WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for August 15 – 20: Advancing Well-Designed Water Trading Programs in CA, Shortage declared on Colorado River; Emergency regs now in effect for Delta watershed; plus all the top water news of the week

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

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This week’s featured articles …

CA WATER COMMISSION: Water Trading & the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

In March of this year, the Secretaries of the Natural Resources Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Food and Ag tasked the California Water Commission with initiating a thorough and inclusive public dialogue to frame state considerations around shaping well-managed groundwater trading programs.

At the June meeting of the California Water Commission, Steven Springhorn, the Acting Deputy Director of Statewide Groundwater Management at the Department of Water Resources, highlighted how the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and related activities provide a framework and foundation to build off of to develop efficient and equitable markets and how those markets can help to collectively and successfully implement SGMA.  He also discussed the assistance available from the Department for SGMA implementation that can facilitate local agencies working towards developing allocations and markets.

Click here to read this article.


CA WATER COMMISSION: Advancing Well-Designed Water Trading Programs in California

In March of this year, the Secretaries of the Natural Resources Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Food and Ag tasked the California Water Commission with initiating a thorough and inclusive public dialogue to frame state considerations around shaping well-managed groundwater trading programs.

At the June meeting of the California Water Commission,  the commissioners heard from a panel of speakers who discussed why groundwater sustainability agencies (or GSAs) might consider markets, what groundwater trading entails, its opportunities and limitations, and how it is connected to water accounting, allocations, and sustainable groundwater management.

The third presenter was Christina Babbitt, the senior manager of the Environmental Defense Fund’s California Groundwater Program.  Her presentation focused on advancing well-designed water trading programs in California and included an example of EDF’s work with partners to develop a groundwater trading platform.

Click here to read this article.

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In California water news this week …

Colorado River water shortage declared for first time; California could see cuts by 2024

The federal government on Monday declared a first-ever shortage on the Colorado River, announcing mandatory water cutbacks next year for Arizona, Nevada and Mexico. California will not be immediately affected, but U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials warned that more cuts would likely be necessary.  The river supplies drinking water and irrigation for 40 million people. The declaration of a shortage was triggered by the spiraling decline of Lake Mead, which stores water used by California, Arizona, Nevada and Mexico.  “What we’d hoped we’d never see is here,” said Reclamation Deputy Commissioner Camille Touton during a press conference announcing the declaration. “Additional actions will likely be necessary in the very near future.” … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here: Colorado River water shortage declared for first time; California could see cuts by 2024

Southern California water officials declare supply alert amid worsening drought

“Southern California’s powerful water agency on Tuesday issued a supply alert, calling on the region to conserve vital resources and prepare for continued drought — a move that brings the state’s largest population center closer to the tough water restrictions imposed on communities elsewhere.  The move comes one day after U.S. officials declared the first-ever water shortage on the Colorado River, which is a key source of water for the region.  The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California supplies water to some 19 million people across six counties and is one of the largest water distributors in the nation. The decision by its board Tuesday marks the first time in seven years that the agency has issued an official supply alert — the third of four escalating phases in its water supply framework. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Southern California water officials declare supply alert amid worsening drought

Newsom says mandatory statewide water restrictions for California may be on the way

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that he may put mandatory water restrictions in place in as soon as six weeks from now as the state’s historic drought continues to worsen.  The declaration came as the governor and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan inspected recovery efforts at Big Basin Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains one year after a massive wildfire burned through the park’s ancient redwoods.  Asked if he was going to require cities to meet mandatory water conservation targets, as former Gov. Jerry Brown did statewide during the last drought from 2012 to 2016, Newsom noted that he already called for 15% voluntary conservation, but that could change soon. … ”  Read more from the Mercury News here: Newsom says mandatory statewide water restrictions for California may be on the way

Emergency regulations allow curtailments in the Delta watershed

Effective August 19, 2021, emergency regulations were approved for water curtailment orders and related reporting requirements in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed, defined as Hydrologic Unit Code level 4 Sacramento and level 4 San Joaquin subregions (Delta Watershed). … Under the Delta Regulations, the Deputy Director of the Division of Water Rights (Deputy Director) is charged with issuing curtailment orders to holders of water rights, including riparian and pre-1914 rights, in order of priority, based on water unavailability. Riparian rights are not exempted, but are presumed senior to appropriative water rights absent evidence to the contrary. For water rights in the portion of the Delta Watershed referred to in Water Code section 12220 (Legal Delta), the Deputy Director must obtain the concurrence of the Delta Watermaster before issuing any curtailment order. … ”  Read the full article from Buchalter here:  Emergency regulations allow curtailments in the Delta watershed

