DAILY DIGEST, 7/26: Monsoonal moisture to bring thunderstorms, wildfire concerns to CA; Warming rivers killing fish, imperiling industry; Court ruling finds FERC 401 waiver not justified; Report: Water reuse in the West; and more …


On the calendar today …

  • OPEN HOUSE: Salmon habitat restoration project at Ancil Hoffman Park (Golf Course) 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.  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 …

Major monsoonal moisture surge to bring fairly widespread California thunderstorms (wetter south, drier north), with NorCal fire weather concerns

Daniel Swain writes, “I continue to be fairly impressed by the extent and depth of projected moisture and instability across a good portion of California at various points over the next few days. This will be a true monsoonal surge–with distinct easterly flow over SoCal, and southeasterly flow across NorCal–complete with multiple easterly waves that will provide some mid-level lift and focal points for convective activity. Additionally, a weak low pressure system off the central CA coast will offer some mid-upper diffluence over the regions through mid-week–further enhancing the mid-level dynamics that are sometimes missing during monsoonal surge events.  This looks to be a classic, relatively high-end monsoonal pattern across CA. There will be at least a slight chance of some thunderstorm activity across every corner of the state during this event, but the likelihood will vary significantly from place to place and the character of the storms themselves will vary much between NorCal and SoCal. … ”  Read the full post at Weather West here:  Major monsoonal moisture surge to bring fairly widespread California thunderstorms (wetter south, drier north), with NorCal fire weather concerns

Dry thunderstorm, wildfire risk to surge with monsoon from California to Oregon and Idaho

As the North American monsoon continues over the southwestern United States this week, AccuWeather meteorologists say that shifting moisture may allow drenching storms to ease up in New Mexico and Arizona, but mainly dry storms are likely to ramp up in portions of Nevada, California, Oregon and Idaho in the coming days.  … While the overall amount and extent of rain, the newest surge of moisture remains questionable from Southern California and southern Nevada, as well as point farther to the north, there is a concern amongst AccuWeather meteorologists of what mainly dry thunderstorms might bring.  “We often see thunderstorms with little rain and a significant amount of lightning strikes on the leading edge of monsoon moisture and this may be one of those situations,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Matt Benz said. ... ”  Read more from AccuWeather here: Dry thunderstorm, wildfire risk to surge with monsoon from California to Oregon and Idaho

Warming rivers in West killing fish, imperiling industry

Baby salmon are dying by the thousands in one California river, and an entire run of endangered salmon could be wiped out in another. Fishermen who make their living off adult salmon, once they enter the Pacific Ocean, are sounding the alarm as blistering heat waves and extended drought in the U.S. West raise water temperatures and imperil fish from Idaho to California.  Hundreds of thousands of young salmon are dying in Northern California’s Klamath River as low water levels brought about by drought allow a parasite to thrive, devastating a Native American tribe whose diet and traditions are tied to the fish. And wildlife officials said the Sacramento River is facing a “near-complete loss” of young Chinook salmon due to abnormally warm water. … ”  Read more from US News and World Report here: Warming rivers in West killing fish, imperiling industry

Experimental habitats for hatchery Delta smelt

Dr. Peter Moyle writes, “The Delta smelt is either extinct in the wild or close to it; in the past year only a handful have been caught, with great effort. In contrast, the UC Davis Fish Conservation and Culture Laboratory (FCCL) has considerable success spawning and rearing the smelt in captivity. This coming winter, the FCCL will have as many as 40,000 smelt ready for release, when temperatures are low and the smelt are likely to spawn naturally. Such releases will be ‘experimental’ so not subject to the take provisions of the federal Endangered Species Act. In this blog, I support the concept that success of re-establishing smelt in the wild requires using multiple approaches. In previous blogs and papers (Börk et al. 2020, Stompe et al. 2021), the idea of planting hatchery smelt in selected reservoirs was discussed. Here I first explore the problems of releasing fish back into the Delta and then describe an experimental reintroduction project taking advantage of the characteristics of Delta islands. … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here: Experimental habitats for hatchery Delta smelt

