DAILY DIGEST, 8/24: An unprecedented climate observatory to understand the future of water; Experts weigh in on the future of drought management; Expediting water relief for the Navajo Nation; Water scarcity: What’s the big deal?; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • EVENT: Kern County: What are we doing for Water Conservation? from 11:30 am to 12:30pm at the Bakersfield Museum of Art. Hear from our local Kern County Water Purveyors on actions they are taking to help conserve water. Panel discussion featuring; Kevin McCusker of Cal Water, Deryk Gross of Castle & Cooke and Greg Hammett of West Kern Water District. As well as an update on the WAKC Water Conservation Campaign ‘Don’t be that Guy KC  ‘Click here to register.
  • BROWN BAG SEMINAR: The Delta Transformed, Loss of Food Supplies to Consumers, and Potential for Recovery from 12pm to 1pm.  Dr. James Cloern, Dr. Letitia Grenier, and Dr. Stephen Andrews will discuss a recently published study that uses measures of landscape change to estimate how much has been lost from the primary productivity that supports aquatic food webs in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. They also consider the potential for recovery of those lost functions, and present a simple approach for modeling the outcomes of different restoration scenarios.  Brown Bag Seminars are free and open to the public with registration:   https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_WadS0uOtQSOTayRzwwO7-A.
  • FREE WEBINAR: Southwest Drought Briefing from 12pm to 12:30pm. The most recent United States Drought Monitor indicates that all of the Southwest is experiencing some level of drought, and forecasts indicate these conditions are expected to continue through summer. This short drought briefing will provide an update of current drought conditions and forecasts for Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

Mountains of data: An unprecedented climate observatory to understand the future of water

The “megadrought” impacting the Colorado River system this year has been devastating to the 40 million people who rely on it for water. But could this drought have been predicted? Will we be able to predict the next one?  Mountain watersheds provide 60 to 90% of water resources worldwide, but there is still much that scientists don’t know about the physical processes and interactions that affect hydrology in these ecosystems. And thus, the best Earth system computer models struggle to predict the timing and availability of water resources emanating from mountains.  Now a team of U.S. Department of Energy scientists led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) aims to plug that gap, with an ambitious campaign to collect a vast array of measurements that will allow scientists to better understand the future of water in the West. ... ”  Read more from Berkeley Lab here: Mountains of data: An unprecedented climate observatory to understand the future of water

Experts weigh in on the future of drought management

Almost half of California is currently enduring an “exceptional” drought, the most severe category established by the U.S. Drought Monitor. In the future, climate change is projected to increase drought risk and intensity across California and in other parts of the American West. Reducing global greenhouse gas emissions now is crucial to limiting the damage. But adapting to the climate change impacts that are already here will also require technological innovation and long-term policy vision to protect water supply. UC Santa Cruz experts share research-based insights that could inform future drought management. … ”  Read more from UC Santa Cruz here: Experts weigh in on the future of drought management

Drought makes its home on the range

As Tracy Schohr goes about her day, water is always on her mind. She’s thinking of it as she rides an all-terrain vehicle around the pasture, looks up hay prices and weather forecasts, and collects data on grazing and invasive weeds for a scientific study.  Schohr is a rancher and farmer in Gridley, California, where her family has raised beef cattle and grown rice for six generations. She also aids in scientific research to study drought and other agricultural issues with the University of California Cooperative Extension.  Drought—a year with a below average water supply—is a natural part of the climate cycle, but as Earth’s atmosphere continues to warm due to climate change, droughts are becoming more frequent, severe and pervasive. The past 20 years have been some of the driest conditions in the American west on record. … ”  Read more from NASA here: Drought makes its home on the range

