WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for Oct. 10-15: Groundwater rights and water markets; Tidal restoration in the Delta, plus all the top water news of the week

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

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This week’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.

Click here to read this article.


BAY DELTA SCIENCE CONFERENCE: Montezuma Wetlands Project: Early Results and Lessens Learned from a Newly Breached Marsh

The Montezuma Wetlands Project is a multi-phase restoration project that uses dredged sediment to raise elevations in diked, subsided baylands to restore ~2,000 acres of a tidal wetland ecosystem. This project is unique, as it receives most of its revenue from the acceptance of dredged sediments.

In operation since 2003, the project is on target to accomplish its restoration goals in support of the Long-Term Management Strategy (LTMS), established by a joint effort of the Corps and other federal, state, and regional agencies to maximize the safe, beneficial reuse of sediment dredged from SF Estuary.

At the 2021 Bay-Delta Science Conference, Cassie Pinnell, a senior ecologist with Vollmar Natural Lands Consulting and the project ecologist for the Montezuma Wetlands project, gave a presentation on the early results and lessons learned from the newly Montezuma wetlands marsh.

Click here to read this article.


FEATURE: Agricultural Pesticides Accumulate in Fish Prey Species in the Delta

Written by Elyse DeFranco

The toxic effects of insecticides sprayed on Delta farmlands don’t stop at the pests they seek to target. Draining into the watershed via runoff, these chemicals then impact the aquatic invertebrates that fish depend on for food. A new study found that the common insecticide chlorpyrifos is accumulating in one such fish prey species, and that increasing exposure to the chemical causes genetic changes that induce resilience.

Click here to read this article.

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In California water news this week …

Costa, Garamendi, Harder send letter expressing concern over state’s lawsuit against 2019 biological opinions

Representatives Jim Costa (CA-16), John Garamendi (CA-03), and Josh Harder (CA-10) sent a letter to state and federal agencies expressing concerns about new filings in the State of California’s lawsuit challenging the management of the federal Central Valley Project and protections for endangered fish species.  In the letter the members wrote:   “We understand the new filings include an unprecedented operations plan for the coming water year, submitted by the State with the federal Bureau of Reclamation. Amid ongoing extreme drought conditions facing California and across the West, a court-ordered water management plan for a single water year, which has not been subject to adequate scientific or public review, is the worst possible outcome. … ”  Read more from Congressman Jim Costa’s office here: Costa, Garamendi, Harder lead letter to preserve the Valley’s water supply

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

Column: Democrats’ new strategy to winning Calif. water wars? Flush the science.

Columnist Wayne Western writes, “In October of 2019, the desire of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) desire to update the biological opinions governing the Sacramento-San Joaquin was met after more than a decade of detailed data on water management, fish species management, and flows in relation to both were compiled.  New biological opinions, issued in 2019, were the result of the very latest scientific information.  That was just two years ago.  The reinitiated consultation of long-term coordinated operations of the Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP), pursuant to the federal Endangered Species Act was complete. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Column: Democrats’ new strategy to winning Calif. water wars? Flush the science.

La Nina arrives, threatening to stoke droughts and roil markets

A weather-roiling La Nina appears to have emerged across the equatorial Pacific, setting the stage for worsening droughts in California and South America, frigid winters in parts of the U.S. and Japan and greater risks for the world’s already strained energy and food supplies.  The phenomenon—which begins when the atmosphere reacts to a cooler patch of water over the Pacific Ocean—will likely last through at least February, the U.S. Climate Prediction Center said Thursday. There is a 57% chance it be a moderate event, like the one that started last year, the center said. While scientists may need months to confirm whether La Nina has definitely returned, all the signs are indicating it’s here. … ”  Continue reading from Bloomberg here: La Nina arrives, threatening to stoke droughts and roil markets

SEE ALSO: Double-dip La Nina emerges: Climate pattern may influence remainder of hurricane season, winter ahead, from NOAA

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

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 

Atmospheric rivers are stable for now — but change is on the way

Yale researchers are charting the course of mighty “rivers” in the sky that are holding steady in the face of climate change — for now.  In future decades, however, climate-induced changes to these atmospheric rivers could drastically increase extreme precipitation events in some parts of the world, they report in a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.  Atmospheric rivers — long, winding filaments of intense water vapor — account for as much as 90% of the moisture sent toward the North and South poles. They are thousands of miles long and hundreds of miles wide; globally, they transport more water than the discharge of 27 Mississippi Rivers.  And yet their meanderings have been somewhat mysterious. … ”  Read more from Yale University here: Atmospheric rivers are stable for now — but change is on the way

