WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for August 22-27: State orders 4,500 cities, farms to stop drawing from Delta watershed; Water rights conversation heats up; Farmland repurposing bill passes state Senate committee; and more …

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

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In California water news this week …

California water regulators block thousands of farmers from accessing state’s largest watershed

California ordered thousands of farmers and ranchers Friday to stop drawing from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta amid worsening drought conditions or face up to $10,000 in fines per day.  The order will affect approximately 4,500 water rights holders, according to the statement issued by the State Water Resources Control Board.  The order was voted through unanimously by the State Water Resources Control Board more than two weeks ago. The regulators said the order was an effort to “protect drinking water supplies, prevent salinity intrusion and minimize impacts to fisheries and the environment.” … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here:  California water regulators block thousands of farmers from accessing state’s largest watershed

State orders 4,500 cities, farms to stop drawing river water, including San Francisco

California regulators began cracking down on water use in the sprawling Sacramento River and San Joaquin River watersheds on Friday, ordering 4,500 farmers, water districts and other landowners, including the city of San Francisco, to stop drawing water in the basins — or face penalties of up to $10,000 a day.  The move comes as the state slides deeper into an extraordinary two-year drought. Lakes, streams and rivers no longer have enough water for everyone who is taking it, and dwindling supplies must be rationed, state regulators say. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: State orders 4,500 cities, farms to stop drawing river water, including San Francisco

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Legal alert: Delta curtailments update: California State Water Resources Control Board’s emergency regulations are adopted; curtailment orders issued to 4,500 Delta water users

As discussed in our July 28, 2021 Policy Alert, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) recently adopted the Draft Emergency Reporting and Curtailment Regulation (Regulation), to authorize curtailments of water diversions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta). The Regulation was approved by the Office of Administrative Law and became effective on August 19, 2021. While the Regulation automatically expires on August 18, 2022, one year after approval, the SWRCB is permitted to renew the Regulation if it determines that either (1) 2022 is a critically dry year immediately preceded by two or more consecutive below normal, dry, or critically dry years, or (2) the Governor has issued a proclamation of a State of Emergency based on drought conditions. It is likely that, if 2022 is declared a critically dry year, option (1) will be satisfied such that the SWRCB is authorized to renew the Regulation absent a new emergency proclamation. … ”  Read more from Somach Simmons & Dunn here: California State Water Resources Control Board’s emergency regulations are adopted; curtailment orders issued to 4,500 Delta water users

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

Water rights conversation heats up

Juliet Christian Smith with the Water Foundation writes, “Are you hearing the whispers? The two words that were formerly a political third rail are now being spoken. No longer in hushed tones, but in bold print: “As drought becomes more frequent, California will — or should be — compelled to re-think its entire water system and the status of water rights will be a central and very volatile factor.”  “Water rights” seem to be top of mind these days. It’s no wonder. This record-setting drought is laying bare the chaos and confusion inherent in California’s system of allocating scarce water. And the recent IPCC report makes clear that as the world continues to warm, conditions will only get hotter and drier, making water scarcity less the exception and more the rule.  While there seems to be broad agreement that the current system, designed more than a century ago, is not meeting our needs today; there is much less clarity around how to fix it. Here, we provide a brief summary of some of the solutions that have been offered to-date. … ”  Read more from the Water Foundation here: Water rights conversation heats up

Water Forum Executive Director Jessica Law on how California is managing its water supply

Jessica Law became executive director of the Water Forum in January. In 1993, the City and County of Sacramento launched negotiations to figure out how to ensure reliable water supplies and safeguard the environmental needs of the Lower American River. In 2000, 40 different agencies signed the Water Forum Agreement, which has guided the organization’s work ever since.  Law, who grew up in Miami, Florida, has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Connecticut College and a master’s degree in regional planning from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She came to the Water Forum with more than 15 years of experience in water and environmental resource management, public process and land-use planning. … ”  Read more from Comstock’s Magazine here: Water Forum Executive Director Jessica Law on how California is managing its water supply