Western drought will last into fall or longer

The severe drought that has gripped much of the western half of the United States in spring and summer is likely to continue at least into late fall, government forecasters said Thursday.  The outlook for September through November, prepared by meteorologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, suggests that above-average temperatures are likely across almost all of the West, except for Washington and parts of Idaho, Montana and North Dakota. … ”  Read more from the New York Times here: Western drought will last into fall or longer

La Niña watch is officially on this fall, and that could be disastrous for the drought

Forecasters at the Climate Prediction Center issued an update Thursday giving a 60% chance that another La Niña pattern will form — and this same forecast was given last year, only to be updated the second week of September to say, “Yep, La Niña is here.”  La Niña temperature patterns, in which cooler temperatures gather along the surface of the Pacific, have a mixed bag of effects on the West Coast, with the tendency to make for drier than average winters in Southern California, and wetter than average years for the Pacific Northwest. This past winter, there was hope early on that the drier than average November and December here in Northern California would give way to wetter winter and spring months, but that didn’t happen, and we had one of the driest winters on record, making our current drought that much worse. … ”  Read more from SFist here: La Niña watch is officially on this fall, and that could be disastrous for the drought

SEE ALSO: La Niña is likely to form, raising concerns of increased hurricane activity, just like in 2020, from CNN

Small towns grow desperate for water in California

As a measure of both the nation’s creaking infrastructure and the severity of the drought gripping California there is the $5 shower.  That’s how much Ian Roth, the owner of the Seagull Inn, a bed-and-breakfast in this tourist town three hours north of San Francisco, spends on water every time a guest washes for five minutes under the shower nozzle.  Water is so scarce in Mendocino, an Instagram-ready collection of pastel Victorian homes on the edge of the Pacific, that restaurants have closed their restrooms to guests, pointing them instead to portable toilets on the sidewalk. …  ”  Read more from the New York Times here: Small towns grow desperate for water in California

California enacted a groundwater law 7 years ago. But wells are still drying up — and it’s spreading

During the height of the state’s last drought, thousands of Californians in the Central Valley ran out of water as their wells went dry. So much water was pumped from underground, mostly by growers, that the earth collapsed, sinking up to two feet per year in parts of the San Joaquin Valley.  Alarmed, the California Legislature in 2014 enacted a package of new laws that aimed to stop the over-pumping.  But seven years later, little has changed for Californians relying on drinking water wells: Depletion of their groundwater continues. Pumping is largely unrestricted, and there are few, if any, protections in place.   Now, after two dry years, reports of dry wells are worsening and spreading in many new areas, leaving more families like O’Brien’s with no drinking water. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here:  California enacted a groundwater law 7 years ago. But wells are still drying up — and it’s spreading

California has been unable to address water problems in a number of towns. Here’s why

A lot has happened over the past five years, but not much has changed in the tiny farmworker town of Okieville.  Wells went dry en masse in Tulare County, including in Okieville, during the last drought in 2012-2016. Since then, the state has funded a new well for the town.  But the water troubles never ended. The well pump malfunctions frequently and can take days to fix, said Mayra Marquez, an Okieville resident. “It’s very hectic,” Marquez said. “We’re out of water often.”  With the region again in the grip of drought, she’s worried. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: California has been unable to address water problems in a number of towns. Here’s why

Hurtado pleads for more water investment as drought crisis continues

Standing at the depleted San Luis Reservoir on Wednesday, State Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) called for additional funds to help California residents and businesses withstand the drought.  Hurtado’s rallying cry came on the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s visit to the reservoir 59 years ago.  “I am frustrated that while we are seeing the warning signs of climate change, our agricultural and vulnerable communities are not being invested in equitably by our state and federal governments,” said Hurtado. “More funding is desperately needed by both state and federal governments.” … ”  Read more from the Hanford Sentinel here: Hurtado pleads for more water investment as drought crisis continues

$2.7 billion bond fund to build water reservoirs sits idle in California

It’s been seven years since drought-wracked California raked in $2.7 billion in bond funds that promised construction of reservoirs to capture excess water runoff during winters.  The money is sitting in a bank account without a single shovel of dirt overturned to begin construction of eight above-ground water holding facilities. Meanwhile, governors and local politicians over the years have called for urban water cutbacks and even rationing for farmers who have watched crops wither and die due to decreased water supply. ... ”  Continue reading at Yahoo News here: $2.7 billion bond fund to build water reservoirs sits idle in California

San Francisco Bay’s tides are going to rise. Should we dam the Golden Gate first?

