DAILY DIGEST, 10/26: Weekend storms smashed NorCal weather records; ‘Wildcard’ this winter leaves water resource planners with ‘great uncertainty’; New lawsuit against water transfers to the Valley; Current reservoir conditions; and more …


On the calendar today …

  • FREE WEBINAR: PFAS Strategic Roadmap – EPA’s Commitments to Action: 2021-2024 from 11am to 12pm.  Join members of EPA’s PFAS Council – senior policy and technical leaders from across the Agency – to learn more about the actions EPA plans to take in the coming months and years to protect public health and the environment from the impacts of PFAS.  This is the first of two public webinars that provide an opportunity for interested stakeholders to hear directly from EPA experts and ask questions about the Agency’s research, upcoming actions, and timelines to achieve them.  Click here to register.
  • FREE WEBINAR: Southwest Drought Briefing from 11:30am to 12:05pm.  The most recent United States Drought Monitor indicates that nearly all of the Southwest is experiencing some level of drought, but recent rain is improving drought conditions. This short drought briefing will focus on autumn drought conditions and forecasts for Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada. This will be followed by some case studies of effective management practices. Click here to register.
  • FREE WEBINAR: Case Studies in PFAS Migration and Control from 12pm to 1pm. Attendees will learn about the ubiquity and chemical properties of this class of compounds that result in the unique challenges in mitigating their migration. We will focus on wastewater treatment biosolids and groundwater recharge operations and unique approaches for PFAS management in these settings.Click here to register.

In California water news today …

STORMS

Weekend storms smashed Northern California weather records. Here are five of them

The atmospheric river that left vehicles stranded from flooding, trees downed from wind, traffic snarls and power outages across Northern California also set an impressive number of weather records in its short stint around the region.  Here are some of the major ones ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Weekend storms smashed Northern California weather records. Here are five of them

California rains break all-time records, spurring floods and mudslides

Northern California saw record rainfall Sunday from an atmospheric river storm system.  Downtown Sacramento reported an all-time record 24-hour rainfall total of 5.44 inches, surpassing a mark set in 1880, officials announced early Monday.  Rains began to taper off in the region by daylight, after pounding the area the previous day. A night of relentless rain toppled trees and flooded streets. By Sunday night, many roads in downtown Sacramento were inches-deep in water, backing up traffic and leaving cars precariously passing through water that reached halfway up their tires. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: California rains break all-time records, spurring floods and mudslides

Rain brings much-needed water to drought affected lakes in the Northstate

With heavy rain over the weekend, some drought-stricken lakes in the Northstate are getting some much-needed water.  The level of rain over the weekend has had an effect on the water levels at Whiskeytown, Shasta, and Oroville lakes. At Oroville Lake, the water level rose 20-ft. in three days.  But in the last 24 hours, Shasta Lake only rose 1.63-ft., according to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). Shasta Lake, unlike Whiskeytown Lake, has water diverted from it and sent to the Sacramento River in order to create ideal temperatures for salmon to swim. … ”  Read more from KRCR here: Rain brings much-needed water to drought affected lakes in the Northstate

SEE ALSO: Atmospheric river helps reservoir levels rebound, from the Western Farm Press

Recent Northern California storms made a dent in the drought. But will it be enough?

The parade of storms that blasted California over the past week marked a strong start to the rainy season. Some parts of the state, including Napa, Santa Rosa and Sacramento, received half the rain in 24 hours that they got in all of the past year.  But with California locked in one of its worst droughts in modern history, and some areas short two years’ worth of water, a lot more wet weather is needed to mend the state’s water woes.  The long-term forecast calls for more dry conditions across much of California in the months ahead. Climate scientists are watching a La Niña weather pattern emerge in the tropical Pacific, which can push the storm track to the north and divert needed rain from the state during the crucial wet season. This would make it even harder for California to get the above-average precipitation required to put an end to the drought. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Recent Northern California storms made a dent in the drought. But will it be enough?

Not even record-breaking rainstorm will end California’s drought, experts say

It was music to the ears of Southern Californians.  Raindrops tap-danced on the ground and plinked across rooftops as a powerful storm that drenched the northern part of the state over the weekend moved south.  Powered by an unusually fierce atmospheric river, rain seeped into California’s parched soil and began filling depleted reservoirs. Fire risk in areas that were recently ablaze plummeted in the first significant rain to arrive in seven months. … But the relief is tempered by a longer-term reality: After the storm passes, the drought plaguing much of the state will still be here, experts said.  … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Not even record-breaking rainstorm will end California’s drought, experts say

SEE ALSO: Record rains transform a parched California, but ending drought remains elusive, from the LA Times

Atmospheric river storm: How it affects California’s drought

The conga line of Pacific storms that soaked Northern California over the past week was record shattering.  With 4.05 inches of rain in 24 hours, Sunday was the wettest October day in San Francisco history and the fourth-wettest day ever, going back to the 1849 Gold Rush. That’s an astounding feat for October, which typically isn’t a very wet month. Similarly, San Jose received 50% as much rain over the weekend as it did during the entire previous year. In the East Bay, a foot fell during the week at Tilden Park in Berkeley and Mount Diablo’s summit. And Marin County, the bulls-eye of this weekend’s powerful atmospheric river, ended up with a breathtaking 26 inches over Mount Tamalpais when all was said and done. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Atmospheric river storm: How it affects California’s drought