California just approved 5 temporary gas plants as drought cripples hydropower

“Wildfires and declining water levels at reservoirs have threatened California’s power supply at various points this summer. Desperate to avoid blackouts amid the compounding crisis, California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom is eyeing the construction of five “temporary” gas-fueled plants in the coming months.  According to Bloomberg, California’s Energy Commission approved licenses for the emergency gas generators on Tuesday for up to five years, each of which reportedly has an individual capacity to generate 30 megawatts of energy. Ryan Endean, a spokesperson for the California Department of Water Resources, said that now that the agency has been given the green light, it will immediately begin work on procuring the units, which will be installed at existing power plants across the state and are set to be operational by mid-September. … ”  Read more from Gizmodo here: California just approved 5 temporary gas plants as drought cripples hydropower

Time Magazine photo feature: An American emergency

The reality of climate change is unequivocal, its effects are already playing out in every region of the planet, and we need to act now before the outlook gets worse. That was the warning message from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in a 4,000-page report, published Aug. 9, which laid out in methodical detail the ways in which human activity has set life on the planet on a collision course.  The U.N.’s climate-science body couldn’t have been more clear: if we continue to emit greenhouse gases at current rates, the effects of climate change will be catastrophic and irreversible. “Recent changes in the climate are widespread, rapid and intensifying—unprecedented in thousands of years,” says Ko Barrett, a vice chair of the IPCC. … ”  Read more from Time Magazine here: Photo feature: An American emergency

Video: Advancing ecosystem restoration with smarter permitting

California’s ecosystems play an essential role in protecting the state’s water supply, minimizing unwanted flooding, and sequestering carbon—among many other benefits. But the unintended consequences of more than a century of water and land development—compounded by the impacts of a changing climate—are pushing many of these ecosystems to the breaking point. “We need large-scale restoration of our ecosystems, so that they function better both for biodiversity and for the services they bring to people,” said Letitia Grenier at a virtual event last week. … ”  Continue reading from the PPIC here: Video: Advancing ecosystem restoration with smarter permitting

To build, or not to build? That is the question facing local governments

” … Today we’re going inside an incredibly important climate change decision.  It’s happening all over the country … Every day, local governments use one of their core powers – deciding where and how building happens in their city. This particular city, Sunnyvale, is in the San Francisco Bay area. There’s a massive housing shortage. And city planners are laying out their vision for revitalizing a particular neighborhood. 16,000 to 20,000 households, new streets, community facilities, two activities centers, office and R&D space, public parks and plazas, and five potential new neighborhoods.  Sounds pretty nice – I mean, something any city would probably want.  But there’s a problem. … ”  Read more from NPR here:   To Build, Or Not To Build? That Is The Question Facing Local Governments

Weather pattern may add more challenges for western US fire crews

Although firefighters battling the dozens of blazes in the western United States will not have to contend with extreme temperatures in the near future, a pattern featuring meager amounts of rainfall and varying winds can add further challenges on the ground.  The latest numbers from the National Interagency Fire Center show that 93 large fires actively burning across the U.S. have charred over 2.5 million acres. The states of Montana, Idaho and Washington account for almost five dozen of these blazes, with California and Oregon ranking fourth and fifth in terms of the number of active large fires. ... ”  Read more from Accu-Weather here:  Weather pattern may add more challenges for western US fire crews

Firefighters could get $600 million boost from Congress. It’s probably not enough.

As large chunks of the Western U.S. burned over the summer, lawmakers in Washington quietly inserted measures into the massive infrastructure package that they hope can be almost as potent as water in fighting them: cash.  The $1 trillion infrastructure bill the Senate passed this month included $600 million to raise the pay of federally employed firefighters and to create 1,000 more federal firefighting jobs.  Experts say the funds are sorely needed to build a larger, better compensated force to fight fires that, because of climate change, will worsen in the coming years. At the same time, they say, it’s not nearly enough to tackle the intensifying infernos. … ”  Read more from NBC News here: Firefighters could get $600 million boost from Congress. It’s probably not enough.

How will climate change impact agriculture?