Farmland repurposing bill passes state Senate committee

A bill that would create a program to help growers find other uses for farmland idled because of groundwater pumping restrictions won approval by a Senate committee, bringing it closer to the Governor’s desk.  AB 252, known as the multibenefit land repurposing incentive program, passed the Senate Appropriations Committee August 26. The bill, authored by Assemblymembers Robert Rivas (D-Salinas) and Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) will move to the Senate Floor for a vote, then back to the Assembly for final affirmation of amendments.  If the bill passes those votes it will go to Governor Newsom sometime in mid-September. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Farmland repurposing bill passes state Senate committee

SEE ALSO: Farmland repurposing bill to support sustainable water supplies, rural communities and wildlife advances in the California state senate

As drought intensifies, this California water manager is testing new tools to help farmers, communities and wildlife

Growing up in Hanford, California, Aaron Fukuda learned about the connections between water, animals and plants at an early age. His mother, a biologist, taught him how to study owl pellets and how rain changed the landscape when he was a kid.  As an adult, Fukuda is more focused on what’s happening both on the ground and underground with the region’s increasingly scarce water supplies.  Fukuda wears three hats that give him a unique perspective on the region’s water and land issues as general manager of the Tulare Irrigation District, general manager of the Mid-Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency and a participant in the Kaweah Regional Conservation Investment Strategy (RCIS) steering committee process. ... ”  Read more from EDF’s Growing Returns here:  As drought intensifies, this California water manager is testing new tools to help farmers, communities and wildlife

Drought, fires and politics put Biden’s California water plans on hold

As climate-driven drought and wildfires rage in California, the Biden administration is struggling to navigate the hard politics that come with deciding who gets access to the state’s precious — and dwindling — water supplies.  Responding to the hot and parched conditions that have contributed to the wildfires and worsened the water shortages this summer has strained both federal and state capacity. Now the Biden administration is delaying action on the fundamental question at the heart of California’s long-running water wars: How much water should be reserved for species protections, at the expense of the state’s powerful agricultural industry? … ”  Read more from Politico here: Drought, fires and politics put Biden’s California water plans on hold

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

Social science in the Delta: Understanding people in the face of rapid environmental change

We cannot solve our most pressing environmental and natural resource management challenges with a better understanding of the biophysical environment of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta alone – we need social science. To address our natural resource management challenges, we must build cooperation and collaboration among stakeholders, find a compromise between conflicting interests and values, and face tradeoffs that require hard decisions about whose needs we prioritize. Achieving these goals requires an understanding of the individuals and communities who shape and are shaped by these natural systems, as well as the larger social, political, and economic structures in which their decisions and actions are embedded.  Integrating the social sciences into our understandings of environmental and natural resource management challenges can contribute to improving our understanding and decision-making in complex social-ecological systems, like the Delta. … ”  Read more from the Delta Stewardship Council here: Understanding people in the face of rapid environmental change

With recall election, California’s environmental future up for vote

California Governor Gavin Newsom’s recall election in mid-September, should he lose, will very likely terminate the floundering politician’s career. A late-term gubernatorial replacement would also mean a potentially major shift in California environmental policies. If voters yank Newsom, a Democrat, from office, he is likely to be replaced by a Republican. The leading candidate, Larry Elder, is a far-right conservative and libertarian who calls climate change a “religion.”  Newsom and his supporters warn that replacing him with Elder, best known as a talk show host, risks rollbacks of state fracking bans and executive orders targeting greenhouse gas emission reductions, fuel efficiency, and biodiversity conservation. The agenda of a new administration could, they say, be a disaster for California’s environmental policies and role as an international environmental leader – and would come on the heels of the United Nations’ report warning of cataclysmic and inevitable climate change and the need to curb emissions. … ”  Read more from Bay Nature here: With recall election, California’s environmental future up for vote

A water pipeline to the Mississippi River? Democrat stirs up recall debate with unusual ideas

There was an unusual twist at Wednesday’s gubernatorial recall debate in Sacramento: A Democrat participated for the first time.  And that Democrat, 29-year-old millionaire Ventura County real estate investor Kevin Paffrath, jump-started the hour-long debate with some unusual ideas.  Paffrath, who has never held elective office, proposed to solve California’s water shortages by building a pipeline to the Mississippi River. He assured viewers that he had a plan to remove every homeless person from the streets within 60 days. And several times he described himself, without much elaboration, as a “JFK Democrat.” Perhaps because, like the tax-cutting President John Kennedy, Paffrath proposed eliminating state income taxes for anyone making less than $250,000 a year. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: A water pipeline to the Mississippi River? Democrat stirs up recall debate with unusual ideas

