DAILY DIGEST, 7/20: Dramatic photos from NASA highlight severity of California’s drought; Salmon-killing tires get congressional hearing; Trading water, saving water; Bill to fix DISB compensation passes Assembly; and more …


On the calendar today …

  • MEETING: State Water Board will meet at 9am.  Agenda items include drought update, Update on monthly water production and conservation data reported by urban retail water suppliers, and a Public Hearing for the Draft Statewide Caltrans Stormwater Permit Reissuance and Draft Time Schedule OrderClick here for the full agenda and remote access instructions.
  • FREE WEBINAR: Western Drought Crisis from 10am to 12pm. The webinar will include an update on the current drought situation and outlook, an overview of wildland fire conditions and outlook, and will feature perspectives from those on the ground who are responding to worsening drought conditions. Key discussions will include a summary of past and current conditions in terms of many climate variables like snowpack, temperatures, precipitation, soil moisture, etc.; as well as potential and ongoing impacts from drought across sectors (e.g., agriculture, water resources, recreation, etc.).   This webinar is being hosted by NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS).  Click here to register.
  • WORKSHOP: Delta Conservancy Prop 1 Applicant Workshop from to 1pm to 3pm.  The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy is hosting two workshops for applicants to Cycle 5 of our Ecosystem Restoration and Water Quality (Proposition 1) Grant Program. We highly encourage applicants to attend this workshop and learn more about the program, application process, and timeline.  Click here to register.
  • PUBLIC MEETING: Draft Drought Emergency Regulation for Scott and Shasta Rivers from 3pm to 5pm.  The purpose of the meeting is to provide information, answer questions, and solicit input on the draft emergency regulation.  Click here to register.
  • OPEN HOUSE: Salmon habitat restoration project at Ancil Hoffman Park, Effie Yeaw Nature Center, Sacramento from 6pm to 8pm.  The public is invited to learn about a new project designed to restore crucial habitat for native salmon and steelhead trout in the river at Ancil Hoffman, near Effie Yeaw Nature Center, in Carmichael.  The Ancil Hoffman Habitat Restoration Project will recreate spawning and rearing areas by laying approximately 15,800 cubic yards of clean gravel into the flowing river and carving a new alcove in the existing gravel bar, parallel to the river.  More information, including a project Fact Sheet with Map and list of Frequently Asked Questions, is available at waterforum.org/AH.

In California water news today …

Dramatic photos from NASA highlight severity of California’s drought

As the West descends deeper into drought, climate and water experts are growing increasingly alarmed by California’s severely shriveling reservoirs.  On Monday, Shasta Lake — the largest reservoir in the state — held a scant 1.57 million acre-feet of water, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, or about 35% of its capacity.  A series of satellite images captured by NASA show just how dramatically the water level has fallen. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Dramatic photos from NASA highlight severity of California’s drought

New NASA images reveal how parched California really is

The snow that falls on the Sierra Nevada hydrates California. Thirty percent of the entire state’s water supply comes from the snowpack in the mountains that line the eastern edge of California. But, after two years of drought, the snow is gone.  New images from space reveal how parched the land really is.  During the dry summer months, the melt of the snow in Sierra is relied upon to flow into the rivers and valleys and fill the reservoirs across the state. But this year’s drought, the second in a row, has seen a huge reduction in water making it down the mountains. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  New NASA images reveal how parched California really is

Thieves are stealing California’s scarce water. Where’s it going? Illegal marijuana farms

One day last spring, water pressure in pipelines suddenly crashed In the Antelope Valley, setting off alarms. Demand had inexplicably spiked, swelling to three and half times normal. Water mains broke open, and storage tanks were drawn down to dangerous levels.   The emergency was so dire in the water-stressed desert area of Hi Vista, between Los Angeles and Mojave, that county health officials considered ordering residents to boil their tap water before drinking it.  “We said, ‘Holy cow, what’s happening?’” said Anish Saraiya, public works deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.  It took a while for officials to figure out where all that water was going: Water thieves — likely working for illicit marijuana operations — had pulled water from remote filling stations and tapped into fire hydrants, improperly shutting off valves and triggering a chain reaction that threatened the water supply of nearly 300 homes. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Thieves are stealing California’s scarce water. Where’s it going? Illegal marijuana farms

What is La Niña? The climate pattern – and how it affects our weather – explained

