DAILY DIGEST, 8/2: In a drier future, what’s the best way to secure water?; Stricter controls sought against ag-based water pollution; Marin considers desalination, water pipeline over the Richmond Bridge; Infrastructure fight finally set; and more …


In California water news today …

In a drier future, what’s the best way to secure water?

A drone provides a view of low water drought conditions at Brown’s Ravine Marina at Folsom Lake in El Dorado County, Photo taken July 28, 2021 by
Ken James / DWR

Once again, California is in a drought. Much of Northern California and the Central Valley are experiencing “acute water supply shortfalls,” and the Sierra Nevada snowpack, a critical water source for Californians up and down the state during the dry season, is all but gone already — just 6 percent of normal for this time of year.  California’s water system, already stressed by the dueling needs of massive urban centers and its agricultural sector, is crumbling in the face of climate change. The state’s climate is becoming increasingly unstable, oscillating between periods of drought and deluge, which is making the water supply hard to predict. To make sure they can deliver enough water to California’s farms and cities going forward, water managers are focusing on shoring up local supplies. ... ”  Read more from Who What Why here: In a drier future, what’s the best way to secure water?

Stricter controls sought against ag-based water pollution

Greater buffer zones around bodies of water and more consistent enforcement of water protection regulations are needed to reduce agriculture-based pollution in the Western U.S., a recent review from Oregon State University found.  Prior research has shown that agricultural pollution, both from croplands and rangelands, is the cause of 48% of water-quality impairment in U.S. surface waters, which in turn disrupts habitat for fish and insects and reduces biodiversity in aquatic environments. The OSU paper, featured earlier this month on the cover of the journal Water, reviewed more than 40 case studies on the impacts of agriculture on water quality. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Stricter controls sought against ag-based water pollution

Photos show what July’s heat and drought looked like this summer

Hot, dry, and ‘unrecognizable’ describes July 2021.  The West boiled with record-breaking heat, and persistent drought that has left the Colorado River, Lake Mead and Lake Powell two-thirds empty, a ‘bathtub’ ring lining the shores of the largest water sources serving California.  As more frequent heat waves broke records this summer, our photojournalists documented what it looked like and how we coped. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Photos show what July’s heat and drought looked like this summer

Can reviving beach dunes help with sea level rise?

In a land of beach volleyball, umbrellas and picnics on the sand, it’s easy to forget the beach itself used to be a wild place. Coastal dunes once unfurled along the shore, their crests and curves teeming with plants, birds and more bugs than you could imagine. California, in fact, once boasted some of the most biodiverse beaches in the world. But for almost a century, these sandy hills have been flattened and paved over — erased to make room for ever more people seeking to live and play by the sea.  Now, with the looming threat of sea level rise and a state desperate for solutions, conservationists and a growing movement of researchers say restoring these dunes could provide a much-needed buffer from the water. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Can reviving beach dunes help with sea level rise?

Western wildfires may take weeks to months to contain

Pockets of the American West continued to burn over the weekend, as another nine large fires were reported on Saturday in California, Idaho, Montana and Oregon.  The 87 fires still active in 13 states have consumed more than 1.7 million acres. Just shy of 3 million acres have been scorched since the start of 2021, with months left in what experts predict will be a devastating fire season.  In southern Oregon, the Bootleg Fire has become the largest active blaze in the country. The 413,000-acre inferno was contained at 56%, as of Saturday night. … ”  Read more from NPR here: Western wildfires may take weeks to months to contain

Researchers paint bleak picture of forest fires beyond 2030

The devastating fire seasons plaguing California’s Sierra Nevada may be a thing of the past after 2030, and that has scientists worried.  Their main concern? The area might not have enough trees left by the next decade.  A study published this past week in the journal Ecosphere suggests that dry mountain forests in California and other Western states will likely see ever-worsening fires for the next decade, followed by a period of fewer fires with less intensity. … ”  Continue reading at The Hill here: Researchers paint bleak picture of forest fires beyond 2030

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In commentary today …

The great Western drought, explained: Outdated water policies and the threat of climate change are driving the need for new solutions