Experts studying the issue agree that sea level rise in coming decades could pose an enormous threat to San Francisco Bay’s shoreline. So perhaps it’s no surprise that there’s now talk of looking into an equally enormous response.  Why not build a barrier to keep rising tides outside the Golden Gate? Researchers in the past have dismissed this seemingly straightforward concept on environmental grounds. Engineers are skeptical, too. But the enormity of the challenge has some Bay Area leaders saying it should at least be studied.  “I can’t help but wonder why we aren’t focusing our energies on one solution, rather than dozens of solutions,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo asked at a meeting last month of elected officials. “There’s one location where we (all) are exposed to sea level rise, and that is at the Golden Gate.” ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  San Francisco Bay’s tides are going to rise. Should we dam the Golden Gate first?

Killer algae? California officials retesting river water after family found dead in Sierra

Toxic algae in Sierra National Forest, now being considered in the mysterious deaths of a family this week, was being retested on Thursday by the California State Water Resources Control Board and Mariposa County.  The state agency said it received the report of fatalities near the south fork of the Merced River, about 2.6 miles above the main stem, on Wednesday. Mariposa residents John Gerrish, Ellen Chung, their daughter, Miju, and family dog, Oski, were found dead in this area on Tuesday after not returning from a day hike in the Hites Cove area of Devil’s Gulch, between Mariposa and Yosemite National Park.  The family may have been exposed to cyanobacterial toxins, the water board said, which can form in algal blooms. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Killer algae? California officials retesting river water after family found dead in Sierra

Local officials are reportedly worried chlorine suppliers are prioritizing swimming pools over drinking water in several US states

Oceanside Water Utilities in California was days away from running out of bleach for its waste- and drinking-water treatment plants last month, Bloomberg Law reported on Monday. If chemical shipments didn’t return in time, the water supply for 170,000 people would be at risk.  The Oceanside plant was one of 10 local systems from California, Utah, New Mexico, and New York that requested help from the US Environmental Protection Agency this week, according to Bloomberg.  This led both private and public water plants to apply for federal assistance as their chemical shipments dwindled amid regional chlorine shortages. Requests were filed through section 1441 of the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act, something the EPA said they’ve never seen before. … ”  Read more from The Insider here: Local officials are reportedly worried chlorine suppliers are prioritizing swimming pools over drinking water in several US states

Dirty water: Toxic “forever” PFAS chemicals are prevalent in the drinking water of environmental justice communities (w/interactive map)

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are toxic chemicals that have been linked to multiple serious health harms, such as cancer and developmental and reproductive harm. Unfortunately, PFAS are widely used in everyday products such as nonstick cookware, water-resistant clothing, and food packaging. Even worse, PFAS are very resistant to break down—and can accumulate to dangerously high levels in the human body. Monitoring shows that virtually all people residing in the United States have some level of PFAS in their bodies. … ”  Read more from the NRDC here: Dirty water: Toxic “forever” PFAS chemicals are prevalent in the drinking water of environmental justice communities

Wildfire smoke may lead to less rain in the western US

As wildfires and heatwaves stress the western United States, concern over drought is rising: Dry landscapes burn more readily, and rain can help quell fires already raging. But wildfire smoke may keep that essential rain from falling.  A new study finds tiny particles in wildfire smoke affect the way droplets form in clouds, potentially resulting in less rain and exacerbating dry conditions that fuel fires. ... ”  Read more from Phys Org here: Wildfire smoke may lead to less rain in the western US

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In commentary today …

Needed now: safe drinking water for all Californians

Sophie James, director of water quality at the California Water Service, writes, “While nobody disputes that everyone should have safe, clean drinking water, not every Californian does.  According to the Public Policy Institute of California, more than 250 water systems serving 900,000 Californians were out of compliance with drinking water standards in 2020. Even more alarming, this is a chronic issue for some systems; more than 170 have been out of compliance for three or more years, and small rural, low-income communities of color are more likely to be among those with chronic water quality issues. … ”  Read more from Capitol Weekly here: Needed now: safe drinking water for all Californians

Water crisis and more water restrictions

Roseville resident Brain Parry writes, “Here we go again. More mandatory water restrictions in Roseville and other communities. Do you remember the last time we were forced to conserve water? I think it was 2015. We did so well that the Roseville water district did not have enough money to cover the maintenance costs of the system so how did they reward us for our conservation efforts? They raised our rates. I fully expect another rate increase in the near future.  Volumes have been written about the drought and the shortage of water. The politicians and government officials act as if we, the public, are the culprits. But do not be fooled. The blame falls squarely on our short-sighted elected officials. And you don’t have to look any further than Roseville City Hall, the state Capitol and Washington D.C. … ”  Read more from Gold Rush Media here: Water crisis and more water restrictions

Newsom says mandatory California water restrictions can wait six weeks. Gee, wonder why?