Climate change plays a significant role in agriculture. It influences ag policy, guides the development of best practices and ultimately influences management decisions on the farm.  However, forecasts for how climate change will impact agriculture in the future vary widely. Some scientists predict climate change will have a positive impact for U.S. agriculture, while others predict a negative impact. This makes it difficult to anticipate and adapt to change. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: How will climate change impact agriculture?

Return to top

In commentary today …

California’s agricultural water policies are nuts

Douglas Noble, resident of Gainesville, Florida, writes, “According to Jesus of Nazareth,Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Then Adam Smith wrote “The Wealth of Nations” in 1776 and told us greed is good.  So, what does this have to do with California’s agricultural policies? ... ”  Continue reading from the Gainesville Sun here: California’s agricultural water policies are nuts

In regional water news and commentary today …

The familial bond between the Klamath River and the Yurok people

For those who live on the Klamath River, its health reflects the people, positioning us on the precipice of life or death. The Klamath is magical and meandering, a river surrounded by towering redwoods and mountains. But the controversy over its water has lasted for decades, and the big questions — whether to remove four dams, who gets the water during drought years — often put farmers and Natives at odds. Meanwhile, blue-green algae blooms make the river unsafe for swimming and spread deadly diseases among fish. To outsiders, the tribes’ desire to have water for salmon survival and ceremonies might seem almost frivolous, a mere “want” compared to the “practical needs” of agriculture. Most media coverage fails to express the implications of dam removal for Indigenous people. … ”  Read more from High Country News here: The familial bond between the Klamath River and the Yurok people

Klamath River has several species on the Endangered Species Act

Local species of salmon are being threatened by humans and by nature. The Klamath River has several species that are listed under the Endangered Species Act.  Under the jurisdiction of NOAA fisheries, Coho Salmon, Pacific Eulachon, and Green Sturgeon are listed as threatened.  The number of Chinook salmon is dwindling, impacting opportunities for commercial, tribal, and recreational fishing.  “While not listed under ESA, Chinook salmon are of great importance to us. They are a federally managed species, by NOAA fisheries and an important food source to the list of endangered resident southern killer whales,” Jim Simondet, Klamath Branch Supervisor. … ”  Read more from the Redwood News here: Klamath River has several species on the Endangered Species Act

Lake County column: Peeved about primrose

Dear Lady of the Lake, I have a timeshare on a channel on Clear Lake. This year with the low water, there is a bright green vine-like plant that is growing across the channel and taking over everything. . Can you tell me what this is and will it go away when the water comes back? Dear Paulo,  Seems like you are pretty peeved about Primrose and I don’t blame you! Based on the description and photo you provided, this nuisance invasive plant you are asking about is commonly called creeping water primrose, yellow water primrose, or marsh purslane. … Both creeping water primrose species are labeled by Cal-Flora and California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC) high risk rating for invasiveness. … ”  Read more from the Lake County News here: Lake County column: Peeved about primrose

Proposed north Butte County water district stirring controversy

A proposal for a new Butte County water district is wending its way through the approval process, and not everyone is happy about that.  The Tuscan Water District would cover most of the northwestern county, excluding Chico. The area is dependent on well water. Under a recently approved state law, the amount of groundwater currently being pumped in the area will have to be reduced.  Each well owner is currently on their own. No entity speaks for them as a group. Proponents say the Tuscan Water District would be that advocate for the whole area. However a handful of farming families own the majority of the land in the district, and opponents think they could stack the district’s board of directors to the detriment of the others. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here: Proposed north Butte County water district stirring controversy

Cosumnes subbasin draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan available for public review

A 20-year plan that will govern how people in south Sacramento County and parts of Amador County use groundwater and pay to sustain its availability has been released for public review and comment. Comments are due October 20, 2021.The plan includes broad-based fees on wells and water usage, with the largest portion of the funds generated earmarked for projects that are designed to increase the availability of groundwater in the future.  The draft Cosumnes Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) is a state-mandated plan for achieving sustainable management of groundwater use in the southeastern portion of Sacramento County and parts of Amador County. … ”  Read more from the Amador Ledger-Dispatch here: Cosumnes subbasin draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan available for public review

