DAILY DIGEST, 10/13: A developing mid-October storm aimed at SF Bay Area could end wildfire season; Maybe Snow? Weather experts say this winter is a toss-up; Research seeks resilience for aquifers; NEPA rules rewrite: Déjà vu all over again; and more ….


On the calendar today …

  • WEBINAR: Navigating Onsite Water Reuse Regulations – Utility Perspective from 11am to 12pm.  This webcast will share the experiences of several utilities from across the country in planning, establishing, and setting up onsite water reuse programs.  Click here for more information and to register.
  • WEBINAR: SGMA Through the Lens of Recent Groundwater Adjudications from 11am to 12pm.  Part of ACWA’s virtual CLE Workshop Series.  Click here to register.
  • GRA BRANCH MEETING: Linkages Between Groundwater Pumping and Quality in California’s Central Valley During Drought from 5pm to 6pm. This talk will present new research establishing dynamic relations between groundwater levels and nitrate concentrations at public drinking-water wells throughout California’s Central Valley over the past 30 years.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

A developing mid-October storm aimed at SF Bay Area could end wildfire season

Meteorologists are closely watching the long-term Northern California weather forecast that shows several days of moderate to heavy rain in mid-October, stretching from the San Francisco Bay Area to Redding.  If a wet storm arrives as predicted, the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center said it could “quell ongoing wildfire activity, help improve drought conditions … and replenish water resources throughout the West Coast.” It’s difficult to nail down a forecast beyond seven days with accuracy, and this proved true earlier this month when a long-term forecast showed rain in the future, and in the end, there was mostly drizzle. ... ”  Read more from SF Gate here: A developing mid-October storm aimed at SF Bay Area could end wildfire season

This summer was California’s driest on record in more than 100 years – here’s what that means

In another alarming measure of California’s historic drought, the summer months this year were the state’s driest on record since 1895, when data on the government’s standard drought index began.  The monthly average dryness for July, August and September 2021 was -6.8 on the Palmer Drought Severity Index, which indicates extreme drought.  Anything below -4.0 on the Palmer scale is considered “extreme drought.” A year with normal precipitation would fall between -0.49 and 0.49 on the scale, and an “extremely wet” year would land above 4.0. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: This summer was California’s driest on record in more than 100 years – here’s what that means

Atmospheric rivers left California mostly dry in water year 2021

The Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, or CW3E, at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, released its report October 11 on atmospheric rivers during Water Year 2021.  The report, “Distribution of Landfalling Atmospheric Rivers over the U.S. West Coast During Water Year 2021: End of Water Year Summary” shows that more atmospheric rivers landed on the U.S. West Coast in Water Year 2021 than in Water Year 2020. But the majority of those storms reached the Pacific Northwest, not California, where drought conditions have impacted water supply.  “The report on atmospheric rivers shows the variability in weather across the state from year to year,” said Jeff Stephenson, Water Resources Manager with the San Diego County Water Authority. … ”  Read more from the Water News Network here: Atmospheric rivers left California mostly dry in water year 2021 

Maybe Snow? Weather experts say this winter is a toss-up

After a dry, hot, smoky summer, many Lake Tahoe locals and visitors are ready for a snowy winter. But conditions this summer, historical data and Tahoe’s position within the various weather streams are making it hard to predict what this winter will bring.  The Lake Tahoe Basin sits right in the center of the inflection point of where the northern and southern “Los Ninos,” meet.  “The El Nino Southern Oscillation (this term encompasses both El Nino and La Nina) cycle somewhat reliably predicts weather to our north and to our south but whether our area is affected by ENSO is almost entirely a tossup,” said Paul Fremeau, an atmospheric scientist with WeatherExtreme. … ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune here: Maybe Snow? Weather experts say this winter is a toss-up

SEE ALSO: La Nina brings more worries amid drought, from the San Mateo Journal

Research seeks resilience for aquifers

One day in early October, a group of University of California, Merced, students went to the campus Smart Farm, augurs in hand, to explore the soil for the best spots to locate moisture sensors.  They were not looking in the root zone to monitor how much water is available but instead for areas lower in the soil to study how irrigation and stormwater can travel far enough beneath the plants to recharge the groundwater below. “The trick is trying to get more water down to the aquifer and verifying that we did it,” said Tom Harmon, UC Merced chair of the civil and environmental engineering department. “We need to figure out how to measure soil moisture deeper. We usually measure to the root zone, but we have to take it past the plant.” … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here: Research seeks resilience for aquifers

