DAILY DIGEST, 8/3: State cuts off hundreds of Russian River water users, more cutbacks to be considered today; New law allows enhanced penalties for water theft; and more …


On the calendar today …

  • MEETING: The State Water Resources Control Board meets at 9:00am. Agenda items include drought update and Consideration of a proposed Resolution to adopt an Emergency Curtailment and Reporting Regulation for the SacramentoSan Joaquin Delta (Delta) WatershedClick here for the full agenda and remote access instructions.
  • FREE WEBINAR: Flash Drought: Current Understanding and Future Priorities from 11am to 12pm. Droughts are often categorized as “flash” droughts when they develop or intensify in a matter of weeks (though defining flash droughts continues to be an area of active debate). The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and the National Weather Service will host three flash drought webinars in 2021 to help climate professionals and operational service providers better understand this phenomenon, its defining characteristics and how it varies by region and season, its impacts on agricultural and other stakeholders, and the potential for improved monitoring, prediction, and planning/response tools (datasets, maps, etc.). This webinar will showcase presentations and discussion by NIDIS staff on key takeaways from the December 2020 Flash Drought Virtual Workshop, with an emphasis on priority activities to advance flash drought monitoring, prediction, and planning/response.    Click here to register.
  • FREE WEBINAR: Protecting California Amidst Extreme Heat from 12:30pm to 1:45pm. Extreme heat threatens public health, exacerbates drought and wildfire conditions, and strains our state’s power grid. It also impacts some Californians much worse than others. Join us for an important discussion on how we can protect California communities from this climate driven threat.  Register here.
  • FREE WEBINAR: Delta Conveyance Project Informational Webinar: Fisheries from 6pm to 7:30pm.  This webinar will focus on the Delta Conveyance Project and fisheries, including environmental setting details, including fish species evaluated, migration patterns and fish life cycles; fish screen considerations; and models, data and analytical methods being used for evaluating potential impacts.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

State cuts off hundreds of Russian River growers, ranchers and others in drastic bid to save water

A day long dreaded by hundreds of ranchers, grape growers, farmers, water providers and towns arrived Monday as the state ordered them to stop diverting water from the Russian River watershed or be fined $1,000 a day.  State regulators issued orders effective Tuesday prohibiting about 1,500 water rights holders in the upper river — including the cities of Cloverdale and Healdsburg — from diverting water in an effort to preserve rapidly diminishing supplies in Lake Mendocino.  The State Water Resources Control Board also announced plans to curtail another 310 claims in the lower river watershed as early as Aug. 9 to try to slow the drawdown of Lake Sonoma. ... ”  Read more from the North Bay Business Journal here: State cuts off hundreds of Russian River growers, ranchers and others in drastic bid to save water

Lake Mendocino water levels trigger curtailments for all water rights in Upper Russian River

With California experiencing a historic drought amid worsening climate change impacts, the state is responding urgently to address acute water supply shortfalls in affected areas. Water in Lake Mendocino is below minimum storage levels and dropping at an alarming rate, threatening supplies for drinking water and endangered fisheries.  In response, the State Water Resources Control Board issued curtailment orders today to all 861 water right holders in the Upper Russian River. The orders make it illegal to draw or divert water from the Upper Russian River, except as needed to ensure human health and safety. … ”  Continue reading this press release from the State Water Board here: Lake Mendocino water levels trigger curtailments for all water rights in Upper Russian River

State water officials preparing to make emergency cutbacks to growers and ranchers

As California’s drought worsens, state water officials are preparing to take emergency action to conserve.  The State Water Board is voting later this morning on new water restrictions that could impact thousands of farmers. If passed, the emergency regulations would restrict anyone from diverting water out of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and their tributaries.  The goal is to protect downstream water quality and flow requirements. … ”  Read more from Channel 13 here: State water officials preparing to make emergency cutbacks to growers and ranchers

SEE ALSO: California Water Board to vote on emergency curtailment order Tuesday, from KFSN

Does a state drought regulation threaten local water rights? Modesto Irrigation District, Turlock Irrigation District weigh in