SEE ALSO:

Editorial: Recall candidates have shallow takes on California’s water problems

The LA Times editorial board writes, “California is suffering from extremely dry conditions, so it stands to reason that the candidates trying to oust and replace Gov. Gavin Newsom have latched onto persistent but extremely shallow and woefully outdated claims about the management of the state’s water supply.  Their argument is that without Newsom (or indeed any Democrat) in the governor’s mansion, we’d have more dams, fewer wildfires, greener fields, longer showers, lusher lawns and as much pure, cool drinking water as we could possibly handle.  The irony is that Newsom has actually been fairly strong in support of agriculture and fairly weak on the environment, resulting in a lot of grumbling among advocates for fish and others in the environmental community — so much so that many talk about sitting this election out, because after all, how much worse would a Larry Elder or a Kevin Faulconer be on water and the environment than Newsom?  To which we say: Are you serious? ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Recall candidates have shallow takes on California’s water problems

Logging in disguise: How forest thinning is making wildfires worse

Earlier this month, the Dixie Fire leveled most of the town of Greenville, California. I know the town well — I conducted fieldwork for my doctoral dissertation there. Thankfully, everyone survived. But the downtown is gone, along with 75 percent of the homes.  It didn’t need to happen.  Fire has always been a concern for communities like Greenville in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains. And, for decades, the U.S. Forest Service and the timber industry told the townspeople that logging tens of thousands of acres — under the guise of “thinning” — would create “fuel breaks” to slow or even stop wildfires and prevent flames from reaching Main Street. … ”  Read more from The Grist here: Logging in disguise: How forest thinning is making wildfires worse

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In commentary this week …

Newsom must not play politics with his response to California’s water shortage

The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board writes, “When it comes to water supplies in California and the U.S. Southwest, the news has been remarkably grim in recent weeks.  One story detailed how inn owners in Mendocino County — which has no municipal water system — were begging guests not to use showers because their wells had dried up. Another noted that for the first time ever, the federal government had declared a Colorado River water shortage. The river’s large adjacent reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, provide water to 40 million residents of California and six other Western states. A third report detailed how the massive Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which provides water to 19 million people from Santa Barbara to Riverside to San Diego, had issued a supply alert because of low reservoir levels at both the Colorado River and the State Water Project.  The fallout of these stories is not yet clear. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here: Newsom must not play politics with his response to California’s water shortage

Cooperation, not opposition, is key to solving California’s groundwater management

Merced County supervisor Daron McDaniel and Calavaras County supervisor Jack Garamendi write, “Once again, we find ourselves in a drought and running out of water.  For the second time in the past decade, we are enduring another frustrating and uncertain period, asking how we will sustain the citizens of California as well as the agriculture that feeds the world.  Drought is not new to California and we have engineered one of the most comprehensive and complex systems on the planet to water our crops and people. What has changed is that the investments our grandparents made that allowed our state to bloom are now deteriorating, our water storage is inadequate, and we are woefully behind in managing the vast, but declining aquifer that runs throughout our state. … ”  Read more from the Merced Sun-Star here: Cooperation, not opposition, is key to solving California’s groundwater management

Drought? This is what climate change looks like in the West

Karyn Stockdale with Audubon writes, “Living back East for a few years, I missed the expansive bright blue skies of the Rockies. Now that I’ve returned to the West, I’m remembering the smoky haze that fills the sky. I’m remembering how the smell of summer has turned into the smell of smoke from wildfires. How the ash from fires hundreds of miles away sometimes coats your car and porch furniture. But it’s getting worse.  I’m used to the seasonality of streams—the spring runoff that slows to a trickle with hot summer days. My kids would wait for the monsoon storms to bring back the water flowing to our arroyo. But it was shocking to see how low the rivers and streams got so early this year. … ”  Read more from Audubon here: Drought? This is what climate change looks like in the West

Postcard from SoCal — What drought?

