WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for July 25 – 30: Delta Conveyance Project and State Water Project operations; Primary production in the Delta; plus all the top water news of the week and more …

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

Note to readers: Sign up for weekly email service and you will receive notification of this post on Friday mornings.  Readers on daily email service can add weekly email service by updating their subscription preferences. Click here to sign up!

This week’s featured articles …

DELTA CONVEYANCE PROJECT: State Water Project operations and Delta modeling

Where does the State Water Project get its water?  How does DWR model Delta water operations?  Informational webinar features presentations on State Water Project operations and Delta modeling

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is hosting four informational webinars between July and September 2021 to provide background information related to preparation of the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Delta Conveyance Project.  The first webinar focused on State Water Project and Delta operations, and featured presentations on State Water Project operations and the models the Department will use to analyze the project.

The meeting facilitator, Juliana Birkhoff with Ag Innvoations, noted that this is not a formal California Environmental Quality Act public input opportunity; there will be opportunities for public input once the draft environmental impact report has been released in mid-2022.

Carrie Buckman, the Delta Conveyance Project Environmental Project Program Manager with the Department of Water Resources, began by discussing the proposed project, the overall schedule, the planning processes, and future opportunities for public participation.

Click here to read this article.


BAY-DELTA SCIENCE CONFERENCE: Loss, and Potential Recovery of Primary Production from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

Photo by Bruce Barnett/Water Alternatives

Landscape transformation in the Delta has far-reaching implications, including the loss of primary production that forms the basis for the food web.  A recent study quantified the loss of primary production in the Delta and how much would be restored if all the restoration targets for the Delta were met.  The study, On the Human Appropriation of Primary Production, presents a simple approach for estimating the loss of ecosystem functions from measured habitat losses that can guide conservation plans by establishing historical baselines, projecting functional outcomes of different restoration scenarios, and establishing performance metrics to gauge success.

At the 2021 Bay-Delta Science Conference, Dr. James Cloern, one of twelve scientists from seven different institutions who collaborated on the study, presented the findings.

Click here to read this article.

Return to top

In California water news this week …

State Water Board releases draft drought emergency regulation for Delta watershed

“With water levels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta at historic lows due to the extreme effects of climate change, the State Water Resources Control Board today released a draft curtailment and reporting regulation and scheduled a public workshop on potential measures to preserve stored water for threatened drinking water supplies, prevent salinity intrusion and minimize impacts to fisheries and the environment.  The draft drought emergency regulation (below) prohibits diversions when water supplies are not available under a water user’s priority of right, and allows the State Water Board to require additional information related to their diversions and use. Currently, water is unavailable for approximately 5,700 right holders and claimants. As supplies and demands evolve, diversion requirements would change accordingly. … ”  Continue reading this press release from the State Water Board here:  State Water Board releases draft drought emergency regulation for Delta watershed

Will Delta water users sue — again — to stop California’s drought rules?

Drought-plagued California is poised to bar thousands of farmers, landowners and others from pumping water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed, a move that irrigation districts said exceeds the water board’s authority.  The emergency rules would be the first time state regulators have taken such wide-reaching action during a drought to prevent diversions from the massive Delta watershed stretching from Fresno to the Oregon border.  At a more than three-hour workshop today to discuss the proposal, State Water Resources Control Board officials said the status of the Delta was so severe that they had to take urgent action. The board will vote on the regulation next week, and it could lead to formal curtailment orders as soon as August 16. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Will Delta water users sue — again — to stop California’s drought rules?