Biden pursues reversal of rules for water projects

The struggle over management of water supplied through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta continues as the Biden administration seeks a reversal of rules put in place by agencies under the Trump administration.  Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation sent a letter to federal fisheries agencies and announced it is reinitiating consultation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service 2019 biological opinions related to the coordinated, long-term operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project.  The two water projects are California’s primary water-delivery systems that guide pumping of water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, sending water south to tens of millions of people and to millions of acres of farmland. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here: Biden pursues reversal of rules for water projects

Radio show: Researchers discover drought will not allow groundwater recharge

When the rain and snow don’t fall and the reservoirs don’t fill up, people will pump water out of the ground for their needs. But that practice has its limits, as underground aquifers get depleted, similar to how we squeeze water out of a sponge.  In drought, there’s little water to refill that sponge. And new research suggests that in prolonged drought, groundwater may simply not recharge. Hydrologists at the University of California-Riverside studied wells across the country, not just in dry   California.We get details of the findings from Professor Hoori Ajami and former post-doctoral researcher Adam Schreiner-McGraw.”  Listen at Jefferson Public Radio here: Researchers discover drought will not allow groundwater recharge

Western Growers’ Dennis Nuxoll and Matthew Allen detail California drought and water crisis

Perhaps one of the most talked-about topics in California is the issue of water. The stark reality of today’s drought comes under the microscope in the next segment of our series discussing ag issues with Western Growers. The conversation waded through issues such as water availability, supply, and efficiency. As California looks to begin its new water year, both Dennis Nuxoll and Matthew Allen detailed what this means for growers.   “As of right now, we’re not forecasting a lot of water coming into the state, as it looks like it won’t be a wet year,” said Matthew, the Vice President of State Government Affairs, as we kicked off our talks. “This particularly concerns surface water, especially south of the Delta, and obviously this will up our reliance on groundwater.” … ”  Read more from And Now U Know here: Western Growers’ Dennis Nuxoll and Matthew Allen detail California drought and water crisis

Orange County Water District supports initiative to increase California’s water supply

As California faces recurring drought, dry conditions and challenges to water reliability, the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) continues to take bold action to implement local water supply projects, as well as support the creation of new water supplies throughout the state. Recently, the OCWD Board of Directors voted to adopt a resolution to support the proposed Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022 (Act), an initiative to prioritize spending to increase California’s storage and supply of clean, safe drinking water. … ”  Read more from the Orange County Water District here: Orange County Water District supports initiative to increase California’s water supply 

Friant Water Authority awards contract to begin phase 1 of canal fix

Subsidence by groundwater extraction has all but led to a conveyance failure for parts of the Friant-Kern Canal. After years of vying for funding to fix its most impacted 33-mile stretch, the Friant Water Authority announced they have awarded a contract to Brosamer & Wall/Tutor Perini Joint Venture for phase one of the project.  Brosamer & Waller, based in Walnut Creek, was awarded a $177 million contract to perform the construction aspects of the first phase of work to repair the Friant-Kern Canal along the significant stretch. This portion of the canal has lost more than half of its capacity due to subsidence—a sinking of the earth from groundwater extraction. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: Friant Water Authority awards contract to begin phase 1 of canal fix

Learn about the Suisun Marsh

Please join the Solano County Orderly Growth Committee for a Zoom presentation and discussion about Suisun Marsh this Thursday at 7 p.m.  Steve Chappell, executive director of the Suisun Resource Conservation District, will discuss the marsh history, outlining the legacy of preservation, ongoing management and restoration activities and future threats to the Suisun Marsh. He will be joined by Erik Buehmann, planning manager of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, who will talk about regulatory efforts, especially in light of sea level rise. … ”  Read more from the Daily Republic here: Learn about the Suisun Marsh

Reusing Gray Water: This young scientist founded a nonprofit that teaches people how to recycle water in their homes

Shreya Ramachandran, 18, remembers witnessing California’s water crisis firsthand on a visit to Tulare County in 2014, when she was still a preteen. Tulare spans a large swath of farmland in California’s Central Valley, and at that time, locals were facing dire water shortages amid an ongoing drought made worse by climate change.  “I was talking to some of the people in the area whose wells completely ran dry, and they were left without water because they weren’t connected to the central water grid,” she says. “They were trucking water in for even basic needs.”  Ramachandran, who lives in Fremont, California, was spurred by the experience to find ways to reuse water from sinks, showers and laundry machines — what’s known as gray water — to help people better cope with intense drought. ... ”  Read more from Discover Magazine here: Reusing Gray Water: This young scientist founded a nonprofit that teaches people how to recycle water in their homes