The San Francisco Chronicle editorial board writes, “Surveying the recently scorched earth of Big Basin Redwoods State Park with the nation’s top environmental official this week, Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged that it might be time for mandatory statewide water restrictions — in six weeks or so.  What is he waiting for? It’s certainly not evidence of extraordinarily dry conditions that has yet to materialize. California is in its worst drought in about half a century, with 88% of the state experiencing at least extreme drought, the second-driest classification on the U.S. Drought Monitor’s scale. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Newsom says mandatory California water restrictions can wait six weeks. Gee, wonder why?

It’s time again for water officials to sound the alarm

The Ventura County Star editorial board writes, “California’s five-year drought that ended in 2016 was brutal, one of the most severe in history. It unfolded during historic statewide high temperatures and included the driest four-year period on record and the lowest Sierra Nevada snowpack ever recorded.  It took sacrifice and resolve, but the state made it through that challenge, thanks in part to a 25 percent reduction in urban water use mandated by former Gov. Jerry Brown.  Now drought conditions have returned — and arguably the underlying conditions are worse than those experienced five years ago. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star here: It’s time again for water officials to sound the alarm

Infrastructure bill gives state opportunity to fix water supply issue

Mike Wade, Executive Director of the California Farm Water Coalition, writes, “Once again, Californians are suffering through drought and wildfires. The climate change report recently issued by a United Nations committee of international scientists makes it clear the problem is getting worse and we must act now.  There is something we can do right now. The bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by the Senate and awaiting action by the House gives us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help promote drought resiliency, adjust to climate change, protect the environment, mitigate wildfires, maintain a safe, healthy, local food supply and ensure communities have the water they need to run their homes and power their businesses. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Infrastructure bill gives state opportunity to fix water supply issue

What to do about the Colorado River’s megadrought ‘code red’

Dave D. White, deputy director in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory at Arizona State University and lead author for the Southwest Chapter of the forthcoming Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5), writes, ” … Beginning next January, the shortage will reduce deliveries of Colorado River water to Arizona by about 20 percent. Although water managers and farmers have been planning for this development, following the passage of state drought contingency plans in 2019, the cuts will cause some farmers to leave fields fallow, while others will rely on unsustainable groundwater pumping. The shortage also raises public alarms about the region’s long-term water security. Addressing the complex water issues facing the Southwest will require bold solutions that match the scale of the challenges — nothing less than a water “moonshot.” … ”  Read more from the Washington Post here: What to do about the Colorado River’s megadrought ‘code red’

Column: The drought is drying up California’s economy: who’s responsible for opening the floodgates?

David Lynch, Co-Founder & CEO of Klir (an operating system for utilities), writes, “Cropless fields, fishless rivers, burning forests, empty reservoirs and powerless dams — either you’ve seen the headlines, or you’re living it. America’s West has run out of water.  For most of us, this is a reckoning moment. Water exists in abundance. It’s cheap, free-flowing and limitless. We’re quite literally swimming in the stuff.  But suddenly, that’s no longer true. California’s surging population and farming-dependent economy, coupled with sustained drought, means that demand has completely drowned out supply.  And this isn’t just a problem for this summer. This is the future of America’s West as we know it. … ”  Continue reading from Forbes here: Column: The drought is drying up California’s economy: who’s responsible for opening the floodgates?

State agency identifies racial inequalities to help Valley towns lacking clean water

Lourin Hubbard, operations manager for the Central Valley Water Quality Control Board, write, “It’s very important to lead with your values. That’s exactly what is happening at the California Water Quality Control Board regarding racial equity and environmental justice. I am an operations manager and racial equity work group contributor at the board, but the following is my opinion on the racial equity and environmental justice efforts being made by the agency. Water is life, and here in the Central Valley, water access is as big an issue here as almost anywhere else on Earth. In California we have a “human right to water” approach that was built into our system when the Legislature passed the Human Right to Water Act. … ” Continue reading at the Fresno Bee here: State agency identifies racial inequalities to help Valley towns lacking clean water