After a series of stormy superlatives, California settles back into a more seasonable pattern

After a week when California was buffeted by bomb cyclones and atmospheric rivers, the state will return to more typical late October weather in the next few days.  High pressure will begin to build in the region on Tuesday, with gusty northwest winds in the mountains, the National Weather Service said.  Surface high pressure developing in the Great Basin will set up weak offshore winds on Wednesday and Thursday, the weather service said. Temperatures will climb into the 80s in the valleys and coastal side of the mountains, with Thursday being the warmest day. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here: After a series of stormy superlatives, California settles back into a more seasonable pattern

And lastly … ‘What is that sound?’ Howling ‘atmospheric river’ winds make Golden Gate bridge ‘sing’

The howling gale forces winds, whipped up by a potent atmospheric river, whistled through the railing grates of the Golden Gate Bridge, creating an eerie sound track for the storm as it ripped through the San Francisco Bay Area.  The humming noise can be heard for miles and has been a source of annoyance for San Francisco residents ever since a handrail retrofit, designed to make the span more aerodynamic on gusty days, was put into place last year. … ”  Read more and listen from CBS San Francisco here:  ‘What is that sound?’ Howling ‘atmospheric river’ winds make Golden Gate bridge ‘sing’

OTHER STATEWIDE WATER NEWS

‘Wildcard’ this winter leaves water resource planners with ‘great uncertainty’

The onslaught of storms and bomb cyclones over the weekend kicked California’s rainy season off on a high note for those praying for rain, but the state’s water officials remain cautiously optimistic as to whether the storms stand as an omen for more rain to come or if the season’s “wildcard” will exacerbate the drought.  After a scorching summer, experts say it would take 7 to 10 inches of rainfall to get the soil damp enough to provide runoff to depleted reservoirs such as Sonoma County’s Lake Mendocino. It would take more than two feet of rainfall by the end of December to end the ongoing drought in the area by the end of the year. A turn toward a dry winter could “tremendously” impact the surrounding communities. … ”  Read more from AccuWeather here: ‘Wildcard’ this winter leaves water resource planners with ‘great uncertainty’

How improved atmospheric river forecasting can help keep water flowing in California

Atmospheric rivers can bring dangerous flooding, but, without them, California can head into drought. Improving forecasts for these huge storms is a focus for the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes to keep water flowing in the state.  Marty Ralph remembers living in Los Angeles in the 1980s when a huge rainstorm dropped nearly half the rainfall for the whole year in 12 hours. It was at that moment he realized he wanted to study these kind of storms.  Ralph is now the director of the CW3E and says researchers are finding it’s not just the strength of atmospheric rivers but the duration of how long that storm stays over one place. ... ”  Read more from Channel 10 here: How improved atmospheric river forecasting can help keep water flowing in California

Managing water resources in a low-to-no-snow future

Mountain snowpacks around the world are on the decline, and if the planet continues to warm, climate models forecast that snowpacks could shrink dramatically and possibly even disappear altogether on certain mountains, including in the western United States, at some point in the next century. A new study led by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) analyzes the likely timing of a low-to-no-snow future, what it will mean for water management, and opportunities for investments now that could stave off catastrophic consequences.  Their review paper, “A low-to-no-snow future and its impacts on water resources in the western United States,” published in the journal Nature Reviews Earth and Environment, analyzes previous climate projections and finds that if greenhouse gas emissions continue along the high-emissions scenario, low-to-no-snow winters will become a regular occurrence in the western U.S. in 35 to 60 years.  … ”  Read more from Berkeley Lab here: Managing water resources in a low-to-no-snow future

New suit attempts to squash late-calendar water transfers to Valley during drought

Environmental advocates and a pair of Delta-centric water agencies launched a suit seeking to halt water transfers to San Joaquin Valley water users occurring in the late fall.  It’s the latest in a half-decade of litigation aimed at stopping all water transfers – a key drought-era tool for parched Valley water users – from water users awash with water north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  The suit, which demands a Merced County judge halt a two-month extended window of water transfers into the San Joaquin Valley by water users within San Luis and Delta Mendota Water Authority (SLDMWA), argues that the water agency failed to comply with California’s marquee environmental law – the California Environmental Quality Act. ... ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: New suit attempts to squash late-calendar water transfers to Valley during drought

First two projects meet continuing eligibility requirements, move forward in Water Storage Investment Program

Two projects in the Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP), the Los Vaqueros Reservoir Expansion Project and the Harvest Water Program, met the statutory deadline to ensure progress and remain eligible for WSIP funding. Proposition 1, the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014, requires all WSIP applicants to complete their feasibility studies, release a draft version of their environmental documents for public review, provide the DWR director documentation of commitments for at least 75 percent of the nonprogram funding, and have the California Water Commission find their project feasible no later than January 1, 2022. At the October 20 meeting, the Commission found that the Los Vaqueros Reservoir Expansion Project and the Harvest Water Program are both feasible. … ”  Read more from the California Water Commission here: First two projects meet continuing eligibility requirements, move forward in Water Storage Investment Program