Press release: New analysis details immense scale of corporate water abuses in California

Today the national advocacy organization Food & Water Watch released “Big Ag, Big Oil and California’s Big Water Problem,” a report detailing for the first time California’s most egregious corporate water misuses. The piece pinpoints industrial agriculture as among the worst offenders, swallowing large portions of California’s water resources and exporting billions of gallons of water overseas through heavily irrigated crops like almond and alfalfa as well as dairy.  Among the report’s detailed findings is the fact that all the water used to maintain California’s mega-dairies could provide enough water for all the residents of San Diego and San Jose combined. … ”  Read more from Food & Water Watch here: Press release: New analysis details immense scale of corporate water abuses in California

Moving beyond America’s war on wildfire: 4 ways to avoid future megafires

Californians have been concerned about wildfires for a long time, but the past two years have left many of them fearful and questioning whether any solutions to the fire crisis truly exist.  … As foresters who have been working on wildfire and forest restoration issues in the Sierra Nevada for over a quarter of a century, we have found it painful to watch communities destroyed and forests continuing to burn to a crisp. The main lesson we gather from how these fires have burned is that forest fuels reduction projects are our best tools for mitigating wildfire impacts under a changing climate, and not nearly enough of them are being done. … ”  Read more from The Conversation here: Moving beyond America’s war on wildfire: 4 ways to avoid future megafires

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In commentary today …

Utilize knowledge of Indigenous people to prevent wildfires

Chelsi Spartim member of the Winnemem, Nomtipom and Nomsus bands of the Wintu Nation, and Chris Villarruel, member of the Ajumawi band of the Pit River Nation, write, “We need a dramatic shift in our efforts to curb wildfires in California.  Instead of reacting to wildfires, we need to utilize the knowledge of Indigenous people on managing the land.  When it comes to fire prevention, the wisdom of Indigenous tribes like the Yurok, Karuk, Hoopa and Wintun is unparalleled. Indigenous knowledge and connection to ecosystems have been passed down through intentional training. Youth learn how to burn low-intensity fires in a specific area through culture. This management results in healthier ecosystems that produce more food, medicines and materials for daily life. ... ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Utilize knowledge of Indigenous people to prevent wildfires

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In regional water news and commentary today …

NORTH COAST

Feds sue Oregon over Upper Klamath Lake water releases

The U.S. government is challenging an order from Oregon water regulators that forbids water releases from Upper Klamath Lake to boost flows in the Klamath River.  The legal dispute pits the enforcement of state water rights against the federal government’s obligation to operate the Klamath irrigation project in compliance with the Endangered Species Act. To improve stream conditions for threatened salmon in the Klamath river, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation releases water through its Link River Dam under an operations plan for the irrigation project. ... ”  Read more from the Bend Bulletin here: Feds sue Oregon over Upper Klamath Lake water releases

Clear Lake: Rumsey Gauge a drought casualty? Temporary gauge relocated to Library Park in Lakeport

It’s bad enough that we are in the middle of one of the worst droughts in Lake County’s modern history. There is only one boat ramp on Clear Lake that is usable right now and the water level is getting lower by the day. Now the Rumsey Gauge readings are all screwed up. The most recent reading shows that the lake is lower than it was during the record year of 1977, but is that a true reading?  The problem is that the Rumsey Gauge which is located at Vector Control’s dock in Lakeport, is now on dry ground because of the lake level falling. The gauge is read hourly by the United State Geological Survey (USGS). To get a current reading, the USGS has installed a temporary gauge at Library Park in Lakeport. That temporary gauge has changed the Rumsey Gauge reading considerably. ... ”  Read more from the Lake County Record-Bee here: Rumsey Gauge a drought casualty? Temporary gauge relocated to Library Park in Lakeport