Inaugural Solano Water Institute for teachers makes waves in science education

The Solano Resource Conservation District hosted the first three-day Solano Water Institute for Teachers early this month at various sites throughout Solano County and at Lake Berryessa.  The new teacher workshop provided 27 Solano County educators with knowledge, skills and tools to help them teach watershed science and land preservation from a locally relevant perspective.  The Solano Water Institute featured presentations from nine local and state experts on water resources, open spaces and climate change with conversations integrating Project WET, an award-winning environmental education curriculum created by the Water Education Foundation. … ”  Read more from the Daily Republic here: Inaugural Solano Water Institute for teachers makes waves in science education

Bay Area: Coexisting with coho during drought

When Bolinas farmer Peter Martinelli decided to help coho salmon by boosting summer water levels in Pine Gulch Creek, which runs through his land, he had no idea that the project would take two decades to complete. Now he’s happy he saw it through. Coho are endangered in most of their California range, and droughts like the one we’re experiencing now are among the biggest threats to these coastal salmon.  “I know this is an obvious statement ― but fish need water,” says Erin Seghesio, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recovery coordinator for coho in California from Santa Cruz County to southern Humboldt County. Salmon also need their water to be cool and clean. … ”  Read more from the Bay Area Monitor here: Bay Area: Coexisting with coho during drought

Concerns rise over Monterey County’s reservoir water levels

State and county leaders recently took a tour of Nacimiento and San Antonio dams to get a first-hand look of the impacts of drought and facility conditions.  Both reservoirs have reached near record lows, with Nacimiento at 14% capacity and San Antonio at 7%. Water releases from the reservoirs have ceased as of July 28, with the visible effects in the north county being a drying of the Salinas River.  Though the 7% at San Antonio amounts to 50,000 acre-feet of water, it can’t be released. … ”  Read more from the Salinas Valley Tribune here: Concerns rise over Monterey County’s reservoir water levels

Pacific Grove passes ordinance not allowing new water hookups

In less than a month, a new Pacific Grove ordinance will prohibit any new water hookups despite having been granted earlier water entitlements by the state.  The ordinance is set to take effect in mid-September.  In 2017 Pacific Grove’s Local Water Project came online. It processes wastewater to irrigate the Pacific Grove Golf Links and the El Carmelo Cemetery. In November 2015 the state water board approved $2.3 million in grant funding and $5.4 million in low-interest loan financing for the project.  The project recycled 125 acre-feet of water, which equates to the average yearly consumption of 317 households. Instead of watering golf courses with drinking water, the recycled water is used.  … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Pacific Grove passes ordinance not allowing new water hookups

Drought worsens in Southern California, with Ventura County in worst category

As sweltering drought conditions continue to worsen throughout California, Ventura and other Southern California counties have shifted from “extreme” to “exceptional” drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor Report.  Along with Ventura County, northwest Los Angeles County, most of Kern County and the eastern portion of San Bernardino County are also in the federal report’s highest range, signifying “exceptional drought.” Almost all of California is facing detrimental drought conditions, with 50 of the state’s 58 counties under a state of emergency amid excessive drought conditions. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Drought worsens in Southern California, with Ventura County in worst category

Santa Clarita Valley GSA encourages public to provide feedback on draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan

The Santa Clarita Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency announced it will hold its final in-person workshop on Aug. 25 for residents to provide their input on a draft plan for long-term management of the local groundwater basin.  The workshop is the last in-person opportunity for the public to ask questions and weigh in on issues and proposed projects and management actions designed to protect the basin from overuse. … ”  Read more from SCV News here:  SCV-GSA Encourages Public to Provide Feedback on Draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan 