‘Adapt or we’ll break’: Newsha Ajami lays out the West’s risky future in the Megadrought era

The West’s megadrought has produced no shortage of terrible stories. Drought conditions have enveloped 90% of the region, leading to record low water levels at Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the two largest reservoirs in the U.S., as well as countless other smaller water systems throughout the region.  The impacts have extended beyond manmade bodies of water, though. Rivers and other lakes in the region have run hot and dry, endangering wildlife. And forests have been charred by wildfires, running the risk of befouling lakes and streams.  All of these are indicators that the West’s water supplies and burgeoning population are on a collision course. In order to get a little insight into how we got here and what lies ahead, I reached out to Newsha Ajami, the director of Urban Water Policy at Stanford University’s Water in the West program and a research associate at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. … ”  Read more from Gizmodo here: ‘Adapt or We’ll Break’: A Water Expert Lays Out the West’s Risky Future in the Megadrought Era

Is desalination the answer to California’s drought? Here’s what experts say

As more communities impose water use restrictions because of the drought, the California Coastal Commission is likely to vote on a controversial proposal later this year that could ease water worries for millions of Orange County residents.  After decades of debate, Poseidon Water just needs approval from the commission to begin the construction of a desalination facility in Huntington Beach that would produce 50 million gallons of drinking water per day.  Poseidon Water already runs a desalination facility in Carlsbad which is the largest in the Western Hemisphere. The facility was built in 2015 and provides about 12% of the water used in San Diego County. … ”  Read more from KABC here: Is desalination the answer to California’s drought? Here’s what experts say

Water shortages and drought are California’s most important environmental threat, new poll shows

After the two driest consecutive years in much of California in nearly half a century, reservoir levels are dropping. Lawns are brown. Water restrictions are increasing. And Californians are getting worried.  Asked to name the environmental issue they are most concerned about, more California residents cited water shortages and drought than any other, according to a new poll released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California, a non-partisan research organization in San Francisco.  Overall, 25% of California adults named water shortages and drought as the most important environmental issue currently facing the state. Not far behind, 17% named wildfires, followed by 13% who cited climate change and 6% who named air pollution. A year ago, just 10% named water and drought as the state’s top environmental challenge. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Water shortages and drought are California’s most important environmental threat, new poll shows

What it means to store water for the environment

It’s no secret that California’s ecosystems suffer during droughts. In times of water scarcity, environmental uses are often low priority, leading to fish die-offs and other negative outcomes. For the next year, Professor Sarah Null of Utah State University will be working with a diverse team of experts to study how to better manage water stored for the environment, to better protect vulnerable ecosystems during a time of biodiversity loss and accelerating climate change. Null, an expert in environmental water management and water systems modeling, is a PPIC CalTrout Ecosystem Fellow. … ”  Read more from the PPIC here: What it means to store water for the environment

Press release: Call for a suspension of NOAA’s Shasta river “safe harbor” agreements as State investigates abuse of riparian water rights

On July 27th the State Water Resources Control Board released its Report of Investigation in response to complaints, filed by Friends of the Shasta River in January, 2021, over an apparent abuse of riparian water rights in the Shasta River on the Grenada Novy Ranch. The investigation by the State Water Resources Control Board has confirmed that Novy appears to be abusing their Shasta River riparian water rights. The ranch has been sent a Notice of Violation requiring a response within 30 days.  Novy Grenada Ranch is one of fourteen  entities recently enrolled in a “Safe Harbor Agreement” through the federal National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The program lets irrigators off the hook for killing threatened coho salmon through their irrigation and other ranch operations as long as they are engaged in defined activities aimed at improving conditions in the Shasta River. ... ”

Click here to read the full press release from the Friends of the Shasta River.

Don Young has a new hypothesis on salmon declines: nuclear submarines

While the decline of wild Pacific salmon — including the massive “king salmon” — can be attributed, at least in part, to warming waters, Alaska Rep. Don Young (R) has another theory: nuclear submarines.  The dean of the House acknowledged today that his idea might garner some snickers, but he argued it should at least be considered as federal scientists investigate the falling fish population.  “We have some problems. We recognize it. Some of the species are way down — the king salmon, chinook or whatever you want to call it — is way down in all our rivers,” Young said in his opening remarks at a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife hearing. … “We don’t know why. We don’t believe there’s any activity in the rivers that are causing it, but I know we’re not catching like we used to because we can’t,” he continued. “They’re not there. We have to figure this out. … Is it climate change, are they moving north, is there a nuclear sub stuck out there somewhere?” … ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Don Young has a new hypothesis on salmon declines