So what exactly is La Niña?  The La Niña climate pattern is a natural cycle marked by cooler-than-average ocean water in the central Pacific Ocean. It is one of the main drivers of weather in the United States and around the world, especially during the late fall, winter and early spring.  It’s the opposite to the more well-known El Niño, which occurs when Pacific ocean water is warmer than average.  Both are Spanish language terms: La Niña means “little girl,” while El Niño means “little boy,” or “Christ child.” South American fishermen first noticed periods of unusually warm water in the Pacific Ocean in the 1600s, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. The full name they used was “El Niño de Navidad” because El Niño typically peaks around December. … ”  Read more from USA Today here: What is La Niña? The climate pattern – and how it affects our weather – explained

Salmon-killing tires get congressional hearing

The toxic effects of tire dust and skid marks on coho salmon were the subject of a U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee hearing Thursday.  Washington State University researcher Jenifer McIntyre said 6PPD-quinone, a chemical recently discovered in used tires, has been washing off roadways and killing coho salmon.  “This new chemical has been measured in surface waters by our group and others in North America and around the world in concentrations that we know kill coho salmon,” McIntyre testified. … ”  Read more from KUOW here: Salmon-killing tires get congressional hearing

Radio: Low water levels, warming temperatures threaten endangered California salmon population

California’s ongoing drought and predicted heatwave is causing overly warm and low level waters and threatening to kill off the entire populations of already endangered species like the chinook salmon. Negotiations between the State Water Resources Control Board and the federal Bureau of Reclamation approved a plan for managing water levels. However, experts predict that releasing water into the irrigation system this early will disrupt salmon spawning season and could kill as many as 88% of the salmon in the river. These complications coincide with the increase in a parasite that’s also killing off the fish. We discuss the impact of poor water conditions and increasing heat and hear what creative options are on the table to save the salmon.”  Listen to the radio show from KQED here: Radio: Low water levels, warming temperatures threaten endangered California salmon population

SEE ALSO: The Surprising Way Climate Change Is Affecting How Salmon Travel, from Mashed

CDFW rolls out guidance for fishing during the drought

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is asking recreational anglers to voluntarily change how, when and where they fish to minimize stress and mortality among fish populations suffering from drought conditions.  CDFW is advising anglers not to fish past noon on certain inland waters as even catch-and-release angling during the hottest parts of the day can greatly increase fish stress and mortality.  “Many of our inland fisheries that rely on cold water habitat will likely be significantly impacted in the short and long term,” said CDFW Inland Fisheries Manager Roger Bloom. “California’s drought cycles have required us to learn to manage fisheries with extreme variations in water flows. The last drought resulted in significant effects to fisheries that took years to recover from. We hope the self-imposed Hoot Owl restrictions by anglers will help mitigate those effects.” … ”  Read more from the Department of Fish and Wildlife here: CDFW rolls out guidance for fishing during the drought

Trading water, saving water

Richel Young writes, “When the West faces water shortages, no one is spared: habitats degrade, food and electricity production take hits, communities are choked by relentless wildfires. The repercussions of droughts will intensify as they occur more regularly and with more severity amid climate change.  Today, as a water economist, my job is to help customers stretch their limited water resources. This means managing supplies wisely and getting a handle on collective demands. Fortunately, one of our available tools is an old one: water markets that can help reallocate the resource to the places it’s needed most. … ”  Read more from PERC here: Trading water, saving water

The water risks facing California: New index offers future price visibility

A new futures contract based on the Nasdaq Veles California Water Index provides longer-term visibility into the price of water, according to Roland Fumasi of RaboResearch.  California is facing another dry summer in 2021, and for agricultural producers, that means a difficult growing season. Drought emergencies have been declared for 41 California counties, mostly in Northern and Central California, home to the majority of the state’s farmland. The situation has put a strain on the state’s traditionally fragile water resources, resulting in water price spikes for producers looking to sustain their crops. … ” Read more from The Street here: The water risks facing California: New index offers future price visibility

What is desalination? How does it impact the environment?

” … Only 2.5% of surface water on the planet is freshwater, and only a fraction of that is available and suitable for human consumption. As climate change intensifies, desalination provides alternative drinking water and irrigation source. However, it also has significant environmental impacts. Emerging technologies can help mitigate some of these effects, but desalination is a tradeoff between meeting the increasing human demands on freshwater sources and the environmental problems the process exacerbates. … ”  Read more from TreeHugger here: What is desalination? How does it impact the environment?

