DAILY DIGEST, 8/23: Megadrought to pit fish lives against human needs in the West; Where the water used for fighting California wildfires comes from; Introducing Modernizing California Water Law; The incredible shrinking Colorado River; and more …


On the calendar today …

In California water news today …

Megadrought to pit fish lives against human needs in U.S. West

Water cuts aimed at farmers amid the West’s megadrought have set the stage for bitter legal and political fights over one of the most overlooked water uses—the right of water to remain in streams to sustain fish and endangered species, lawyers say.  The drought is poised to call that right into question, pitting drinking water providers and food growers against conservationists who want to keep streams wet so that fish can survive.  “When the choice is between drinking water for a community and water for flora and fauna, I think that’s where we’ll see conflict begin,” said Fred Breedlove, a water rights lawyer and counsel at Snell & Wilmer LLP in Phoenix. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here: Megadrought to pit fish lives against human needs in U.S. West

Where the water used for fighting California wildfires comes from

As several large wildfires burn across the state of California, firefighters are using millions of gallons of water to beat the blazes back.  In drought-plagued and water-scarce California, some may wonder where, exactly, all of that water comes from. The short answer is that Cal Fire takes water from wherever it can get it.  A Cal Fire spokesperson told SFGATE that there are several sources of water that fire crews can draw from: municipal water sources at Cal Fire facilities, fire hydrants out in the field, lakes, ponds and even residential swimming pools. … ”  Continue reading at SF Gate here: Where the water used for fighting California wildfires comes from

Introducing Modernizing California Water Law

Summers are getting hotter. Rain and snowpack are disappearing, and water reserves are shrinking. This reduction of readily available, adequate water resources is creating a crisis that directly harms Californians and their environment. … To confront these critical issues, this project, Modernizing California Water Law, will assess potential reforms to improve California’s current water governance structure. This project will focus on improving key principles and processes to better facilitate the protection of aquatic ecosystems and efforts to ensure clean, safe, and affordable water for urban and rural communities. It will also focus on updating antiquated water laws and institutions that allow California to live sustainably with the “new normal” of California’s water challenges, including drought. … “  Continue reading at the Planning & Conservation League here: Introducing Modernizing California Water Law

2021 Drought in California – in one page

Jay Lund writes, “California has more hydrologic variability than any state in the US, meaning that we have more drought and flood years per average year than any other state. This is a problem, but has also meant that we have designed for droughts, which are always testing us. … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here: 2021 Drought in California – in one page

Representatives Huffman, Porter, Strickland call for examination of toxic chemical impacts on endangered salmon

Today, Representatives Jared Huffman (CA-02), Chair of the Natural Resources Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee, Katie Porter (CA-45), Chair of the Natural Resources Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, and Marilyn Strickland (WA-10) sent a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urging the agencies to investigate the effects of 6PPD-quinone, a highly toxic degradation product from tires and recycled rubber, on coho salmon and other salmonids, aquatic species, and watersheds across the country.  “The discovery that a chemical as ubiquitous as its chemical precursor in tires, 6PPD, may be contributing to widespread salmon mortality has profound implications for salmon recovery efforts. Given the dismal trajectory of West Coast salmon populations, your agencies should be working with great urgency to gain a better understanding of this threat and to take any necessary actions to address it,” the Members wrote in the letter. … ”  Continue reading at Congressman Jared Huffman’s website here: Representatives Huffman, Porter, Strickland call for examination of toxic chemical impacts on endangered salmon

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In commentary today …

Climate change demands reorganizing California policies and institutions

Lester Snow, former California Secretary of Natural Resources, writes, “In California, our natural resource world has changed and continues to change faster than our policies and institutions can adapt. Temperature records are being set annually, tinder-dry watersheds experience raging wildfire driven by high winds, and reduced snowpack often evaporates without running into rivers. Higher temperatures have put natural systems in a tailspin, and California institutions are too narrow, calcified and cautious to respond with the speed needed to protect us from natural disasters.  We can try to adapt to the floods, droughts, heat waves and sea-level rise now upon us with institutions built for a past regime. Or we can start doing now what we need to do — organize ourselves in new ways to match the speed of change and the size of the challenge. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Climate change demands reorganizing California policies and institutions

The burning debate — manage forest fires or suppress them?

Char Miller, professor of environmental analysis and history at Pomona College, writes, “As western wildfires burn through millions of forested acres, they are igniting debates about our response that are almost as heated as the flames themselves.  The leaders of the U.S. Forest Service have known that fire begets discord since 1905, when Gifford Pinchot became the federal agency’s first chief. Randy Moore, who was sworn in as the 20th chief July 26, is no stranger to the conflict, after his decadelong service as the agency’s regional forester for California. Since 2017, our fire-prone state — and its many national forests — have endured its eight largest fires ever. ... ” Read more from the LA Times here:  The burning debate — manage forest fires or suppress them?