Calif. regulators tabbed to deliver most severe cuts to water supplies

As California’s drought continues to worsen, the state’s top regulator announced that water in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta would be unavailable for all water users moving forward and issuing orders to water users to cut back their use.  The California State Water Resources Control Board announced at 5:30 p.m. on Friday that it issued a notice of water unavailability to the region’s senior water rights holders on June 15.  “The June 15 notice also warned all pre-1914 appropriative and riparian water right claimants in the Delta watershed of impending water unavailability based on worsening drought conditions and the resulting likelihood of consideration of an emergency regulation to curtail water use throughout the Delta watershed,” the board said in an announcement. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here:  Calif. regulators tabbed to deliver most severe cuts to water supplies

Column:  If every drop counts, Calif. needs a crackdown on illegal water theft

Columnist Wayne Western writes, “.. Much discussion and debate rages about the fresh water that needlessly makes its way to the Pacific Ocean. But, not all water makes it to the Pacific Ocean.  Some is pumped south to millions of people and millions of acres of farmland, and also for use on thousands of acres of environmentally protected areas.  And the last category of water is not a lawful category of water at all.  It is a category called unauthorized diversions within the Delta. Another term used by some to describe it is “illegal.” ... ”  Read the full column at the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: If every drop counts, Calif. needs a crackdown on illegal water theft

Marijuana farmers blamed for water theft as drought grips American west

Extreme and prolonged drought in the American west is prompting water thieves to tap into other people’s scarce supplies.  More than 12bn gallons of water have been stolen in California in the past eight years, according to state officials, but the issue has been further exacerbated by the ongoing drought and recent searing early summer heatwaves.  A significant amount of recent water theft has been blamed by the authorities on illegal cannabis cultivation in some parts of the state.  “Water stealing has never been more severe,” John Nores, head of the California department of fish and wildlife marijuana enforcement team (MET), told CNN. … ”  Read more from the Guardian here: Marijuana farmers blamed for water theft as drought grips American west

New research reveals aging water infrastructure problems and disadvantaged communities miss out on funding due to inadequate measuring tool

Rural communities suffering from failing infrastructure and low capacity often miss out on important funding opportunities because the methods used by state agencies to determine eligibility are inadequate for rural forested areas, new study finds.  Pockets of wealth (around a lake shore or golfcourse development, for example) raise the median household income (MHI), which can mask the poverty of nearby communities. A widely utilized tool, CalEnviroScreen, uses a range of metrics beyond median household income to score communities. Yet, according to this tool, all communities in the Mountain Counties Funding Area (including Paradise and other nearby impoverished areas) “have high scores, (meaning minimally disadvantaged) despite significant challenges from dangerous episodic smoke from wildfires, along with poverty, unemployment, failing infrastructure, fire risk, low political support or representation, and low organizational capacity.” … ”  Read the report from the Sierra Institute here: New research reveals aging water infrastructure problems and disadvantaged communities miss out on funding due to inadequate measuring tool

Court ruling finds FERC 401 waiver not justified – important implications for California hydropower project licenses

On July 2, 2021, the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued an important decision regarding Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, overturning an Order by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  FERC’s Order had found that the state of North Carolina had unlawfully “coordinated” with the license applicant to delay the state’s certification that a new FERC license for the Bynum hydroelectric project complied with state water quality laws.  FERC found that North Carolina’s participation in the delay meant that the state had “waived” its authority under Section 401 to issue the certification.  The Court reversed FERC’s finding of waiver because the finding was not supported by “substantial evidence.” … ”  Read more from the California Fisheries blog here: Court ruling finds FERC 401 waiver not justified – important implications for California hydropower project licenses

LA Times podcast: Masters of Disasters break down the fierce drought

Today we launch Drought Week, a five-part series looking at how water shortages across the West are profoundly changing life. We’ll swoop around, from Oregon to the Sonoran Desert, from cities to national parks, from Joshua trees to lawns.  To start Drought Week, it’s only natural — pardon the pun — that we take the bigger view first with our Masters of Disasters, the L.A. Times reporters who focus on natural calamities. So get your five-gallon buckets and put them next to you when you shower, ’cause things are serious right now. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: LA Times podcast: Masters of Disasters break down the fierce drought