Developing rain storm in the Bay Area could calm wildfire activity next week

A potential mid-October storm could bring rain to Northern California next week, possibly quelling wildfire risk in the region, according to forecasters.  The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center said “above-normal precipitation” for the West Coast could arrive next Thursday, bringing “possible record-breaking precipitation for late October” over parts of the region. Forecasters said two inches of rain over three days could fall over the Pacific Northwest.  National Weather Service meteorologist Roger Gass said the Bay Area will see warmer temperatures through Saturday and as high pressure builds, a cold front will push through the region on Sunday, especially in the Santa Clara Valley and San Jose. Lower temperatures will persist through Monday and an “unsettled weather pattern” will move into the West Coast, increasing the chances of rain. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Developing rain storm in the Bay Area could calm wildfire activity next week

Central Valley Project begins 2022 water year with 3.21 million acre-feet of storage

As severe drought conditions continue, the Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project began the 2022 water year with 3.21 million acre-feet of water—one of the lowest starting points in recent years. CVP major reservoirs include: Trinity, Shasta, Folsom, New Melones, Millerton, and the federal share of San Luis Reservoir—approximately 52% of a 15-year average. The water year begins Oct. 1 each year and ends Sept. 30.  “After a dry 2020 water year, a critically dry 2021, and beginning the 2022 water year with one of the lowest carryover storage amounts in recent years, Reclamation remains all hands on deck and fully committed to planning for another dry year,” said Regional Director Ernest Conant. “We will continue to collaborate with our water users, stakeholders, and agency partners to develop and implement proactive measures and creative solutions to get through the coming water year together and best manage our critical water resources.” … ”  Read more from the Bureau of Reclamation here: Central Valley Project begins 2022 water year with 3.21 million acre-feet of storage

Creating collaborative recharge partnerships in the San Joaquin Valley

Bringing the San Joaquin Valley’s groundwater basins into balance by the early 2040s is going to be challenging, but two neighboring groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) in Madera County are collaborating to move the process forward. We spoke with one engineering consultant and one general manager—Joe Hopkins of Aliso Water District Groundwater Sustainability Agency and Sarah Woolf of the Triangle T Water District—to hear about their agencies’ efforts to comply with the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). … ”  Read more from the PPIC here: Creating collaborative recharge partnerships in the San Joaquin Valley 

Summer of 2021, another dry-well-a-palooza

Phones were ringing practically non-stop at Self-Help Enterprises toward the end of this summer with valley residents all calling about the same problem: Their wells had gone dry.  Employees were fielding 100s of calls a month from people whose wells had dried up, Marliez Diaz wrote in an email. Diaz is a water sustainability manager for Self-Help a community organization based in Visalia that works on housing and water issues in the San Joaquin Valley.  The number of calls has slowed so far in October, but the organization is still getting six or seven calls a day. … ”  Read more from Capital Press here: Summer of 2021, another dry-well-a-palooza

State Water Board approves new stream restoration measures for Mono Lake Basin

State water officials took a significant step on October 1 toward reversing damage to the Mono Lake Basin from excessive water diversions through major revisions to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s (LADWP) water rights licenses.  The changes approved by the State Water Resources Control Board provide significant updates to an existing stream restoration program and will restore instream flows to 20 miles of creek and fisheries habitats in the basin. LADWP is required to construct an outlet structure at Grant Lake Dam to facilitate higher peak flow releases during certain months and accelerate ecosystem recovery processes that will benefit the trout fishery and riparian habitats of Rush, Lee Vining, Walker and Parker Creeks, tributaries to Mono Lake.  The new measures build upon a historical 1994 State Water Board decision that established water export limitations and conditions to protect the environment in and around Mono Lake. ... ”  Read more from the State Water Board here: State Water Board approves new stream restoration measures for Mono Lake Basin

Editorial: How the deal to stop draining Mono Lake can help settle California’s future water wars