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

California drafts safe limits for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water

In a draft report, California says only extremely low levels of two toxic “forever chemicals” are safe for humans to drink in water. A July 22 draft report from the California Environmental Protection Agency would set a science-based safe level­—called a public health goal—of 0.007 part per trillion for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and 1 ppt for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) in drinking water. The two compounds are the two most common per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)—a group of environmentally persistent synthetic molecules—found as contaminants in drinking water. PFOA and PFOS were used commercially for decades but phased out in the US by 2015. Exposure to them is linked to cancer and other serious health problems. … ”  Read more from Chemical and Engineering News here:  California drafts safe limits for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water

California toxics law: few water cases, but millions for lawyers

Thirty-five years ago, California voters approved a landmark law meant to halt exposure to dangerous chemicals in drinking water and everyday products like food, flip-flops, and face shields.  Decades later, the water cases are few and far between—while hundreds of product lawsuits bring in millions of dollars annually for plaintiffs’ attorneys, some of whom represent environmental groups focused only on this law.  The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986—commonly known as Proposition 65— came into being during Ronald Reagan’s time as president, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was slashing regulations and loosened enforcement of pollution standards.  Attorney General Rob Bonta (D), who took office in April, is now taking a closer look at the law to see if areas exist in which “there may be gaps in existing regulation or that have previously fallen through the cracks,” he said in a statement to Bloomberg Law based on questions about its effectiveness. ... ”  Continue reading at Bloomberg here: California toxics law: few water cases, but millions for lawyers

Dozens of communities are at risk of running out of water

In Fort Bragg on the Mendocino Coast, city leaders are rushing to install an emergency desalination system. In Healdsburg, lawn watering is banned with fines of up to $1,000. In Hornbrook, a small town in Siskiyou County, faucets have gone completely dry, and the chairman of the water district is driving 15 miles each way to take showers and wash clothes.  So far, California’s worsening drought has been an inconvenience in big cities. But it’s already imperiling an alarming number of communities, especially between the Bay Area and the Oregon border, threatening the water supplies for more than 130,000 people.  The severe shortages are not just in small towns and rural hamlets that rely on one or two wells or streams that have run dry. Larger towns, with their own reservoirs and water departments, are in trouble too. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Dozens of communities are at risk of running out of water

SEE ALSO: List of water systems facing some of the worst shortages in the state

Tulare County officials say state red tape made water crisis, suffering worse for Teviston

The state’s response to the water crisis that gripped tiny Teviston, California, earlier this summer should have been a no-brainer, according to Tulare County officials.  The rural central San Joaquin Valley county, with help from the state, had seen wells go dry en masse during the 2012-2016 drought leaving hundreds of families without water for months on end.  The county and state had seemingly worked out a game plan for that disaster and Tulare County had even regrouped its local drought task force this spring as it saw this summer shaping up to be especially dry. So, county officials and Teviston residents were more than a little frustrated by what they said was the state’s flat-footed response when Teviston’s well broke down June 9, leaving the town dry, as a brutal heat wave swept over the state. … ”  Continue reading at the Fresno Bee here: Tulare County officials say state red tape made water crisis, suffering worse for Teviston

Water ‘witches’ pit science against folklore in search of groundwater

Water witches have been around — and by around, we mean around the world, from Australia and India to Europe and the Americas to many, many other places — for at least five centuries. So just in terms of simple longevity, you have to give it up to the witches. As a profession, that’s been around for so long, they have to be doing something right.  When it comes to water witches — also known as dowsers, diviners, doodlebuggers and various other names — in our so-called enlightened times, though, we’re faced with two distinct possibilities. One, they’re either really good, and have been for a long time, at pulling a fast one on desperate landowners looking for groundwater.  Or, two, they actually know what they’re doing and they’re not pulling a fast one at all. ... ”  Read more from How Stuff Works here: Water ‘witches’ pit science against folklore in search of groundwater