California in dire need of drought reform

Redgie Collins and Analise Rivero with Cal Trout write, “The California legislature returned from summer recess on Monday with a lot of work left to do on water policy and emergency drought funding. This comes at a time when we have drier conditions than even at the height of our last drought and a wildfire season that is poised to be among the worst on record. Scientists say that climate change, in the form of warming temperatures and shifts in precipitation, is making the situation worse. According to a substantial report released last week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the impacts of climate change are already severe and widespread. Researchers are observing changes in the Earth’s climate in every region and across the whole climate system. … ”  Read more from Cal Trout here: California in dire need of drought reform

It’s too bad Josh Harder isn’t in Sacramento instead of Congress

Dennis Wyatt, editor of the Manteca Bulletin, writes, “Not only does the Turlock-native Congressman refrain from partisan politics for the most part, although those who don’t understand why a Democrat would vote for Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker as opposed to Kevin McCarthy will argue that point, but Harder knows a drought when he sees one.  The second term 10th District congressman in late July noted that California is in dire straits.  Harder pointed out the reservoirs we rely on are at a lower point now than they were at the depth of the last drought that ended in 2019. … ”  Read more from the Turlock Journal here: It’s too bad Josh Harder isn’t in Sacramento instead of Congress

It’s time to fulfill the promise: Build Sites Reservoir

Jeffrey Sutton, general manager of the Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority, writes, “California is in a dire situation. Most of our state’s major reservoirs are precariously close to being effectively empty. We are less than two months away from the new water year when we start to replenish water supplies. Drought is to be expected in California. But are we as prepared as we could be? Were we ready for this year? We would be unquestionably better off if we had more storage capacity to save more water in advance of droughts. The proposed Sites Reservoir project would fill that role.  Sites Reservoir is a proposed multi-benefit, off-stream water storage facility, located north of Sacramento in rural Colusa and Glenn counties. Sites will serve to capture and store stormwater and flood flows in the Sacramento River, after all other water rights and regulatory requirements are met, for release primarily in drier years. This is not a big on-stream dam project of past generations. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here: It’s time to fulfill the promise: Build Sites Reservoir

Commentary: To restore California’s ecosystems, we must adopt smarter permitting

Letitia Grenier, program director at the San Francisco Estuary Institute, and Jeff Mount, senior fellow at PPIC’s Water Policy Center, write, “California’s ecosystems underpin the state’s economy: They nurture and protect the state’s water supply, shorelines, agriculture, fisheries and wildlife. But many of these ecosystems are in dire health, and climate change is now accelerating the loss of biodiversity already underway. Ecosystem degradation is having ripple effects across the state. Severe problems with water supply dwindling populations of native wildlife, and the critical need to better manage and store carbon require urgent and large-scale action.  There is a solution: The state enjoys a vibrant, growing restoration movement that has seen some tremendous successes. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Commentary: To restore California’s ecosystems, we must adopt smarter permitting

In regional water news this week …

California, Oregon braced for another extremist water rebellion. Why it’s calm, so far

Anti-government activists seemed primed for a violent clash with federal authorities this summer in the Klamath Basin along the California-Oregon border. … The local activists, some of them farmers, were warning that Ammon Bundy, the anti-government extremist whose family led standoffs between armed militia members and federal agents in Oregon and Nevada was “coming soon.”  Klamath Falls seemed primed to explode, the next major clash after the Jan. 6 riots in the U.S. Capitol building. But it didn’t. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  California, Oregon braced for another extremist water rebellion. Why it’s calm, so far

Will Klamath salmon outlast the dam removal process?

Green algae blobs choke handmade gill nets that should be filled with salmon. The Klamath River is warming, heated by drought and dams, and that allows the algae to thrive, making it harder and harder to catch fish. Some days, Yurok tribal members capture nothing but green goop.  And some algae is toxic; one microscopic blue-green variety has made the water hazardous to the public. Warming conditions have also encouraged the spread of Ceratonova shasta, which infected 97% of juvenile salmon in the Klamath last spring, killing 70%. The crisis extends to the communities that depend on the fish for sustenance. “We’re not able to catch enough fish to feed our people anymore,” said Barry McCovey, Yurok tribal citizen and director of the Yurok Fisheries Department. ... ”  Read more from High Country News here: Will Klamath salmon outlast the dam removal process?