SACRAMENTO VALLEY

Several water projects in the works in Glenn County as dry wells reach new highs

As drought conditions persist across the state, a record number of dry wells are being reported in Glenn County and local officials are about to launch several new water projects to ease the concerns related to these groundwater supply issues.  Amy Travis, deputy director of the Office of Emergency Services for the Glenn County Sheriff’s Office, said there have been a total of 217 reports submitted related to groundwater supply issues, 151 of which are dry wells. Of the wells with reported groundwater supply issues, 92.63 percent are domestic, household wells, according to Travis, and the area that has been hit the hardest is the north part of the county outside the city of Orland. … ”  Read more from the Colusa Sun-Herald here: Several water projects in the works in Glenn County as dry wells reach new highs

Gallagher bill to fast-track Paradise sewer and water projects becomes law

Governor Newsom has signed Assembly Bill 36 authored by Assemblyman Gallagher (R-Yuba City) and co-authored by Senator Nielsen (R-Tehama). The legislation helps fast-track construction of the Paradise Irrigation District (PID) water intertie and the Paradise sewer project, and is supported by the Town of Paradise, the Paradise Irrigation District and the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. Specifically, AB 36 allows the Town of Paradise and PID to utilize the design-build procurement method, which is a cost-effective contracting method that can prevent project delays while providing more flexibility for these respective infrastructure projects. … ”  Read more from the Colusa Sun-Herald here: Gallagher bill to fast-track Paradise sewer and water projects becomes law

MOUNTAIN COUNTIES

Lake Tahoe water level hits four-year low as drought pummels tourist spot

Lake Tahoe’s water level dropped to a four-year low on Tuesday as gusty winds and the impacts of California’s devastating drought hit the popular tourist destination.  After days of high winds increased evaporation rates, water levels fell to the basin’s natural rim for the first time since 2017, the end of the state’s last drought. The lake normally sits above the rim, which allows for water to flow into the Truckee River. Levels will probably continue to drop, receding below the rim this week, sooner than expected.  Though the lake’s water levels have fallen to this point several times in recent years, this week’s drop concerns researchers like Geoffrey Schladow, the director of the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center. … ”  Read more from The Guardian here: Lake Tahoe water level hits four-year low as drought pummels tourist spot

SEE ALSO: Lake Tahoe beyond the Rim: How low will we go?, from YubaNet

Tahoe Fire & Fuels Team to begin Lake Tahoe prescribed fire program as early as November

Under the coordination of the Tahoe Fire & Fuels Team (TFFT), the Lake Tahoe Basin fall prescribed fire program may begin as early as November, weather and conditions permitting. Smoke will be present. A map with project locations and details will be available at tahoelivingwithfire.com. … Prescribed fire managers use different methods to reintroduce low intensity fire in forests including pile and understory burning. Pile burning involves burning slash piles that are constructed by hand and mechanical equipment and is intended to remove excess fuels (branches, limbs, and stumps) that can feed unwanted wildfire. ... ”  Read more from YubaNet here: Tahoe Fire & Fuels Team to begin Lake Tahoe prescribed fire program as early as November

BAY AREA

Salty tap water forces Pt. Reyes residents to bottle and tote home their own

Water is in short supply everywhere, but in Pt. Reyes Station in West Marin County, the water they do have is becoming increasingly salty. Now, some residents are having to tote their water home by hand.  About 1,800 residents living in or near Pt. Reyes Station are being warned not to drink or cook with tap water because of elevated levels of salt. It doesn’t come as a surprise to those who have been living with it for a year now. ... ”  Read more from CBS San Francisco here: Salty tap water forces Pt. Reyes residents to bottle and tote home their own

CENTRAL COAST

The Monterey Peninsula has a water scarcity problem. Managers disagree on solutions.

As small as it is, the Carmel River has been the Monterey Peninsula’s primary source of water for more than a century. That will come to an end on Jan. 1, 2022. The State Water Resources Control Board has ordered the area’s private water utility, California American Water (Cal Am), to reduce its draws from the river by two-thirds of what it pumped a decade ago.  The historic move will help restore the Carmel River habitat, damaged by years of illegal over pumping by Cal Am. But it is also expected to leave the Peninsula’s water supply so tight that customers could face rate hikes, rationing and fines if they use too much water. … ”  Read more from KUER here: The Monterey Peninsula has a water scarcity problem. Managers disagree on solutions.

