Lake Oroville, September 27, 2021

DAILY DIGEST, 9/27: With future of water uncertain, planning and preparedness are critical; What do fire retardant chemicals mean for wildlife?; Photo gallery: Lake Oroville, yesterday; Current reservoir and water conditions; and more …


On the calendar today …

  • FREE WEBINAR: California-Nevada Drought & Climate Outlook from 11am to 12pm. The California-Nevada Drought Early Warning System (CA-NV DEWS) September 2021 Drought & Climate Outlook Webinar is part of a series of regular drought and climate outlook webinars designed to provide stakeholders and other interested parties in the region with timely information on current drought status and impacts, as well as a preview of current and developing climatic events (i.e., El Niño and La Niña).  Click here to register.
  • EVENT: Delta Lead Scientist Ask Me Anything from 12pm to 1pm. Join Dr. Laurel Larsen for the first of a two-part discussion on fellowship opportunities for master’s students through postdoctoral scholars within the Delta Science Program.  California Sea Grant State Fellows Jennica Moffat and Emily Ryznar will highlight the difference between state and science fellows, a day in the life of state fellows, and tips for crafting a successful application. Instagram Live  @deltastewardshipcouncil #asktheleadscientist

In California water news today …

The future of water in the U.S. West is uncertain, so planning and preparedness are critical

In a thirsty Western United States that has become increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather events, rampant wildfires and years of unprecedented drought, those at the helm of the region’s water agencies are accelerating their plans to grapple with climate change.  “The Western United States — especially the 40 million people who use the Colorado River — we’re in the bullseye of climate change,” says Cynthia Campbell, water resource management advisor for the City of Phoenix. “This is not a conceptual conversation anymore. We’re in full-on adaptation.” With that reality comes the need to plan around the future of water for the people and wildlife who call the Colorado River Basin home. … ”  Read more from Ensia here: The future of water in the U.S. West is uncertain, so planning and preparedness are critical

We’re dumping loads of retardant chemicals to fight wildfires. What does it mean for wildlife?

As the Caldor Fire roared toward drought-stricken Lake Tahoe in the last days of August, firefighters faced a sobering scenario: Strong winds increased from the southwest, pushing the fire toward populated areas and prompting tens of thousands to flee.  For days aerial crews dropped fire retardant from planes, aiming to slow the fire’s progress and lessen the intense heat so that ground crews could approach. But the fire just kept coming — until winds shifted and smoke-clogged Tahoe was spared.  Fire agencies consider aerial wildfire retardants — a mix of water and chemicals — an important tool for protecting communities. The red mist spreading behind an airtanker capable of carrying up to 8,000 gallons of retardant provides reassurance to people worried about their safety, homes, and businesses. … ”  Read more from Environmental Health News here: We’re dumping loads of retardant chemicals to fight wildfires. What does it mean for wildlife?

‘Burn scars’ of wildfires threaten drinking water in much of California and the West

Colorado saw its worst fire season last year, with the three largest fires in state history and more than 600,000 acres burned. But some of the effects didn’t appear until this July, when heavy rain pushed sediment from damaged forests down mountainsides, causing mudslides that shut down sections of Interstate 70 for almost two weeks.  Immense quantities of sediment choked the rivers that supply most of the state’s water. … Wildfires and their lasting effects are becoming a way of life in the West, including California, as climate change and management practices cause fires to increase in number, intensity and acreage burned, while extending the length of the fire season. In “burn scars,” where fires decimated forest systems that held soil in place, an increase in droughts followed by heavy rainfall poses a different kind of threat to the water supplies that are essential to the health of communities. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  ‘Burn scars’ of wildfires threaten drinking water in much of California and the West

The Dixie fire threatened to pass 1 million acres, then was stopped in its tracks. Here’s how