Groundwater contamination: Punitives may come to those who wait

California’s courts routinely impose punitive damages awards against polluters that knowingly release hazardous substances which contaminate groundwater. But California has been slow to follow the nationwide trend favoring punitive damages awards against polluters that knowingly fail to remediate their past hazardous releases before those releases spread and cause greater harm.  While California’s punitive-damages jurisprudence has helped to deter potential polluters from releasing hazardous substances in the first place, therefore, it has not deterred the culpable misconduct which actually causes the most harm to groundwater-contamination plaintiffs – i.e., it has not punished polluters that sit idly by as their discrete hazardous-substance releases balloon into groundwater contaminant plumes which migrate offsite and pollute neighboring properties and drinking water wells.  On May 28, 2021, however, California’s courts took a big step towards creating a punitive-damages jurisprudence that can deter contamination of the state’s groundwater by punishing polluters that unjustifiably delay their cleanups. ... ”  Read more from the California Water Law Journal here: Groundwater contamination: Punitives may come to those who wait

The true tale of how Irvine Ranch Water District set a standard for recycled water

Throughout the nation and around the world, purple pipes pulse with water that has gone down drains and been treated for reuse in landscaping, agriculture and commerce.  Irvine Ranch Water District was the mastermind behind that color: leading the charge in the early 1980s to certify a standard for pipes carrying recycled water, to distinguish them from drinking water systems.  But how did it happen? It’s a colorful story of IRWD leadership, creativity and humor — centered around an engineer who sees much of the world in neutral tones. ... ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here:  The true tale of how Irvine Ranch Water District set a standard for recycled water

Scientists say clearing forests worsens wildfire damage

” … Wildfires have an important role in ecosystem processes, but the hotter, drier weather resulting from climate change creates conditions that make them more likely. Human incursion into forested areas, and their behavior once there, also creates fire risks. Humans are responsible for starting 84 percent of all U.S. wildfires, and 97 percent of those that threaten homes. Researchers from UC Irvine found that fires caused by humans spread twice as fast in California forests as those caused by lightning. From this perspective, people might seem the most obvious target for fire prevention efforts. In addition to causing accidental (and sometimes intentional) ignitions, human activity is accelerating warming. However, the prevention strategies advocated by government entities tend to focus on removing trees and “snags” – dead trees that are still standing but continue to play an important role in ecosystems. … ”  Read more from Governing here: Scientists say clearing forests worsens wildfire damage

California Department of Natural Resources Secretary Crowfoot selected as the 2021 ESA Regional Policy Award Winner

The Ecological Society of America (ESA) will present its 14th annual Regional Policy Award to California’s Secretary for the Natural Resources Agency Wade Crowfoot on Monday, Aug. 2, at 10:00 EDT during the 2021 ESA Annual Meeting’s Opening Plenary. The ESA annual award recognizes an elected or appointed local policymaker whose record reflects the use of ecological science to inform policy decisions. Originally scheduled to take place in Long Beach, the conference moved to an all-virtual format in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  “ESA is delighted to recognize Secretary Crowfoot this year,” said ESA President Kathleen Weathers. “The Society applauds his commitment to using science in creating nature-based solutions for building water and climate resilience across California.” … ”  Read more from the Ecological Society of America here: California Department of Natural Resources Secretary Crowfoot selected as the 2021 ESA Regional Policy Award Winner

Return to top

In commentary this week …

The California salmon wipeout is even worse than you think

The LA Times editorial board writes, “The news reports about the California salmon wipeout got a good chunk of the story right: Record-breaking heat waves made Northern California rivers too warm to sustain migrating chinook salmon, and virtually all of the salmon in the Sacramento River this summer have died, or will die, before reproducing. Any eggs that were successfully laid, or the fry hatched from those eggs, are also probably doomed. So a generation of the rare and endangered winter-run Chinook is virtually gone, and the spring-run as well. … ”  Continue reading at the LA Times here: The California salmon wipeout is even worse than you think