The Los Angeles Times editorial board writes of the agreement, ” … It’s an important achievement, demonstrating that it’s possible for a city that once plundered the pristine Eastern Sierra to be a champion of its restoration. Particular credit is due to the Mono Lake Committee, which was formed in 1978 to save the lake; and also its adversary, the L.A. Department of Water and Power, which historically has kept water flowing to the city and continues to press for a reliable water supply, but is now also a partner in protecting the environment. Managing the inherent tension between those two goals is one of the definitional tasks of 21st century California. ... ”  Read the full editorial at the LA Times here:  Editorial: How the deal to stop draining Mono Lake can help settle California’s future water wars

Why Southern California fears too much water conservation

As Gov. Gavin Newsom weighs new mandatory drought restrictions, Southern California leaders fear cuts in urban water use could force already sky-high water bills ever higher.  Unlike much of Northern and Central California, the region isn’t hurting for water, yet. Top water officials insist they have enough supplies for at least one more hot summer, perhaps two.  That’s because Southern California imports water from the coveted Colorado River and has invested heavily in storage capacity and drought-proof supplies, such as water recycling in Orange County and desalination in San Diego County. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here:  Why Southern California fears too much water conservation

Q/A: Building the tunnel, Part 1: Nothing boring about boring technology

There is absolutely nothing boring about a tunnel boring machine (TBM). Today’s TBMs resemble massive subterranean factories, capable of cutting through harder rock and against higher water pressures than ever before. TBMs can now operate in mixed ground conditions and in a host of other environments that would have been impossible as recently as the 1970s and 1980s.  For the first episode in a special two-part Delta Conveyance Deep Dive series on tunnel construction, we invited two of the Delta Conveyance Project design team’s leading consultants on tunnel design and engineering to talk about the state‑of‑the‑art technology that would be used to build the Delta Conveyance Project… ”  Read more from DWR News here: Q/A: Building the tunnel, Part 1: Nothing boring about boring technology

State gets federal ultimatum over oilfield injection problems

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued an ultimatum to California oil and water agencies that have fallen years behind schedule in their efforts to bring the state’s oilfield injection program into compliance with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.  A Sept. 16 letter from the director of the EPA’s water division, Tomás Torres, gave the California Natural Resources Agency and the State Water Resources Control Board 30 days to update their proposed plan for completing final paperwork for exempting certain underground aquifers from the SDWA by no later than Sept. 30, 2022. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here: State gets federal ultimatum over oilfield injection problems

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 

Governor Newsom signs SB 821, restoring compensation to Delta Independent Science Board

On Thursday, October 7, 2021, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 821, which mandates that members of the Delta Independent Science Board shall not be employees of the Delta Stewardship Council, and that the Council shall issue contracts to pay the Delta Independent Science Board members at professional scientific rates.  The Governor’s signing of SB 821 ends an embarrassing chapter in the state’s administration of the Delta Independent Science Board. … ”  Read more from the California Water Research blog here: Governor Newsom signs SB 821, restoring compensation to Delta Independent Science Board

How a California state forest became a battleground for logging redwoods on public land

A century-old redwood — California’s most revered tree — lies dead on the forest floor.  Its trunk has been sawed into two large sections, a message scrawled on its stump in red marker: “STOP.” Beneath, the stump’s diameter is recorded: 55 inches, about the height of a 10-year-old child. Lower still, in smaller letters, another message: “This is not fire prevention.”  Surrounding this tree are other redwoods that have been felled or girdled, meaning large swaths of their bark have been carved away from their trunks. More redwoods are marked blue — they too are slated for a timber harvest. Dead foliage and piles of branches abound.  The wounded and dead trees look like casualties left behind on a battlefield. And in a way, that’s what they are. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here: How a California state forest became a battleground for logging redwoods on public land

Wildfire experts escalate fight over saving California forests

As the Caldor Fire roared into the Lake Tahoe basin more than a month ago, Brian Newman took some comfort in the surroundings. An operations section chief with Cal Fire, Newman knew that thousands of acres of trees and brush had been deliberately removed from around the basin in recent years. He and other firefighters said the work helped level the playing field, turning imminent disaster into one of the most dramatic success stories of the 2021 wildfire season. … “Obviously, the fuel reduction and the thinning played a part — a large part,” said Newman, who patrolled that night in a Cal Fire pickup. But Chad Hanson, an influential environmentalist with a Ph.D. from UC Davis, looked at the Caldor Fire and drew a different conclusion: Forest thinning didn’t work. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Wildfire experts escalate fight over saving California forests