In regional water news and commentary today …

Homes lose running water in Klamath Basin as they compete with farmers, ranchers

In a small residential town called Midland outside Klamath Falls, Terry Smith stands in her driveway with her neighbor’s garden hose in hand.  That’s been her primary source of water since the well to her own home went dry several weeks earlier.  “I have no water,” Smith says, exasperated. “I can’t take a bath. I can’t clean my house. I can’t cook. And now my well is probably not going to work. I’ve lived in this house for 30 years. This is our retirement.” … ”  Read more from Jefferson Public Radio here: Homes lose running water in Klamath Basin as they compete with farmers, ranchers

‘Times are really, really tough’: Plummeting cannabis prices strain small Northern California farmers

Humboldt County cannabis farmers are drowning in a flooded market. As the price of cannabis continues to fall, small farmers struggling to stay afloat fear for the sustainability of their future.  Jason Gellman, a second-generation cannabis farmer and owner of Ridgeline Farms in Southern Humboldt, has watched the cannabis industry evolve since he was a kid. He admitted that he has an advantage because his brand is well known throughout the region and much of the state. Even still, he said he’s struggling to sell his crop.  “Times are really, really tough for small farmers,” he said. … ”  Read more from Silicon Valley here: ‘Times are really, really tough’: Plummeting cannabis prices strain small Northern California farmers

Lake Tahoe a pool for air pollution during smoke-filled wildfire season

Lake Tahoe has experienced “especially bad” air quality through the second half of this summer, and new data reveals the lake’s air quality is at its worst levels of this decade.  The intense wildfire season California has experienced so far and the bowl-like geography surrounding Lake Tahoe that can cause pollutants to linger after getting trapped in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, are partially responsible for the lake’s poor air quality this year. ... ”  Read more from UPI here: Lake Tahoe a pool for air pollution during smoke-filled wildfire season

The City of Roseville restores its “crown jewel”

It’s a sweltering afternoon in July at Saugstad Park in Roseville. Matt Ocko, environmental utilities compliance administrator with the Stormwater and Waste Services Division for the City of Roseville, walks to the cordoned-off section of the Dry Creek restoration project. A construction crew is busy shoring up a temporary dam and navigating earth-moving equipment that will reshape the topography and reinforce the creek’s boundaries to restore water quality and habitat for the endangered chinook salmon and steelhead trout that spawn here. … ”  Read more from Comstock’s Magazine here: The City of Roseville restores its “crown jewel”

Sacramento City Council to consider asking residents to reduce water use by 15%, upping fines

Amid California’s severe drought, the Sacramento City Council on Tuesday will consider whether to ask residents to voluntarily reduce water use by 15%, and increase fines for water waste.  The resolution would build on a 10% voluntary reduction City Manager Howard Chan declared on July 7, according to a city staff report. It would double fines for water waste, reaching $50 to $1,000.  The resolution, called a Stage 2 “Water Alert,” would be consistent with an emergency order Gov. Gavin Newsom issued July 8, asking for a 15% reduction. If the council approves it, it would take effect immediately. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Sacramento City Council to consider asking residents to reduce water use by 15%, upping fines

Tension over new development rises amid water scarcity in Healdsburg

The way Brigette Mansell sees it, the drastic water conservation measures already required of those who live in Healdsburg make it obvious the city needs to stop and think about how much more it can grow.  Development of luxury housing and hotels that cater to tony visitors and part-time residents — who may not be as invested in the community’s well-being — defies logic, she says.  Mansell, a former Healdsburg councilwoman and mayor, and other like-minded residents support continued efforts to provide affordable housing in the town.  But with more than 500 planned and prospective units in the pipeline — more than half of which would be sold at market rate — they want the city to suspend water hookups until officials have a more realistic grasp on balancing water supply and demand. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: Tension over new development rises amid water scarcity in Healdsburg

North Bay: Coho salmon wait out heat, drought conditions in cooler conservation home

Drought and poor water conditions at Lake Sonoma prompted the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to move young coho salmon from Warm Springs Fish Hatchery in Geyserville to a conservation facility in Petaluma, in order to avoid heat stress.  The rising temperatures also increase the risk of pathogen outbreaks, officials said.  Stacy Sherman, acting regional manager with the state office, said: “We all have a vested interest in seeing coho salmon remain healthy. … In addition to being endangered, coho are an indicator species and a sign of the health of the watershed. When they’re in danger action needs to be taken.” … ”  Read more from SF Bay here: Coho salmon wait out heat, drought conditions in cooler conservation home