LA may have ravished the Owens River but SJ farmers dried up the San Joaquin

Dennis Wyatt, editor of the Manteca Bulletin, writes, “Go 120 miles as the crow flies southeast of Manteca and you will find the headwaters of two of California’s most tormented rivers — the San Joaquin River and Owens River.  The 183-mile Owens River starts from Glass Creek on the southern face of the 11,597-foot San Joaquin Mountain. Today instead of ultimately flowing into Owens Lake that just over 100 years ago covered 108 square miles and was teeming with aquatic life and migratory birds, the lake is a dusty shell of its former self.  The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power diverted much of the eastern Sierra runoff that feeds the Owens River into the LA Aqueduct to support growth beyond the ability of local hydrology to support in the Los Angeles Basin. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here: LA may have ravished the Owens River but SJ farmers dried up the San Joaquin

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

It’s up to us to make the voluntary approach the right approach to water use reduction

Steve Lamar, president of ACWA, and Pamela Tobin, vice-president of ACWA, write, “On July 8, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Order that called on Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15% from what they used in 2020.  The Governor’s use of a voluntary approach strongly encourages Californians to do their part in using water wisely. At the same time, this approach also provides local water managers with an appropriate level of discretion based on the actual water supply conditions in their communities.  His approach deserves our strong support. … ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here: It’s up to us to make the voluntary approach the right approach to water use reduction

Shasta Dam releases caused harm on several levels

Julie Winter, member of the Redding City Council, writes, “As a member of the Redding City Council, I also serve as a Commissioner of the Northern California Power Agency (NCPA). NCPA is a nonprofit agency of locally owned electric utilities that makes joint investments to provide affordable, reliable, and clean energy to its communities. It’s an impressive group that has yielded tremendous benefit to Redding Electric Utility (REU) customers. REU and the other NCPA members all purchase power from the Central Valley Project (CVP).  During a recent NCPA Commission meeting, I learned that the Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that operates Shasta Dam, released a substantial amount of water from the Shasta Dam spillway, bypassing the power plant which produces hydropower generation. These releases occurred over five weeks in April and May and were not subject to prior National Environmental Policy Act review. … ”  Read more from the Redding Record-Searchlight here:  Shasta Dam releases caused harm on several levels

Northern California hurt when wildfire efforts are undermined by federal action

Mark Hofer, policy research associate at the Independent Institute, writes, “As the drought began to set in, Governor Newsom, anticipating another season of more than usual wildfires, approved $536 million in spending on prevention. Relatively speaking, California has seemingly been more proactive lately in searching for fire policy reforms. Over thirty of the proposed bills in the California Legislature 2021-2022 Session pertain to wildfires and fire protection related issues. But an unfortunate truth is that much of this wildfire preparation is jeopardized by poor policies at the Federal level of government, and this is especially true for the northernmost counties.  … ”  Read more from the Siskiyou Daily News here: Northern California hurt when wildfire efforts are undermined by federal action

Western cities’ water shortages show we have little time to waste

The Las Vegas Sun editorial board writes, “Climate inaction has left many small Western communities in danger of drying up — literally.  This past week brought a machine gun-like procession of news reports about water supplies dwindling to dangerously low levels in a number of regional towns and rural areas.  Among them: Needles, Calif., near the California-Arizona border, is down to its last well that meets state water quality standards, and it’s being tapped 23 hours a day to meet demand. … ”  Read more from the Las Vegas Sun here: Western cities’ water shortages show we have little time to waste

Will the Drought Contingency Plan be enough to save Lake Mead? Maybe – for now

Bruce Babbitt writes, “When the current drought began in 2000, the three Lower Basin states that take water from the lake (Arizona, California and Nevada) suddenly awakened to the problem. After several years of difficult negotiations, they agreed on a Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) that, with previously agreed cuts, would bring the lake into balance.  Hoping the drought would lift before too long, the DCP negotiators agreed to spread the cuts over coming years in response to changing lake levels. However, as the drought continues and intensifies, the Drought Contingency Plan is looking more like a Drought Certainty Plan.  It now appears that the full schedule of DCP reductions will be needed to bring the lake into balance at approximately 1,025 feet of elevation. … ”  Read more from the Arizona Republic here: Commentary: Will the Drought Contingency Plan be enough to save Lake Mead? Maybe – for now