California adopts federal ballast water discharge standards

Further to our previous update on the California ballast water discharge regulations back in 2019, the California State Lands Commission (CSLC) has adopted regulatory amendments that will implement the federal ballast water discharge standards for vessels arriving at California ports, among other provisions. These amendments will become effective on 1 January 2022.  The changes incorporate the federal ballast water discharge standards and implementation schedule into California law (2 CCR Section 2293 (a) and amends sections 2291, 2292, 2293, 2294, 2295, 2296, and 2297 of Article 4.7 of Title 2, Division 3, Chapter 1 of the California Code of Regulations (CCR). … ”  Read more from Hellenic Shipping News here: California adopts federal ballast water discharge standards

Radio show: One planet: in California, one million people lack access to clean water

On this edition of Your Call’s One Planet Series, we’re discussing a four-part series by Capital & Main on the disproportionate impact of California’s worsening drought on communities of color and low-income people living in rural and farming areas in California. Nearly 10 years ago, California enacted the Human Right to Water Act to help beleaguered communities in the state. This landmark legislation obligates the state to work towards safe, clean, affordable and accessible drinking water to the one million residents without it. What is being done to provide rural communities with affordable and clean water?”  Guests: Dan Ross, freelance journalist; Sasha Abramsky, journalist and author of The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives.  Listen at KALW here:  Radio show: One planet: in California, one million people lack access to clean water

Estuary Summit pivots from science to people

““Make the unseen more visible in your work,” urged Amanda Bohl, opening speaker for the largely cameras-off audience of 600 virtually assembled for the 2021 State of the San Francisco Estuary Summit this October.  The Delta Stewardship Council staffer’s remarks at the 15th biennial conference, usually a two-day, science-and -policy-heavy networking event but this year an eight-hour Zoom summit, referred to how many things we all work on or people we work with everyday remain invisible. Some of these often unseen yet important things brought up over the course of the day: the indigenous lands upon which so many efforts to restore the Estuary or “manage” its resources take place; the people in local communities left out of government decision-making about water supply or land use; the long legacy of environmental racism and injustice cutting off many urban neighborhoods from open space…  ”  Continue reading at the Estuary News here: Estuary Summit pivots from science to people

Sustainability meets high density data center cooling

The power density for mainstream off-the-shelf 1U servers with multi-processors now typically ranges from 300 to 500 watts, and some models can reach 1,000 watts. When stacked 40 per cabinet, they can demand 12 to 20 kW. The same is true for racks loaded with multiple blade servers.  Cooling at this power density has already proven nearly impossible for older facilities, and is challenging to some data centers designed and built only five years ago. Even many newer data centers can only accommodate some cabinets at this density level through various workarounds, and have realized that this impacts their cooling energy efficiency. … ”  Read more from Data Center Frontier here: Sustainability meets high density data center cooling

Study: Toxic fracking waste is leaking into California groundwater

Chevron has long dominated oil production in Lost Hills, a massive fossil fuel reserve in Central California that was accidentally discovered by water drillers more than a century ago. The company routinely pumps hundreds of thousands of gallons of water mixed with a special concoction of chemicals into the ground at high pressure to shake up shale deposits and release oil and gas. The process — called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — produces thousands of barrels of oil every day. But it also leaves the company saddled with millions of gallons of wastewater laced with toxic chemicals, salts, and heavy metals.  Between the late 1950s and 2008, Chevron disposed much of the slurry produced in Lost Hills in eight cavernous impoundments at its Section 29 facility. … ”  Read more from The Grist here: Study: Toxic fracking waste is leaking into California groundwater

California destroys 1m plants in marijuana eradication campaign

California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced on Monday that law enforcement officials destroyed more than one million cannabis plants this year in the state’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting. The annual marijuana cultivation eradication campaign also netted more than 180,000 pounds of harvested and processed marijuana in 491 enforcement operations across the state, which provides much of the cannabis produced for illicit cannabis markets across the country.  Over an unspecified, 13-week period, law enforcement officers and other officials with the state’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) conducted operations in 26 counties, according to a statement from the California Department of Justice. Authorities also seized 165 weapons and 67,000 pounds of cultivation infrastructure including dams, waterlines and containers of toxic chemicals over the course of the operation. ... ”  Read more from High Times here: California destroys 1m plants in marijuana eradication campaign

Seagrass restoration study shows rapid recovery of ecosystem functions

As the dominant seagrass species on the U.S. West Coast, eelgrass supports a wide range of ecosystem services and functions, making its preservation and restoration a top priority for the region. Eelgrass restoration has a spotty record of success, however, and studies of restoration sites have rarely assessed the full range of ecosystem functions.  In a new study published October 6 in Ecological Applications, researchers demonstrated that eelgrass restoration efforts can lead to rapid expansion of restored plots and recovery of ecosystem functions.  The study involved small-scale experimental seagrass restoration efforts in Elkhorn Slough on the Central Coast of California. … ”  Read more from ESA here: Seagrass restoration study shows rapid recovery of ecosystem functions

California wetlands help slow climate change

Ninety percent of California’s wetlands are gone, and the movement to restore them has taken on added urgency in light of the climate crisis.  A recent report by the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center encouraged California to restore and expand the natural carbon sinks up and down the coast.  James Holmquist, ecologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and co-author of the report, said it maps out the best places for so-called “blue carbon” mitigation projects.  “They’re one of the few ecosystems that can take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and store it long term and lock it away in their soils,” Holmquist pointed out. … ”  Read more from the Public News Service here: California wetlands help slow climate change

Melting Arctic sea ice may strengthen western wildfires

Declining sea ice in the Arctic may be contributing to increased wildfires in the western United States, demonstrating the effects of climate change on extreme weather events and indicating the potential for more and larger wildfires in the area, according to a new study. …  A recent U.S. Forest Service study found that high severity wildfires — or fires that destroy more than 95% of trees — have increased by 800% in the western U.S. since 1985.  There are several factors contributing to the increase in wildfires, and a warming, drying climate is chief among them.  While there is some evidence that Arctic sea ice declines can influence extreme weather conditions, the impact on wildfires has been unclear. ... ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: Melting Arctic sea ice may strengthen western wildfires

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Today’s featured articles …

FEATURE: Preparing Scientists and Policy Makers for a Future Under Climate Change

Smoke from wildfires darkens skies in the Bay Area during the summer of 2020.

