DAILY DIGEST, 9/13: California’s disappearing salmon; Could CA weather a mega-drought?; North state residents weigh in on proposed Tuscan Water District; Who hung the Colorado River out to dry?; and more …


In California water news today …

California’s disappearing salmon

Photo by Steve Martarano

Helltown, Calif. — The name doesn’t seem to fit this quiet place set above a gentle swerve in Butte Creek, just an old span of bridge, some rusted-out mining equipment manufactured before this state was officially a state, and a seldom-used house.  But the harsh reality becomes apparent quickly, a smell on a hot, thin wind.  It is the stench from piles of rotting Chinook salmon carcasses on the creek banks and from the upside-down bodies of others snagged, already dead, on the creek’s pale rocks. For centuries, spring-run Chinook salmon, among California’s most iconic fish, would rest for weeks in these historically cold waters after their brutal upstream journey. Then they would lay eggs and, finally, perish to complete one of nature’s most improbable life cycles.  No longer. What once was a place where life began is now one of untimely death. … ”  Continue reading from the Washington Post here: California’s disappearing salmon

SEE ALSO: Wildfires and salmon, from Ag Info

Could California weather a mega-drought?

Jay Lund writes, ““Mega-drought” has become a frightful “thing” in public and media discussions. In the past 1,200 years, California had two droughts lasting 120-200 years, “megadroughts” by any standard. Could the state’s water resources continue to supply enough water to drink, grow crops and provide habitat for fish with such an extreme, prolonged drought today?  Clearly, some ecosystems and rural communities would be devastated by such a drought, and it would certainly affect all California residents. But with careful management, California’s economy in many ways could substantially withstand such a severe drought. … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Could California weather a mega-drought?

Western US faces future of prolonged drought even with stringent emissions control

Seasonal summer rains have done little to offset drought conditions gripping the western United States, with California and Nevada seeing record July heat and moderate-to-exceptional drought according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Now, new research is showing how drought in the region is expected to change in the future, providing stakeholders with crucial information for decision making.  The western United States is headed for prolonged drought conditions whether greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb or are aggressively reined in, according to the new study published in the, Earth’s Future, AGU’s peer-reviewed journal for interdisciplinary research on the past, present and future of our planet and its inhabitants. … ”  Read more from Smart Water here:  Western US faces future of prolonged drought even with stringent emissions control

Torture orchard: Can science transform California crops to cope with drought?

There’s a hive of PhDs at the University of California at Davis who are working to reinvent food production in the Golden State. Researchers have fanned out across the globe collecting rare plant samples; others are grafting Frankenstein trees and stitching together root systems of plums and peaches to create better almond and walnut trees.  Some scientists are deconstructing crime scenes of withered and dying plants, gathering clues about what killed them. Others deprive trees of moisture or douse them with salty water, stress-testing the plants to understand how much they can withstand at experimental fields, including one that researchers call Torture Orchard. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Torture orchard: Can science transform California crops to cope with drought?

Thinking outside the box for drought resilient pasture research project

Looking at improving the drought resilience of California rangelands may require some nontraditional approaches. As drought has impacted nearly all of the six million acres of rangeland in California, improving drought resilience becomes even more critical. A grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping researchers evaluate different strategies to restore rangelands and make them more drought tolerant. Associate professor of ecology in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, Jennifer Funk explained the project will encompass a variety of approaches. … ”  Continue reading at Ag Net West here: Thinking outside the box for drought resilient pasture research project

NASA drought research: Glimpsing the future

NASA said on September 8, 2021, that – according to NOAA – seasonal summer rains have done little to offset drought conditions gripping the western United States. California and Nevada both saw record July heat and moderate-to-exceptional drought. New NASA research now shows how drought in the region is expected to change in the future. The study found that the western U.S. is headed for prolonged drought conditions. That’s the case, according to this study, whether greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb or are aggressively reined in.  But the study also showed that the severity of acute, extreme drought events – and the overall severity of prolonged drought conditions – could be reduced with emissions-curbing efforts, as compared with a high-emissions future. … ”  Continue reading at Earth Sky here: NASA drought research: Glimpsing the future

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In commentary today …

Climate change is bankrupting California’s ecosystems

Martha Davis, former assistant general manager for policy at the Inland Empire Utilities Agency and former executive director of the Mono Lake Committee, writes, “For decades, scientists have warned that climate change would disrupt almost every natural life-sustaining system on our planet.   What have we done about it? We’ve dithered. We refuse to believe the evidence, or rail against the cost and inconvenience of change, or hope the problem will just go away.  But global warming is not going away. Last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its most alarming report yet: Earth is on the edge of ecological bankruptcy.  That’s what California is facing this summer with record heat, severe drought, record fires, snow sublimation, record low reservoir levels, dry wells, communities without safe drinking water, deaths of salmon and whales, poisonous algae growth in lakes and streams, and record glacier melt. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here:  Climate change is bankrupting California’s ecosystems