Delta Independent Science Board: Bill to fix compensation passes Assembly

Senate Bill 821, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta: Delta Independent Science Board, was introduced by the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee in March to restore compensation for the Delta Independent Science Board members.  The bill has been winding its way through the legislature.  SB 821 was passed out of the Assembly on Thursday, July 15 with 70 ayes, 0 noes, and 9 not voting. The bill is now on the Senate floor, awaiting a concurrence vote on the amendments in the Assembly. It will be voted on after the legislature reconvenes from summer recess on August 16. … ”  Read more from California Water Research here: Delta Independent Science Board: Bill to fix compensation passes Assembly

State Senator Hurtado and Congressman Valadao urge Gov. Newsom for help in drought for Central Valley counties

Today, Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) and Congressman David G. Valadao (R-Hanford) released the following statements regarding a letter they sent to Governor Gavin Newsom and the Federal Drought Task Force to ensure that the south Central Valley will be considered in drought decisions:  “California is one state of many, including countries around the world, that is experiencing a drought unlike any other,” said Senator Hurtado. “Farmers of the Central Valley are world leaders and have been at the forefront of the fight against climate change. Support for our farmers equals support for our food—we may not be able to avoid this water crisis, but we can work to avoid a food crisis. There is no room for partisan politics in addressing this enormous challenge. Congressman Valadao, myself, and the Valley Delegation have been working tirelessly to address the needs of our constituents, farmers and farmworkers. We will continue to do so.” … ”  Read more from Cal Ag Today here: State Senator Hurtado and Congressman Valadao urge Gov. Newsom for help in drought for Central Valley counties

Meters might be key to conserving water for California agriculture

California’s governor Gavin Newsom has 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 this has 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. But there’s something else in these 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. ... ”  Continue reading at Horticulture here: Meters might be key to conserving water for California agriculture

Western wildfires: California utility says its equipment may be linked to fire; powerful storms bring more threats

Pacific Gas & Electric, the nation’s largest utility, reported to California regulators that its equipment may have been involved in the start of the Dixie Fire burning in the Sierra Nevada.  The utility said in a filing Sunday that a repair man responding to a circuit outage July 13 spotted blown fuses in a conductor atop a pole, a tree leaning into the conductor and fire at the base of the tree.  PG&E equipment has repeatedly been linked to major wildfires, including the 2018 blaze that ravaged the Northern California town of Paradise. … ”  Read more from USA Today here: Western wildfires: California utility says its equipment may be linked to fire; powerful storms bring more threats

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In regional water news and commentary today …

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 OPB here: Thousands of birds face a dry year at Klamath Basin refuges

Domestic wells run dry in many Klamath Basin homes

Judy Shanks starts her shift at Basin Ambulance at 5 a.m. each morning. She likes to start and finish work early, so she can return to her Malin home in the afternoon and tend to her livestock.  But lately, rather than saddling up and going for a ride when she gets off, Judy is spending her afternoons finding water for her small collection of horses, cows and goats. On June 24, the 118-foot domestic well that provides water to the Shanks property ran dry.  “I don’t even know how to explain the gut wrenching reaction you have when you go to turn on the faucet and no water comes out,” said Judy. “You don’t know whether to laugh or cry.” … ”  Read more from Channel 8 here: Domestic wells run dry in many Klamath Basin homes

Klamath water war gravely worries Oregon farmer

Water is essential. So, understandably, worries are mounting, and farmers are growing frustrated at the federal government for cutting off their main water supply source in Klamath County, Oregon. The longstanding heated issue that brings both salmon and farmers to the table is now fueled by a historic drought, coupled with the ‘Bootleg Fire’ – that has little containment, already burning 200,000 plus acres.   While Todd Koch’s Oregon dairy and creamery is located 265 miles north in the Willamette Valley, he too is worried. Koch also farms 800 acres of alfalfa and grass, along with running a 160-cow beef operation in Klamath County. ... ”  Read more from Dairy Herd here: Klamath water war gravely worries Oregon farmer