Written by Elyse De Franco

Writing in the June 2021 issue of San Francisco Estuary & Watershed Science, a group of authors led by Richard Norgaard make the case that current approaches for integrating scientific research with policy and management are inadequate for meeting the challenges of the 21st century. As the pace of ecological change grows supercharged with the warming climate, models derived from past data are proving less useful at providing reliable predictions. This is particularly true as extreme events create outlier conditions that fall outside of what has historically been expected, such as the wildfires, floods, and droughts seen this year. This has global implications for environmental management, but the authors, many of whom have served on the Delta Independent Science Board, center their focus on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Click here to read this article.


BLOG ROUND-UP: The Delta – Where do we go from here?; Revised Delta Levees Investment Strategy approved over objections by Delta stakeholders; A water prop proposed; and more …

Click here for the blog round-up.

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In regional water news and commentary today …

NORTH COAST

Siskiyou County: A California county cuts off water to Asian pot growers. Is it racism or crime crackdown?

Even by the standards of drought-stricken California, conditions in Mount Shasta Vista had become desperate.  As the state suffered its hottest summer on record, farmers watched with growing apprehension as their chickens and ducks died from dehydration and their vegetables withered without irrigation. With precious little water just to drink, families bathed only once a week. Others considered abandoning their property entirely.  But, unlike the rest of the American West, the extreme water scarcity plaguing this tiny corner of far Northern California was not the result of dwindling snowpack or plummeting reservoir levels. Instead, it was due to a concerted government effort to “choke out” a problem that had vexed Siskiyou County officials for years: the illicit, large-scale cultivation of marijuana in a single subdivision that is largely Asian. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Siskiyou County: A California county cuts off water to Asian pot growers. Is it racism or crime crackdown?

Crescent City: Commissioners approve project to start dredging harbor

On Tuesday, Oct. 19, the Crescent City Board of Harbor Commissioners unanimously voted to pay $14,000 to Portland-based GeoEngineers to provide dredge spoils management services to the port – a contract that commissioners said was a step in the right direction, but which drew criticism from others as still being too slow to fix the overall sediment problem in the harbor.  “You need to face realities,” said someone from an audience chair. “You’re not serving the needs of your tenants.” … ”  Read more from the Del Norte Triplicate here:  Crescent City: Commissioners approve project to start dredging harbor

MOUNTAIN COUNTIES

Departing atmospheric river blankets Tahoe ski resorts with 3 feet of snow

After battering the San Francisco Bay Area with torrential downpours and flooding, a potent atmospheric river took aim at the Tahoe Basin, dumping as much as three feet of snow on the higher elevations, before departing out of Northern California.  Rainshowers fell first in the region before temperatures plunged to transform rain drops into snow flurries on Monday. It was a perfect combination for what is know as Sierra Cement — heavy wet powder that creates a solid base on the slopes. ... ”  Read more from CBS Bay Area here: Departing atmospheric river blankets Tahoe ski resorts with 3 feet of snow

Storm surge brings Lake Tahoe water level back above its natural rim

Lake Tahoe’s water levels are back up above the natural rim, thanks to precipitation from the massive storm system that pushed across Northern California this weekend.  Data from the U.S. Geological Survey shows that water levels at the Tahoe City dam, near the outlet of the Truckee River, rose almost a half of a foot in 24 hours. Meanwhile, more than 2 feet of snow accumulated on the mountaintops surrounding the Tahoe Basin. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here: Storm surge brings Lake Tahoe water level back above its natural rim

Special Caldor Fire issue of Tahoe In Depth

TRPA worked with the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team and partners to produce a special issue of Tahoe In Depth. The issue covers the Caldor Fire, what we know now, and what megafires like it may mean for the future of Tahoe’s forests. This special issue will be available at the new Tahoe In Depth newspaper kiosks, fire stations, and select locations.”  Download at the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency here:  Special Caldor Fire issue of Tahoe In Depth

El Dorado County: Brush removal along water lines wins priority

Three more positions were added to the El Dorado Irrigation District roster Oct. 12.  The EID Board of Directors approved the new positions to clear trees, manzanita and brush 30 feet wide along water transmission lines. The total work amounts to 275 acres. The crew is expected to clear half an acre a day after being hired.  In addition, the three new employees will be trained to apply herbicide to keep the brush from coming back. The crew will also be called upon to help with water line breaks. … ”  Read more from the Mountain Democrat here: Brush removal along water lines wins priority

SACRAMENTO VALLEY

Sacramento sets rainfall record as atmospheric river passes through Northern California