Drought, water supply and climate change in the San Diego region

An update on San Diego’s water supply during the current drought, and how climate change affects regional weather, was the main focus of a recent event sponsored by several organizations.  The Citizens Water Academy, Leaders 20/20 and San Diego Green Drinks hosted a lunch and learn session August 17 that also provided details on how weather and climate impacts water supplies, and how prepared the San Diego region is for drought impacts.  San Diego County Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Warning Coordination Meteorologist Alex Tardy spoke to nearly 90 participants via Zoom. … ”  Read more from the Water News Network here: Drought, water supply and climate change in the San Diego region 

Return to top

Along the Colorado River …

As the West bakes, Utah forges ahead with water pipeline

As drought and climate change strangle the Colorado River, a small county in Utah nevertheless continues forging ahead with a billion-dollar pipeline to suck more water from it to sustain its growing population.  The proposed Lake Powell Pipeline, a 140-mile straw from one of the country’s largest reservoirs to Washington County in southwestern Utah, has sparked backlash from other states in the Colorado River basin and environmentalists, and now has the Biden administration in a difficult position.  One expert says the project is illegal, a local Native American tribe has sued over the water that could fill it, and critics contend it is reminiscent of the American water mindset of the mid-20th century: Let’s build our way out of a shortage.  “It hearkens back to the days of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s when, to meet future demands, you needed a pipeline,” said Eric Kuhn, the author and former general manger of the Colorado River District. “Grab that last piece of water — that pipeline — whether the water is there or not.” … ”  Read more from E&E News here: As the West bakes, Utah forges ahead with water pipeline

Expediting water relief for the Navajo Nation

In April 2020, as the magnitude of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact were becoming readily apparent, Commander Ryan Clapp, a staff engineer with the Indian Health Service (IHS), flew to Albuquerque. Upon arrival he bought eight pay-as-you-go cell phones from a retail store and loaded data collection apps on them. Within 48 hours he had a team of Navajo Area IHS technicians spread out to map water access points on the Navajo Nation using the mobile devices.  While he was in the air, IHS headquarters staff were developing a comprehensive field survey, talking to the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, and doing all the background work. “We were building things as we were going, and it was moving very fast,” said Captain Ramsey Hawasly, assistant director, Division of Sanitation Facilities Construction at IHS and lead GIS program coordinator.  This rapid response was requested by the Navajo Nation president due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. … ”  Read more from the ESRI blog here: Expediting water relief for the Navajo Nation

Pinal County farmers brace for Central Arizona Project water cuts

When Kelly Anderson talks about his farm in Maricopa, a desert community south of Phoenix, his talk ranges across decades, from the price of cotton to laser-leveled fields.  For decades his family irrigated crops with water from the Colorado River, but after two decades of drought, reservoirs on the Colorado River are depleted, and the federal government has declared a water shortage, which will trigger cutbacks. Central Arizona farmers will bear the brunt of those cutbacks.  “We’ve farmed this ground here in Maricopa since 1949,” Anderson said. “My granddad bought it in November of ’49 and we’ve been here ever since.” … ”  Read more from KJZZ here: Pinal County farmers brace for Central Arizona Project water cuts 

Lowest water level ever at Lake Powell threatens recreation, livelihoods

A thick, white band of newly exposed rock face stretches high above boaters’ heads at Lake Powell, creating a sharp contrast against the famous red desert terrain as their vessels weave through tight canyons that were once underwater.  It’s a stark reminder of how far the water level has fallen at the massive reservoir on the Utah-Arizona border. Just last year, it was more than 50 feet (15 meters) higher. Now, the level at the popular destination for houseboat vacations is at a historic low amid a climate change-fueled megadrought engulfing the U.S. West. … ”  Read more from Arizona Family here: Lowest water level ever at Lake Powell threatens recreation, livelihoods