The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts don’t expect an impact this year from an emergency drought regulation that could stop farmers from diverting water from the state’s major rivers.  But they are concerned about precedent-setting and whether a state agency’s proposed drought orders will shrink the availability of water for Northern San Joaquin Valley farmers in 2022.  “Our concerns are less about this year and more about the potential precedent of such a state action,” said Michael Frantz, a TID board member. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here: Does a state drought regulation threaten local water rights? Modesto Irrigation District, Turlock Irrigation District weigh in

Audio: CA Congressman is pushing for more equal water regulation amid drought

California State Assemblymember Adam Gray is calling out the state’s drought response as inequitable in its treatment of valley communities. He sent a letter of outrage to the State Water Resources Control Board about their decision to label water used to grow food as “a wasteful and unreasonable use,” which directly affects farmers throughout the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed. KFBK’s Aubrey Aquino has more.”  Listen at KFBK here:  CA Congressman is pushing for more equal water regulation amid drought 

New law allows enhanced penalties for water theft

Gov. Newsom recently signed a bill into law that gives California water agencies the authority to adopt enhanced penalties for water theft, giving them a stronger deterrent to help protect the public’s valuable resource.  The bill, SB 427, was authored by Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman D-Stockton) and sponsored by Elk Grove Water District. ACWA staff advocated in support of the bill. It allows fines for the first violation to be 10 times larger than what previously existed.  In addition to posing health risks, water theft makes it more difficult for water agencies to accurately account for the water being used by their ratepayers. The revenue lost from water theft can be passed on to paying customers, having a negative impact on water affordability. … ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here: New law allows enhanced penalties for water theft

Attorney General Bonta: As California faces devastating drought, EPA must move swiftly to reverse rule curtailing states’ Clean Water Act authority

California Attorney General Rob Bonta today, leading a multistate coalition with Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and New York Attorney General Letitia James, urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a comment letter to swiftly repeal a Trump-era rule curtailing state authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. California co-leads a similar coalition in a lawsuit challenging the rule, arguing that the rule unlawfully impedes California’s ability to protect its waters and wetlands. Already, the rule has created uncertainty and confusion, complicating and delaying urgently needed action to address the drought.  “As drought conditions across the West grow increasingly dire, Californians are relying on state agencies to take necessary steps to address this unprecedented emergency,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Unfortunately, every day this unlawful Trump-era rule remains in effect puts our ability to safeguard this precious resource in further jeopardy. I urge the EPA to take swift action to restore California’s ability to protect its waters, which sustain the health and livelihoods of our communities.”  … ”  Continue reading this press release here: Attorney General Bonta: As California faces devastating drought, EPA must move swiftly to reverse rule curtailing states’ Clean Water Act authority

Column: Proposed housing bills could cause radical changes in California

Columnist Thomas Elias writes, “The changes will not be immediate if California’s Legislature this month should pass the two most sweeping housing bills before it and then are signed into law either by Gov. Gavin Newsom or someone who might replace him after the Sept. 14 recall election.  But come back in 40 or 50 years, and most California cities would look very different if these bills passed. … That is, if enough water and energy can be found to make these changes possible, two problems that grow larger and less predictable the longer the current drought continues and the more often dry spells recur in an era of expanded climate change. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here: Column: Proposed housing bills could cause radical changes in California

Toxic ‘forever chemicals’ suspected at oil sites across California

At least 162 oil refineries and other petroleum-holding facilities in California have likely stored or used materials containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a class of synthetic chemicals that persist indefinitely in the environment and are linked to severe illnesses, according to state water regulators.  The California State Water Resources Control Board sent a letter to facility operators in March ordering them to submit work plans evaluating the presence of the toxic compounds at their facilities, including areas where PFAS are stored or disposed of and the potential ways the chemicals could have contaminated soil, surface water, storm water and groundwater as part of a multiyear phased investigation into PFAS contamination of drinking water. ... ”  Read more from Capital & Main here: Toxic ‘forever chemicals’ suspected at oil sites across California

A drought like no other, NOAA scientist says

The West has been so dry and so hot for so long that its current drought has no modern precedent, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist.  For the first time in 122 years of record-keeping, drought covers almost the entire Western U.S. as measured by the Palmer Drought Severity Index, said Richard Heim, a drought historian and an author of the U.S. Drought Monitor. “It’s a very simple ‘yes,’ in terms of this drought being unprecedented,” Heim said. … ”  Read more from the Capital Press here: A drought like no other, NOAA scientist says

