WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for July 18-23: Floating wetlands a potential solution for Delta food-web support and habitat; Water Forum 2.0; plus 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 …

BAY-DELTA SCIENCE CONFERENCE: Floating wetlands: A potential solution for Delta food-web support and habitat

The Delta pelagic food web no longer adequately supports native species, and developing management strategies for foodweb support and habitat for fish species of concern is a key goal as well as a substantial challenge.It is expected that tidal marsh restoration will produce food resources to benefit species on-site, as well as export food resources to support pelagic habitat in adjacent waters and regionally.  However, deeply subsided Delta islands inhibit large-scale tidal restoration in most of the central and western Delta.  Considering the difficulty of creating tidal habitat on subsided Delta islands, floating peat mats that could provide marsh habitat is being investigated on Bouldin Island.

Dr. Steve Deverel, president of Hydrofocus in Davis, discussed the potential of using floating peat mats for food web support and habitat at the 2021 Bay-Delta Science Conference.

Click here to read this article.


DELTA STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL:  Delta Conservancy update: Analysis of juvenile salmonid habitat in the Delta

At the June meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Campbell Ingram, Executive Officer of the Delta Conservancy, updated the council members on the Conservancy’s activities.  Then, Bruce DiGennaro, program manager for the Collaborative Science and Adaptive Management Program and Principal Planner and Lead Facilitator with the Essex Partnership, gave a brief overview of a recent analysis of juvenile salmonid habitat in the Delta.

Click here to read this article.


GUEST ARTICLE: Water Forum 2.0: Updating the Sacramento region’s landmark water deal

An interview with Water Forum Executive Director Jessica Law on climate change, equity and shaping a groundbreaking agreement for the next 20 years

Article written by Matt Weiser

The Sacramento Water Forum is a unique organization founded around the idea of protecting a wild and scenic river in the heart of California’s capital city. Nearly 30 years after its founding, the group has achieved considerable success, and is now working towards an agreement that will last the next few decades.

Now, the Water Forum has a new executive director, Jessica Law, who is working to update the agreement. Law has 15 years of experience in water and environmental management, land use planning and collaborative decision making. In the interview summarized below, she spoke about the process of updating the landmark agreement, which she refers to as Water Forum 2.0.

Click here to read this article.

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In California water news this week …

California voters OK’d billions for water projects. Where are the new dams, reservoirs?

None of the major water storage projects being funded by Proposition 1, the 2014 water bond, will be able to provide short-term relief for California’s worsening water situation.  They’re all still in the pre-construction phase: reviewing environmental impacts, designing dams and nailing down financing to pay for the costs the state won’t handle.  “Anybody who thought we would have a new surface reservoir by now from the 2014 water bond doesn’t understand how … that kind of project happens,” said Ellen Hanak, a water expert at the Public Policy Institute of California. ”Those are not overnight projects.”  In other words, California, for the time being, is going to have to make do with the overtaxed portfolio of dams and reservoirs built in the last century as it confronts the escalating threat from climate change. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: California voters OK’d billions for water projects. Where are the new dams, reservoirs?

SEE ALSO:

Interview: Downloading the facts from California’s first groundwater plan assessments

In June 2021, the Department of Water Resources released the first groundwater sustainability plan decisions ahead of the statutory deadline identified in the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act – commonly called SGMA.  The long-term planning required for SGMA will provide a buffer against drought and climate change and over time will contribute to reliable water supplies regardless of weather patterns in the State. To provide more insight into what these decisions mean for advancing sustainable groundwater management, we spoke with DWR’s SGMA’s Technical Manager. … ”  Read more from DWR News here:  Interview: Downloading the facts from California’s first groundwater plan assessments

California’s Delta an oasis amid arid farmland

As California has imposed severe water cutbacks throughout the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta’s vast watershed, most growers in the Delta region itself are still getting enough water to bring their crops to harvest.  With a majority of landowners in the region holding pre-1914 riparian water rights, the state has not curtailed their ability to pump water from the Delta’s labyrinth of canals and waterways – at least yet.  In fact, growers whose land is on islands below sea level have been pumping water off, San Joaquin County Agricultural Commissioner Tim Pelican said. “You’re never really all that far from a surface water source” within the Delta’s myriad islands, said Kristopher Tjernell, the state Department of Water Resources’ deputy director of integrated watershed management. “Surface water is by far the majority of water use in the Delta.” ... ”  Continue reading at the Western Farm Press here: California’s Delta an oasis amid arid farmland