In regional water news and commentary today …

North state residents weigh in on proposed Tuscan Water District

A new water district has been proposed in north Butte County, the Tuscan Water District, which is stirring up quite a bit of controversy.  (See:  Proposed north Butte County water district stirring controversy (Aug 24) and Commission backs water district proposal (Sept 2)).  Here is a sampling of letters to the editor of the Chico Enterprise-Record:

    • Letter: Let’s preserve our groundwater for the future: Andrew Mendonca writes, “I grew up off Greenwich Avenue in Chico and spent lots of time out on the family farm up on Chico River Road. I have family in both the city and country. My Chico roots run very deep, just like our mighty valley Oaks. I’m a fourth-generation farmer, but also a fifth generation Chico native urging your support of the Tuscan Water District. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here: Letter: Let’s preserve our groundwater for the future
    • Letter: Tell the Board of Supervisors no: Grace Marvin writes, “Many are quite concerned about Big Ag taking control of water in Butte County via the Tuscan Water District (TWD). The Agricultural Groundwater Users of Butte County (AGUBC), concocting TWD, is an invitation-only organization requiring a $2500 fee. With one vote for every acre of agricultural land owned, the vast majority of the votes would go to huge landowners ... ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here: Letter: Tell the Board of Supervisors no
    • Letter: Let’s talk about water:  Dan and Julie Marron write, “Lise Smith’s recent letter urges folks to learn more about the Tuscan Water District, stating “The discussion of a public water district should be a priority.”  She’s right – the outcome of this discussion will shape Butte County for generations.  The Vina Subbasin is currently overdrafted, meaning that we pull more groundwater from the aquifer than is replaced. That condition must be fixed. The alternative is to fallow fields, which would have a significant impact on the local economy. … ”  Continue reading here: Letter: Let’s talk about water
    • Letter: Things to consider about Tuscan Water District: Jim Brobek writes, “The Tuscan Water District intention to import, transfer and recharge water is mentioned numerous times in their application. Though they have not revealed the projects they have in mind, their mission dovetails with long-standing DWR and USBR plans to integrate Sacramento Valley aquifers into the state water supply through conjunctive use.  … ”  Continue reading at the Chico Enterprise-Record here: Letter: Things to consider about Tuscan Water District
    • Letter: Keeping an eye on Tuscan Water District: Pam Stoesser writes, “I would like to again implore the people of Butte County to do their own research on the Tuscan Water District. But unlike the suggestion of Brittany Fagundes and the Marrons, look elsewhere for answers, like ButteWaterWatch.org, Butte Water Watch on Facebook, or AquAlliance.net. Don’t just take the word of the folks at TWD or the pretty picture they draw in their presentation. … ”  Continue reading at the Chico Enterprise-Record here: Letter: Keeping an eye on Tuscan Water District
    • This is just a sampling.  There have been at least 18 letters to the editor regarding this since September 1st, and even more prior to that. View more letters here.

Podcast: The Truckee River under assault – trash is just one insult as it flows through Reno and Sparks

Brian Bahouth writes, “The annual Truckee River Cleanup Day set for September 25, 2021 is a 17 year-old beautification tradition. Every year, the nonprofit organization Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful (KTMB) organizes hundreds of volunteers who, in a four-hour period, remove trash, erase graffiti, and stencil a warning on storm drains along a 20-mile stretch of the river, from Verdi to Lockwood. But trash is only one environmental threat to the Truckee. … Yesterday I stood on the bank of the Truckee near Idlewild Park and spoke with Kim Rios, sustainability coordinator for Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful about threats to the river’s health and what KTMB is doing to help clean up the watershed.”  Listen to podcast from the Sierra Nevada Ally here: Podcast: The Truckee River under assault – trash is just one insult as it flows through Reno and Sparks

Column: Bemused and confused about Clear Lake Blue Ribbon Committee

Dear Lady of the Lake, The lake is really gross in some places right now. What happened to the “Blue Ribbon Committee” that was formed a few years ago? Wasn’t that supposed to “fix the lake?” This lake is the livelihood of Lake County and I am wondering what that committee has been doing to help solve some of the lake issues.  — Bemused and Confused about the Blue Ribbon Committee  Dear Bemused and Confused … The BRC is not just focused on the ecology of Clear Lake, but also on the rehabilitation of the lake-dependent socio-economy of the area around the lake. The idea is that if the economy around the lake can improve, this would create more tax-driven resources for lake quality improvements, and likewise, if the lake quality improved, this would result in more economic improvements and socio economic opportunities. ... ”  Read the full column at the Lake County News here: Column: Bemused and confused about Clear Lake Blue Ribbon Committee