River flows increase on Trinity and Lower Klamath Rivers to help Spring Chinook during drought

Dan Bacher writes, “River flows are increasing on the Trinity and Lower Klamath Rivers to help spring-run Chinook salmon survive during this year’s unprecedented drought, according to a Yurok Tribe press release.  “Originating from Lewiston Dam, the 3-day pulse flow is intended to reduce river temperatures in the Lower Trinity River where adult spring-run Chinook salmon are holding in limited thermal refugia (creek mouths),” the Tribe stated. “Lower water temperatures will help fish migrate upriver into more suitable habitat. This action is being taken in response to the extremely high water temperatures in the Trinity River and evidence of widespread Columnaris (gill rot) infections in Spring Chinook. Please use caution when at the river during this time and be aware of changing river conditions as they could impact your personal safety and property.” … ”  Read more at the Daily Kos here:  River flows increase on Trinity and Lower Klamath Rivers to help Spring Chinook during drought

Facing severe droughts, developers seek to reuse the water they have

When Salesforce Tower in San Francisco fully reopens this year after 16 months of pandemic-induced closure, one of its more unusual features will be found in the basement.  A series of pipes and cast-in-concrete holding tanks, arrayed on two levels in the parking garage like some hidden microbrewery, will take the dirty water generated by the structure’s daily operations through a six-step filtration process and return it as clean, nonpotable water for use in toilets and drip irrigation.  Taking up the space of 16 cars, the black-water system, so called because it treats all wastewater, including from toilets and showers, will filter an estimated 30,000 gallons per workday, or 7.8 million a year. … ”  Read more from the New York Times here: Facing severe droughts, developers seek to reuse the water they have

BLM plans emergency wild horse gathers amid extreme drought

The Bureau of Land Management is prepared to ramp up wild horse and burro gathers over the next two months as extreme heat and drought conditions across much of the West threaten the safety of thousands of federally protected animals.  BLM estimates that as many as 6,000 additional wild horses and burros need to be rounded up and removed from federal rangelands by the end of September in order to “prevent widespread thirst and mortality in wild horse and burro herds as drought intensifies across most of the West,” the bureau said today in a news release.  The drought conditions have already forced BLM to conduct multiple emergency gathers to remove nearly 1,200 animals. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: BLM plans emergency wild horse gathers amid extreme drought

Endangered orcas get new protection from US government

Endangered killer whales received new habitat protections from the U.S. government Friday.  The National Marine Fisheries Service finalized rules to expand the Southern Resident orca’s critical habitat from the Canadian border down to Point Sur, California, adding 15,910 square miles (41,207 square kilometers) of foraging areas, river mouths and migratory pathways. ... ”  Read more from KSBY here: Endangered orcas get new protection from US government

Ecosystem-based management of forage fish could benefit ocean and communities

Taking a holistic, ecosystem-based approach to managing small prey species known as forage fish could yield several economic and ecological benefits, a new study has found. The research, which focused on forage fisheries off the coast of California, modeled a management strategy for two forage fish species—anchovy and sardine—while also considering populations of halibut and brown pelicans, both of which feed upon forage fish.  The study, written by University of California, Davis economist James Sanchirico and Tim Essington, a marine ecologist with the University of Washington and a Pew marine fellow, was published recently in the journal Ecological Applications … ”  Read more from the Pew Charitable Trust here: Ecosystem-based management of forage fish could benefit ocean and communities 

Above-average wildfire season predicted to continue through September — or maybe longer

With more than 95% of the Western United States in drought, combined with a month’s stretch of above-normal temperatures, an outlook released Sunday shows fire season prospects looking grim.  “Above normal significant fire potential is forecast to continue through September for much of the Northwest, Northern Rockies, and northern portions of the Great Basin and Rocky Mountain Geographic Areas,” writes the National Interagency Fire Center. ... ”  Read more from Channel 13 here: Above-average wildfire season predicted to continue through September — or maybe longer