When the Dixie fire sparked in Plumas County on a warm afternoon in July, few could have known that it would morph into the monster it soon became. A downed tree, a blown power line fuse and a small ring of fire were all it took to create the second-largest wildfire in California history.  In the days and weeks after the fire began, it produced one ominous sign after another — generating its own lightning, burning clear across the Sierra and, most horrifically, reducing the town of Greenville to ashes.  Soon it was threatening to surpass the size of the August Complex of 2020, the largest wildfire in California history, which burned more than 1 million acres.  But after nearly two months of nonstop expansion, something shifted. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: The Dixie fire threatened to pass 1 million acres, then was stopped in its tracks. Here’s how

Drought forces West to turn to fossil fuels that helped cause it

An unlikely energy sector is emerging as a winner from the West’s megadrought: fossil fuels, whose heavy use has been blamed for creating the conditions causing the drought in the first place.  The drought has slashed the electricity-generating capacity of major hydroelectric dams, forcing buyers to spend millions of dollars to buy extra power from an expensive sellers’ market. Some wholesale electricity consumers—including cities and towns, rural electric cooperatives, public utility districts, irrigation districts, federal and state agencies, and Native American tribes—are replacing emissions-free hydropower with dirtier energy sources. ... ” Read more from Bloomberg Law here: Drought forces West to turn to fossil fuels that helped cause it

Developing tools to model impaired streamflow in streams throughout California

Droughts are extreme, but not necessarily extreme events — at least not in the way we humans usually experience events as discrete, episodic occurrences. Droughts are continuous and exhausting; they can come out of nowhere and take us on a rollercoaster of waiting for precipitation to come, measuring when it does, and hoping it will be enough to keep our rivers flowing for human use and healthy ecosystems. Droughts may feel so extreme that they should be a rare occurrence, but they are a natural part of California climate. And they will become even more frequent – climate change predictions show that extreme events, such as droughts and floods, are becoming more common (Swain et al. 2018). … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Developing tools to model impaired streamflow in streams throughout California

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Recent rains add water to drought deprived South Fork of the Eel River allowing it to flow into the main branch

A little good news for Humboldt County residents. The South Fork of the Eel River which stopped flowing into the main fork of the Eel River last week received enough rain over last weekend to restore the flow … ”  Continue reading at the Redheaded Blackbelt here: Recent rains add water to drought deprived South Fork of the Eel River allowing it to flow into the main branch

‘It’s not if, but when’: Mill Valley conducts city-wide wildfire evacuation drill

In the North Bay, one city is rehearsing for the possibility of a wildfire disaster. Mill Valley held a city-wide evacuation drill on Saturday, putting to the test how to get everyone out safely.  “I think it’s not a question of if, but when,” said Mill Valley resident Max Perrey.  It’s a fear that never goes away for neighbors of Mill Valley, the threat of wildfire. ... ”  Read more from KGO here: ‘It’s not if, but when’: Mill Valley conducts city-wide wildfire evacuation drill

Lake Nacimiento water level takes a deep dive

Low water levels at Lake Nacimiento are concerning visitors and residents of the area. Since construction on the dam at Nacimiento River was completed in 1956, the 18-mile long lake and its 165 miles of shoreline have become a popular recreation destination and home to the Heritage Ranch and Oak Shores communities and the Lake Nacimiento Resort.  As of Saturday, Sept. 24, the interactive water level graph on Lakes Online shows the water level at 706.48 feet at its deepest point. The minimum pool is 687 feet. … ”  Read more from the Paso Robles Daily News here: Lake Nacimiento water level takes a deep dive

Antelope Valley: Water shutoff moratorium extended

The more than 1,600 Palmdale Water District customers who still owe delinquent payments on their water bills will have an extra thee months to get caught up before the District may resume shutting off service for non-payment.  Gov. Gavin Newsom this week signed legislation extending the pandemic-prompted moratorium on shutoffs for non-payment to Dec. 31. It was originally set to expire on Sept. 30. During the COVID-19 pandemic and following state directives, the District suspended its practice of shutting off water service when customers’ bills go unpaid, no matter the amount owed. … ”  Read more from the Antelope Valley Press here:  Water shutoff moratorium extended