Supervisors inch forward on allowing private ownership of desalination plants in Monterey County

The question of whether private ownership of desalination plants will be allowed in Monterey County remains unresolved, but supervisors on Oct. 12 voted 4-1 to direct county staff to prepare a study on overturning the 32-year prohibition on private ownership.  A divided Board of Supervisors began discussing a possible repeal over the ban on private desalination in August, punting the decision to Sept. 21 and then to Oct. 12. Now, at the behest of the board, staff will take 30 to 45 days to analyze whether further environmental review is needed—an analysis on whether more analysis is necessary—before a vote on the repeal can be made by supervisors. … ”  Read more from Monterey County Weekly here: Supervisors inch forward on allowing private ownership of desalination plants in Monterey County

California appellate court overturns fracking ban in Monterey

A California appeals court ruled Tuesday that a Monterey County measure banning oil and gas extraction was preempted by state law, meaning oil and gas companies can continue fracking in the region.  “If a local regulation conflicts with a state law, the local regulation exceeds the local entity’s power,” wrote Justice Franklin Elia on behalf of the unanimous panel in the Sixth Appellate District of the California Court of Appeals. The judgment effectively dooms Measure Z, which was passed in 2016 with 56% of Monterey County voters approving of the ballot measure. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here:  California appellate court overturns fracking ban in Monterey

SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY

Kings Co. seeks additional water from state for parched Kettleman City

With a looming water crisis on hand at Kettleman City, Kings County officials are continuing their campaign to urge the state to provide additional water to ensure that the residents in the beleaguered town can survive.  The Kings County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday that requests the Department of Water Resources to give Kettleman City an emergency allocation of water supply for 2022.  The board requested the state provide 310 acre-feet in order to meet the needs of the community, which has a population around 1,500.  “This is needed, it’s urgent, and we want to make sure we don’t have an emergency next year,” Supervisor Richard Valle said. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Kings Co. seeks additional water from state for parched Kettleman City

Hurtado announces $2.8 million investment to replace Olson-Kings River Sewer Main

Today, Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) released the following statement after her press conference announcing an investment of $2.8 million to replace the Olson-Kings River Sewer Main:  “The small rural city of Reedley was on the brink of an environmental disaster on the Kings River,” said Senator Hurtado. “One that would have hurt the health of more than 20,000 people. Small rural communities often go unheard and are often left behind, but the leaders of this community did not give up. They pressed on and their efforts have protected the well-being of Reedley residents. I congratulate them for their leadership and victory in securing $2.8 million for their constituents.” ... ”  Read more from Senator Melissa Hurtado here: Hurtado announces $2.8 million investment to replace Olson-Kings River Sewer Main

Tooleville, Exeter connection talks start in earnest

Tooleville residents’ hard-fought campaign for consolidation fell short in September 2019 when Exeter City Council turned down the community’s request to connect. Now the two parties have another shot at helping Tooleville residents attain their right to water after over 20 years of struggle.  This time around, Blanca Escobedo, Tulare County regional policy manager with Leadership Counsel said Leadership Counsel, Self-Help Enterprises and Maria Olivera, a board member of the Tooleville Mutual Nonprofit Water Association and representatives from the city of Exeter met on a conference call last week to discuss the background of the project, what the consolidation process is and what the next steps are. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: Tooleville, Exeter connection talks start in earnest

Arvin finally achieves federal standard for arsenic in drinking water

Federal and state officials announced Tuesday that Arvin has finally met the federal Safe Drinking Water Act’s arsenic health standard after a frustrating, 13-year process that resulted in five new groundwater wells serving about 20,000 people.  Area residents no longer have to use tokens to get safe drinking water through free vending machines since tests reported the city’s new wells produce water containing 7.3 parts per billion of arsenic, which is below the federal standard of 10 ppb and a big improvement from readings of 20 to 56 ppb reported in 2008. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here: Arvin finally achieves federal standard for arsenic in drinking water

Isabella Lake dam project marks two milestones completed

As of October, two of the five milestones planned for the Isabella Lake dam update have been completed, with the remaining three at various stages of completion.  According to the October Site Report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, pre-construction engineering and design as well as construction of a USFS fire station and admin facilities are both finished.  What remains is the U.S. Forest Service Visitor’s Information Center (in planning), a permanent operations building (due 2023) and dams and spillways construction, underway since 2018 and due by 2022. ... ”  Read more from the Kern Valley Sun here: Isabella Lake dam project marks two milestones completed