Hoopa advises Secretary Haaland that Trump policies remain threat to Tribe’s Fishery, CA environment

Dan Bacher writes, “At Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland’s August 10 Tribal Leaders Roundtable in Eureka, Hoopa Chairman Joe Davis thanked Haaland for her commitment to uphold the government’s trust responsibility for federally recognized Tribes but asked that she commit to addressing Trump Administration policies still held over in the Bureau of Reclamation.  “Hoopa’s ability to harvest salmon, feed our families, and continue our traditions is paramount to who we are as Hupa People”, said Vice Chairman Everett Colegrove, Jr. But the 1950s construction of the Central Valley Project’s Trinity River Division has nearly destroyed Hoopa’s fishery by damming and diverting Trinity River water to California’s Central Valley 400 miles from the Hoopa Valley Reservation where Hoopa has resided since time immemorial. … ”  Read more from the Daily Kos here:  Hoopa advises Secretary Haaland that Trump policies remain threat to Tribe’s Fishery, CA environment

California Water Board adopts minimum flow requirements for Scott, Shasta rivers

Relief may be soon be arriving to salmon imperiled by exceptionally low flows in the Scott and Shasta rivers this summer.  The California State Water Resources Control Board adopted regulations Tuesday to limit irrigation diversions and groundwater pumping in both watersheds, which produce a significant proportion of the Klamath Basin’s salmon populations. The Scott River contains an evolutionary significant unit of Southern Oregon Northern California Coast Coho Salmon, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The sub-basins also produce as much as 20% of the Klamath’s fall Chinook runs. Both species are culturally important food sources to the Karuk, Yurok, Hoopa Valley and Quartz Valley tribes and provide an economic resource for ocean fishermen on the Northern California coast. … ”  Read more from Herald & News here: California Water Board adopts minimum flow requirements for Scott, Shasta rivers

Water regulators investigating illegal siphoning of Russian River

As farms and communities along the Russian River feel the brunt of the worsening drought, state regulators suspect that some people have been siphoning off water illegally. … It seems that some of the water released is not getting all the way down to Healdsburg, and state regulators think some people up river might be cheating.  “There’s probably still some surface water diversions going on that shouldn’t be,” said Seymour, “based on looking at the stream-flow gauges along the Russian River.”  … ”  Read more from Channel 5 here:  Water regulators investigating illegal siphoning of Russian River

Who owns the water from Lake Tahoe & Truckee River? Part I

Mark McLaughlin writes, “Millions of people visit the Tahoe Sierra each year to enjoy and recreate on Lake Tahoe, Donner and Independence lakes, as well as the satellite reservoir system of Boca, Prosser and Stampede. All these storage basins are in California, but since the Truckee River system is part of Great Basin hydrology, none of the streamflow reaches the Pacific Ocean. … I frequently get queries, especially during a drought, regarding our regional water management. It seems that few people realize that these reservoirs, including Lake Tahoe, are regulated primarily for Nevada interests. Many are also unaware that a significant portion of this desert-bound water is dedicated to Fallon, Nev., one of the driest parts of the driest state.  … ”  Continue reading at Tahoe Weekly here:  Who owns the water from Lake Tahoe & Truckee River? Part I

SEE ALSO: Who owns the water from Lake Tahoe & Truckee River? Part II, from Tahoe Weekly

Monterey: Water board rejects terms with California American Water, throwing water crisis solution into question.

After months of disagreement over two specific terms in a contract to purchase recycled water, buyer California American Water and negotiators from the two public agencies selling the water finally came to an agreement. The agreement presented a crucial step in financing an expanded recycled water project seen by many to be the answer to the Monterey Peninsula’s water shortage.  However, when one of the agencies, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, which oversees water rights and distribution for the region, presented the finalized contract to its board of directors on Aug. 16, the board rejected the terms and sent the sides back to the table. The issue? The two specific terms that took months for negotiators to figure out. … ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly here: Water board rejects terms with California American Water, throwing water crisis solution into question.

San Joaquin Valley water districts told they’ll have to pay $25 million more for water next year

It’s bad enough there’s little water to go around.  But now, some local water districts are being told they’ll have to pay a lot more for the little they’ll eventually get next year.  And now, they’re calling on Governor Gavin Newsom to intervene, as they’re being asked to pay an additional $25 million for water from the State Water Project.  The Department of Water Resources has told water districts in the San Joaquin Valley Region, including Tulare Lake Water Basin Storage District, Empire West Side Irrigation District, Kings County and some districts in Kern County, that their cost of water will increase between 13 and 18 percent in 2022. … ”  Read more from KMPH here: San Joaquin Valley water districts told they’ll have to pay $25 million more for water next year

South Valley communities on verge of running out of water press Newsom to halt 18% rate hike