Column: Damned if you do: The thorny decision to remove hydro dams

Columnist Roslyn Kunin writes, “Economists often talk about over-constrained problems. These are situations where there are so many goals to be reached and/or so many limitations that it’s impossible to find a solution that meets all requirements.  Contrast this with advice often given to politicians to never talk about anything that can’t be fully described on a bumper sticker. Our desire for simple problems with easy solutions often runs headlong into the convoluted complexity of the real world. One such situation was described in the Economist of July 10.  It concerns the Klamath River, which flows from Oregon down through northern California. Dams on this river could generate enough hydroelectric power to provide for 140,000 homes, although only half of that is being produced. The dams have also produced artificial lakes where water is stored. … ”  Read more from Troy Media here: Column: Damned it you do: the thorny decision to remove hydro dams

Humboldt County supervisors to talk action on drought, low river levels

As historic drought conditions grip California, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will consider the proclamation of a countywide drought emergency Tuesday. The combination of rising temperatures and drying conditions have contributed to lower than average river levels and increased fire potential throughout the county.  During the board’s May 25 meeting, supervisors established a drought task force to monitor worsening drought conditions and directed staff to investigate the creation of a position to address climate resiliency. The board did not agree that a drought emergency declaration was necessary despite worsening conditions and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to extend the state’s drought emergency proclamation to include Humboldt County on May 10. … ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here: Humboldt County supervisors to talk action on drought, low river levels

‘Near-complete loss’ of young salmon in Sacramento River possible, California officials say

California Department of Fish and Wildlife staff are on the ground monitoring drought impacts — and among the alarming findings is “the possibility of a near-complete loss” of young, winter-run Chinook salmon on the Sacramento River this fall due to a dwindling water supply and persistent dry, hot weather.  The waters of Northern California’s main river may become so hot that nearly all the eggs and juveniles of this endangered species, which migrates from the Golden Gate in winter and spawns just below Shasta Dam in the Sacramento River in spring and summer, could die, according to California wildlife officials. ... ”  Read more from SF Gate here: ‘Near-complete loss’ of young salmon in Sacramento River possible, California officials say

Butte County: ‘Not a general drying up of wells,’ Bill Connelly says, but polluted, shallow wells a worry

While the issue of agriculture and residential wells drying up has become a topic of conversation in Glenn County, in nearby Butte County, Butte County Supervisor for District 1 Bill Connelly said that in Palermo and south Oroville he is aware of just one dry well.  Connelly said the well is along Lincoln Boulevard and that it may or may not be attributed to the drought California is currently experiencing. He said that there is a significant amount of water under the Palermo area, however there are old wells, shallow wells and polluted wells in the area as well. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here: Butte County: ‘Not a general drying up of wells,’ Bill Connelly says, but polluted, shallow wells a worry

Carmichael to impose fines on residents who waste water during drought

California’s dry, drought-like conditions could mean fines for Carmichael residents if they waste water.  The Carmichael Water District is calling for a 10%-20% reduction in usage.  Residents who waste water could face a fine between $50-$500.  Residents may recall Gov. Gavin Newsom asking Californians to cut back on how much water they use earlier this month. Since then, the state has only become drier. … ”  Read more from Channel 40 here: Carmichael to impose fines on residents who waste water during drought

Water questions become larger concern for Lake County Planning Commission

As California’s drought conditions worsen, local officials are facing increased water demands from proposed projects and, at the same time, pushback from residents and a request from the state to cut back on water use.  Those issues are coming to the fore increasingly during the Lake County Planning Commission’s twice-monthly meetings.  The commission last met on July 8, the same day that Gov. Gavin Newsom held a news conference at the diminishing Lopez Reservoir in San Luis Obispo County to ask Californians to reduce their water usage by 15% as the state’s drought deepens.  The conservation the state is seeking crosses all sectors — from residential to commercial, from industry to agricultural.  In Lake County, officials are facing a steady stream of hundreds of cannabis-related project permits, with many opponents of the project bringing up one main concern: water supply. ... ”  Read more from Lake County News here:  Water questions become larger concern for Lake County Planning Commission

Amid severe drought, St. Helena’s Napa water deliveries fall short

As St. Helenans cope with water rations amid the worst drought since the 1970s, the city took only 487 of the 600 acre-feet it was contractually obligated to buy from Napa in the last fiscal year. City Manager Mark Prestwich said he plans to write a letter asking Napa to reduce St. Helena’s water bill or deliver the remaining 113 acre-feet from St. Helena’s 2020-2021 allotment, even though the fiscal year ended on June 30. Without such an agreement, St. Helena would remain bound by the contractual requirement to buy all 600 acre-feet at $2,531.86 per acre-foot, including roughly $285,720 for water it never received. ... ”  Read more from the Napa Register here: Amid severe drought, St. Helena’s Napa water deliveries fall short

Why did the Central Coast’s drought classification change so quickly?