Terry McAteer writes, “We’ve all read recently about the north coast town of Mendocino going dry, but most have probably not read or heard that Southern California has no water restrictions in place. We’ve seen photos of Lake Oroville, Shasta and Folsom looking like moonscapes, while SoCal reservoirs in fact are brimming with water.  You must be asking yourself: “How can Northern California be in a drought when Southern California is swimming with water?”  Recently while on a four-day trip to SoCal visiting the Padres, Angels and Dodgers ballparks, I came to realize that the current California drought does not exist in the Southland. Irrigation sprinklers along the highway were chugging out water in mid-day. Nowhere did I see in any hotel rooms a notice of water restrictions. Water was provided at every meal. Worst of all, I quizzed scores of residents unaware of any drought conditions, who had not seen photos of a dry Lake Oroville, or had read about Mendocino’s plight. … ”  Continue reading at The Union here: Postcard from SoCal — What drought?

Can California make do with the water it has?

Columnist Michael Smolens writes, “With the city’s sewage water recycling system moving forward and the desalination plant in Carlsbad already pumping out drinkable water, the San Diego region has some of the most ambitious water projects in the state.  Those are part of a long-term strategy that San Diego water managers say will provide the region sufficient supplies through 2045. … Whatever happens in the immediate future, the long-range water prospects for San Diego and the state are a challenge. There’s a great deal of discussion among water officials and experts about whether California can make do with what it has as debate continues on developing new sources of water, particularly through desalination. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here: Can California make do with the water it has?

Dixie Fire isn’t just destroying towns. California’s water and power supply is under threat

Dr. Jonathan Kusel, executive director of the Sierra Institute for Community and Environment, writes, “The Dixie Fire has consumed over 730,000 acres and is now the second largest fire in California’s history. High winds coupled with low humidity, high temperatures and drought-parched vegetation make extinguishing it a devilish challenge in such difficult terrain.  The fire destroyed much of the town of Greenville, the largest town in my valley. For weeks, I’ve gone to bed wondering if my home will still be there in the morning.  But the Dixie Fire is a problem that extends well beyond the towns it continues to threaten. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Dixie Fire isn’t just destroying towns. California’s water and power supply is under threat

Monday night high school football is result of bad development patterns, not climate change

Dennis Wyatt, editor of the Manteca Bulletin, writes, “Lincoln High and Del Oro High in Placer County may have conducted a first for high school football in California.  That possible first is a Monday night football game.  The season opener for the two long-time rivals was supposed to have been Friday night. It was then moved to Saturday before being bumped to Monday night. The reason: Winds were bringing heavy ash to the community from 50 miles to the southeast where the Caldor Fire is basically burning out of control in El Dorado County.  It is the same fire responsible for the ash Valley residents woke up to lightly coating vehicles and such on Thursday. If you haven’t noticed — and it’s bit hard not to — we’ve been going about our basic routines for more than a month while the gigantic bowl known as the Great Central Valley that we live in has been blanketed by smoke. … ”  Read more from the Turlock Journal here: Monday night high school football is result of bad development patterns, not climate change

Colorado Basin shortages point to need for state action

Ed Osann with the Natural Resources Defense Council writes, “This year’s unprecedented shortage declaration for the Colorado River should galvanize all Colorado Basin states to redouble their efforts to curtail wasteful and unnecessary uses of water and build more resilient communities.  The issue gains urgency with the realization that next year is unlikely to bring significant relief.  Action now is needed to maintain the supply drinking water in 2022, 2023, and beyond.  While agriculture uses the majority of Colorado River water, large metro areas in each of the Basin states all rely on water from the Colorado.  And in six out of the seven states (all except Nevada), major cities taking river water are outside the basin, and send no return flows back.  So most urban use of Colorado River water is entirely depletive, with no opportunity for reuse in the Basin. … ”  Read more from the NRDC here: Colorado Basin shortages point to need for state action