As if California’s drought situation could get no worse, water agencies and poor communities in the southern San Joaquin Valley are confronting a new reality.  While they receive no water from the State Water Project, they’re being hit with rate hikes of up to 18 percent from last year by California water officials.  In a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, state water users in the old Tulare Lake bed – including water agencies that serve some of the state’s poorest communities – called for the Department of Water Resources to halt its planned hike on water rates. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: South Valley communities on verge of running out of water press Newsom to halt 18% rate hike

Public is in the ring in fight over Kern River

It was clear during the first hearing on the Kern River Tuesday that the public has a seat at the table as never before.  Tuesday’s hearing was mostly procedural — setting out which issues would be sorted first and how. Permeating the discussion at nearly every turn, however, was the public trust doctrine, which gives the public a right to natural resources, such as a river with actual water in it.  The state holds that right in trust for the public and must consider it along with all the other rights claimed on the river, something attorney Adam Keats repeatedly reminded the State Water Resources Control Board Administrative Hearing Officer of at Tuesday’s hearing. ... ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Public is in the ring in fight over Kern River

Proposed groundwater bank sparks legal challenge

A battle of groundwater banks is underway in Kern County with accusations that one is poised to mine the local aquifer and sell water outside the area.  The two main combatants are the massive Kern Water Bank, which covers 32-square miles straddling Interstate 5 west of Bakersfield, and the Buena Vista Water Storage District, which covers 50,000 acres between I5 and the California Aqueduct stretching from Tupman north to Lerdo Highway.  The two entities are locked in a larger legal fight over Kern River water, which also features in this latest scuffle. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Proposed groundwater bank sparks legal challenge

The toxic truth of L.A.’s stormwater sewer system

In a region that lauds itself as a bastion of environmental progress, the 100 billion gallons of polluted runoff that flows out of storm drains annually is Los Angeles’ dirty secret.  When rain water hits L.A.’s largely impervious landscape it drains into run-off channels that criss-cross through the county accumulating a toxic slew of chemicals, oil, fertilizer, trash, hard metals, and bacteria before entering a storm drain and spewing out into the ocean.  Over 30 billion gallons of this polluted mixture exits through 200 drains into the Santa Monica Bay each year, according to LA Sanitation & Environment. This watershed incorporates 55 miles of coastline, but several key drains are located in the City of Santa Monica, including the Pico-Kenter Storm Drain and the Pier Storm Drain. … ”  Read more from the Santa Monica Daily Press here: The toxic truth of L.A.’s stormwater sewer system

Company ready to fix the Salton Sea, but it’s waiting on the state

The Salton Sea’s marina, Johnson’s Landing in Salton City, once had enough water to exist as a recreational area where boats roamed.  It’s the area where Sea To Sea Canal Company partner Rod Smith walked recently. It was dry, cracked earth that water once covered.  “If this is decades ago, we’d be water skiing,” Smith said.  The state’s largest lake has been declining for decades, and that decline is accelerating. … ”  Read more from Spectrum 1 here: Company ready to fix the Salton Sea, but it’s waiting on the state

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Along the Colorado River …

Water shortages run risk of dividing states using Colorado River

Diminishing water supplies in the Colorado River Basin have led the basin’s seven states to adopt a “we’re all in this together” approach as they deal with climate change, intense drought, and increasing growth.  But water officials wonder whether states will now act in their own self-interest, worsening tensions and sparking conflicts between the lower and upper basin.  Fueling those concerns are the water reductions announced Aug. 16 by the Bureau of Reclamation, and the likelihood of deeper cuts in the near future for a basin that supplies water to about 40 million people. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here: Water shortages run risk of dividing states using Colorado River

In national news this week …

Tracking water storage shows options for improving water management during floods and droughts

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have created a balance sheet for water across the United States – tracking total water storage in 14 of the country’s major aquifers over 15 years.  The results were published in Environmental Research Letters on Aug. 17, 2021, with the research examining the interplay between irrigation habits and climate on water.  The study found that irrigation can be managed more effectively in humid regions of the eastern half of the United States where surface water is more readily available, a finding that could have implications for where the United States can grow food, according to the researchers. With longer-term droughts and intermittent intense flooding expected in the future, particularly in the arid western U.S., there is rising concern about overtaxing water resources in the region, especially for irrigated agriculture. … ”  Continue reading more from the University of Texas here: Tracking water storage shows options for improving water management during floods and droughts

Microplastics: State of the science and future perspective

Plastic pollution is one of the world’s most pressing and observable modern issues, possessing the potential to significantly impact human health, aquatic species health, and, undoubtedly, environmental health. This pollution is categorized by the size in which plastics occur due, in part, to varied fate and transport in soil, water, and even atmospheric compartments. Beyond the very visible nuisance of macro-and mesoplastics, researchers and regulators are now turning their attention to less visible microplastics, which, according to the California Water Resources Control Board (WRCB), includes nanoplastics.  Despite being only 5 mm to 1 nm in size, these sometimes nonvisible polymeric particles are present everywhere. … ”  Read more from Water Finance and Management here: Microplastics: State of the science and future perspective

Q&A: Can green infrastructure keep microplastics out of the environment?