Endangered salmon program waiting, watching for possible call on Millerton water

As the summer grinds on, farms, towns and a critical native salmon restoration program that all rely on water from Millerton Lake near Fresno continue to hope their water won’t be needed to fulfill irrigation contracts further up the San Joaquin Valley.  But in this parched year, nothing is certain.  If water is required out of Millerton, which happened in drought years 2014 and 2015, that could be especially detrimental for the San Joaquin River Restoration Program, which is already taking unprecedented steps to nurture its endangered spring run Chinook salmon population.  “It’s not the best conditions, but we will survive this,” said Don Portz, director of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Endangered salmon program waiting, watching for possible call on Millerton water

State ponies up $200 million toward $2.35 billion repair bill for major canals

Several of the state’s key canals will get a sprinkle of state money this year and next toward fixing more than $2 billion in damage caused by sinking land from excessive groundwater pumping.  On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a massive budget “trailer” bill, which authorizes actual funding for programs and services outlined in the state budget that was passed June 15.  The trailer bill included $200 million for the Department of Water Resources to spend over the next two years on the California Aqueduct, Delta-Mendota Canal and Friant-Kern Canal. Together, repairs for those canals are estimated at $2.35 billion. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: State ponies up $200 million toward $2.35 billion repair bill for major canals

SEE ALSO: California invests $100 million in 2021/2022 budget toward restoring water conveyance capacity, statement from the Friant Water Authority

Fixing sinking Friant-Kern Canal is unprecedented task. The latest hurdle? Scheduling payments.

After some negotiation, the Friant Water Authority Board of Directors will vote on a repayment contract with the Bureau of Reclamation regarding the repair of a portion of the Friant-Kern Canal.  The Friant Water Authority and the Bureau of Reclamation held its second round of negotiations Thursday morning, which was a two-hour process hammering out contract language in the repayment deal.  The finalized contract will be presented to the Friant Water Authority Board at its next meeting on July 29 for a vote of approval. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Fixing sinking Friant-Kern Canal is unprecedented task. The latest hurdle? Scheduling payments.

Interview: Downloading the facts from California’s first groundwater plan assessments

In June 2021, the Department of Water Resources released the first groundwater sustainability plan decisions ahead of the statutory deadline identified in the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act – commonly called SGMA.  The long-term planning required for SGMA will provide a buffer against drought and climate change and over time will contribute to reliable water supplies regardless of weather patterns in the State. To provide more insight into what these decisions mean for advancing sustainable groundwater management, we spoke with DWR’s SGMA’s Technical Manager. … ”  Read more from DWR News here:  Interview: Downloading the facts from California’s first groundwater plan assessments

Pot farms using groundwater can affect stream flows

The legalization of marijuana for recreational use has encouraged growers to expand plantings of the lucrative crop. Like any plant, cannabis requires water to grow.  A new study from the Cannabis Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley examined where cannabis growers are getting water for their crops, highlighting significant gaps in cannabis cultivation policy.  Environmental advocates have expressed concern that cannabis farms are diverting water from rivers and streams, which could harm fish and other wildlife. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Pot farms using groundwater can affect stream flows

Audio: The great California groundwater grab

California is in the middle of a terrible drought. The rivers are running low, and most of its farmers are getting very little water this year from the state’s reservoirs and canals. And yet, farming is going on as usual.  NPR food and agriculture correspondent Dan Charles explains how farmers have been using wells and underground aquifers to water their crops. But that’s all set to change. California is about to put dramatic limits on the amount of water farmers can pump from their wells, and people have some pretty strong feelings about it.”  Listen to the radio show (12 minutes) from NPR here:  Radio show: The great California groundwater grab

SEE ALSO: (Audio) Without Enough Water To Go Around, Farmers In California Are Exhausting Aquifers, from NPR (4 minutes)

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

Forever chemicals: California unveils health goals for contaminated drinking water

California took a major step today towards regulating dangerous “forever chemicals” in drinking water by proposing new health limits for two of the most pervasive contaminants. State environmental health officials recommended goals of one part per trillion and less — a minuscule amount 70 times smaller than the federal government’s non-binding guideline for drinking water nationwide.  Called “forever chemicals” because they persist in the environment, the contaminants are ubiquitous. Traces of two — perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) —  are in the well water of 146 public water systems serving nearly 16 million Californians, a CalMatters analysis found last fall. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Forever chemicals: California unveils health goals for contaminated drinking water