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 regional water news this week …

NORTH COAST

Fort Bragg downgrades water emergency, no longer receiving water from Ukiah

Recent rainfall and the arrival of a desalination system are allowing Fort Bragg to reduce the city’s water emergency from a Stage 4 water crisis to a Stage 2 water alert. That means businesses and residents can ease up slightly on their water conservation efforts. The city was also able to pause receipts of water from the city of Ukiah since water deliveries were exceeding demand. Fort Bragg can meet that demand now without outside help. … ”  Read more from the Mendocino Voice here: Fort Bragg downgrades water emergency, no longer receiving water from Ukiah

SACRAMENTO VALLEY

A joint effort to protect the Central Valley’s water, ecology

Like a human fingerprint, California’s Sacramento Valley is truly unique. On the leading edge of ecological and economical sustainability, it’s also an exceptional place to live, work, and raise a family. The Sacramento Valley joins together a world-renowned mosaic of natural and human abundance: productive farmlands, teeming wildlife refuges and managed wetlands, the largest salmon runs south of the Columbia River, dynamic rural and urban communities, and life-giving rivers and creeks that support it all.  Yet we are missing the full suite of benefits once provided by the interaction of the Sacramento River with the Valley’s formerly vast floodplain wetlands. … ”  Read more from the Northern California Water Association blog here: A joint effort to protect the Central Valley’s water, ecology

Reclamation implements Folsom Reservoir power bypass to help protect salmon on the Lower American River

This week, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation initiated a Folsom Power Bypass to reduce river water temperatures and protect salmonids as spawning season begins on the Lower American River.  A power bypass allows Reclamation to access and release cold water below the power unit penstocks at Folsom Reservoir, thereby reducing river water temperatures to benefit rearing steelhead and spawning fall-run Chinook salmon. This is especially critical given that the LAR this summer was operated to a temperature of 71° F due to the extremely dry hydrology and low Folsom Reservoir storage. Technical analysis showed that the power bypass will not deplete the Folsom cold-water pool prior to the end of November, when ambient air temperatures are expected to lower water temperatures to a point where a power bypass is no longer needed. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Water Forum here: Reclamation implements Folsom Reservoir power bypass to help protect salmon on the Lower American River

MOUNTAIN COUNTIES

Lake Tahoe drops below its natural rim

Lake Tahoe is now terminal.  The UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center on Tuesday night reported that the level of Lake Tahoe fell precipitously over the past couple of days despite the recent snow and has fallen below its natural rim.  The center said the level reached the natural rim at 9 a.m. on Tuesday and then rose slightly a couple of hours later, but by 5 p.m. it was again at the rim and has continued to fall. The water level falling below the rim is six days sooner than the center anticipated. … ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune here: Lake Tahoe drops below its natural rim

SEE ALSO: Water level hits four-year low at Lake Tahoe, from KCRA Channel 3

Boreal makes drought-friendly snow ahead of ski season

The summer fun has come and gone in the high Sierra and the mountains are ready for the change of seasons.  Up at Boreal, staff members have been busy boxing up the bike equipment and dusting off the skis and snowboards.  They’re getting the resort ready inside and out for an opening day that is fast approaching.  “We are doing all sorts of things to get ready for the season,” Boreal manager Max Gaal told FOX40. “I hope we have a big winter with lots of folks getting outside to enjoy the sports they love.” … ”  Read more from KTXL here: Boreal makes drought-friendly snow ahead of ski season

NAPA/SONOMA

NapaSan remains in wait-and-see mode for winery wastewater

Napa Sanitation District is willing to explore being part of the winery wastewater disposal solution — if it can be convinced there is a pressing problem. “Nobody’s beating our door down at the moment,” district Board Director and Napa County Supervisor Ryan Gregory said. Napa County has several hundred wineries that create wastewater containing biodegradable organic matter and other materials. This winery wastewater is hard for the NapaSan treatment plant to handle on a large scale, though the plant does treat some. On Wednesday, the NapaSan Board of Directors considered whether the district should do more for wineries. … ”  Read more from the Napa Register here: NapaSan remains in wait-and-see mode for winery wastewater