John Lindsay writes, “I recently wrote about how the U.S. Drought Monitor increased the severity of the drought throughout the Central Coast from an Abnormally Dry (D0) classification in late February to an Extreme Drought (D3) level in June.  On May 4, the entire Central Coast reached a D2 (Severe Drought) classification. I assumed that San Luis Obispo County would remain at this level through the summer since we had moved into our historically dry season of May through September.  However, by early June, most of the state of California transitioned to either an Extreme Drought (D3) level or D4 (Exceptional Drought) classification, the most severe category, an unprecedented rate of increase. ... ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here: Why did the Central Coast’s drought classification change so quickly?

Water returns to Teviston after well breaks down. But more money is needed

After over a month of transporting water from nearby towns and delivering bottled water to residents, the rural Tulare County community of Teviston had running water again Monday.  Teviston’s only well broke down in early June, leaving hundreds of residents without running water.  Teviston Community Services District board member, Frank Galaviz, said that the well is “back online” in an interview on Monday with The Bee. “We’re in good shape now. We’re back to normal,” said Galaviz. The well pump was repaired on Friday. … ”  Continue reading at the Fresno Bee here: Water returns to Central Valley town after well breaks down. But more money is needed

Kern River water rights case gets hearing date

Whether the Kern River truly has spare water and, if so, how much, has been left up in the air for more than a decade.  Now, 11 years after the State Water Resources Control Board ruled the Kern River was not fully appropriated, it will finally start the process of getting at those two key questions: Is water available? How much?  A status conference hearing has been scheduled by the board’s Administrative Hearing Office for Aug. 17 at 9 a.m., the board announced on Monday. ... ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Kern River water rights case gets hearing date

Redondo Beach: Conservancy hopes to create urban wildernesses throughout South Bay

A brush fire in 2007 and California’s drought left Wilderness Park’s 11 acres overgrown with weeds and invasive species. Beginning in 2017, the South Bay Parkland Conservancy (SBPC) has been working with community volunteers and the City of Redondo Beach to restore the Redondo Beach park to its natural state.  … “When people think of wilderness in the South Bay, they only think of the beach. We’ve really become detached from our local wilderness,” Varvarigos said. “Our goal is to create a connected urban wilderness throughout the South Bay with trails, parks, and native habitat for wildlife.” … ” Read more from the Easy Reader here: Conservancy hopes to create urban wildernesses throughout South Bay

San Diego pumped storage project gets seed money… now the work begins

A 500 MW pumped energy storage project proposed jointly by the City of San Diego and the San Diego County Water Authority received $18 million in the California state budget. The support will help fund the San Vicente Energy Storage Facility through initial design, environmental reviews, and the federal licensing process.  The project would provide long-duration stored energy and is seen by backers as an asset that will help avoid rolling blackouts through on-demand energy production. It also could generate revenue to help offset the cost of water purchases, storage, and treatment.  With the state funding, the Water Authority and the city now plan to start federal and state environmental reviews, seek a project license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and issue a Request for Proposals for a partner to help develop the project. … ”  Read more from PV Magazine here: San Diego pumped storage project gets seed money… now the work begins

San Diego homeowner: Disconnecting a water meter could cost thousands

Jet Martin wanted to stop service to a water meter to save money for the homeowners in his Mira Mesa HOA.  It turns out the city said doing that will cost thousands of dollars.  “I was shocked when I heard an amount of $14,000 simply to discontinue water service,” Martin said. … ”  Read more from Channel 10 here: San Diego homeowner: Disconnecting a water meter could cost thousands