State Water Board considers resolution on racial equity

Racial equity may soon become a guiding principle at a powerful state agency that helps mediate water disputes and directs taxpayer investments in troubled Central Valley water systems.  A draft resolution pending before the State Water Resources Control Board would condemn systemic racism, xenophobia and white supremacy while committing the agency to making racial equity, diversity, inclusion and environmental justice central to its work. Inspired in part by nationwide demonstrations following the May 25, 2020 in-custody death of George Floyd, the resolution is partly aimed at increasing minority representation among the board’s base of employees and supervisory staff. But it would also require state actions toward dismantling systems that perpetuate racial inequities, including in project permitting, enforcement, funding and administering of water rights. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here: State Water Board considers resolution on racial equity

What is the future of WOTUS for farmers?

The U.S. District Court in South Carolina dismissed a challenge to the Navigable Waters Protection Rule written during the Trump administration and granted a remand without vacatur, ensuring the rule remains in effect until the Biden administration finalizes a new rule. Agricultural groups are engaged in litigation across the country to defend the NWPR and are pleased with this key legal victory, yet recognize more work remains as the new administration forges ahead on making its own mark on regulating water.  National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Chief Environmental Counsel Scott Yager says the NWPR is a major improvement to what he called the “widely overreaching 2015 Waters of the United States” – known as the Obama-era WOTUS rule. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: What is the future of WOTUS for farmers?

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

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In regional water news this week …

As drought slams California and Oregon, Klamath farmers grow fish to quell a water war

It’s a strange place to find fish, deep in the high desert, where drought-baked earth butts against scrubby mountains.  But water spews from the hot springs on Ron Barnes’ land near the California-Oregon border, pure and perfect for rearing c’waam and koptu, two kinds of endangered suckerfish sacred to Native American tribes.  Barnes, who holds an advanced degree in aquaculture from UC Davis, has dug dozens of ponds on his property and filled them with thousands of young suckerfish. He hopes raising and releasing them into the wild will end the region’s epic water wars — or at least get federal regulators out of the mix before his neighbors descend into violence. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: As drought slams California and Oregon, Klamath farmers grow fish to quell a water war

City of Ukiah may further restrict access to recycled water due to thefts

The city of Ukiah plans to further limit access to its recycled water supply due to unauthorized activity at its truck fill-up station, Sean White, the city’s director of water and sewer resources, told the Ukiah City Council this week.  White told the council at its July 21 meeting that the city has “produced about 170 million gallons of recycled water so far this season, which is equal to about 520 acre-feet, or about 20 percent of our annual use. I think we’re definitely doing a really good job of taking pressure off of the river, and subsequently Lake Mendocino.” … ”  Read more from the Ukiah Daily Journal here: City of Ukiah may further restrict access to recycled water due to thefts

Hundreds in Glenn County without water as wells dry up during drought

As California’s drought continues to worsen, people living and working in Glenn County say their wells are drying up. That means no clean drinking water and no plumbing.  Glenn County’s Office of Emergency Services said this year’s drought is breaking records, in a bad way. During the last drought, from 2014 to 2017, the maximum number of residents at one time with dry wells was 30. … ”  Read more from KCRA here: Hundreds in Glenn County without water as wells dry up during drought

Tahoe likely to drop below rim in 3 months

After two consecutive dry winters, Tahoe’s lake level is sitting a little over 1.5 feet above its natural rim — a threshold the alpine lake is forecasted to drop below in the next three months.  And while the rise and fall of Lake Tahoe’s water level is cyclical in the short-term (with evaporation and downstream flow offsetting spring runoff filling the lake each year) and the long-term (the lake has fallen below it’s natural rim over 20 times in the last century since data collection began), experts are concerned by the severity of the current drought and its impacts on water supply, wildfires and wildlife.  To start, it’s the third driest year in terms of precipitation from melted snow and rain in 111 years, reports Chad Blanchard, the Federal Water Master responsible for upholding the legal mandates of Tahoe’s water flow. … ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune here: Tahoe likely to drop below rim in 3 months