North Bay counties join forces to distribute water-saving tools, promote conservation

The drought is severely impacting communities along the Russian River watershed in the North Bay and, on Saturday, Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties joined together to offer tools to save water and spread the message of conservation.  At so-called “Drought Drop-Bys” from Novato to Ukiah, residents could pick up water-saving kits that included tools such as a faucet restrictor, a self-closing hose nozzle, toilet leak-detector tablets and a 1.5 gallon-per-minute shower head. … ”  Read more from Channel 5 here: North Bay counties join forces to distribute water-saving tools, promote conservation

West Marin water well project appealed to state authority

An environmental group is challenging a West Marin water supply project it says could harm endangered salmon in Lagunitas Creek.  Gordon Bennett, president and founder of the Inverness-based Save Our Seashore organization, filed an appeal with the California Coastal Commission asking it to require the North Marin Water District to maintain adequate creek flows after it constructs a proposed well near Point Reyes Station.  “Even a small reduction in water level over the two-mile stretch impacted by the proposed well could dry out acres of floodplain and isolate pools in which special species fish would be trapped,” Bennett wrote in his appeal to the coast commission. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: West Marin water well project appealed to state authority

Column: Increase in eelgrass beneficial for birds, fish, Morro Bay

Columnist John Lindsey writes, “You can usually find Trish and me walking our dog CoBe around Los Osos in the evening. Our favorite walk is along the shoreline that stretches from Baywood Park Beach off Pasadena Drive to the Audubon overlook at the end of 4th Street. Over the past year, we’ve noticed a gradual increase in the amount of eelgrass washed up on the sand.  In fact, on our last hike, there were areas that you couldn’t see any sand below the wrack of eelgrass that formed in different ribbons of colors by the tides. The newly deposited blades at the water’s edge were deep green in color, while a few feet away were lighter shades of green. Between the bay’s waterline and the cliffs was the grayish black color of the decaying eelgrass and, finally, the bleached and dry, brittle blades at the high-water mark against the cliffs. … ”  Read more from the Santa Ynez Valley News here: Column: Increase in eelgrass beneficial for birds, fish, Morro Bay

San Joaquin Valley: Fresno State reports resources available to Central Valley well owners affected by drought

Resources are available to help San Joaquin Valley residents affected by drought maintain access to drinking water.  A group of organizations in the San Joaquin Valley coordinated by the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley Water Workgroup have developed an outreach plan and a list of resources available to private well owners or part of a small community who have lost or are concerned about losing access to drinking water due to groundwater level.  “As a domestic well resident for 17 years, I have experienced head-on the cruel obstacles that drought causes for low-income families,” said Sandra Chavez, of Porterville, an AGUA Coalition and SAFER Advisory Group member. “In the spring of 2014, the domestic well that provides water for my family of 12 went dry. We struggled for eight months without running water. We scavenged around looking for resources and looking for help from friends and family.” … ”  Read more from the Sierra Sun Times here: Fresno State reports resources available to Central Valley well owners affected by drought

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Along the Colorado River …

CRS REPORT: Management of the Colorado River: Water allocations, drought, and the federal role

The Colorado River Basin covers more than 246,000 square miles in seven U.S. states (Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California) and Mexico. Pursuant to federal law, the Bureau of Reclamation (part of the Depart ment of the Interior) manages much of the basin’s water supplies. Colorado River water is used primarily for agricultural irrigation and municipal and industrial (M&I) uses; it is also important for hydropower production, fish and wildlife, and recreational uses. Apportioned Colorado River water is widely acknowledged to be in excess of the river’s natural flows , and consumptive use of these waters typically exceeds natural flows . This causes an imbalance in the basin’s available water supply and demand. Stress on basin water supplies is exacerbated by a longterm drought dating to 2000. In the future, observers expect ongoing strain on the basin’s limited water supplies, which will be further stressed by climate change. … ”  Read/download the CRS Report here: Management of the Colorado River: Water allocations, drought, and the federal role

The incredible shrinking Colorado River

One of the most visible signs of the state of the West’s water supply is the big bathtub ring around the sandstone rim of Lake Powell, the nation’s second-largest reservoir. Whenever the massive hydrological system that delivers water to the lake dwindles, the whitewash halo grows, shrinking only when — or rather, if — that system is replenished by rain and winter snows.  By July 23, the halo occupied some 150 vertical feet of shoreline, showing that the lake’s surface had fallen to its lowest level since 1969, before it was completely filled for the first time. … ”  Read more from High Country News here: The incredible shrinking Colorado River