How water agencies could catalyze headwater forest management

Forest managers, community and environmental stakeholders, and policymakers alike have called for an increase in the pace and scale of proactive forest management. This work is essential to reducing wildfire risk and improving forest health. Getting there means becoming more ambitious about the size of forest management projects; this will require bringing together diverse funding streams and stakeholders, and working effectively across a patchwork of ownerships. Water agencies may be well placed to take on a leading role—based on the value they receive from reducing wildfire risk, their high capacity to manage complex projects, and their watershed-scale management approach.  Water agencies across the West are already engaging in important ways. … Two examples show how water agencies could catalyze more ambitious headwater forest management efforts across the state. … ”  Read more from the PPIC here: How water agencies could catalyze headwater forest management

More ‘good fire’ could help California control future catastrophes

Rob York walks calmly through the quiet pines deep in California’s Sierra Nevada foothills, trailing a mix of kerosene and gas from a canister behind him onto the forest floor, which crackles alight into low flames.  “It’s nice, right?” he says to the group of locals gathered at the fire’s neatly contained edge, turning around to draw another delicate line of fire across the designated burn zone.  To many Californians, fire signifies danger. But here, on a cool, serene day in the pines, controlled flames go only where York, a scientist and forester with the University of California’s Blodgett Experimental Forest, and his colleagues direct them. … ”  Read more from National Geographic here: More ‘good fire’ could help California control future catastrophes

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In commentary today …

Wildfire near Lake Tahoe shows we must adapt how we care for our lands — and quickly

Jane Freeman, acting director of the California Tahoe Conservancy, writes, “Fire officials recently allowed my family to return to our home in Markleeville in Alpine County following evacuation for the Tamarack Fire. The fire, started by lightning on July 4, blew up quickly on July 16. Residents and emergency personnel had very little time to react. While there are questions about the decision to let the fire burn rather than to immediately extinguish it, there also are important lessons for the Lake Tahoe Basin and the rest of California. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here:  Wildfire near Lake Tahoe shows we must adapt how we care for our lands — and quickly

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Coleman National Fish Hatchery preserving the Chinook salmon population

Hot temperatures and extreme drought conditions are causing the young salmon populations to die in the Sacramento River.  But thanks to a local fish hatchery, there may be some hope, in the coming months.  Project Leader at Coleman National Fish Hatchery said a slight change in water temperature and weather affects everything they do from tagging, releasing, and spawning. … ”  Read more from KRCR here: Coleman National Fish Hatchery preserving the Chinook salmon population

Red Bluff council to discuss water sharing policy

After tabling the topic at a previous meeting, the City Council will discuss an emergency resolution Tuesday that would create a temporary emergency water usage policy for unincorporated area residents without water.  The initial residential water rate for water made available will be $10 per every 1,000 gallons of water plus a $25 monthly administration fee.  Some property owners in the county’s unincorporated areas have told the city their wells have gone dry. The Tehama County Board of Supervisors and Corning City Council have approved temporary water-sharing policies. … ”  Read more from the Red Bluff Daily News here: Red Bluff council to discuss water sharing policy

Fortuna installs batteries to power facilities in event of outages, during peak hours

Some people think that the large Tesla battery unit installed at the city of Fortuna’s water booster station on Kenmar Road near South Fortuna Boulevard is going to be a car-charging location, but that is not the case.  The Tesla unit located there is one of three that will serve as a money-saving backup battery system at Fortuna water and wastewater facilities. ... ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here: Fortuna installs batteries to power facilities in event of outages, during peak hours

Reclamation partners with BLM to reduce wildland fire risk in Auburn State Recreation Area

The Bureau of Reclamation and the Bureau of Land Management are collaborating through a five-year agreement to reduce wildland fire threats in the popular Auburn State Recreation Area in El Dorado and Placer counties. This agreement includes projects to construct fuel breaks, remove hazard trees, and reduce brush.  Wildfires throughout California are increasing in size, complexity, and frequency. Reclamation is collaborating with the BLM to provide increased fuels (vegetation) reduction support, management, and technical pre-suppression support for fire protection and public safety. … ”  Read more from the Bureau of Reclamation here:  Reclamation partners with BLM to reduce wildland fire risk in Auburn State Recreation Area

Citrus Heights water officials hope federal funds will help build new well for underground water storage