San Diego County: Would-be cannabis farmers face big challenges

This fall, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors is expected to finalize an ordinance that allows cannabis retail sales, manufacturing and cultivation in the unincorporated areas of the county.  For those thinking, “Wait, isn’t cannabis legal in California? Isn’t this already allowed?” The answers are “yes” and “it depends.” A provision in Proposition 64 — which in 2016 legalized cannabis cultivation, sales and consumption for adults in California — allows for individual municipalities, like counties and cities, to retain local control. In this case, local control means localities can levy their own taxes, as well as ban any part of the legal cannabis industry from operating within their jurisdictions. … ”  Read more from the Voice of San Diego here: San Diego County: Would-be cannabis farmers face big challenges

Palm Springs gets most rain in nearly 6 months Sunday

Palm Springs was visited by early morning thunderstorms Sunday. The scattered showers delivered 0.08 inches of rain between about 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., according to the National Weather Service, with additional rain possible Sunday afternoon.  Rainfall varied throughout the rest of the Coachella Valley, ranging from a relatively low 0.04 inches in Palm Desert and Indio to 0.27 inches in Cathedral City.  “It’s interesting that it dropped quite a bit of rain in one area and much less just a couple of miles away,” said Elizabeth Schenk, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s San Diego office. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here: Palm Springs gets most rain in nearly 6 months Sunday

Imperial Valley’s water during the western drought

The Imperial Valley is a desert with an annual rainfall of two inches a year, according to the University of California. The Valley is not experiencing a drought, but normal desert conditions. The Valley’s water is not affected by the rest of California’s drought condition as it receives its water supply from the Colorado River, not the snowpack off the Sierra Nevada Mountain range or rainfall. The Valley has senior water rights and a high allocation of the Colorado River’s water.  “The Imperial Valley tends to rely on Colorado River water, so growers there usually have the most robust water access of any place in California,” Roland Fumasi said recently at an agriculture meeting discussing California’s drought. He is the head of RaboResearch Food and Agribusiness (F&A) North America team. … ”  Read more from the Desert Review here: Imperial Valley’s water during the western drought

Needles is down to one water well. What happens if the taps go dry?

Rick Daniels lies awake at night worrying about a rusty contraption in a forlorn field, littered with discarded pipes and fire hydrants.  It is the only water pump in Needles that meets state water quality standards, running 23 hours a day to keep up with demand, according to Daniels, the city manager. That’s a thin margin in one of America’s hottest cities, an urban speck in the desert near California’s border with Arizona.  If this lone pump fails, 5,000 residents face the ultimate risk of taps running dry, as temperatures soar past 120 degrees and people need to gulp as much as two gallons daily. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Needles is down to one water well. What happens if the taps go dry?

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Along the Colorado River …

Grand Canyon; Photo by Ron Reiring

Hydropower worries grow as Colorado River reservoirs continue to dry up

The water levels behind the Colorado River’s biggest dams are fast-approaching or already at record lows, thanks to a 21-year megadrought that’s squeezing water supplies across the Southwest. But the effects of drought are likely to start showing up in energy bills, because those dams can’t produce as much electricity.  The problem is most acute at the Upper Colorado River basin’s largest reservoir: Lake Powell. At the base of Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona, the Colorado River flows out cold and clear. On the canyon walls, moss grows where water from behind the dam seeps slowly through the red sandstone. The air buzzes with electricity. … ”  Read more from Cronkite News here: Hydropower worries grow as Colorado River reservoirs continue to dry up

Radio: How Colorado River water cutbacks could affect cities’ credit ratings

The federal government is expected to formally declare a shortage on the Colorado River later this summer, which would trigger automatic cutbacks. For Arizona, that would mean an 18% reduction in the amount of Colorado River water it gets. Much of that water goes to agriculture in the state, but cities could feel the impact, too, in the form of higher water prices. And that, in turn, could potentially affect those cities’ credit ratings.  The Show spoke more about the situation with Teri Wenck, a credit analyst with Fitch Ratings, which has analyzed this.”  Listen to the show at KJZZ here: How Colorado River water cutbacks could affect cities’ credit ratings

Column: Arizona just 5 feet away from the possibility of deeper water cuts to save Lake Mead

Columnist Joanna Allhands writes, “This is escalating quickly.  The July 24-month study for the Colorado River reservoir system is skirting dangerously close to what might be considered a doomsday provision within the Drought Contingency Plan.  If Lake Mead is projected to fall below 1,030 feet any time within two years, the plan states, Arizona, California and Nevada must reconvene to decide what additional steps they will take to keep Mead from falling below 1,020 feet – an elevation that many consider the crash point. The next milestone below that is “dead pool,” where no water leaves the lake.  And that provision is triggered by any part of any 24-month forecast – not just the maximum or most probable scenario, but the minimum probable scenario, too. … ”  Read more from the Arizona Republic here: Column: We are just 5 feet away from the possibility of deeper water cuts to save Lake Mead