Megafires: Where climate change and wildfire exclusion collide

Susan J. Prichard (University of Washington), Keala Hagmann (University of Washington), & Paul Hessburg (USFS) write, “After so many smoke-filled summers and record-setting burns, residents of Western North America are no strangers to wildfires. Still, many questions are circulating about why forest fires are becoming larger and more severe — and what can be done about it.  Is climate change fueling these fires? Does the long history of fighting every fire play a role? Should we leave more fires to burn? What can be done about Western forests’ vulnerability to wildfires and climate change?  We invited 40 fire and forest ecologists living across the Western U.S. and Canada to examine the latest research and answer these questions in a set of studies published Aug. 2, 2021. Collectively, we are deeply concerned about the future of Western forests and communities under climate change.  So, why are wildfires getting worse? … ”  Continue reading at Undark here: Megafires: Where climate change and wildfire exclusion collide

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 this week …

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: State Water Board balances farmers, fish in watershed action

A state drought curtailment regulation, adopted last week for the Klamath River watershed, calls for minimum instream flows but also incorporates potential voluntary actions to achieve water savings to help fish and keep farmers farming.  Montague rancher Ryan Walker, president of the Siskiyou County Farm Bureau, said the State Water Resources Control Board took a balanced approach in making its decision.  “One of the things that we asked for in the regs that we got was flexibility…to have some adaptive management and we got that,” Walker said. “To the board’s credit, they understood that they were doing this in a very short time frame and put in placeholders, even for the underlying flow requirements to be negotiated and certainly for the voluntary agreements to be negotiated on an ad hoc basis.” … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here: Klamath: State Water Board balances farmers, fish in watershed action

Is Mount Shasta really devoid of snow for the first time ever?

A viral tweet Tuesday claimed that Mount Shasta was devoid of snow for “the first time in history,” depicting the mountain covered in white and completely bare.  But the tweet’s claims aren’t entirely accurate, according to Ryan Sandler with the National Weather Service. The warning coordination meteorologist said there has in fact been other periods when Shasta had little to no snow, including in 2014 at the height of California’s drought that year. Sandler said he also has seen a photo showing almost no snow on the mountain in October 1992. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here: Is Mount Shasta really devoid of snow for the first time ever?

Santa Clara water officials issue dire warning as reservoirs dip to historic lows

With the state in the grips of a historic drought, reservoirs in Santa Clara County are at extremely low levels, as seen in a new video from the county’s water provider.  Santa Clara Valley Water, which provides for and manages the water needs of two million people in the county, released a new video Wednesday illustrating the dire state of the county’s reservoirs.  “The situation has been the most dire we’ve seen in our county, probably ever,” says Water District Director Gary Kremen. … ”  Read more from CBS San Francisco here: Santa Clara water officials issue dire warning as reservoirs dip to historic lows

Edna Valley farmers, residents, and water companies collaborate on plan to stabilize groundwater basin

Water wells in the Edna Valley used to be shallow: “You could put a well to 30 or 40 feet. Well that’s just kind of unrealistic [now],” Edna Valley Growers Mutual Company President Bob Schiebelhut said.  Some of those shallow wells didn’t make it through the last drought, drying up and forcing landowners to drill a little deeper. Now in a new drought, Edna Valley farmers and residents are once again praying for rain, Schiebelhut said. But they’re also moving forward with SLO County and the city of SLO on a plan to make their groundwater more drought resilient. The 30-day comment period on a draft of that plan—which covers approximately 20 square miles from the city of San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly to Lopez Reservoir just before Orcutt Road meets Lopez Drive—ends on Sept. 19. … ”  Read more from New Times SLO here: Edna Valley farmers, residents, and water companies collaborate on plan to stabilize groundwater basin

SLO County develops tools to sell, transfer, and exchange state water

Fifth District SLO County Supervisor Debbie Arnold’s concerns about groundwater banking persist as the county takes steps to enable more flexibility for its unused State Water Project water.  “I’ve been pretty clear all along, I don’t want to ever see our basins here in the county be used for groundwater banks at all, especially with state water,” Arnold said during the Aug. 24 Board of Supervisors meeting. “If we have excess state water, I think we start to concentrate—where we build the infrastructure to put it in above ground storage like Lopez [Lake], so that people in our county can use it. … But not groundwater banking.” … ”  Read more from New Times SLO here: SLO County develops tools to sell, transfer, and exchange state water 