BAY AREA

Pittsburg: State sues to stop companies dumping, releasing toxic chemicals

The California attorney general has filed a civil suit against major chemical companies to stop them dumping and releasing toxic materials from a chemical manufacturing plant near Pittsburg. … The suit alleges that the companies are illegally treating wastewater with hazardous levels of toxic chemicals, operating numerous tanks that release uncontrolled toxic emissions into the air, and are failing to provide documents and make required determinations to monitor their wastewater treatment systems. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here: Pittsburg: State sues to stop companies dumping, releasing toxic chemicals

Water budgets and drought fees coming to 1 million residents in San Jose and neighboring communities

In the latest fallout from the worsening drought, residents of San Jose — which received the lowest rainfall in its recorded history last year — and surrounding communities are about to be given tougher water conservation rules than any major city in California.  The San Jose Water Company, a private firm that provides drinking water to 1 million people in San Jose, Cupertino, Campbell, Los Gatos, Saratoga and Monte Sereno, has begun sending notices to residents informing them it is moving forward with mandatory rules to set monthly residential water budgets with financial penalties for homeowners who exceed them.  The system, which the company last put in place in 2015 and 2016 during California’s previous drought, will require residential customers to cut water use 15% from 2019 levels or pay $7.13 in surcharges for each unit of water they use above that amount. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Water budgets and drought fees coming to 1 million residents in San Jose and neighboring communities

CENTRAL COAST

Pajaro Valley Water board approves Recharge Net Metering Program

On September 22, 2021, the PV Water Board of Directors enthusiastically endorsed promoting the Recharge Net Metering (ReNeM) Pilot Program to a formal, ongoing program in its quiver of management strategies to achieve sustainable groundwater resources. The ReNeM Program incentivizes groundwater recharge projects within the Pajaro Valley Groundwater Basin through a publicprivate partnership by providing landowners (and/or their tenants) with rebates based on net stormwater infiltration benefitThe intent of the Program is to augment and support the Basin Management Plan (Plan) by helping to collect, infiltrate and recharge stormwater runoff in locations within the Pajaro Valley that are deemed highly suitable for managed aquifer recharge. … ”  Continue reading this press release from PV Water here:  Pajaro Valley Water board approves Recharge Net Metering Program 

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

SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY

The long-stallled San Joaquin River bypass may move foward

Efforts to complete the widening of Paradise Cut that would significantly improve flood protection for urbanized areas of Manteca, Lathrop, and Stockton may finally move forward.  The San Joaquin Area Flood Control Area (SJAFCA) is positioning itself to be the lead agency to shepherd the project involving widening the seven-mile long Paradise Cut where it branches off the San Joaquin River and passes beneath Interstate 5 just north of the Interstate 205 interchange to where it connects with the Old River. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here: The long-stallled San Joaquin River bypass may move foward

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

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

State begins effort to clean up toxic ‘Delano Plume’

More than a decade after elevated levels of a cancer-causing chemical were found in downtown Delano, residents now believe a solution has been reached.  On Wednesday, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control showed off new construction that is meant to filter the toxic chemical Tetrachloroethylene, or PCE, from beneath buildings near Main Street in Delano. In 2008, a groundwater test of a nearby Chevron station revealed the presence of PCE in the soil. The state allows for a maximum PCE level of five parts per billion. The level found in the groundwater test was 440 parts per billion, according to DTSC. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here: State begins effort to clean up toxic ‘Delano Plume’

Unlined waste disposal pits endanger groundwater in San Joaquin Valley

A new study by the energy science and policy research institute, Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers (PSE) for Healthy Energy shows that the disposal of over 16 billion barrels of oil and gas wastewater into unlined pits over a 50-year period has introduced salts, carcinogens, and other toxins into regional aquifers.   For decades, California law has allowed the use of unlined ponds to dispose of water extracted during oil and gas production. California is one of the last states in the nation to allow the industry to dispose of oil and gas wastewater—known as produced water—into unlined ponds. Over time, this produced water percolates underground, raising the salinity of groundwater and contaminating local and regional groundwater resources. ... ”  Read more from PSE Healthy Energy here: Unlined waste disposal pits endanger groundwater in San Joaquin Valley