Extreme actions underway to ensure Glen Canyon Dam can continue to generate power

The growing crisis on the Colorado River came into sharper focus last week when the Bureau of Reclamation began emergency releases from Flaming Gorge Reservoir to shore up Lake Powell’s declining levels, now at historic lows.  The move will bolster Powell’s level by 3 feet in hopes of preventing it from dropping to a point where Glen Canyon Dam would not be able to generate electrical power, according to the agency’s Upper Colorado regional director Wayne Pullan.  These releases from Flaming Gorge and two other reservoirs were triggered by interstate agreements crafted in response to historic drought conditions that are stressing water supplies across the West.  “Unlike an earthquake or a fire or a hurricane, it’s not an imminent emergency, but it’s been an emerging situation over many years,” Pullan said Friday in a news media call. … ”  Read more from the Salt Lake Tribune here: Extreme actions underway to ensure Glen Canyon Dam can continue to generate power

Group calls plan to boost Lake Powell levels a ‘Band-Aid’

The Bureau of Reclamation is taking emergency measures to keep Lake Powell from falling to critically low levels. The contingency operations call for releasing water from three reservoirs, including Flaming Gorge, to give Lake Powell a small boost.  But the group Save The Colorado is calling the plan a “Band-Aid” and said it won’t be enough to save Lake Powell. … ”  Read more from Fox 13 here:  Group calls plan to boost Lake Powell levels a ‘Band-Aid’

Rinse and repeat: Monsoon storms to keep flash flood danger high in Southwest

The North American monsoon has been firing on all cylinders since the season began during the middle of June. AccuWeather forecasters say that the daily downpours will continue for the foreseeable future across the Southwest, bringing much-needed rainfall, but also the risk of flash flooding.  A steady stream of moisture will continue to flow into the region, with the largest concentration of shower and thunderstorm activity persisting over the Four Corners states into the weekend. … ”  Read more from AccuWeather here: Rinse and repeat: Monsoon storms to keep flash flood danger high in Southwest

Why the Southwest’s shrinking water reservoirs matter to Colorado

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has signed off on increased funding for water development projects that state officials regard as critical to meet growing demands. But the state’s plans to secure more water from rivers here are colliding with the hotter, drier climate that’s hammering the Southwest, where Colorado River reservoirs are at record-low levels.  Federal authorities warn hydropower electricity for millions of people (and their air conditioners) could be jeopardized if water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead — now both about 34% full — fall much lower. That’s partly why water officials from seven states met in Denver this week to size up perils before their next round of negotiations over how states deal with diminishing water. ... ”  Read more from the Denver Post here: Why the Southwest’s shrinking water reservoirs matter to Colorado

PPIC: Cultivating optimism as drought cripples the Colorado River

A historic drought has desiccated much of the American West, bringing reservoir levels to record lows and stoking fears of catastrophic wildfires across the region. We spoke with two members of the Water Policy Center research network and experts on the Colorado River: Dr. Bonnie Colby of the University of Arizona (she’s also a member of the Colorado River Research Group) and John Fleck of the University of New Mexico. Prepare to be surprised: we encountered some delightful optimism in this wide-ranging conversation. … ”  Read more from the PPIC here: Cultivating optimism as drought cripples the Colorado River

American Rivers: Top 10 strategies for climate resilience in the Colorado Basin

If 2020 and the global COVID-19 pandemic will be remembered for shining a light on the realities of our connected world, then the summer of 2021 will be remembered for the mirror it held up to the realities of a warming and drying future for water in the Colorado River Basin.  We’re on the brink of the federal government declaring a water shortage, Lake Mead and Lake Powell have plummeted, and any sign of replenishing flows is precarious at best. But unlike COVID-19, this shortage has been on the horizon for decades. Water managers, scientists, and non-profits like American Rivers are sounding the alarm (and have been), about the realities of a simultaneously drying and ever-more-demanding West. … ”  Read more from American Rivers here:  Top 10 strategies for climate resilience in the Colorado Basin