Peter Gleick, Heather Cooley, and Cora Kammeyer with the Pacific Institute write, “Yes, another severe drought is sweeping across the western United States. California is now two years into a deep drought after suffering from its worst drought in 1,200 years between 2012 and 2016. There are many ways to define drought, but the most straightforward way to think about it is when there is a serious mismatch between the amount of water nature provides and the amount of water humans want: either too little supply or too much demand.  It’s time to acknowledge two new realities. First, water policymakers in the western United States made serious mistakes from the beginning when they built our current water infrastructure, laws, and institutions, focused solely on taking water out of the environment. … ”  Continue reading at Sierra Magazine here: Commentary: The great Western drought, explained: Outdated water policies and the threat of climate change are driving the need for new solutions

San Vicente hydroelectric project a smart way to make power grid more resilient

The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board writes, “The state government’s decision to provide $18 million to fund preliminary work on state and federal approvals for the long-anticipated San Vicente Energy Storage Facility — advocated by the San Diego County Water Authority and the city of San Diego — makes the $1.5 billion project significantly more likely to come to pass. The great news is that the “pumped hydro” facility at the San Vicente Reservoir near Lakeside will strongly shore up available energy supplies at night after solar power is no longer directly available. … ”  Continue reading at the San Diego Union-Tribune here: San Vicente hydroelectric project a smart way to make power grid more resilient

Water gambit

Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, writes, “As we all watch Lake Mead’s water levels drop and hear the calls grow for more development, politicians are grappling to balance the economic demands of the community and the limits of Mother Nature.  However, the proverbial scales calibrated by politicians are tipping in the favor of economic development over all else. In normal times, that would make sense. But if we learn anything this summer, it’s that business-as-usual should no longer be the norm. Lawmakers would be wise to shore up our water supply, commit to studying likely scenarios on the river and focus on more water-wise planning before they hastily invite hordes of new residents to the driest state in the nation with the smallest share of the Colorado River. … ”  Read more from the Las Vegas Review-Journal here: Commentary: Water gambit

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Gripped by drought, Marin considers desalination, water pipeline over the Richmond Bridge

As the drought deepens across the West, coastal cities are considering whether or not to filter ocean water as a solution to their water woes. In the Bay Area, Marin Water is mulling plans to draw its drinking water from the  San Francisco Bay.  Reservoir levels in Marin County are at historic lows this year, and water leaders are calling for a 40% reduction. So far the county has reached a 23% reduction, says Cynthia Koehler, president of the agency’s board of directors.  “We need to do more,” she said. “We’re expecting another relatively low rainfall year. So, we’re preparing not just for right now, but really for 2022.”  The harrowing prospect of another dry winter has the district toying, once again, with the idea of desalination, a process — removing salt and minerals from the sea for clean drinking water — that is simple in principle, maddeningly complicated in practice. … ”  Read more from KQED here: Gripped by drought, Marin considers desalination, water pipeline over the Richmond Bridge

Marin clears $3.9M for Ross Valley flood project phase

Marin County flood planners working to protect the Ross Valley from seasonal deluges have received the greenlight to begin finishing touches on a flood detention basin at the former Sunnyside Nursery site near Fairfax.  Ghilotti Brothers Inc. of San Rafael has been hired to excavate and remove 3,000 cubic yards of dirt at the new 33-acre basin at 3000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., about a mile northwest of town. The crew, which will start work this month, will also create embankment berms and weirs, install dual outlet pipes with a flow control gate and add an access road for ongoing maintenance. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Marin clears $3.9M for Ross Valley flood project phase

Marin commentary: Supervisor supports conservation, growth amid water shortage

Dennis Rodoni, president of the Marin County Board of Supervisors, writes, “Water supply is a complicated issue in California and throughout the West – even when there’s no drought.  This year’s drought reminds me of 1976-77, when all of us placed bricks in our toilets and made lifestyle changes to save water. Some say this year is the driest in Marin County in 150 years.  During my 20 years on the North Marin Water District board of directors, I learned that nothing is for certain and good planning is necessary to have an effective response to any emergency. Marin Municipal Water District and North Marin Water District, along with the Sonoma County Water Agency, have done just that with excellent water-reducing programs and rebates through the initiative known as the Sonoma Marin Water Saving Partnership. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Marin commentary: Supervisor supports conservation, growth amid water shortage

As drought dries out South Bay creeks, fish and wildlife fight for survival

Susy Ferreira, a Santa Clara County resident, was recently taking her regular stroll along the Los Gatos Creek trail and discovered 30 dead fish lying on the creek.  “I was in shock,” Ferreira said. “There was one fish and another and another and a horrible smell.”  For over two years, Santa Clara County has been facing below-average rainfall and extreme weather, causing a decrease in the reservoirs that keep the creeks full, according to the Santa Clara Valley Water District.  Jae Abel, a biologist at the water district, said water is stored in the reservoirs during the wet season and is released during the dry season to maintain steady streamflow. This has lessened during the drought. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: As drought dries out South Bay creeks, fish and wildlife fight for survival