With Folsom Lake looking more like a pond, and no way of knowing if the next rainy season will deliver, local water agencies are finding they have to dig deep.  “Water increasingly is a precious commodity as we live through this drought right now,” explained Congressman Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove.  Bera met with managers of the Citrus Heights Water District Monday at the site of a well that taps into an aquifer 400 feet underground. … ”  Read more from Fox 40 here: Citrus Heights water officials hope federal funds will help build new well for underground water storage

Two West Marin water utilities consider rationing

Thousands of West Marin residents could soon be placed under mandatory water rationing rules enforceable through service shutoffs and fines as large as $500.  The Stinson Beach County Water District will consider an ordinance on Aug. 21 that would limit households to a 125-gallon allotment per day if supplies dip low enough. The Inverness Public Utility District will consider adopting its own rationing rules on Aug. 25 but has yet to define what the allotment could be.  Both communities follow the lead of Bolinas, which has been under a water rationing watch since February. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Two West Marin water utilities consider rationing

Proposed Redwood City development would fill in Bay wetlands to build 350-unit apartment complex

Local environmental advocacy organizations have raised concerns about a proposal to build a 350-unit apartment complex and 500-car parking garage on a tidal lagoon in Redwood City.  The project would permanently fill more than eight acres of the tidal lagoon, as well as dredging another six acres of some 100,000 cubic yards of dirt to use in the filling, according to a public notice from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has received an application from the developer for a permit to fill wetlands. The notice states that the project would also establish 4.8 acres of tidal wetlands and enhance 1.2 acres of existing wetland to mitigate the project’s impact on the environment. … ”  Read more from Hoodline here: Proposed Redwood City development would fill in Bay wetlands to build 350-unit apartment complex

Monterey Bay and parts of Big Sur added to expanded killer whale protection

The federal government Monday expanded its critical habitat area for the endangered southern killer whale population that now includes all of Monterey Bay and a portion of the waters off the Big Sur coast.  The new critical habitat designation also added a large portion of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary down to Point Sur, about 25 miles south of Monterey. The new designation takes effect on Sept. 1. … ”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel here: Monterey Bay and parts of Big Sur added to expanded killer whale protection

Manteca residents: Dry levee cuts rural neighborhood in half

About a dozen or so residents from the area impacted by the Manteca Dry Land Levee Project believe their lifestyles, their neighborhood, and their property values are being sacrificed for the benefit of more development.  If 200-year flood protection is not in place or in the process of being built by 2030, the state will halt all new development in the impacted area.  Residents turned out Monday for a Planning, Evaluation & Concept Project presentation at the Manteca Transit Center. ... ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here: Manteca residents: Dry levee cuts rural neighborhood in half

Tuolumne River: Watershed that powers Bay Area growth

The waters of the Tuolumne River flow through Modesto two ways.  One is in the natural riverbed that cuts through the city just south of downtown.  The other is in the original “Delta bypass tunnel” — the 46.7 mile pipeline across the San Joaquin Valley beneath the Hetch Hetchy Trail that moves water diverted from the reservoir the urban trail is named after.  The pipeline since 1934 has been delivering water to the City of San Francisco after Congress in 1913 granted it permission to build a dam in Yosemite National Park. ... ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here: Tuolumne River: Watershed that powers Bay Area growth

Illegal dumping laws not being enforced along Tuolumne River as trash piles up

It’s a shocking and disgusting sight in Stanislaus County. An entire U-Haul of garbage was dumped into the Tuolumne River. To make matters worse, it seems like nobody knows who’s in charge of enforcing illegal dumping laws in the area.  Trash is piling up along the Tuolumne River.  “We’ve let it get way too bad in this state its heartbreaking really. This is what our kids are going to have to live in when we all move on,” says Modesto native and RoamLost founder David Downs, who’s been working to clean the river for generations to come. ... ”  Read more from Channel 13 here: Illegal dumping laws not being enforced along Tuolumne River as trash piles up

Department of Water Resources conducts helicopter survey of Paso Robles-area groundwater basin

If you live in Paso Robles or Atascadero, you may have seen a strange sight this weekend: a helicopter with a large hoop on it, flying 200 feet above the ground.  The Department of Water Resources held something called an airborne electromagnetic survey of that area to collect data on the groundwater basin there.  During one of these surveys, the helicopter tows electronic equipment — which looks like a large hoop — that sends signals into the ground, which then bounce back. … ”  Read more from KCBX here: Department of Water Resources conducts helicopter survey of Paso Robles-area groundwater basin