Audio: Harsh reality of California drought shown in No water=No crops campaign

The drought in California isn’t quite fathomable to all. In efforts to showcase the harsh reality producers are experiencing, Western Growers has a new campaign called “No water= No Crops.” In a series of videos, the campaign focuses on a few California producers who are struggling with the water shortages. Joe Del Bosque of Del Bosque Farms is one of the farmers in the campaign. He started out his planting year thinking he’d have enough water but that quickly changed as the dry water year encroached. Del Bosque, like others featured in the campaign said one of the hardest decisions he had to make was deciding which crops to sacrifice.”  Listen from AgNet West here:  Audio: Harsh reality of California drought shown in No water=No crops campaign

Cost of regulatory compliance more than triples in six-year period

A study tracking regulatory compliance costs in California was recently released, with striking findings. Researchers looked at data from 22 different farms of various sizes in the San Joaquin Valley between 2012 and 2018. During that timeframe, regulatory costs increased by 265 percent. Professor of Agribusiness at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and co-author of the report, Lynn Hamilton said several factors contributed to the significant increase. … Hamilton noted that the timing of the study only covered the very beginning of the phase-in of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Costs have likely increased since then as the rule continues to be further implemented. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here: Cost of regulatory compliance more than triples in six-year period

Report: Water reuse in the West: Western state water reuse governance and programs

Water reuse across the west has grown and is maturing. Some states have been practicing various forms of water reuse for decades, whereas others are just starting to explore the practice on the ground. Some have robust legal and regulatory frameworks, whereas others have not yet defined reuse or water reuse practices within their statutes and rules. Regardless of where individual states are along this spectrum, most western states recognize the potential of water reuse to contribute additional water resources to meet growing urban and rural demands as the West experiences continued drought and as climate and weather patterns become increasingly variable and extreme.  This report details water reuse definitions, laws, regulations, and programs, and identifies opportunities and challenges to reuse within each state.”  Read/download the report from the Western States Water Council here: Report: Water reuse in the West: Western state water reuse governance and programs

State allocates $61 million for Scripps Oceanography programs

When the state issued its budget for the coming year, it contained more than $61 million for projects and programs at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla.  The funds include $35 million to design and build a new coastal research vessel with a first-of-its-kind hydrogen-hybrid propulsion system, $15 million for the ALERTWildfire program to install 1,000 cameras, $10 million toward the state Department of Water Resources atmospheric rivers research program and $1.5 million for the state Parks and Recreation Department oceanography program to support observations maintained by the Coastal Data Information Program at Scripps. … ”  Read more from La Jolla Light here:  State allocates $61 million for Scripps Oceanography programs

The West is burning. Climate change is making it worse.

California’s largest active fire continues to burn Sunday after tearing through a small community overnight.  The Dixie Fire, which started earlier this month and has now burned more than 190,000 acres, forced a new wave of evacuations in Northern California on Saturday before striking the town of Indian Falls the same evening, destroying homes and vehicles.  According to Cal Fire, the blaze is still only 21 percent contained and “continues to display extreme fire behavior.”  It’s just one of several massive fires, supercharged by climate change and extreme drought conditions, that are currently burning across the American West, and it comes as other parts of the world confront their own climate disasters while US climate action hangs in balance in the Senate. ... ”  Read more from Vox here: The West is burning. Climate change is making it worse.

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Commentary: Who’s bearing the water burden in Healdsburg?

Brigette Mansell, former Healdsburg Mayor, writes, “Water is spiritual for me. I’m keenly aware of its transformative properties. Being in water, floating down the Russian River from Redwood Drive to Memorial Bridge, around Fitch Mountain, wading into the surf where the mouth of the Russian River meets the Pacific—my relationship with water is redemptive, joyful, and intimate.  Recently, I was called a “water evangelist” by a local journalist and this label made my deep connection with water even clearer. I AM preaching the gospel of Conservation in our opulent, swanky town of Healdsburg. The gospel: “Every Drop Counts.” Climate Resilience starts with water.  The uncertainty of precipitation rises with Climate Change and environmental degradation. … ”  Read more from the Sonoma Gazette here: Commentary: Who’s bearing the water burden in Healdsburg?