EASTERN SIERRA

Major milestone met to protect Mono Basin ecosystem

A major milestone in the effort to protect the Mono Basin ecosystem was reached last week. On October 1, 2021, the California State Water Board approved a comprehensive program to restore four key tributaries to Mono Lake, located in the Eastern Sierra near Yosemite. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) will implement this program, as a condition of its water rights license to withdraw water for transport to its customers in the Los Angeles area.  The broad strokes of the restoration program, which includes improving conditions for native trout on Rush, Parker, Walker, and Lee Vining Creeks, were laid out in the 2013 Mono Basin Settlement Agreement between LADWP and California Trout (CalTrout), the Mono Lake Committee, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Water Board’s recent approval of the settlement ends decades of litigation, negotiations and controversy related to LADWP’s duties to restore twenty miles of fisheries and wildlife habitat in and around Mono Lake. … ”  Read more from Cal Trout here: Major milestone met to protect Mono Basin ecosystem

COACHELLA VALLEY

Coachella Valley commentary: Conservation is the key to minimizing monthly bills and preserving local water supplies during droughts

Extended droughts broken up by rainy years are part of a natural cycle here in California. Our state is once again in another dry period with areas of Northern California already experiencing a significant impact. It is not a question of if, but when the Coachella Valley faces a similar fate. Thanks to decades of targeted projects and careful planning, Mission Springs Water District will have enough water to serve our 40,000 customers across 135 square miles in and around Desert Hot Springs.  MSWD relies on groundwater for 100% of our award-winning water supply. Protecting this treasured resource is vital for multiple reasons. Not only does the Mission Creek Subbasin serve our customers, it also sits at the headwaters of the entire Coachella Valley Groundwater Basin, which provides drinking water for 400,000 people in all nine desert cities and surrounding unincorporated areas. … ”  Read more from the Uken Report here: Conservation is the key to minimizing monthly bills and preserving local water supplies during droughts

SAN DIEGO

Water Authority wins national 2021 EPA WaterSense Excellence Award

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recognized the San Diego County Water Authority with a 2021 WaterSense Excellence Award for advancing water efficiency through its Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper, or QWEL, program. The Water Authority received one of 34 WaterSense awards last week at the national WaterSmart Innovations Conference in Las Vegas.  Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Water Authority pivoted its QWEL courses to a virtual format. The Water Authority partnered with San Diego Gas & Electric to install nearly 4,000 WaterSense-labeled showerheads for county residents and helped reduce outdoor water waste by using its WaterSmart Contractor Incentive Program to install more than 1,000 WaterSense-labeled irrigation controller stations, saving more than 6 million gallons of water. ... ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here:  Water Authority Wins National 2021 EPA WaterSense Excellence Award

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Along the Colorado River …

Federal investments are needed to address drought in the West

Jennifer Pitt, Colorado River Program Director for the National Audubon Society, writes, “Climate change has come barging through the front doors of the Colorado River Basin. That’s what I told a Senate subcommittee this month while discussing drought in the West and how climate change is affecting the Colorado River.  The Colorado River has lost 20 percent of its historic flows in the past 20 years, and scientists forecast another 9 percent loss with every degree of warming. We need to act quickly to avoid a catastrophic water supply crisis; we also need long-term solutions because as temperatures continue to increase, the Colorado River’s water supply will keep shrinking. ... ”  Read more from The Hill here: Federal investments are needed to address drought in the West

Great Salt Lake’s demise spurs water emergency for Utah

Utah’s iconic Great Salt Lake, long neglected by regulators, is collapsing due to a historic drought and climate change.  And, in a cruel twist, the demise of the lake — which shriveled to a record low level in July — may threaten Utah’s posh ski towns and even the state’s water supply.  At issue: the “lake effect.”  The sprawling Great Salt Lake doesn’t freeze in the winter due to its high salt content, so when some storms blow in, they collect the lake’s moisture, strengthen, then deliver extra snow to the Wasatch Mountains.  That snow is the lifeblood of ski towns like Alta and Snowbird, but it also contributes to water supply. Utah gets 95 percent of its water from snowpack. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Great Salt Lake’s demise spurs water emergency for Utah

Western settlers caused erosion in wet meadows. Now, volunteers are restoring these vital habitats

On a warm August morning, a group of volunteers gathers in the high desert about 20 miles outside of Gunnison, Colorado. Here, surrounded by sagebrush and armed with branches and stones, they are ready to help restore a critical wildlife habitat.  Volunteers are here to work on a wet meadow restoration project. A wet meadow is a riparian area in the arid sagebrush landscape.  “I always joke around that I should’ve majored in basket weaving instead of wildlife management because that’s definitely a skill we’re going to be using today,” said Nathan Seward, a conservation biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. … ”  Read more from KUNC here: Western settlers caused erosion in wet meadows. Now, volunteers are restoring these vital habitats