Gary Wockner: Breach the Glen Canyon Dam and let the Colorado River run free

It feels like an apocalypse in the Southwest — wildfires, floods, drought, heat, smoke. This was not the norm when I moved to Colorado 35 years ago. Climate scientists may have predicted the arrival of these extreme events, but many admit their predictions have come true faster than they expected.  One outcome they pinpointed was the impact of heat and drought on water flows in the Colorado River. For the last 20 years this new climate, combined with booming human population growth, has parched landscapes, drained reservoirs and incited talk of water wars across the region. Lake Powell on the Colorado River, and Glen Canyon Dam which creates the reservoir, have become casualties of this strained environment. ... ”  Read more from the Salt Lake Tribune here: Gary Wockner: Breach the Glen Canyon Dam and let the Colorado River run free

Return to top

In national water news today …

Water scarcity: What’s the big deal?

“”For years wars were fought over oil,” said US Vice President Kamala Harris earlier this year. “In a short time they will be fought over water.”  Given that more than 70% of our planet is covered in water — all told that’s more than one billion trillion liters of the stuff — a short time might sound a bit dramatic. After all, there’s always been enough to go around.  But we’re talking about a finite resource. Just 3% of all that liquid mass is fresh water. And of that, most of is locked up in glaciers, leaving less than 1% accessible and usable for drinking and growing food. So as the world population increases, there is less water to go around — and to grow the extra crops needed to feed us. … ”  Read more from Deutsche Welles here: Water scarcity: What’s the big deal?

House Democrats clash over order of infrastructure, budget bills

Disagreement between a small group of moderate Democrats and progressives in the House over two key pieces of President Joe Biden’s agenda lasted into the early morning hours on Tuesday and ended with leaders postponing voting until later in the day.  Lawmakers have interrupted their August recess to return to Capitol Hill to act on the bills — a $3.5 trillion budget spending plan and a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. Both have already been passed by the Senate. … ” Read more from UPI here: House Democrats clash over order of infrastructure, budget bills

Index suggests that half of nitrogen applied to crops is lost

Nitrogen use efficiency, an indicator that describes how much fertilizer reaches a harvested crop, has decreased by 22% since 1961, according to new findings by an international group of researchers who compared and averaged global data sets.  Excess nitrogen from fertilizer and manure pollutes water and air, eats away ozone in the atmosphere, and harms plants and animals. Excess nitrogen can also react to become nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.  “If we don’t deal with our nitrogen challenge, then dealing with pretty much any other environmental or human health challenge becomes significantly harder,” David Kanter, an environmental scientist at New York University and vice-chair of the International Nitrogen Initiative, told New Scientist in May. … ”  Read more from EOS here: Index suggests that half of nitrogen applied to crops is lost

‘Seriously flawed’: Experts clash over social cost of carbon

An academic debate over a key metric for greenhouse gases is heating up, just as a high-profile courtroom battle is scheduled to begin.  Prominent economists are clashing over the Biden administration’s approach to the social cost of carbon, which assigns a dollar value to the harm caused by 1 metric ton of greenhouse gas emissions.  The feud comes as a federal court is slated to hear oral arguments tomorrow in a lawsuit brought by Republican state attorneys general over President Biden’s plans to increase the social cost of carbon.  “There’s a conversation going on in the economic world,” and in the courts, about the crucial climate metric, said Hana Vizcarra, a staff attorney at the Environmental & Energy Law Program at Harvard Law School. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: ‘Seriously flawed’: Experts clash over social cost of carbon

Return to top

Today’s featured article …

Sunrise at Snug Harbor

BLOG ROUND-UP: Is high Delta outflow in the autumn necessary for Delta smelt?, Consideration of climate change in the Delta tunnel project, Top 10 biggest environmental wins in California’s history

Click here to read the blog round-up.

Return to top

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

DROUGHT FUNDING: Drought Funding Workshops for Counties on Aug 25 & 31

Return to top


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.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email