Antelope Valley:  Approval is given for farm’s new well

After much discussion regarding the impact of allowing additional groundwater pumping on the underlying basin, the Antelope Valley Watermaster granted permission for a new well for a pistachio farm on the Valley’s west side.  The Watermaster is the body tasked with over­see­ing the 2015 court sett­le­ment that set limits on ground­water pump­ing for users across the Val­ley. The adjudicated area gov­erned by the court judg­ment covers ap­prox­imately 1,390 square miles of the underlying ground­water basin, encom­pass­ing the bulk of the Antelope Valley. … ”  Read more from the Antelope Valley Press here: Antelope Valley:  Approval is given for farm’s new well

Millions of gallons of partially treated sewage continue to be discharged into Santa Monica Bay

Three weeks after a 17 million gallon sewage spill at Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant, the facility is still not able to fully treat sewage, sending millions of gallons of partially treated discharge into Santa Monica Bay every day.  Normally, treated sewage at the plant, which serves the City of Los Angeles, is discharged five-miles offshore. During the July 11-12 spill–caused by overwhelming quantities of debris–17 million gallons of raw sewage were discharged one-mile offshore during an eight hour period.  The event led to closures of swim areas in the area, including Dockweiler and El Segundo due to elevated levels of bacteria in the water. These closures were lifted on July 16 after the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) stated that water sampling at the impacted swim areas met state standards. … ”  Continue reading at the Santa Monica Mirror here: Millions of gallons of partially treated sewage continue to be discharged into Santa Monica Bay

Bacteria advisories lifted at beach near Hyperion plant

The Los Angeles County Public Health Department lifted a series of bacteria warnings for Dockweiler State Beach on Monday afternoon, Aug. 2, following tests at several sites that showed the beach no longer exceeds state standards.  County officials repeatedly warned visitors over the weekend to exercise caution when surfing, playing or swimming in the waters near the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant due to higher than usual amounts of bacteria. Tests conducted Monday, however, showed the beaches had returned to an acceptable level, according to the public health department’s beach quality tracker. ... ”  Read more from the Whittier Daily News here: Bacteria advisories lifted at beach near Hyperion plant

Long Beach has head start on need to conserve water in drought

Long Beach is in a better position than most of California as the drought deepens and Gov. Gavin Newsom asks residents to cut water use by 15%, city officials say, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to save more — with the city’s water board endorsing that reduction goal.  The city, thanks to the changes in lifestyle during the 2012 to 2016 drought, has a lower average water use than most of the state — and is part of a region that has seen its usage in the years since restrictions were lifted increase more slowly than others, according to the Long Beach Water Department. … ”  Read more from the Long Beach Press Telegram here: Long Beach has head start on need to conserve water in drought

Orange County: Headed to beach to beat the heat? Be warned, the ocean feels like winter water

If you’re looking to beat this week’s heat by heading to the beach, you may be greeted with a shocking chill.  Winter-like water temperatures have been lingering locally – as low as 58 degrees in some areas – unseasonably frigid for the middle of a Southern California summer.  Recent strong northwesterly winds created a process called “upwelling,” which churns deeper cold water up to the ocean’s surface, National Weather Service meteorologist Brandt Maxwell said. … ”  Read more from the OC Register here: Headed to beach to beat the heat? Be warned, the ocean feels like winter water

Funds for pumped storage hydro expected to help propel California’s clean energy future

Employees working at the San Diego County Water Authority and the City of San Diego likely won’t be taking much of an August vacation. Instead, many of them will be gearing up for preliminary studies, environmental reviews, and licensing activities for the proposed San Vicente Energy Storage Facility.  That’s because the facility – being proposed in partnership by the city and the county – received a shot in the arm in July 2021, when California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the state budget into law. Specifically, the budget includes $18 million in funding – enough to advance the project through initial design, environmental reviews, and the federal licensing process. … ”  Read more from Powerhouse here: Funds for pumped storage hydro expected to help propel California’s clean energy future

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Along the Colorado River …

Starving cows. Fallow farms. The Arizona drought is among the worst in the country