A week ago, Sacramento broke a record of 212 consecutive days without rain. Then yesterday it set a record with more than 5 inches of rain in a single day.  “This is a reminder that even in the middle of a drought, you can have a flood,” said Jay Lund, co-director of UC Davis’ Center for Watershed Sciences. “That’s just the nature of California’s hydrology, and with climate change, it’s supposed to become more that way.”  A storm of this magnitude would typically be more concerning, but UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain said that the region’s dry conditions made it safer than usual. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here: Sacramento sets rainfall record as atmospheric river passes through Northern California

Plenty of capacity, adequate pumping facilities helped Sacramento avoid rainfall catastrophe during storm

Our record-breaker of a super soaker didn’t break the backbone of Sacramento’s storm system. The rain was non-stop. But as the atmospheric river came roaring through, it’s what happened before the storm that made all the difference.  It was a storm of unprecedented magnitude.  “We’ve never experienced that rainfall in a 24 hour period in Sacramento before…ever,” said Jeff Harris, Chairman of the Sacramento Flood Control Agency.  So why didn’t Sacramento see severe flooding? … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento here: Plenty of capacity, adequate pumping facilities helped Sacramento avoid rainfall catastrophe during storm

Sacramento went from record drought to record rain. Climate change may make that more common.

Residents of the Sacramento area have been on a meteorological seesaw this past week: After 212 days without rain, the area saw precipitation again — which, this weekend, turned into an all-out rainstorm.   Already, the rainfall this weekend broke records: The area got more than half of the rain it had all of the last wet season, which was particularly dry, in a single storm.  “This is a reminder that even in the middle of a drought, you can have a flood,” said Jay Lund, co-director of UC Davis’ Center for Watershed Sciences. “That’s just the nature of California’s hydrology, and with climate change, it’s supposed to become more that way.” ... ”  Read more from the Capital Public Radio here: Sacramento went from record drought to record rain. Climate change may make that more common.

Sacramento gets $12 million for American River Parkway improvements. Here’s what’s planned

The Lower American River Parkway will receive about $12 million in state funding for significant public access improvements. Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, secured the money in the state budget. “In total this will be the largest investment ever for the Lower Parkway as far as public access improvements,” McCarty said. “This is the jewel of Sacramento.”  The improvements will include a new building for concessions and kayak and paddle board rentals at Sutter’s Landing; a boat launch and restrooms at Woodlake Gateway; an observation deck and outdoor classroom at Camp Pollock; and planning for the Two Rivers Trail. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Sacramento gets $12 million for American River Parkway improvements. Here’s what’s planned

NAPA/SONOMA

Wettest October in 3 years in Sonoma Valley

An uncommonly strong storm led to Sonoma Valley’s wettest October in at least three years, according to the National Weather Service.  Sonoma Valley saw around 4 to 5 inches of rain in most areas as part of an “atmospheric river rain” event that is uncommon for this time of year, said Brayden Murdock, a meteorologist at the Bay Area National Weather Service. Some parts of the county saw as much as 14 inches of rain, with flooding and road closures reported all over the region. The wet weather doused flood-prone Schellville, filling cars that mistakenly tried to pass through the water-logged roadways at Highway 121 and Highway 12. … ”  Read more from the Sonoma Gazette here: Wettest October in 3 years in Sonoma Valley

Sonoma County: Habitat tramplers run amuck – cows versus creeks

The water of a small stream in western Sonoma County flows slowly under a highway bridge, coursing its way through private ranchland to the ocean about seven miles away. Ducks paddle among floating vegetation, and an egret tiptoes slowly through the shallows. At the edge of the waterway, called Americano Creek, a cluster of cattle huddles under the willows. They frequent this spot and have trampled the banks to mud. Hoofprints can be seen leading into the water, and cakes of manure fester beside the stream, which meets the Pacific Ocean a few miles south of Bodega Bay.  “With the federal Clean Water Act, the state Clean Water Act, and all the other regulations, you would think this would be prohibited,” says Don McEnhill, executive director of the environmental watchdog group Russian Riverkeeper. The organization campaigns to protect Sonoma County salmon and steelhead habitat, which McEnhill says has been degraded by, among other things, cows in the water. ... ”  Read more from Estuary News here: Sonoma County: Habitat tramplers run amuck – cows versus creeks

Napa County hit by a drought-denter, but not drought buster

Napa County after a drought-denting — but not destroying — deluge had a section of Silverado Trail closed, wildfire dangers tamped down and reservoirs starting to see runoff.  And all of this happened in a newly born rain season that hasn’t even made it to Halloween. A few storms last week proved to be a mere warmup to virtually 24 hours of non-stop, pounding rain from Saturday night into Sunday night.  Can you bust a two-year drought of almost historic proportions in only a few days?  “Well, no, definitely not,” said Mike Pechner of Fairfield-based Golden West Meteorology. … ”  Read more from the Napa Register here: Napa County hit by a drought-denter, but not drought buster

Napa commentary: Groundwater is not free

Christopher Cole of St. Helena writes, “Following a welcome rainstorm and on the eve of COP26, now is a good time to embrace yet another axiom for a sustainable future: Groundwater is not free. A recent letter in The St. Helena Star addressed concerns of new wells in the Sulphur Creek corridor, which are permitted under the city’s agricultural exemption. Science tells us that there is relationship between a depleted aquifer and dry streambeds, due to the lack of groundwater discharge. A recent article in the Napa Valley Register described the concept as “controversial.” Regardless of how you may “feel” on this matter, we all have to agree to one principal: Groundwater is not free. ... ”  Read more from the Napa Register here: Napa commentary: Groundwater is not free