Monterey county agriculture drops below $4 billion in value

Monterey County agriculture took a notable hit in 2020, largely due to the impacts of wildfire and COVID-19. The 2020 Crop & Livestock Report reflects a significant decline in production value, which totaled a little more than $3.9 billion. The theme of the report was ‘Resilience in Adversity,’ highlighting the challenges that farmers and ranchers endured in 2020.  “2020 was quite the year I think we all would agree. The impact on agriculture in Monterey County was significant,” said Henry Gonzales, Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner. “As a matter of fact, it was an 11.3 percent drop over 2019 and the most significant drop we have ever experienced both in percentage and dollar value. It was just slightly below a $500 million drop in total gross value.” … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here: Monterey county agriculture drops below $4 billion in value

Los Angeles Water Board adopts permit to control polluting storm drain discharges

The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board on July 23 adopted a regional permit for stormwater and urban runoff to control bacteria, trash and other pollution that flows from municipal storm drains into surface waters.  The permit sets limits on the amount of pollution discharged to the region’s waters to protect human health and the environment.  Under the previous MS4 permits first issued in the 1990s, Los Angeles County, Ventura County and the City of Long Beach were regulated by three separate board orders. This action consolidates the permits while reflecting the region’s diverse land uses and water quality characteristics by allowing customized approaches to meet requirements on a watershed basis. ... ”  Read more from the LA Regional Water Board here: Los Angeles Water Board adopts permit to control polluting storm drain discharges

Tiny desert fish at risk of extinction in Death Valley area, environmental group says

Environmentalists are pressing forward with a fight to protect a small fish that inhabits desert springs and streams in California’s Death Valley region.  The Center for Biological Diversity on Friday announced it has filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to seek Endangered Species Act protection for three populations of speckled dace, a minnow-like species that evolved to live in dry areas. The fish is threatened by excessive groundwater pumping for farms and residential development and geothermal energy development, they say. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here: Tiny desert fish at risk of extinction in Death Valley area, environmental group says

San Diego radio DJs promote water smart lifestyles

Well-known local radio DJs Geena the Latina from Channel 93.3, Beto Perez from Jam’n 95.7 and Tati from Star 94.1, are teaming up with the San Diego County Water Authority this summer to thank San Diegans for using water wisely and are encouraging residents to keep our region drought-safe.  While drought conditions persist across the western U.S., San Diego County has reliable water supplies thanks to investments made by the region’s ratepayers, the Water Authority and its member agencies. ... ”  Continue reading from the Water News Network here: San Diego radio DJs promote water smart lifestyles

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Along the Colorado River …

Declining Lake Powell water level sparks concern in Arizona town

The signs of drought appear almost immediately on the way to Lake Powell’s Wahweap Bay.  Rocks that were once underwater now appear on the lake’s surface. A band of white on the canyon walls behind the Glen Canyon Dam marks where the lake level once reached.  People who are familiar with Lake Powell are not strangers to water level fluctuations. But this year, the lake level decline brought the country’s second-largest reservoir to a historic low, and with it, several challenges for those who manage the Colorado River and depend on Lake Powell for their livelihood.  “It’s really dramatic,” Heiji Klotzbach said of the decline this year. “You know, because before, when you’d look across here, this is all water.” … ”  Read more from the Las Vegas Review-Journal here:  Declining Lake Powell water level sparks concern in Arizona town

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In national water news today …

EPA and Army announce next steps for crafting enduring definition of Waters of the United States

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of the Army announced plans for upcoming community engagements to inform their efforts to revise the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) to better ensure clean and safe water for all. EPA and Army are committed to developing a reasonable, effective, and durable definition of WOTUS that protects public health, the environment, and downstream communities while supporting economic opportunity, agriculture, and other industries.  “We are committed to crafting an enduring definition of WOTUS by listening to all sides so that we can build on an inclusive foundation,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Uncertainty over the definition of WOTUS has harmed our waters and the stakeholders and communities that rely on them. I look forward to engaging all parties as we move forward to provide the certainty that’s needed to protect our precious natural water resources.” … ”  Read more at the EPA here:  EPA and Army announce next steps for crafting enduring definition of Waters of the United States