You may have heard of the Great Pacific garbage patch, but the majority of plastic waste in the environment is more subtle: tiny particles ranging from the size of a pea to the thickness of a human hair — and even smaller.  A team of U of T Engineering researchers — including Professor Elodie Passeport (CivMin, ChemE), Professor Jennifer Drake (CivMin) and CivMin PhD student Kelsey Smyth — studies what happens to these microplastics as they make their way into ditches, streams, rivers and lakes, especially during heavy rainstorms. In a paper published earlier this year, they show that human-engineered structures known as bioretention cells are a useful strategy for controlling microplastics in the environment.  Writer Tyler Irving sat down with Passeport to talk about some of her recent research. … ”  Read more from the University of Toronto here: Q&A: Can green infrastructure keep microplastics out of the environment?

The power of water data

Chris Wayne writes, “On my office wall is the map that made me a geographer. In one of my many “what am I going to do with my life” moments in 1994, I stared at that same map, posted on my U.S. Forest Service bunkhouse wall. It is a 1993 National Geographic map with the simple title, “WATER.” I saw maps; I’m good at that. I saw water … interested. I’m going to be a hydrologist!  Clichéd as the expression may be, it is true: Water is life. The primordial ocean that first bred life still surrounds us today. Without the world ocean to absorb carbon, our planet could well resemble Venus: a lifeless rock with a toxic carbon dioxide atmosphere.  The applications of geospatial technologies to water management at all scales are as vast as the ocean itself and as dynamic as a river’s flow. In this article, I will point you to some excellent resources for exploring those applications. … ”  Read more from Directions Magazine here: The power of water data

Communication and accessibility: Analyzing water quality reports (CCRs) to improve public trust in utilities

Do you trust your water service? If they gave you regular updates on water quality and testing it’d probably help. In the United States this is legally required but a recent analysis of how this requirement is being delivered suggests there’s a lot that could be done to improve the reporting. Communicating the information in the same language as the person reading the report would be a great start. Here, William Nicholas and Sridhar Vedachalam explain why accessibility of water quality reports is so important and how it can be improved in the United States.” Read more from the Global Water Forum here: Communication and accessibility: Analyzing water quality reports (CCRs) to improve public trust in utilities

Weekly features …

BLOG ROUND-UP: Depleted reservoirs threaten hydro power, agriculture, drinking water; Investing in California’s water supply infrastructure; Restore the Delta: Delta Conveyance Project update; and more …

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Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

YOUR INPUT WANTED: Survey to inform upcoming DWR Urban and Multibenefit Drought Relief program

NOTICE: Emergency Regulation For Sacramento-san Joaquin Delta Watershed Approved By Office Of Administrative Law

NOTICE: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nationwide Permits

NOTICE of second Pre-Hearing Conference and a Public Hearing on proposed cease-and-desist order to BlueTriton Brands, Inc. (successor by name change to Nestlé Waters North America, Inc.)

NOTICE: Notice of Public Hearing and Pre-Hearing Conference – City of Stockton

PUBLIC WORKSHOP: Petitions for Reconsideration of the Water Quality Certification for the Yuba River Development Project

MEETING NOTICE: Direct Potable Reuse (DPR) Criteria Expert Panel

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: Forest Conservation Program – 2021 Proposal Solicitation Notice

WATER BOARD’S COLLEGE OF WATER INFORMATICS: Stream protection trends, effective visual communication, indigenous racism, and more …

WATER PLAN eNEWS: ~~Drought Relief~ Drought Survey~ Klamath Watershed~ Advocacy Podcast~ Potable Reuse~ Sierra Meadows~ Water Conference~~

DELTA eNEWS: ~~ Delta Voice~ Climate Webinar~ DSC Meeting~ Grants Available ~~

VELES WEEKLY WATER REPORT: NQH2O at another new all time high of $923.54 up 84.77% Year to Date. Impact Finance in water about to get big.

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