Desperately-needed rainfall from ‘bomb cyclone’ gives hope for North Bay drought recovery

This was a storm that came with expectations, not just for what the weekend might look like but what it could mean in the larger context of crawling out of two years of drought. It was just one storm, but it did not disappoint.  The morning came, the storm had passed, and before everyone’s eyes a different landscape emerged. In the wake of the atmospheric river, the North Bay is now basking in the glory of a so-called “bomb cyclone” – a storm that was desperately needed. … ”  Read more from CBS San Francisco here: Desperately-needed rainfall from ‘bomb cyclone’ gives hope for North Bay drought recovery

North Bay water officials wait & see on easing restrictions after major storm

Thanks to the massive storm over the weekend, the Russian River in the North Bay is once again full of water.  As it flowed by Healdsburg on Monday, the river is once again rushing. Last week, it trickled at 35 cubic feet per second, now it’s in the tens of thousands. “I think, maybe, some people were afraid that we would run out of water and it’s important to conserve it so we will have water to drink,” said water saver Judy Cobourn, who went to look out at the swollen river on Monday. When asked if the large flow of water would change residents’ minds on conserving, Cobourn responded, “It might. It might, yeah, because this is an awful lot of water.”… ”  Read more from CBS San Francisco here: North Bay water officials wait & see on easing restrictions after major storm

BAY AREA

Marin reservoirs bolstered by rain surge

The Marin Municipal Water District logged nearly as much rain this past week as it did during all of last winter, making it the wettest October in more than 130 years.  The utility recorded more than 17 inches at its Lake Lagunitas reservoir between Oct. 18 and Monday, with 10.5 inches coming in on Sunday alone, according to district data. Typically, the district only sees an average of 2.8 inches of rain in October.  The last time the district saw close to this amount of rain in October was in 1890, when it received 26 inches. ... ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Marin reservoirs bolstered by rain surge

Marin desalination prospects fade in favor of imports

The Marin Municipal Water District is moving away from plans to acquire temporary desalination plants and instead is exploring purchasing more water from Sonoma County during the winter months.  “We are determining that this is really not a feasible approach for the current drought where winter water does seem promising,” Paul Sellier, the district operations director, told the board on Oct. 19.  The district, which serves 191,000 residents in central and southern Marin, faces the potential of depleting local reservoir supplies as soon as next summer if this winter is as dry as the last. The recent storms have put the district in a better starting position, but district staff said reservoir levels are still well below average. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Marin desalination prospects fade in favor of imports

The day after record storm: Bay Area faces massive cleanup of fallen trees, flooding and water damage

Pounding rain and howling winds gave way to the buzzing of chain saws and drone of sump pumps Monday as the Bay Area cleaned up after a record-breaking storm downed hundreds of trees, flooded homes and streets and cut electricity to thousands of homes.  The atmospheric river — a meteorological term for the kind of deluge seen Sunday — knocked out power to almost 700,000 Pacific Gas and Electric Co. customers, and by Monday evening 50,000 remained in the dark as crews worked to restore electricity. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: The day after record storm: Bay Area faces massive cleanup of fallen trees, flooding and water damage

After the rain: What San Francisco learned from a monster storm

San Franciscans awoke Monday morning to lighter precipitation after a bomb cyclone and atmospheric river converged over the Bay Area this weekend, bringing lacerating winds and record-setting rainfall.  Emergency crews and residents spent Sunday sweeping debris from storm drains and responding to felled trees, downed power lines and stranded cars on overflowing roadways across the City.  By mid-Monday morning, clear skies returned to The City to some semblance of normalcy. … ” Read more from the San Francisco Examiner here: After the rain: What San Francisco learned from a monster storm

Should we use open space to help solve the housing crisis?

Nearly 25 years ago, the U.S. Navy transferred more than 400 acres on Point Molate to the City of Richmond. People have been fighting over them ever since. A core point of contention is whether or not to build housing on part of this headland, which includes one of the few undeveloped shorelines in the East Bay. Where the city envisions a mix of housing, a shoreline park, and hillside trails, opponents envision a regional park all the way from the sandy beach to the 400-foot bluffs.  Now the general public can weigh in on this longstanding controversy. The Bay Conservation and Development Commission, which regulates shoreline use in the San Francisco Bay, is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the future of Point Molate on November 4, 2021. … ”  Read more from Bay Area Monitor here: Should we use open space to help solve the housing crisis?