Santa Barbara City Council to consider partnerships with La Cumbre Mutual Water Company

The Santa Barbara City Council will discuss negotiating a water supply agreement with La Cumbre Mutual Water Company during their regular meeting Tuesday.  Due to water supply shortages exacerbated by drought conditions, officials from La Cumbre Mutual Water Company have asked the City to negotiate a long-term supply agreement tied to the Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant.  The Desal plant, which was constructed by the City in 1991, acts as a regional water supply for the City, the Goleta Water District and the Montecito Water District. Last July, the council entered a 50-year supply agreement with Montecito Water District, approving a measure that supplies the agency with a set amount of water annually. … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara News-Press here: Santa Barbara City Council to consider partnerships with La Cumbre Mutual Water Company

Palmdale Water District seeks removal of reservoir sediment

The Palmdale Water District looks to take the next step in its years-long project to remove sediment from the reservoir behind the Littlerock Dam and increase its water storage capacity.  On Monday, the Board of Directors will consider a $1.6 million contract with Aspen Environmental Group for work involved with the design, permitting and construction of the project over the next three years, with potentially two years after that. The Littlerock Reservoir Sed­i­ment Removal Project has been in the works for more than 25 years. ... ”  Read more from the Antelope Valley Press here: Palmdale Water District seeks removal of reservoir sediment

Here’s how California’s largest lake, the Salton Sea, came to be so toxic

California’s largest lake, the Salton Sea, was once a destination for visitors seeking out gorgeous views, and a nice place to swim and relax — but because of pollutive human activities, that’s just a memory. The Salton Sea now happens to be one of the most polluted lakes in the state, with polluted air, copious amounts of dust making it hard to breathe, and algal blooms, which contaminate the water. In fact, the area is expected to be deemed completely “unlivable” within the next few years.  In fact, by 2030, the lake is predicted to expose more dust than ever before — which could seriously harm locals.  “All that dust that gets exposed would mean even more breathing problems and more allergies and asthma for the people who live here,” USC environmental epidemiologist, Shohreh Farzan, told The Guardian. It’s a serious yet fixable issue that’s gotten seriously out of hand. … ”  Read more from Green Matters here:  Here’s how California’s largest lake, the Salton Sea, came to be so toxic

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Along the Colorado River …

Study: Stark picture for Arizona water supply, Tucson could be oasis in desert

Arizona has been in a state of drought for two decades. For the first time in the modern history of the Colorado River, a water shortage will likely be declared at Lake Mead. Couple this with increasing temperatures and climate change and it could spell trouble for Arizona’s water supply.  A report released in May by the Kyl Center for Water Policy paints a stark picture for the water supply in Arizona. “First of all we’ve got too many people using groundwater. we’ve got to find ways to curb that use,” said Kathleen Ferris, a senior research fellow at the Kyl Center.  The report says most of the state is not achieving safe-yield, not pumping more groundwater than can be replenished. “In other words, as long as we continue , we call it mine groundwater, which means take more out than you are replenishing, the less groundwater you have. And groundwater is a finite supply,” Ferris said.  But could Tucson be the oasis in the desert? … ”  Read more from News 4 here: Study: Stark picture for Arizona water supply, Tucson could be oasis in desert

Expert weighs in on what our active monsoon could mean for Arizona drought

What does this record rainfall mean for drought conditions and wildfires in Arizona? We caught up with the state climatologist today to find out.  Days of rain can be exciting for Arizonans, but as we’ve already seen in Flagstaff it can lead to some serious flooding problems. “It’s challenging when we get a lot of precipitation in a very short period of time,” said state climatologist at ASU Erin Saffell. “That’s the nature of our thunderstorms in summer.” … ”  Read more from Arizona Famiily here: Expert weighs in on what our active monsoon could mean for Arizona drought

Commentary:  We’ve destroyed Western watersheds. It’s time for ‘ecological reparations’

Colorado River Advocate Gary Wockner writes, “American culture is reckoning with some of the negative impacts of our history. We are having significant and necessary conversations — and political outcomes — around the history of race in America. Some of those conversations have started to focus on the important concept of reparations. … The concept of “ecological reparations” takes the conversation another step forward. With ecological reparations, we reckon with our history of destroying the non-human world. Clear-cutting forests, damming rivers, and wiping out non-human species are examples of past wrongs that also should be amended. … ”  Read more from the Colorado Sun here: Commentary:  We’ve destroyed Western watersheds. It’s time for ‘ecological reparations’