Arvin, Federal officials announce city has reached federal water quality standards

Federal, state, and local officials announced Tuesday that the water service in Arvin completed a 13-year project to improve water quality and bring its supply to meet the minimum arsenic levels to comply with Federal water quality standards.  Work to mitigate the amount of arsenic in water served by the Arvin Community Services District began in 2008 when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered the district to reach a maximum of 10 parts of arsenic per billion.  Working with the EPA and California State Water Resources Control Board, Arvin’s water utility tapped funds from both Federal and state agencies to improve water wells. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Arvin, Federal officials announce city has reached federal water quality standards

Gladstone Land acquires nut orchard and option to purchase stored water in California

Gladstone Land Corporation announced that it has acquired 1,284 gross acres of farmland, including over 1,200 planted acres of pistachios and almonds (a portion of which is organic), located in Kern County, California, and 19,670 acre-feet of stored water (equal to approximately 6.4 billion gallons) located within the Semitropic Water Storage District water bank for a total of approximately $43.0 million.  In connection with the acquisition, Gladstone Land entered into a 10-year, triple-net lease agreement for the farmland. This is the third and final closing of a previously announced three-part acquisition that will result in total consideration of approximately $84.2 million. … ”  Read more from Fresh Plaza here: Gladstone Land acquires nut orchard and option to purchase stored water in California

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Radioactive waste fell on some LA-area neighborhoods during 2018 Woolsey fire, new study shows

High levels of radioactive particles landed on some homes, in parks, and in backyards where children play — during the massive 2018 Woolsey fire which started at the contaminated Santa Susana Field Lab — according to a peer-reviewed study just published by a team of scientists known for studying environmental disasters.  What’s stunning about the findings is that they run contrary to what California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) said to calm public fears in the hours after the Woolsey Fire, “We do not believe the fire has caused any releases of hazardous materials… associated with contamination at the [SSFL] site.”  “The DTSC lied. They said that contamination from hadn’t migrated away from Santa Susana and the study proves that it has,” said Jeni Knack, part of a group of volunteers who helped collect samples analyzed in the study. … ”  Read more from NBC LA here: Radioactive waste fell on some LA-area neighborhoods during 2018 Woolsey fire, new study shows

California’s dirty little secret: Oil wells in the backyard

As a child, Ashley Hernandez remembers pretending that the oil pumpjacks that loomed over her neighborhood were dinosaurs. …  It wasn’t until she was in high school that Hernandez started to learn about the possible connections between the nosebleeds, the cancer, the asthma, the undrinkable water, and the oil.  Wilmington and the neighboring community of Carson are home to five oil refineries, as well as the Wilmington Oil Field — the third-most productive patch in the United States.  More than 3,400 onshore wells have been drilled in the field since oil was first discovered there in 1932; today, the site pumps out 46,000 barrels per day from 1,550 active wells. Wilmington is also home to more than 50,000 residents, more than 90 percent of whom are people of color. Due to the impact of the oil and gas drilling and refining, census tracts in Wilmington are exposed to more pollution than 80 to 90 percent of the state of California. … ”  Read more from The Grist here: California’s dirty little secret: Oil wells in the backyard

How to beat the drought? Inland Empire water agency wants to make it rain

Programs from the drought-busting handbook practiced by Southern California water agencies include recycling water, building storm-water capture basins and offering cash rebates for replacing thirsty lawns with xeriscape landscaping.  With the grip from a second year of drought tightening, a regional water-planning agency in the Inland Empire is moving ahead for the first time in its history with a more controversial program: cloud seeding.  The Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority Commission has approved a four-year pilot cloud-seeding project in yet-to-be-determined locations in and near the mountains of San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange and a portion of Los Angeles counties, said Jeff Mosher, SAWPA general manager. … ”  Read more from the Riverside Press-Enterprise here: How to beat the drought? Inland Empire water agency wants to make it rain

California, Arizona water agencies partner to advance development of large-scale recycled water project