Bay Area district launches strategic sewer system improvement project

The Oro Loma Sanitary District Board of Directors recently approved low-cost financing to replace old sewer collection system infrastructure serving its customers and communities while protecting the environment.  With this financing, the Board maintains its 10-Year Strategic Plan and implements priorities to maintain its infrastructure in a pro-active manner to avoid any impacts to customer service. Oro Loma Sanitary District is targeting the replacement and rehabilitation of approximately 40 miles of defective sewer collection system pipelines that collect and direct wastewater flows to the treatment plant. … ”  Read more from Water Finance and Management here:  Bay Area district launches strategic sewer system improvement project

San Francisco: Hauling out mud and toppled trees, estimated $4 million in Stern Grove flood repairs starts this week

When 700,000 gallons of water from a broken pipe valve flooded into Stern Grove, the onrush pushed the dirt from beneath 50 or so eucalyptus trees, seriously weakening the hillside they had anchored. The next day, Stern Grove Festival’s executive director, Bob Fiedler, stepped into 4 feet of fresh mud and his mind shifted from the prospect of canceling the finale concert of the 2021 series to whether the 2022 season could happen.  The answer may come this week when a crane, an excavator and a chainsaw crew begin clearing away the undermined eucalyptus trees. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Hauling out mud and toppled trees, estimated $4 million in Stern Grove flood repairs starts this week

San Benito County drought update

Shawn Novack, water conservation program manager with the Water Resources Association San Benito County, writes, “Governor Newsom said Californians could soon face mandatory statewide water restrictions — but likely not until fall. However, California’s devastating drought and ever-expanding fire season have their own schedules.  Locally, we are at Stage 1 of the Water Shortage Contingency Plan (WSCP) that is part of the collaborative Urban Water Management Plan for the City of Hollister, Sunnyslope County Water District and the San Benito County Water District.  Each area of our state has different hydrology and ways to weather the drought. Fortunately, our county is in better shape than many others throughout the state. … ”  Read more from Benito Link here: San Benito County drought update

Pomona: California city in 10-year legal battle over groundwater contamination awarded damages

After a week-long trial, a federal jury awarded the City of Pomona $48 million in damages from SQM North America Corporation, a subsidiary of a large Chilean mining company, for the costs of cleanup of the toxic chemical perchlorate from the City’s groundwater supply. Fertilizer sold by SQMNA and used for decades in the citrus orchards of Pomona had been tainted with perchlorate which ended up in Pomona’s drinking water supplies.  James Makshanoff, city manager for the City of Pomona, said “After 10 long years, Pomona has achieved its goal which is to make sure that the citizens of our City will not have to pay the cost of cleaning up a mess created by a large foreign corporation doing business in our city. ... ”  Read more from Water Finance and Management here: Pomona: California city in 10-year legal battle over groundwater contamination awarded damages

A Coachella Valley date farmer on what happens when we ask too much of the Colorado River

Doug Adair, owner of Pato’s Dream Date Gardens in Thermal, writes, “Even as she was going blind, my mom, ever the poet, delighted in sitting out among the palms and birds, and enjoying and visualizing the scene, as I irrigated my date gardens in the Coachella Valley. .. I follow the tradition of thousands of years, of date palm growers diverting the waters of the Nile, the Tigris and Euphrates and Indus, to irrigate their gardens. Water that entered the Colorado River basin as melted snow in Wyoming and Utah, Colorado and Arizona, and even New Mexico, contributes to the flow onto my property.  But this is a historic moment, too. … ”  Continue reading at the Desert Sun here: A Coachella Valley date farmer on what happens when we ask too much of the Colorado River

Construction begins on seawall to protect train tracks in Del Mar

Construction begins this month on a nearly 300-foot-long seawall to protect the coastal bluffs below the heavily travelled railroad tracks in Del Mar.  The seawall is the final stage of $11 million in emergency repairs needed to safeguard the tracks after a wide portion of the bluff collapsed in late February. The slide came within 35 feet of the railroad ties on the only train route between San Diego and Los Angeles and the rest of the West Coast. … ” Read more from the LA Times here: Construction begins on seawall to protect train tracks in Del Mar

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Along the Colorado River …

Who hung the Colorado River out to dry?

On Aug. 16, the Bureau of Reclamation, a federal agency that is part of the Interior Department, held a press conference announcing that for the first time in the 99 years of governmental record-keeping, it was declaring a water shortage on the Colorado River. Starting in January 2022, farmers, ranchers, and irrigation districts will be forced to use less water, which will hit Arizona particularly hard.  The shortage is a product of climate change—extended drought, wildfires, extreme temperatures, flooding and landslides all plague the ecosystem—but also human stubbornness regarding the politics of dividing up the water from the Colorado River. Despite a waning flow of water and populations becoming more and more concentrated in cities, the legal framework for sharing the Colorado River hasn’t fundamentally changed since it was first written nearly 100 years ago. … ”  Read more from Slate Magazine here: Who hung the Colorado River out to dry?