The cotton’s gone.  The alfalfa barely exists.  “Can you even call this a farm?” asked Nancy Caywood, standing on a rural stretch of land her Texas grandfather settled nearly a century ago, drawn by cheap prices and feats of engineering that brought water from afar to irrigate central Arizona’s arid soil.  On the family’s 247 acres an hour south of Phoenix, Caywood grew up tending to cotton and alfalfa, two water-intensive crops that fed off melted mountain snows flowing from a reservoir 120 miles away. She grew up understanding the rhythms of the desert and how fields can blossom despite a rugged, sand-swept terrain where sunlight is a given but water is precious.  Now more than ever. Looking out at her farmland recently, Caywood held back tears. ... ”  Continue reading at the LA Times here: Starving cows. Fallow farms. The Arizona drought is among the worst in the country

A mega-dairy is transforming Arizona’s aquifer and farming lifestyles

In the winter of 2018, Laura Lynn moved out of her mobile home in Sunizona, an unincorporated community in southeast Arizona. After more than six years, she was tired of hauling water for drinking and bathing, and she couldn’t afford to drill a well — certainly not one deep enough to survive the impending squeeze once a nearby mega-dairy began to operate.  Lynn’s story epitomizes the challenges local residents are facing over the ongoing water crisis in this rural community, a problem that worsens every year and that no person or agency has figured out how to solve. She is one of hundreds of people, mostly low- to middle-income, living in a high-desert landscape whose groundwater is rapidly disappearing as water is pumped to grow alfalfa, corn, nuts, wheat and barley.  But the greatest pressure on the region’s aquifer comes from Riverview LLP, a Minnesota-based dairy company whose groundwater pumping is seen by many as the primary cause of their drying wells. … ”  Read more from the Tucson Sentinel here: A mega-dairy is transforming Arizona’s aquifer and farming lifestyles

Using shoebox-sized satellites, ASU researchers track Arizona rivers

ASU researchers are using satellite technology to track the flow of the Hassayampa River, something that hasn’t been possible using traditional methods such as gauging stations.  Like most Arizona rivers, the Hassayampa can be dry in places, and its remote stretches can be difficult to access. … ”  Read more from KJZZ here: Using shoebox-sized satellites, ASU researchers track Arizona rivers

Recent monsoon rain helps improve Arizona drought conditions

Our recent stretch of wet weather has brought even more drought improvement around the state, although there’s still a long way to go.  The U.S Drought Monitor released the latest drought update on Thursday and it shows that Arizona has seen further drought improvement thanks to last week’s monsoon storms. ... ”  Read more from Channel 9 here: Recent monsoon rain helps improve Arizona drought conditions

Lake Powell’s historic low level strands some boat ramps—and reveals others

Lake Powell on the Colorado River is at historically low levels. All but three of its boat ramps are stranded above the waterline. The National Park Service is fighting to maintain access to the reservoir for recreational boaters… with the help of an old “legacy” ramp that’s been underwater for half a century. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny spoke with William Shott, superintendent of Glen Canyon National Recreational Area. … ”  Read more from KNAU here: Lake Powell’s historic low level strands some boat ramps—and reveals others

States are considering paying people to keep their water in the Colorado River. Some don’t think they can afford it

More than 40 million people rely on the Colorado River in the West, and every drop of it is used. But with climate change, there’s now less water to go around. To try and avoid a multi-state legal battle over this precious resource, Colorado and other states are considering paying people to keep more water in the river.  In southwest Gunnison County, farmers and ranchers rely on water that would otherwise end up in the Colorado River. Drought has plagued the area for more than 20 years, so the resource is now more valuable than ever.  Instead of using this water to irrigate his fields, rancher Bill Parker is getting paid by an environmental nonprofit to send his water rights downstream. … ”  Read more from Colorado Public Radio here: States are considering paying people to keep their water in the Colorado River. Some don’t think they can afford it

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In national water news today …

How to build a water-smart city

Cities across time have stretched to secure water. The Romans built aqueducts, the Mayans constructed underground storage chambers, and Hohokam farmers dug more than 500 miles of canals in what is now the U.S. Southwest.  Today’s cities use portfolios of technologies to conserve supply — everything from 60-story dams and chemicals to centrifugal pumps and special toilets. And yet, the cities of tomorrow will have to do more.  A recent United Nations report on drought says climate change is increasing the frequency, severity and duration of droughts, which contribute to food insecurity, poverty and inequality. ... ”  Read more from Bloomberg’s City Lab here: How to build a water-smart city