Feds will prop up Lake Powell as it hits record low elevation

With water levels falling rapidly at Lake Powell on the Arizona-Utah border, federal officials are taking what could be the first of several steps to prop it up. This month the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation started a six-month effort to raise the lake around 3 feet by the end of 2021 by releasing 181,000 acre feet of water from three upstream reservoirs. It comes as the lake just Sunday fell below its lowest level on record. The reservoirs are Navajo Lake on the San Juan River in New Mexico and Colorado, Blue Mesa on the Gunnison River in Colorado, and Flaming Gorge on the Green River in Wyoming. … ”  Read more from the Arizona Daily Star here: Feds will prop up Lake Powell as it hits record low elevation

Lake Powell just hit its lowest level on record. Here’s what that means for Colorado and states that rely on it

Lake Powell, the second-largest reservoir in the U.S., has dropped to its lowest level on record. The water and power produced by the system supplies millions of people in the West. On July 23, the reservoir’s level fell to 3,555.09 feet. The previous record low was set in April 2005. A 20-year megadrought and hotter temperatures with climate change have contributed to shrinking water supplies in the Colorado River.  The Bureau of Reclamation had announced last week that it was likely this weekend that the reservoir would hit its lowest level since first being filled in the 1960s with water from the Colorado River. … ”  Read more from Colorado Public Radio here:  Lake Powell just hit its lowest level on record. Here’s what that means for Colorado and states that rely on it

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In national water news today …

House passes PFAS Action Act, but there’s one problem

Last week, the House of Representatives approved legislation that would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish national drinking water standards for regulating harmful forever chemicals, known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), that are linked to kidney, liver and other health problems.  There’s only one problem — 13 key organizations representing the U.S. water sector have objected to the bill including the American Water Works Association, the Water Environment Federation, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the National Association of Water Companies, the National Rural Water Association and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. … ”  Read more from Water Finance & Management here: House passes PFAS Action Act, but there’s one problem

Experts say climate change is to blame for unprecedented heat waves worldwide, and there’s no end in sight

New research says extreme weather events like the recent surge of summer heat waves across the U.S. are being spurred by the planet’s ongoing battle with climate change.  In recent decades, many have become all too acquainted with record shattering heat waves that have put serious — and often deadly — pressure on communities around the world. From the recent heat wave in the Pacific Northwest that inflicted record-breaking high temperatures on places like Portland and Seattle, to the current heat wave rolling across the U.K., people from all kinds of regional climates are now no strangers to extreme heat. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: Experts say climate change is to blame for unprecedented heat waves worldwide, and there’s no end in sight

Clouds may speed up global warming

One of the most fundamental questions about climate change is also one of the thorniest: How much, exactly, will the Earth warm in response to future greenhouse gas emissions?  The answer, scientists say, lies in the sky above our heads. Clouds are the fluffy, unlikely gatekeepers of climate change — they play a critical role in how quickly the world warms.  A series of recent studies have shed new light on that role. As the world warms, cloud cover will change across the globe. And these changing clouds will probably speed up global warming.  That means the Earth may be slightly more sensitive to greenhouse gases than some older estimates might have suggested. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Clouds may speed up global warming

It’s so hot in Dubai that the government is artificially creating rainstorms

With temperatures in Dubai regularly surpassing 115 degrees Fahrenheit, the government has decided to take control of the scorching weather.  Scientists in the United Arab Emirates are making it rain — artificially — using electrical charges from drones to manipulate the weather and force rainfall across the desert nation. Meteorological officials released video footage this week showing a downpour over Ras al Khaimah, as well as several other regions.  The new method of cloud seeding shows promise in helping to mitigate drought conditions worldwide, without as many environmental concerns as previous methods involving salt flares. ... ”  Read more from CBS News here: It’s so hot in Dubai that the government is artificially creating rainstorms

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NEPA DOCS: Water Year 2021 Whiskeytown Lake Drought Action (Alternatives to increase Shasta storage)

NEPA DOCS: West False River Temporary Drought Salinity Barrier removal

NOTICE: Pre-Hearing Conference and Public Hearing: San Joaquin County pending water right application

NOTICE: Delta Science Program Completes Independent Review of Delta Mercury Control Program Phase 1 Studies

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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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