Monterey Peninsula water officials reluctantly agree to pay for buy-out study

Officials with the Monterey Peninsula water district begrudgingly agreed Monday to pay for a feasibility study requested by an intergovernmental body that has control over the future of the district’s plan to take over California American Water Co.  The board of directors of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District during its regular meeting Monday approved up to $70,000 to pay for a study that was in effect ordered by the Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO, that will analyze the district’s ability to deliver water as well as having the financial wherewithal to buy out Cal Am. … ”  Read more from the Monterey County Herald here:  Monterey Peninsula water officials reluctantly agree to pay for buy-out study

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

Report on Metropolitan finds no widespread issues in handling employee complaints

A powerful Southern California water agency accused by some employees of sexual harassment and other workplace violations “generally provides a safe and respectful working environment” for people of color, women and LGBTQ+ workers, a report on the agency concludes.  The review of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California found no systemic problems in how the agency handles complaints of harassment, racism, retaliation and other alleged discrimination. But it found the agency had not properly responded to such complaints in the past and said some current equity policies are inconsistently applied. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Report on powerful water agency finds no widespread issues in handling employee complaints

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?

Padre Dam water district looking into tax liens for delinquent customers

The Padre Dam Municipal Water District Board of Directors, which last week reinstated late fees and water shutoffs, plans to put tax liens on 73 delinquent accounts.  The item is on the consent calendar of the board’s meeting on Wednesday.  The district, which had given customers a grace period during the pandemic, said it is owed more than $280,000.  “This is a normal practice for us and we are obligated to collect fees for services in order for us to stay in compliance with state law,” said General Manager and CEO Allen Carlisle. “We can’t have one ratepayer group subsidize another.” … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here: Padre Dam water district looking into tax liens for delinquent customers

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Along the Colorado River …

Lake Powell level about to hit a historic low as West’s water crisis deepens

Lake Powell will soon hit its lowest level since Glen Canyon Dam started trapping the Colorado River’s water in 1963 — even with emergency releases of water from reservoirs upstream.  The Bureau of Reclamation announced Thursday that the lake elevation will soon drop below 3,555.1 feet above sea level, the record set in 2005, back near the start of a 20-year dry cycle plaguing the Colorado River Basin.  “Lake Powell’s elevation is expected to drop another two feet by the end of July, and will likely continue to decline until next year’s spring runoff into the Colorado River begins,” the bureau said in a news release. … ”  Read more from the Salt Lake Tribune here: Lake Powell level about to hit a historic low as West’s water crisis deepens

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

In national water news this weekend …

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

Lawsuit challenges federal industrial stormwater permit failure to control U.S. plastic pollution

On July 1, 2021, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the Ninth Circuit to review EPA’s issuance of the 2021 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP) for storm water discharges from industrial activities.  This impacts thousands of industrial facilities across the country, according to the Center’s press release.  The lawsuit alleges the federal permit’s failure to: protect the aquatic environment; public health; endangered and threatened species; and critical habitat from plastic and other forms of pollution discharged through industrial storm water. … ”  Read more from Stormwater Solutions here: Lawsuit challenges federal industrial stormwater permit failure to control U.S. plastic pollution

Weekly features …

BLOG ROUND-UP: Who’s getting unreasonable water allocations in CA?; Can the Newsom administration be considered “progressive” on water resources?; PETA weighs in on Newsom’s water conservation plea; The Garcia: A river in strong recovery after a 30-year effort; and more …

Click here to read this article.

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Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

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

NOTICE: Biodiversity Advisory Panel Releases Summary Document, Virtual Workshop July 27

NOTICE: Staff Workshop On Proposed Emergency Curtailment And Reporting Regulation For The Sacramento-San Joaquin Watershed

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

WATER PLAN eNEWS: ~~BayCAN Guide~ Extreme Heat~ Farm Recharge~ Irrigation Webinar~ Climate Change~ Waterway Trash~ Water Rights~~

DELTA eNEWS: ~~ Science Blog~ Delta Breeze~ DPC Video~ Gardening Tips~ Fisheries Webinar ~~

VELES WEEKLY REPORT: NQH2O up $21.52 or 2.62% to $842.38. Indications of price stabilization.

YOUR INPUT WANTED: Delta Stewardship Council’s Public Participation Plan

YOUR INPUT WANTED: Instream Flow & Water Level Conservation Training Center – Survey Request – Aug 6, 2021 Deadline

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