In regional water news this week …

Oregon regulators approve transfer of targeted Klamath dams from PacifiCorp

The plan to remove four Klamath River dams checked another box on Tuesday as Oregon utility regulators signed off on transferring ownership of the dams from Portland-based PacifiCorp to the nonprofit that will carry out the project.  Oregon Public Utility Commission staff found that a cost/benefit analysis from 2010 “remains valid, and still reflects a public interest in the removal of the dams as compared to the costs and risks of relicensing.”  The project, billed as the largest dam removal in U.S. history, is expected to cost $450 million, with Oregon and California Pacific Power ratepayers responsible for $200 million and California taxpayers, through a bond measure, footing $250 million of the bill. ... ”  Read more from the Portland Business Journal here: Oregon regulators approve transfer of targeted Klamath dams from PacifiCorp

Conversations about drought in the Klamath Basin

Like many places in the arid West, water is the lifeblood of the Klamath Basin. And it is in short supply. Although many in the community have been working together for years to try to come to an agreement about how to share limited water resources equitably, the unprecedented drought this year has native tribes, irrigators, fishermen and wildlife managers all asking an existential question: If we can’t go on like this, what is a viable path forward?  Recently, OPB’s Think Out Loud team traveled to the Klamath Basin to talk to a number of people whose lives and livelihoods and cultures are all connected to the water. … ”  Continue reading at OPB here: Conversations about drought in the Klamath Basin

Siskiyou Co. Supervisors asks for rehearing on Klamath dam removal

Four hydroelectric dams in the Klamath River, are under new ownership. However, Siskiyou County is against the decision to remove the dams.  The lower Klamath Project is now owned by the Klamath River Renewal Corporation. Siskiyou County says it’s asking for a rehearing on dam removal. … ”  Read more from KOBI 5 here: Siskiyou Co. Supervisors asks for rehearing on Klamath dam removal

Tahoe’s natural filters: Preserving, restoring wetlands essential to lake clarity

Every spring, the snow begins to melt and make its way down the mountains, across marshes and meadows, and through the 63 tributaries flowing into Lake Tahoe.  The water flowing down Tahoe’s 501-square-foot watershed — of which the lake itself takes up about 38% — helps raise the fluctuating lake level. But the route that the water takes before eventually ending up in the lake is crucial to maintaining Tahoe’s famed clarity.  Why, you might ask? It’s all about those SEZs. Stream environment zones are a Tahoe-specific term, meaning “an area that owes its biological and physical characteristics to the presence of surface or groundwater,” according to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. Meadows, marshes, streams, streambanks, and beaches are all examples of SEZs that play a critical role in water quality by acting as Tahoe’s natural filtration system, sifting out nutrients and fine sediment, and attenuating floods during high flows. … ”  Read more from the Sierra Sun here: Tahoe’s natural filters: Preserving, restoring wetlands essential to lake clarity

New Regional San upgrade virtually eliminates ammonia in Sacramento region’s wastewater

The Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District (Regional San) has completed a significant upgrade to its wastewater treatment facility that serves the Sacramento region. The new Biological Nutrient Removal project (BNR) is now operational, virtually eliminating ammonia from the region’s treated wastewater.  “At Regional San, we take seriously our mission to protect public health and the environment,” said Prabhakar Somavarapu, General Manager at Regional San. “This project benefits the ecosystem and millions of Californians who rely on the Sacramento River as a water source—a clear demonstration of our ongoing commitment to environmental stewardship.” … ”  Read more from Regional San here: New Regional San upgrade virtually eliminates ammonia in Sacramento region’s wastewater