SoCal:  Ever wonder where your drinking water comes from? A reader asked and we answer

This summer, we began asking readers to submit their most pressing business-related questions about Los Angeles and California.  Our latest selection was submitted by Nelson Rheem: Why doesn’t L.A. pump its underground water up, process it to remove the impurities and distribute it locally in the L.A. area?  The answer: L.A. does pump and use local groundwater — but other water sources are important for replenishing the supply.  Until the first half of the 20th century, some areas in Los Angeles County had very high groundwater and springs that residents could use as a water source, said Madelyn Glickfeld, co-director of the UCLA Water Resources Group.  “With growth, wells had to be dug deeper and deeper using newly invented drilling and pumping technology,” she said via email. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: SoCal:  Ever wonder where your drinking water comes from? A reader asked and we answer

Soaked Through:The creek freaks of Los Angeles seek out the city’s secret water—and fight to set it free

It’s a sweltering summer day, no rain for months, but Nichols Canyon Creek is gurgling merrily on its two-mile journey from a rocky outcrop high in the Santa Monica Mountains to the white-hot sidewalk of Hollywood Boulevard.  As California languishes in drought, the spring-fed creek is cool and shaded by sycamore, oak, sumac, and laurel. Houses overlook its banks. Birds and insects flit above the water. Frogs croak. Deer, coyotes, and other animals quench their thirst.  Amid this riparian splendor, the creek feels like a fever dream of a greener, more sustainable city that lies maddeningly out of reach for most Angelenos. Maybe that’s because, instead of winding through the Los Angeles Basin, Nichols Canyon Creek becomes a canal two-thirds of the way down, then disappears altogether into a storm drain as it hits Hollywood Boulevard. ... ”  Read more from Alta here: Soaked Through:The creek freaks of Los Angeles seek out the city’s secret water—and fight to set it free

In search of ‘Lithium Valley’: why energy companies see riches in the California desert

Standing atop a pockmarked red mesa, Rod Colwell looks out at an expanse of water that resembles a thin blue strip on the horizon. The Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, has come and gone at least five times in the last 1,300 years, most recently in 1905, when floodwaters from the Colorado River refilled its basin.  A mid-century resort destination, the lake has since become an environmental disaster zone. Its waters, long fed by pesticide-laden runoff from nearby farms, have been steadily evaporating, exposing a dusty shoreline that kicks up lung-damaging silt into the surrounding communities of the Imperial Valley, where rates of asthma are alarmingly high.  But as disastrous as the disappearing Salton Sea is, powerful people believe that a vast reserve of lithium locked beneath it and the surrounding area holds the key to flipping the region’s fortunes. … ”  Read more from the Guardian here: In search of ‘Lithium Valley’: why energy companies see riches in the California desert

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Along the Colorado River …

Arizona: Importing water for drought fix huge project

Importing muddy water from the Mississippi River to save Arizona from drought could be as simple as landing a man on the moon.   As droughts force local communities to find alternative solutions to water shortages, Arizonans could turn to importing flood water in the future.    An interstate pipeline would be a lengthy project in terms of time and effort that in a race against time isn’t an immediate answer, rather a commitment that would test the resolve of the state Legislature and Arizonans. As conversations in the Legislature continue to move forward regarding water, it’s clear more needs to be hammered out. … ”  Read more from the Arizona Capital Times here: Importing water for drought fix huge project

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In national water news today …