Wildlife managers say imperiled fish are recovering but may always need human help

Nearly every detail of the soil bed beneath the water in the miles stretching up to Hoover Dam is discernible. Only wakes from boats and ripples from kayak paddles disturb the surface.  Fish are easily spotted.  While it’s a momentary delight for the boaters or kayakers, it can be a deadly reality for certain species. Following the regulation of the Colorado River and the introduction of non-native fish species, several of Arizona’s native fish were pushed to the brink of extinction. Coalitions of federal, state and tribal agencies have spent decades trying to save them.  Now, those same agencies are proposing to downlist one of those species — the razorback sucker — from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act. … ”  Read more from the Arizona Republic here: Wildlife managers say imperiled fish are recovering but may always need human help

Electric costs in Colorado set to surge as Lake Powell struggles to produce hydropower

The federal agency that distributes electricity from hydropower plants in the Upper Colorado River Basin will ask its customers, including more than 50 here in Colorado, to help offset rising costs linked to Lake Powell’s inability to produce as much power due to drought.  The Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), which distributes Lake Powell’s electricity, is gathering public comments and asking its customers how best to cope with long-term drought conditions that have pushed Powell and other reservoirs to historically low levels. … ”  Read more from the Water Desk here: Electric costs in Colorado set to surge as Lake Powell struggles to produce hydropower

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In national water news today …

Diving into ‘water positive’ pledges by Facebook, Google

Historically speaking, corporate action on water-related environmental issues has been less publicly visible than strategies for reducing energy usage and related greenhouse gas emissions.  Consider this data point. As of its 2020 water update, corporate data gatherer CDP reports about two-thirds of reporting businesses are reducing their water withdrawals; slightly more than half are monitoring the quality of their wastewater discharges and just 4 percent are making progress against water pollution targets.  But the tide may be turning: Between 2019 and 2020, there was a 20 percent increase in the number of companies reporting water impacts and risks to the CDP surveys. And in the past month, several high-profile multinationals became more markedly public about their intentions. ... ”  Read more from Green Biz here:  Diving into ‘water positive’ pledges by Facebook, Google

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And lastly …

Cattle can now be toilet trained, in some cases faster than babies

If a bear can be taught to ride a unicycle, and a lion can learn to jump through hoops, then certainly a bovine can be toilet trained, right?  That intriguing premise led scientists in Germany and New Zealand to explore the possibility in a new study published Monday in the journal Current Biology. Not without a sense of humor, they dubbed the effort “MooLoo Training.”  Researchers spent what must have been a grueling two weeks training 16 calves to use a specially designed toilet. Eleven successfully picked up the new skill. The researchers believe that, given more time, the success rate would climb even higher as some animals, much like humans, simply require more time to process a new task. … The impetus for their work stems from a European Union directive requiring member states to significantly reduce ammonia emissions, of which cattle are a major source.  … ”  Continue reading at the Courthouse News Service here: Cattle can now be toilet trained, in some cases faster than babies

More news and commentary in the Daily Digest, weekend edition …

In California water news this weekend …

  • Critically low flows prompt emergency curtailment orders for Scott, Shasta Rivers; More curtailments in the works
  • Study finds local oil field wastewater safe for use in irrigation
  • Could we use floods to prevent forest fires?
  • Rain helps in California fire fight, lightning sparks others
  • Record heat approaches Dust Bowl levels: How it is changing life in California
  • Carbon emissions may skyrocket due to California’s lack of efficiency in water usage
  • Iconic, longstanding Delta restaurant and bar Giusti’s destroyed in afternoon fire
  • U.S. EPA, CalEPA launch joint effort to strengthen environmental enforcement in communities overburdened by pollution
  • DWR’s Ted Sommer to retire
  • DIGGING DEEP PODCAST: Planning for Sacramento’s Next Big Storm
  • ESTUARY VOICES: Sam Schuchat, The Coast Whisperer
  • Are ‘water positive’ pledges from tech companies just a new kind of greenwashing?
  • And more …

Click here to read the weekend edition of the Daily Digest.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

THIS JUST IN … Critically low flows prompt emergency curtailment orders for Scott, Shasta Rivers; More curtailments in the works …

NOTICE: Consideration of a Drought-Related Emergency Regulation for Curtailment of Diversions in Mill Creek and Deer Creek Watersheds

NOTICE: Update on Curtailment Status of Water Rights and Claims in the Delta Watershed

NOTICE: Status Conference Ruling and Notice of Status Conference for Nevada Irrigation District and South Sutter Water District water right application

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: North Coast Coho Recovery PSN Pre-Application Workshop Recording and Presentation Available

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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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