Audubon: The entire Colorado River basin is in crisis

” … Reclamation’s projections signal that we urgently need to do more than the DCPs envisioned because of the increasingly hot and dry conditions in the basin. Reclamation has continued to revise their projections throughout this shockingly dry spring, resulting in really dire projections for water storage and distribution. In other words, less water for people, and less water in streams that benefit birds, fish, and a robust recreational economy.  We’ve arrived at the time when the limits of the Colorado River are being reached. … ” Read the full article from Audubon here: The entire Colorado River basin is in crisis

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In national water news today …

Court allows Trump administration waters of the U.S. Rule to remain

A South Carolina federal judge issued an order late last week allowing the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, the Trump administration’s “waters of the United States” rule, to remain in place while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers work on rulemakings to revoke and replace it. The final rule was issued in April 2020, redefining “waters of the United States” and narrowing the scope of Clean Water Act jurisdiction. … ”  Read more from Best Best & Krieger here: Court allows Trump administration waters of the U.S. Rule to remain

New web project traces every waterway in contiguous U.S.

Calling all river-lovers and map enthusiasts! A new web project called River Runner, created by data analyst Sam Learner, allows you to follow the path of a raindrop anywhere in the contiguous United States. Using data from the United States Geological Survey, Learner mapped the flow of water throughout all 48 adjoining states. Just click on any spot on the map to create your raindrop and watch it flow downstream.  We are excited about this tool because it provides you with a bird’s eye view of the river and its surroundings. … ” Read more from American Rivers here: New web project traces every waterway in contiguous U.S.

Inside a legal doctrine that could silence enviros in court

The biggest obstacle a conservative Supreme Court could pose to the environment may not be rulings against clean air, pure water and a healthy climate.  It may be a refusal to allow environmentalists into the courtroom.  Under the standing doctrine, a court can toss out lawsuits in their early stages if it finds that a legal challenger has not presented a concrete harm that meets the standard of a “case” or “controversy” eligible for judicial review under Article III of the Constitution.  Some conservative jurists may view issues like climate change — which has many contributors and affects every person on the planet — as too diffuse to address in the courts.  “The bigger the harm and the more impacts, the more difficult it is for parties to establish standing. That’s a perverse incentive for polluters,” said Karen Sokol, a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans. “If you hurt everyone, you’re no longer accountable.” … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Inside a legal doctrine that could silence enviros in court

Infrastructure negotiations: Schumer’s gamble collides with GOP threats

The Senate is voting Wednesday on beginning debate on a bipartisan infrastructure plan whether the bipartisan group is ready or not. It has enraged Republicans, but behind the scenes, multiple aides tell CNN that the bipartisan group continued “productive” talks well into the evening on Monday night. Right now, no one thinks that this deal is coming together in 24 hours, but that doesn’t mean it’s totally dead. ... ”  Read more from CNN here: Infrastructure negotiations: Schumer’s gamble collides with GOP threats

Extreme heat waves are putting lakes and rivers in hot water this summer

Extreme heat waves have blanketed the Pacific Northwest, Siberia, Greece, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and other regions this summer, with temperatures approaching and exceeding 50 C.  As temperatures near outdoor survival thresholds, individuals who do not have easy access to air conditioning or cooling stations, or are unable to flee, may succumb to heat waves.  These climate extremes are becoming more frequent. But as tragic as they are to human health, they are only part of a larger climate catastrophe story — the wide-scale damage to the ecosystems that people depend upon, including agriculture, fisheries and freshwater. … ”  Read more from The Conversation here: Extreme heat waves are putting lakes and rivers in hot water this summer

Europe to US to India, it’s been a week of extreme weather events

Extreme weather events have hit several parts of the world in the last few weeks: Europe and Asia have been ravaged by floods, North America by heat wave and Africa by drought.  At least 40 countries in Europe, North America, Asia, Oceania and Africa have been hit by the devastating extreme natural disasters such as floods, storms, heat wave, wildfires and drought.  There are growing scientific evidences attributing these to climate crisis aggravated by human actions. Such extreme weather events are likely to be more frequent and severe, cautioned World Meteorological Organization (WMO), July 16, 2021.  Extreme precipitation has been increasing globally due to human-induced climate change, a new research by University of California published July 19 said. ... ”  Read more from Down to Earth here: Europe to US to India, it’s been a week of extreme weather events

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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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