The Southwest’s most important river is drying up

For farmers in the deserts of central Arizona, success and failure is defined by who has water and who does not. At the moment, Dan Thelander is still among the haves.  Inside a municipal building in Pinal County, Thelander rolls a map out across the board room table. On the patchwork of brown desert and green farmland in front of us, Thelander points out the parcels of land where he and his brother, son and nephew grow cotton, alfalfa and several other crops. … ”  Read more from CNN here: The Southwest’s most important river is drying up

In Southern Nevada’s endless water crisis, we’re well past the time to be lawn gone

The front lawn came with the house we moved into a couple years ago.  The patch of Bermudagrass was smaller than an average putting green and easy to mow. The splash of deep green was cute as far as that goes, but it was out of place on a street that had largely made the transition to colored rock and water-smart landscaping.  Beyond the postcard aesthetics, it made zero sense to continue to water a lawn in the desert. Setting aside the politics of climate change and our arid land with its endless water crisis — a basic definition of “desert” — there were no children at home to play on it. And I could live with the dogs’ disappointment. In short, there was nothing to debate. … ”  Read more from the Nevada Independent here:  In Southern Nevada’s endless water crisis, we’re well past the time to be lawn gone

Commentary: What can Arizona learn from California’s drought and mandatory water cuts?

Opinion columnist Joanna Allhands writes, “Arizona has water issues.   But they are not nearly as deep or widespread as those pummeling northern California.  Some areas there are facing mandatory 40% cuts in use. In Redwood Valley, residents have been asked to live on 55 gallons a day – barely enough to take a bath and flush the toilet a few times.  Meanwhile, thousands of farmers and others – even those with senior water rights – have been barred from diverting water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. As have irrigators along the Klamath River near the Oregon border, which also is seeing massive numbers of fish die.  And the governor is warning that mandatory, statewide cuts could be in the offing, impacting residents in Los Angeles and San Diego, which so far have been insulated from the pain.  That has lessons for Arizona. … ”  Read more from the Arizona Sun here: Commentary: What can Arizona learn from California’s drought and mandatory water cuts?

Water experts speak on historic drought across the Southwest

The drought across the U.S. Southwest is reaching historic levels. Federal officials have declared the first water shortage ever on the Colorado River.  It’s a problem New Mexico has been dealing with for years. “The challenge of our time is to figure out how to continue to thrive in a basin that is getting drier,” said Dagmar Llewellyn, Planning Group Supervisor of the Bureau Of Land Reclamation. … ”  Read more from KOB here: Water experts speak on historic drought across the Southwest

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In national water news today …

Commentary: Climate change is making the U.S. poorer than it realizes

Carl Pope, former chairman of the Sierra Club, writes, “The trillion-dollar spending package that the Senate has passed along to the House is being described as a once-in-a-generation fix for America’s deteriorating infrastructure. It should be viewed as only the first in a long series of such big investments, because Earth’s climate is changing faster than America’s existing roads, bridges and other infrastructure can withstand.  In the past 12 months, weather-related events have illustrated what’s happening. Salem, Oregon, hit 117 degrees Fahrenheit. The West is coping with its worst drought on record. In February, a polar vortex drove temperatures in Texas to 50 degrees below normal. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Opinion here: Commentary: Climate change is making the U.S. poorer than it realizes

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More news and commentary in the weekend edition …

  • State orders 4,500 cities, farms to stop drawing river water, including San Francisco
  • Bill aimed at repurposing farmland is a step closer to passing
  • US lawmakers want information on chemical toxic to salmon
  • A new SEI tool sheds light on one of the world’s most complicated water systems
  • Implementing ecosystem-based management
  • As California burns, some ecologists say it’s time to rethink forest management
  • Reclamation selects Dr. Joshua Israel for new science division manager in Bay-Delta Office
  • Water Forum Executive Director Jessica Law on how California is managing its water supply
  • As drought intensifies, this California water manager is testing new tools to help farmers, communities and wildlife
  • American landscapes, seen through the lens of Bob Wick
  • Biden moves to blunt Trump water permitting rule
  • 5 possible climate futures—from the optimistic to the strange
  • And lastly … Steven Colbert: Come visit the Colorado River
  • And more …

Click here to read the weekend edition.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOTICE: Experimental Release of Delta Smelt Project – Initial Study/Negative Declaration and Appendices

NOTICE: Notice of Status Conference – Mendocino County Russian River Flood Control and Water Conservation Improvement District

YOUR INPUT WANTED: Draft Strategic Plan for Trout Management

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: 2022 Solicitation of Proposals for the Chinook Salmon Enhancement and Restoration Program

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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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