Mendocino is running out of water. The solution might involve a very old train

The postcard-perfect town of Mendocino, with its Victorian homes, seaside inns and tidy shops and galleries, is bustling with visitors this summer, a model of post-pandemic recovery in California’s hard-hit tourism sector.  But beneath the crowded restaurants and fully booked B&Bs, the fortunes of this popular coastal getaway four hours north of San Francisco have begun to dry up — quite literally.  Because of the drought, dozens of wells in town are producing limited water, or none at all. … One of the most peculiar [ideas] is to get water by hauling it in nearly 40 miles on a storied logging railroad that today carries a tourist train. The Skunk Train, as it is known, may also turn out to be the best option. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Mendocino is running out of water. The solution might involve a very old train

California drought: shrinking Lake Mendocino forces water cuts to Sonoma County Russian River region

Residents in the Russian River region of northern Sonoma County are already facing mandatory water rationing. But now, the situation has become so dire that some agricultural users are being cut off completely.  Healdsburg was ordered by the state to reduce water usage by 40 percent and the city stepped up, cutting by 54 percent over last year. But those who live there know this is just the beginning.  “People have been talking for a long time that it’s going to come to a point where we don’t have enough water for our city, and it’s gotten to that point,” said resident Mike Mead. … ”  Read more from Channel 5 here: California drought: shrinking Lake Mendocino forces water cuts to Sonoma County Russian River region

Reclamation releases report to show benefits of alternative reservoir operations for Lake Mendocino

The Bureau of Reclamation today released the final report for a pilot study assessing the economic and environmental benefits of alternative reservoir operations. The study – Economic Benefits of Alternative Reservoir Operations for Lake Mendocino – identifies innovative approaches to improve flood mitigation and drought resiliency using Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations.  FIRO is a flexible water management approach that uses data from watershed monitoring and improved weather forecasting to help water managers selectively retain or release water from reservoirs for increased resilience to droughts and floods. ... ”  Read more from the Bureau of Reclamation here: Reclamation releases report to show benefits of alternative reservoir operations

Calistoga City Council to consider selling unused water allotment to Napa

As a result of a complicated set of water agreements between the state and the cities of American Canyon, Napa, and Calistoga, Calistoga can both loan and sell its surplus of water this year to Napa, and the City Council will consider doing so at its next meeting, Aug. 3.  This surplus water is water that Napa will be required to pay Calistoga $148,000 for, and will also be required to give Calistoga back whenever the city asks. This is also water that if Calistoga doesn’t use this year, and the city projects it won’t, it loses it. It is a seemingly contradictory move since the city of Calistoga issued mandatory conservation regulations in June, and Kimball Reservoir is down about 40%. ... ”  Read more from the Napa Register here: Calistoga City Council to consider selling unused water allotment to Napa

San Jose relies on water from the Sierra Nevada. Climate change is challenging that system

In Santa Clara County, lawns are dry, a reservoir is nearly empty, and water restrictions are mandated. After two winters with very little rain — and San Jose’s driest year in 128 years of record keeping — the county is marked by one of the worst droughts in modern history.  Santa Clara County’s experience of drought is set apart from the rest of the state by a myriad of issues — less water from the Sierra Nevada, the effect of human-caused climate change on water supplies, and a case of incredibly bad luck.  “This is a dire emergency caused by the confluence of several horrible things happening all at the same time,” said Gary Kremen, director of Santa Clara Valley Water. “This isn’t like someone crying wolf.” … ”  Read more from KQED here: San Jose relies on water from the Sierra Nevada. Climate change is challenging that system

Monterey County officials get earful about private desal projects

Advocates for public water systems on Tuesday jumped quickly on a request by a Monterey County supervisor to consider amending a law that currently allows only public ownership and operation of desalination facilities.  The request came in the form of a board referral, an instrument allowing members of the Board of Supervisors to make requests to the county’s chief administrative officer for work by staff or additional information on a specific topic. Supervisor John Phillips’ referral was shared with elected officials as an informational item only in the chief administrator’s regular meeting report. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Monterey County officials get earful about private desal projects

Long troubled Salton Sea may finally be getting what it most needs: action — and money