Saving water under the East Bay

It’s a matter of semantics as to whether the Bay Area ever really left the drought of 2014-2017 before staring down another, more severe one beginning last year. But a huge lesson for our entire state from that “first” water shortage still being learned today is that more attention must be paid to groundwater. That’s true even in the urban East Bay, where the East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) and the City of Hayward are developing a plan to ensure continued sustainable use of freshwater sitting beneath the East Bay flats from Richmond to Hayward. … ”  Read more from Estuary News here: Saving water under the East Bay

CENTRAL COAST

Black & Veatch to help Soquel Creek Water District replenish stressed groundwater basin with purified recycled water

Facing a dwindling water supply due to historic overdraft and climate change-fueled drought, Northern California’s Soquel Creek Water District is turning to an advanced recycled water purification system, delivered in part by engineering leader Black & Veatch, to help drive sustainable groundwater supply management and meet the state’s sustainability mandate.  The Soquel Creek Water District Board of Directors recently approved the next phases of its progressive design-build agreement with Black & Veatch to build treatment facilities and associated infrastructure to help replenish groundwater supplies – the sole source of water for the District’s more than 40,400 residents – impacted by over-drafting and seawater intrusion. ... ”  Read more of this press release at Market Screener here:  Black & Veatch to help Soquel Creek Water District replenish stressed groundwater basin with purified recycled water

SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY

Storms come as relief for Valley farmers dealing with drought conditions

The green beans growing on this Clovis farm were ready to be picked. But now crews will have to wait a few days until the muddy rows dry up.  “This will be machine-picked,” says David Sarabian. “Hopefully, we can get the machines in with some sunny weather by Thursday or Friday of this week.” Sarabian says most of the green beans should be fine as drier conditions settle in but there will be some crop loss.  “We’ll still get some damage from the beans that are actually in the dirt or on the water,” he said. “Mold will show up but that’s just part of the business.” ... ”  Continue reading at KFSN here: Storms come as relief for Valley farmers dealing with drought conditions

Epic storm barely moves needle

New Melones Reservoir during the heaviest 24 hour period of the Pineapple Express that slammed California over the weekend actually dropped 571 acre feet. Meanwhile in the same 24-hours ending at midnight Sunday Oroville Lake added 76,802 acre feet of water. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here: Epic storm barely moves needle

Yosemite Falls comes roaring back to life following torrential rain, atmospheric river

The massive storm that broke records in the West Coast also helped bring an iconic Yosemite spot roaring back to life after a dry summer.   Yosemite Falls was listed as “dry” last week on the Yosemite National Park website. Images from a Yosemite Conservancy webcam on Thursday, Oct. 21 confirmed there was no water flowing from the iconic attraction.  What a difference a few days makes! ... ”  Read  more from ABC 13 here: Yosemite Falls comes roaring back to life following torrential rain, atmospheric river

Bakersfield: Cal Water applies for permission to raise penalties for irrigation violations

Local customers of California Water Service may soon face enforcement actions against their use of outdoor irrigation if state regulators give the company permission to advance to the next phase of its water shortage contingency plan.  On Wednesday, amid worsening drought conditions, Cal Water filed an application with the California Public Utilities Commission to transition to the second stage of its plan for the Bakersfield area and five other parts of the state it serves. If the CPUC approves, the new conservation rules will take effect Dec. 14. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here: Bakersfield: Cal Water applies for permission to raise penalties for irrigation violations

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Construction on Castaic Dam moving forward

Construction is underway at Castaic Lake, as officials from the California Department of Water Resources work to make seismic improvements on Castaic Dam’s tower access bridge.  Castaic Lake is one of many State Water Project facilities that supply water to the state, specifically providing water for the greater Los Angeles area and more than 5.2 million Californians in 2019, according to DWR. … ”  Read more from The Signal here:  Construction on Castaic Dam moving forward

California rainstorm drenches L.A. County after setting records in north

The powerful storm that walloped Northern California over the weekend moved into the Southland on Monday, bringing with it heavy rain and wind.  Several parts of Los Angeles County saw more than an inch of rain, particularly in the foothills and mountains, according to the National Weather Service.  La Cañada Flintridge saw 1.31 inches as of around 5:30 p.m., the Weather Service said. Updated 24-hour rainfall totals were not available Monday night. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: California rainstorm drenches L.A. County after setting records in north

LA County beaches under beach water use advisory through Thursday

A beach water use advisory is in effect through Thursday due to the rainfall washing trash and bacteria from Los Angeles County’s streets into storm drains and the ocean.  Southern California always feels refreshed after being doused with rain, but all those public health hazards – like bacteria, fluids from traffic, debris, and trash – gotta go somewhere. … ”  Read more from CBS LA here: LA County beaches under beach water use advisory through Thursday

Beaumont-Cherry Valley Water District outlines drought water reduction stages for the district

With extreme drought conditions plaguing California, Beaumont-Cherry Valley Water District (BCVWD) has taken steps to ensure a safe, reliable water supply for customers even during extended dry periods and emergencies. BCVWD’s Water Shortage Contingency Plan (WSCP), adopted by the Board of Directors at the August 26, 2021, regular meeting via Resolution 2021-14, outlines six stages of emergency measures in the event of a water shortage or sudden disruption to the water supply. The levels, which are designed to build upon each other, include water reductions as noted below and additional conservation measures. The first stage would be implemented in the event of up to a 10 percent reduction in normal long-term water supply availability and a forecast of lower imported water resources over two years. ... ”  Read more from the Record Gazette here: Beaumont-Cherry Valley Water District outlines drought water reduction stages for the district

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Along the Colorado River …

The West needs a lot of snow to escape drought. This year, that’s unlikely

When you’ve been coming to the same place for decades, it’s easy to notice changes. On this ranch near Steamboat Springs, Colorado, the tell-tale signs of drought are everywhere. Todd Hagenbuch stands beside a silent, dusty creek bed, where golden grasses and scrub are beginning to reclaim the thin channel.  “Typically you’d see a little water in this throughout the summer,” he said. “It’s been dry all summer long.”  Hagenbuch’s family has been ranching this land for 75 years. This creek runs into the Yampa River, which snakes through the property. … ”  Read more from KUNC here: The West needs a lot of snow to escape drought. This year, that’s unlikely

