Regan vowed to “follow the science” on the chemicals and offer a strong federal partner to local governments.  Hosted by the Environmental Working Group, the event served as a testament to how much attention the chemicals have garnered from policymakers.  “I saw firsthand the devastating effects that PFAS has on communities,” Regan said, referencing his time as North Carolina’s top environmental regulator, where he oversaw a massive deal regarding one PFAS compound, GenX.  “We will tackle this issue by working hand in hand,” he said, pledging an approach spanning multiple federal agencies. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Lawmakers, Biden officials vow action on PFAS

SEE ALSO: House Democrats set vote on sweeping PFAS bill, from E&E News

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOW AVAILABLE: Final Determination on the Appeals of the Lookout Slough Tidal Habitat Restoration and Flood Improvement Project Certification of Consistency

NOTICE of Informal Consultation for Kerckhoff Hydroelectric Project (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Project No. 96)

NOTICE: Draft Drought Emergency Regulation for Scott and Shasta Rivers – Public Meeting & Comment Period

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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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