Pelosi says infrastructure bill will pass this week — but hedges on timing

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday said that Democrats will pass an infrastructure bill with $550 billion in new spending sometime this week but wouldn’t specify exactly when or nail down the timing for the $3.5 trillion social spending package.   The House last month voted for a Sept. 27 deadline to bring the bipartisan infrastructure plan to the floor. On Sunday, Pelosi didn’t specify when this week it would be voted on.  “Let me just say we’re going to pass the bill this week,” Pelosi said on ABC’s “This Week.” She later added, “I’m never bringing a bill to the floor that doesn’t have the votes.” … ”  Read more from Politico via MSN here: Pelosi says infrastructure bill will pass this week — but hedges on timing

House facing deadline on infrastructure bill this week

Congress faces an early autumn confluence of deadlines this week, with action necessary to head off a federal government shutdown and to consider an infrastructure bill that includes billions of dollars for drinking water priorities, according to the Association of Metropolitan Agencies (AMWA).   Up first this week is H.R. 3684, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), a bipartisan infrastructure package that won Senate approval in August. The bill includes $550 billion in new infrastructure spending over five years, including nearly $50 billion for drinking water programs. The package also carries the text of the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, an AMWA-backed bill that would authorize new programs for drinking water infrastructure climate resilience and low-income water ratepayer assistance. … ”  Read more from Water Finance & Management here:  House facing deadline on infrastructure bill this week

CA business leaders speak out for infrastructure bill

The U.S. House of Representatives is supposed to vote this week on President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better infrastructure bill, which contains significant resources to fight climate change.  Now a group called Business Forward is highlighting the costs that fires, floods and extreme heat linked to climate change have imposed on American companies.  Business Forward president Jim Doyle said business leaders have direct knowledge of the price we’re paying for climate change now. … ”  Read more from the Public News Service here: CA business leaders speak out for infrastructure bill

USDA takes steps to build more sustainable, resilient and inclusive food systems

The Department of Agriculture highlighted investments to end hunger and malnutrition at the United Nations Food Systems Summit this week. Speaking of the total $10 billion of investments, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack states, “We must use the power of ingenuity to improve on food systems so they provide safe, nutritious, affordable and accessible food for all.”  … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here: USDA takes steps to build more sustainable, resilient and inclusive food systems

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In commentary today …

As the Elwha rushes back to life, hope for river restoration nationwide

Tom Kiernan, president and CEO of American Rivers, writes, “Ten years ago, demolition began at Elwha Dam on Washington’s Elwha River, in what remains the biggest dam removal and river restoration in history. Since the backhoes and dynamite tore down Elwha Dam and Glines Canyon Dam, this beautiful aquamarine river has rebounded in remarkable ways. Now flowing freely from the Olympic Mountains to the Salish Sea, the Elwha River once again supports salmon runs along its entire length and a rejuvenated web of life, from bears to eagles to orcas.  The story of the Elwha holds powerful lessons for the future of our nation’s rivers, and it is inspiration to advance potentially transformational bipartisan river restoration proposals before Congress and the Biden administration right now. … ”  Continue reading at the Seattle Times here: As the Elwha rushes back to life, hope for river restoration nationwide

Photo gallery: Lake Oroville, Sept 26, 2021

Current reservoir and water conditions …

Click on any graphic to enter the slideshow.

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

Fish barrier dam, Oroville.

In California water news this weekend …

  • The changing climate’s snowball effect
  • A ‘thirsty’ atmosphere is propelling Northern California’s drought into the record books
  • Restore the Delta resigns from Delta Conveyance Design & Construction Authority SEC
  • Video: California drought – is there a plan?
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom approves budget with $50 million for farmland repurposing in response to drought
  • Sen. Dodd’s water project bill signed by Governor
  • Northwestern storm to bring drought relief for some, fire danger for others
  • How California’s history of prescribed burns helped firefighters defend Sequoia National Park
  • Fires are lasting longer into the night, and researchers may have found out why
  • Sports betting raking in millions more than expected for Colorado water projects
  • And more …

Click here for the weekend edition of the Daily Digest.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

UPDATE on curtailment status of water rights and claims in the Delta watershed

CV-SALTS UPDATE: Nitrate program growth and critical salt program deadline

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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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