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In national water news today …

The more things change . . . . The most recent Clean Water Act confusion

Just a few years ago, before the Trump Administration EPA revoked and replaced the Obama Administration EPA’s regulations determining the reach of the Clean Water Act, the Obama Administration EPA regulations were the law in half of the United States and the Clean Water Act itself as it had been interpreted by various Federal Courts as well as by EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers in guidance memoranda, but not regulations, was the law in the other half of the United States.  Why did we not have one Federal law that applied from sea to shining sea?  Because some but not all Federal Courts had struck down the Obama Administration EPA’s regulations which remained effective except where Federal Judges had determined otherwise.  Today, we find ourselves on the way to the same situation. … ”  Read more from the National Law Review here: The more things change . . . . The most recent Clean Water Act confusion

NEPA rules rewrite: Déjà vu all over again

This is the first in a series of eAlerts on proposed revisions to regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) issued by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) initiates “Phase 1” of CEQ’s two-part effort to reconsider the comprehensive modification of the NEPA regulations issued during the Trump administration. The 2020 regulations were the first and only significant revisions of the NEPA regulations since the regulations were first issued in 1978. In his first day in office, President Biden directed the CEQ to reassess the 2020 regulations by Executive Order 13990.  This “Phase 1” rulemaking has previously been described by CEQ as including a “narrow” set of changes to address the Biden administration’s overarching goals of improving our nation’s resilience to the impacts of climate change and prioritizing environmental justice, as well as addressing near-term “interpretive and implementation problems” with the 2020 regulations. … ”  Read more from Nossaman here: NEPA rules rewrite: Déjà vu all over again

We can learn a lot from ancient civilizations about modern water management

This year witnessed one of the hottest and driest summers in recent history for Western Canada and the American Southwest. The resulting droughts adversely affected food supply and helped send meat prices rising three times faster than inflation.  Despite the severity of these droughts, the worst may be yet to come. Extreme weather events are expected to become increasingly severe and frequent in the Prairies, with longer dry periods coupled with the risk of floods from intense rainstorms. While Canada benefits from a world-class agricultural technology industry, lessons can also be drawn from low-tech solutions developed by ancient societies that flourished in arid climates. One such society was the Nabataean culture, which thrived in the hyper-arid deserts of Jordan, northern Saudi Arabia and southern Israel 2,000 years ago. For over a decade, I have worked on Nabataean and Roman archeological sites of this region, exploring their building practices and innovative strategies for overcoming environmental limitations. … ”  Continue reading from the World Economic Forum here: We can learn a lot from ancient civilizations about modern water management

U.S. on pace for record number of billion-dollar weather disasters

The U.S. has seen 18 weather and climate disasters costing at least $1 billion so far this year, according to a new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  This year’s disasters include the February cold snap in Texas, wildfires out West, and 20 named storms so far in the Atlantic basin. 2021 is on pace to break the record for billion-dollar weather disasters, 22, which was set last year. Already, this year’s disasters have inflicted a greater toll, causing $104.8 billion in damages, compared with $100.2 billion in total last year, and killing 538 people, more than double the number killed in all of 2020. … ”  Read more from Yale e360 here: U.S. on pace for record number of billion-dollar weather disasters

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Today’s featured articles …

CA WATER COMMISSION: Groundwater Rights Summary and Allocations Challenges for Market Development

For the past several months, the California Water Commission has been leading a process to frame state considerations around how Groundwater Sustainability Agencies might construct well-managed groundwater trading programs.  The Commission has been hearing from experts and the public at workshops and Commission meetings to inform their work.  The project will culminate in a white paper that summarizes their findings and includes a set of conclusions and suggested next steps for how to shape well-managed groundwater trading programs with appropriate safeguards for communities, farms, and the environment, and what role the state could play to ensure that those protections exist.

At the July meeting of the California Water Commission, commissioners heard from Amanda Pearson, Attorney IV at the State Water Resources Control Board, who gave the State perspective on water rights and SGMA, and from Valerie Kincaid, Partner at Paris Kincaid Wasiewski LLP, who provided an overview of groundwater rights law and how it relates to water markets.

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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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