Beyond the west, drought creeps in

The streams don’t so much flow as creep. In towns across the state, residents live with water restrictions as municipalities ask them to conserve. Municipalities are asking residents to refrain from watering their lawns given the reduced water supplies. This drought—and the data suggesting that because of climate change, drought-like conditions will become the norm—is why Ted Diers, the state’s watershed management administrator, has removed his lawn.  “I have gone completely to landscaping that is mostly mulched with relatively drought-resistant bushes,” he said. “I have a big patio, and then all of that drains down into the last little bit of lawn that I have, so whenever we get rain, it’s gonna go right there. And so I don’t water.”  Diers’s story sounds familiar—a tale of coping with scant water supplies that are now the norm when speaking about California, Idaho, or Nevada. But Diers doesn’t live out West. He lives in New Hampshire. … ”  Read more from Sierra Magazine here: Beyond the west, drought creeps in

EPA announces future steps on WOTUS rewrite

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of the Army intend to revise the definition of the waters of the U.S. – or WOTUS – following a process that includes two rulemakings. In doing so, the agencies say they intend to support “economic opportunity, agriculture and other industries.”  In an announcement Friday, the agencies explain a forthcoming foundational rule would restore the regulations defining WOTUS that were in place for decades until 2015, with updates to be consistent with relevant Supreme Court decisions. A separate, second rulemaking process would refine this regulatory foundation and establish an updated and durable definition of “waters of the United States.” ... ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: EPA announces future steps on WOTUS rewrite

Wheeler: Infrastructure package builds on Trump’s lead rule

Former EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler today touted the infrastructure package moving through Congress as building upon the Trump administration’s work to eradicate lead from drinking water.  At the same time, the language appears to undercut President Biden’s own call for $45 billion to remove all the lead pipelines snaking across the United States to deliver water to schools and homes, a major source of drinking water contamination.  Wheeler today in an interview said the infrastructure package provides funds that are critical for water testing in schools and day cares as children are most vulnerable to lead contamination in drinking water. ... ”  Read more from E&E News here: Wheeler: Infrastructure package builds on Trump’s lead rule

Infrastructure bill protects forests for climate resilience

Both parties agree: Trees are infrastructure.  The bipartisan infrastructure deal moving through the Senate includes at least $5.75 billion for restoring, monitoring and researching forests, according to the legislative text and summary. Beyond money, the package also includes policies that could make it easier to prepare for wildfires.  That’s a significant slice of the deal’s $46 billion resilience spending, a total that remained near President Biden’s original proposal even as Republicans rejected most other climate money.  The forest funding is notable because GOP lawmakers spent months insisting they only would agree to fund “traditional” infrastructure, such as roads and bridges. More than once, negotiations teetered over how to define infrastructure. Republicans rejected things such as child care or electric vehicle subsidies as infrastructure.  Forests — and green infrastructure more broadly — were different. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Infrastructure bill protects forests for climate resilience

The known unknowns of sea level rise

As ice sheets melted at the end of the last Ice Age, sea levels rose and an inland sea formed in New England and southeastern Canada. Whales swam in what is now central Vermont. Ten thousand years later, the atmosphere and oceans are warming rapidly and land ice at all latitudes is melting. Data collected by satellite altimeters over the past three decades show that global sea level has risen by an average of 3.4 millimeters per year and the rate is accelerating.  As global warming changes our planet, which coastlines are most and least vulnerable to sea level rise? Could new inland seas and waterways develop as they did thousands of years ago? Could Lake Champlain ever reconnect to the ocean and become the Champlain Sea again?  These are the types of questions that members of NASA’s sea level rise team work on. … ”  Read more from NASA here:  The known unknowns of sea level rise

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Today’s featured articles …

RISING VOICES: Pacoima Beautiful, water and heat in the San Fernando Valley

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Who lives in a pineapple under the sea … NOAA locates Sponge Bob and Patrick

BLOG ROUND-UP: Reclamation’s salmon plan, Delta smelt monitoring malpractice, CA Water Model: Resilience through failure; 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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