Infrastructure fight finally set: T’s crossed, i’s dotted

After much delay, senators unveiled a nearly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, wrapping up days of painstaking work on the inches-thick bill and launching what is certain to be a lengthy debate over President Joe Biden’s big priority.  The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act clocked in at some 2,700 pages, and senators could begin amending it soon. Despite the hurry-up-and-wait during a rare weekend session, emotions bubbled over once the bill was produced Sunday night. The final product was not intended to stray from the broad outline senators had negotiated for weeks with the White House.  “We haven’t done a large, bipartisan bill of this nature in a long time,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. He said a final vote could be held “in a matter of days.” ... ”  Read more from the AP here: Infrastructure fight finally set: T’s crossed, i’s dotted

Federal infrastructure bill can help California farmers

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a drought emergency in most counties across the state while experts predict the current drought will end up being worse than the one we experienced between 2011-2017. That historic event was caused by nonstop hot and dry weather aggravated by climate change.   Increasing temperatures and fluctuating atmospheric patterns reduce rainfall and devastate farms across the Golden State especially because most farmers can’t rely on state or federal water projects to help supplement the lack of rainfall. … Something that can help the dire situation is the Biden Administration’s $5 billion that’s been allocated in the recent infrastructure deal to help water projects out west. … ”  Read more from the International Business Times here: Federal infrastructure bill can help California farmers

Infrastructure bill: Here’s what’s in it

A bipartisan group of senators unveiled the legislative text of the infrastructure bill on Sunday night after months of negotiations.  In total, the deal includes $550 billion in new federal investments in America’s infrastructure over five years.   However, it is far short of the $2.25 trillion proposal that President Joe Biden unveiled in March. … ”  Continue reading at MSN here: Infrastructure bill: Here’s what’s in it

White House forms working groups to target heat, wildfires

Faced with a scorching summer during which heat waves and wildfires have baked and smoked much of the country, the White House is setting up two working groups to address the climate-driven threats.  The Extreme Heat Interagency Working Group will focus on developing both short- and long-term strategies to reduce the impact of extreme heat on vulnerable communities, a White House official said. It will be co-chaired by EPA Administrator Michael Regan, Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad.  Its formation comes after the nation has seen been baked by successive heat waves this summer, with heat and humidity often combining to feel like more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: White House forms working groups to target heat, wildfires

4 major environmental treaties the U.S. Never ratified — but should

In one of his first acts in the White House, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to have the United States rejoin the Paris climate agreement. It signaled an important step in the country recommitting to action to tackle climate change after the Trump administration withdrew the United States from the accord and worked to roll back environmental regulations nationwide.  Biden’s move was hailed by world leaders and applauded by environmentalists at home. But the climate convention wasn’t the only global environmental agreement from which the country has been conspicuously absent.  Here are four international treaties that have been ratified by most of the world’s countries, but not the United States. … ”  Read more from the Revelator here: 4 major environmental treaties the U.S. Never ratified — but should

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Monthly reservoir report …

Written by Robert Shibatani for Maven’s Notebook

Click here for the monthly reservoir report.

 

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More news and commentary in the weekend edition …

This week in California water news …

  • California’s drought is getting worse. In a Q&A, Laurel Larsen explains how data science can help.
  • Record spring salmon run on Butte Creek turns into disaster as most fish die before spawning
  • Better water management needed to restore salmon populations: experts testify at CA joint committee meeting this week
  • State cannot move forward on Lookout Slough until public access addressed
  • Wildfire smoke alters a lake’s ecology from the top to the bottom of the food chain
  • California says federal ‘let it burn’ policy is reckless as wildfires rage out of control
  • As extreme heat and wildfires rage, a ‘protection gap’ threatens Californians
  • Meet Dr. Sarah Null, newest PPIC CalTrout Ecosystem Fellow
  • Ridgecrest: DWR urges ‘collaborative solution’ to Indian Wells Valley water woes
  • Biden bid to revamp Trump water rule faces long slog
  • And more …

Click here for the weekend Daily Digest.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOTICE of Proposed Emergency Rulemaking – Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Watershed

YOUR INPUT NEEDED on funding for SGMA implementation

OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT: Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program Groundwater Protection Values

DWR’s SGMO NEWSLETTER: GSP Initial Notifications, June 2021 GSP assessments release and live Q&A webinar materials; Multilingual resources; and more …

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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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