Tooleville wells nearly run dry, state begins consolidation with Exeter

Maria Olivera’s house sits on a dirt road that dead-ends at the Friant Kern Canal, the 152-mile aqueduct quenching the endless thirst of the San Joaquin Valley crops that feed the country. She’s called Tooleville home since 1974, where residents have been fighting to attain the basic human right to clean drinking water for the better part of two decades.  “Our life is not normal,” said Olivera, who instead of turning on the faucet to fill her pots to cook dinner, she uses her drums of state-issued water. “Nobody helps.”  Nitrates from farming fertilizers and old septic tanks and a cancerous heavy metal, hexavalent chromium (chrom-6), have rendered the water undrinkable in Tooleville, and the unincorporated community of under 400 is dependent on bi-weekly water deliveries. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: Tooleville wells nearly run dry, state begins consolidation with Exeter

SEE ALSO: California directs San Joaquin Valley city to extend water service to neighbors in need, from the Sacramento Bee

Water supply reliability expected to improve at Southern California’s Prado Dam

As drought persists in the state of California, the need to increase water supply reliability is an essential issue facing water managers.  A new report evaluating a pilot program to use advanced weather and streamflow forecasts to enhance water storage capabilities at a Riverside County, California, dam found that enough water could be conserved to supply an additional 60,000 people per year.  The pilot program, called Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO), led by research meteorologists from the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, found that 7,000 acre-feet per year of stormwater could potentially be added to groundwater recharge in Orange County. One acre-foot is equivalent to about 325,000 gallons. The program was supported by a combination of funds from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Orange County Water District, and the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). … ” Read more from the Orange County Water District here: Water supply reliability expected to improve at Southern California’s Prado Dam

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

Forecasters couldn’t predict how quickly Colorado River reservoirs would dry up this year. Scientists are trying to improve their models.

Water managers in the Colorado River basin knew that dry soil conditions and below-average snowpack last winter would lead to reduced runoff into streams, rivers and reservoirs this summer. But predicting just how much water would make its way into the Colorado watershed proved difficult.  In April, the Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees a vast network of water infrastructure in the United States, shared data with the National Park Service that projected a range of water levels in Lake Powell throughout 2021. The models showed the reservoir would likely remain above 3,554 feet in elevation — a level below which many of the boat ramps in Glen Canyon National Recreation area would become unusable — until as late as October.  But those projections turned out to be overly optimistic and were repeatedly revised as the spring snowmelt failed to recharge reservoirs in the basin. … ”  Read more from the Salt Lake Tribune here: Forecasters couldn’t predict how quickly Colorado River reservoirs would dry up this year. Scientists are trying to improve their models.

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In national news this week …

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?

Biden moves to blunt Trump water permitting rule

EPA today laid out a path for states and tribes to take more time to negotiate and tackle challenges before signing off on water permits — an attempt to defang a controversial Trump-era rule that allows only a year to approve or deny permits for utilities and oil and gas pipelines.  Sources say the move is an attempt by the Biden administration to mitigate the adverse effects of the Trump water rule finalized last year that’s still on the books while showing sensitivity to advocates fighting the proliferation of fossil fuel projects.  “They’re not completely eliminating the Trump rule, but they’re taking out one of the worst aspects of it,” said Pat Parenteau, a professor at Vermont Law School. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Biden moves to blunt Trump water permitting rule

Weekly features …

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.

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Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

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

NOTICE of Petition for Temporary Transfer per U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Permit 16597

NOTICE of Opportunity for Public Comment, Public Workshop and Board Adoption on the Draft California Water and Wastewater Arrearage Payment Program Guidelines

NOTICE of Delta Watershed Curtailment Compliance And Response Assistance Webinar

NOTICE: Salton Sea Community Meetings/ Reuniones del Salton Sea

YOUR INPUT WANTED: Draft Strategic Plan for Trout Management

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

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: EPA Announces $25 Million in Grants to Improve Drinking Water Quality for Underserved, Small, and Disadvantaged Communities

WORKSHOP: Beaver Dam Analogue (BDA) Experiential Workshop

NOW AVAILABLE: Watershed Index Online (WSIO) and Statewide Recovery Potential Screening (RPS) Tool Series Updated for 2021 – New Climate and EJ Indicators

WATER PLAN eNEWS: ~~Delta Order~ Flood-MAR Network~ Conveyance Webinar~ Plumbing Code~ BOOST Applications~ Ethics Workshop ~~

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

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