Commentary: A $40 million investment from Arizona won’t save Lake Mead. But it could still help

Opinion columnist Joanna Allhands writes, “The projections for Lake Mead – the reservoir that provides nearly 40% of Arizona’s water supply – have been revised down again.  According to the federal October 24-month study, the lake could be in a Tier 3 shortage – the worst for which we have a plan to handle – a few months earlier and a few feet deeper than was projected just last month.  The minimal probable forecast (which isn’t the worst-case scenario; a few modeled outcomes are worse) now predicts that Lake Mead could hit a low of 1,023 feet in September 2023.  That’s just 3 feet above the level that the Bureau of Reclamation doesn’t want Mead to dip below – a level that the Lower Basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada are now meeting to decide what else we’ll do to avoid. … ”  Read more from Arizona Central here: Commentary: A $40 million investment from Arizona won’t save Lake Mead. But it could still help

Commentary: The Southwest must fight for its water and its future

Jonathan Overpeck, climate scientist, professor and dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan, writes, “For over 30 years, I’ve been a climate scientist who has focused intensely on the causes and consequences of drought and climate change. I’ve done my research all over the planet, but my No. 1 focus has been on interactions of drought and climate change in the Southwest United States and on how drought and climate change are impacting the Colorado River. Seven states in the U.S. and Mexico depend on the Colorado River for water, yet I worry most about one state: Arizona.  Why do I worry so much about Arizona? Without a sustainable water supply, life in the desert is all but impossible.  ... ”  Read more from The Hill here: The Southwest must fight for its water and its future

St. George not the blame for water shortages on Colorado River, Mitt Romney says

Even as California has declared a statewide drought emergency in response to a federal shortage declaration for the Colorado River, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, says blaming St. George for the strain on the water supply in the western U.S. is misguided.  Romney was responding to a 60 Minutes documentary that aired Sunday night, which featured JB Hamby of the Imperial Irrigation District in California saying building the Lake Powell pipeline to support growth in St. George did not make sense.  “60 Minutes was right to raise the alarm over the shrinking Colorado River. Criticism of St. George, however, with 1/100th the population of Los Angeles was misguided. New strategies, not blame, are needed. Utah will continue to be a good partner in this effort,” Romney wrote on Twitter. … ”  Read more from the Salt Lake Tribune here: St. George not the blame for water shortages on Colorado River, Mitt Romney says

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In national water news today …

This is why freshwater must be considered in energy transition

Technologies with low CO2 emissions are the focus of energy transition. However, some of them consume enormous freshwater resources – water that won’t be available in sufficient quantities in many regions in the future.  Hydropower, biomass power generation, wind power, hydrogen, photovoltaics – these terms quickly come to mind when talking about the energy mix of the future. An energy mix that is supposed to combat climate change by limiting CO2 emissions. … ”  Read more from Water Online here: This is why freshwater must be considered in energy transition

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries propose rescinding critical habitat regulations finalized in 2020

To better fulfill the conservation purposes of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) are proposing to rescind two critical habitat regulations finalized in December 2020. The proposed actions would rescind the Services’ joint regulatory definition of “habitat” and FWS regulations that govern critical habitat exclusions under 4(b)(2) of the ESA.  The proposed actions follow Executive Order 13990, which directed all federal agencies to review and address agency actions to ensure consistency with Biden administration objectives.  “The Endangered Species Act is one of the most important conservation tools in America and provides a safety net for species that are at risk of going extinct,” said Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz.  … ”  Continue reading this press release from the US Fish & Wildlife Service here: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries propose rescinding critical habitat regulations finalized in 2020

Biden administration moves to undo two Trump-era Endangered Species Act rollbacks

The Biden administration will move to rescind two Trump-era rollbacks of protections for endangered species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced Tuesday.  The first of the two rules, announced in December 2020, would have curtailed the definition of “habitat” to pertain to areas that can currently support a species. Environmentalists pushed back on the move at the time, noting that it would exclude areas that could potentially support species in the future. … ”  Read more from The Hill here: Biden administration moves to undo two Trump-era Endangered Species Act rollbacks

Garamendi, Amodei introduce bipartisan bill to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species

Today, Congressmen John Garamendi (D-CA03) and Mark Amodei (R-NV03) introduced the “Stop the Spread of Invasive Mussels Act” (H.R.5692).  This bipartisan legislation would authorize federal land management agencies to take proven, commonsense measures to prevent the proliferation of invasive species in our nation’s waterways, lakes, reservoirs, and aqueducts.  Garamendi is a Representative of Lake County, California, which has seen its critically important tourist economy centered around Clear Lake threatened by invasive Quagga Mussels and other aquatic invasive species exacerbating the Lake’s harmful algal blooms. Garamendi has secured federal resources in recent years to help curb the presence of invasive species in Clear Lake, and the “Stop the Spread of Invasive Mussels Act” can provide key support in this ongoing effort. … ”  Continue reading from Congressman Garamendi’s office here: Garamendi, Amodei introduce bipartisan bill to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species

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Current reservoir and water conditions …

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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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