State work to improve wildlife habitat and tamp down dust at California’s ailing Salton Sea is finally moving forward. Now the sea may be on the verge of getting the vital ingredient needed to supercharge those restoration efforts – money.  The shrinking desert lake has long been a trouble spot beset by rising salinity and unhealthy, lung-irritating dust blowing from its increasingly exposed bed. It shadows discussions of how to address the Colorado River’s two-decade-long drought because of its connection to the system. The lake is a festering health hazard to nearby residents, many of them impoverished, who struggle with elevated asthma risk as dust rises from the sea’s receding shoreline.  And in a state where most of the historic wetlands are gone, the sea is seen as an important stopover for migratory birds on the Pacific Flyway. … ”  Read more from Western Water here:  Long troubled Salton Sea may finally be getting what it most needs: action — and money

Return to top

Along the Colorado River …

Colorado River shortage expected to hit farms first

With Arizona farmers expecting to take hit next year on their allocation of Colorado River water, water planners, managers, and researchers statewide are keeping a close eye on models that show the shortage could hit cities and towns in the next few years.  Arizona would lose 512,000 acre-feet under a Bureau of Reclamation Tier 1 shortage expected next month, but the reduction would not affect average Arizonans, said Thomas Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: Colorado River shortage expected to hit farms first

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

In national water news this week …

Biden to return to pre-Obama water protections in first step for clean water regulations

The Biden administration said on Friday that it’ll take a two-step approach to decide which U.S. waters should get federal protections from pollution, returning first to pre-Obama protections.  A statement from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that a “forthcoming foundational rule” would temporarily restore protections that were in place prior to an Obama-era expansion in 2015.   Last year, the Trump administration put forward a rule that undermined both the Obama-era protections as well as protections for wetlands put in place during the George H.W. Bush administration. It appears that the step announced by the EPA on Friday would be a middle ground between the Obama and Trump-era rules. … ”  Read more from The Hill here: Biden to return to pre-Obama water protections in first step for clean water regulations

Questions emerge on reconciliation as infrastructure moves ahead

Democratic leaders took care to emphasize their commitment to climate legislation as bipartisan infrastructure legislation took a big step forward in the Senate yesterday.  Still, some cracks started to appear in their plans for a separate, climate-focused $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill.  The massive spending package will be the vehicle for a host of policies to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but Democrats will need support from virtually every member of their caucus on both sides of Capitol Hill.  Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), one of the Senate’s key swing votes, said yesterday she would support efforts to move forward on a budget resolution but has reservations about the $3.5 trillion topline. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Questions emerge on reconciliation as infrastructure moves ahead

SEE ALSO:

Weekly features …

BLOG ROUND-UP: Making the best of the poor conditions in this critically dry year; State Board proposes Office of Equity; Los Angeles Regional Board: Fix our stormwater problem!; and more …

Return to top

Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

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

NEPA DOCS: West False River Temporary Drought Salinity Barrier removal

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

NEPA DOCS: West False River Temporary Drought Salinity Barrier removal

NEPA DOCS: Transfer of Central Valley Project Water from Stockton East Water District to San Luis and Delta Mendota Water Authority

COMMENT PERIOD EXTENDED: Water Year 2021 Whiskeytown Lake Drought Action (Alternatives to boost Shasta storage)

NOTICE of Petition for Temporary Transfer/Exchange per various Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation License and Permits

NOTICE of Water Right Petitions in Siskiyou County

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

NOTICE: Public Comment Period for State Water Board’s draft Racial Equity Resolution closes Monday, August 2nd 

NOTICE: Only a Handful of Delinquent Water Reports in the Delta Face Fines

VELES WEEKLY WATER REPORT: NQH2O price unchanged. More companies citing water security as a financial risk in regulatory filings.

WATER PLAN eNEWS: ~~Keynote Address~ Lunch-MAR~ USACE Webinar~ Grant Workshop~ Funding Report~ Proposed Requirements~ Specialty Crops~~

DELTA eNEWS: ~~ Public Survey~ DCP Webinar~ DPC Meeting~ Canal Repair~~

Return to top

Print Friendly, PDF & Email