Building on increased collaboration on the Colorado River, water agencies in Southern California and Arizona have forged a new partnership to advance development of one of the largest water recycling plants in the country – a project that would help restore balance to the over-stressed river.  Through an agreement approved Tuesday by Metropolitan Water District’s Board of Directors, the Central Arizona Project and Arizona Department of Water Resources will contribute up to $6 million to environmental planning of the Regional Recycled Water Program, a project to purify treated wastewater to produce a new, drought-proof water supply for Southern California. Southern Nevada Water Authority signed a similar agreement with Metropolitan earlier this year. … ”  Read more from Yahoo News here: California, Arizona water agencies partner to advance development of large-scale recycled water project

SEE ALSO: Southern California, Arizona water suppliers collaborate on water recycling concept, from the Inland Daily Bulletin

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In national water news today …

EPA advances WOTUS rewrite

The Biden administration has crafted a new definition of “water of the U.S.,” wading into a politically explosive regulation that has riled lawmakers, courts, farmers and environmental groups for decades.  Today, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers sent a proposed rule to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget to revise the definition of what constitutes a “water of the U.S.,” or WOTUS.  “This action marks an important step in the agencies’ efforts to ensure clean and safe water for all,” EPA spokesperson Nick Conger wrote in an email. “EPA and Army are committed to developing a reasonable, effective, and durable definition of WOTUS that protects public health, the environment, and downstream communities while supporting economic opportunity, agriculture, and other industries.” … ”  Read more from E&E News here: EPA advances WOTUS rewrite

Lawyers confused over water jurisdiction after conflicting rulings

Water law experts disagree broadly about whether two federal court decisions vacating the Trump-era definition of the waters of the U.S., or WOTUS, applies nationwide as the Biden administration defines the term for itself.  “There has been a period of transition and confusion since” the August decision vacating the Trump-era Navigable Waters Protection Rule, said Kevin Minoli, a partner at Alston & Bird LLP in Washington and former principal deputy general counsel at the Environmental Protection Agency during the Obama administration.  The confusion stems mainly from at least four federal court rulings—two vacating the the Trump-era rule and two remanding without vacatur. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here: Lawyers confused over water jurisdiction after conflicting rulings

Toxic algae blooms are multiplying. The government has no plan to help.

Most of the air we breathe comes from algae and other aquatic organisms that have been photosynthesizing sunlight into oxygen for a billion years. But not all algae are life-giving. Blue-green algae contain a powerful class of toxins called cyanotoxins. When these algae form blooms — rapid accumulations of algae in fresh or marine water — they can damage ecosystems and cause vomiting, fever, headache, neurological problems, and even death in humans and animals.  These poisonous organisms have been cropping up a lot lately. … But despite the dangers of algae-related poisoning and the harmful and costly impacts of blooms on ecosystems, the federal government doesn’t have a cohesive strategy for dealing with freshwater harmful algal blooms, or HABs. That’s the conclusion of a new watchdog report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General. … ”  Read more from The Grist here: Toxic algae blooms are multiplying. The government has no plan to help.

Weekly features …

BLOG ROUND-UP: California’s wildly inequitable water rights system; Will the Biden Administration adhere to its commitment to best science with water project operations?; DWR’s inability to take one solid action to protect the Delta; and more …

Click here for the blog round up.

 

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Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

UPDATE: October 13 update on curtailment status of water rights and claims in the Delta watershed

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: 45-Day Public Comment Period Opens for SGM Grant Program Draft Guidelines and Proposal Solicitation Package

VELES WEEKLY REPORT: Light precipitation in Southern California. NQH2O down $47.07 or 5.47% to $813.60

WATER PLAN eNEWS: ~~ Mountain Counties~ Flood-MAR Survey~ Groundwater Webinar~ Water Commission~ Groundwater Trading~ Fellowship Program~~

WORKSHOP NOTICE: Identification of disadvantaged communities

NOTICE: CalEPA – OEHHA CalEnviroScreen 4.0 Update Release

ANNOUNCEMENT: After The Fire.org Is Go To Resource For Post Western Fire Recovery

DELTA eNEWS: ~~ Boring Technology~ Levee Risk~ Delta Leadership~ DPIIC meeting~ ISB meeting~~

FEEDBACK REQUESTED: Delta ISB’s Monitoring Enterprise Review

NOTICE: Notice of Water Right Permit Application A033151 and Request for Release of Priority from A018334 – Santa Cruz County

WORKSHOP: California Water Commission to hold public workshops to explore well-managed groundwater trading programs

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