DAILY DIGEST, 1/12: The impact of drought in the Delta; State agencies detail progress implementing water resilience portfolio; Recent storms washed microplastics into SF Bay; Groundwater use capped for some Tulare County farmers; and more …
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What are the cascading, overlapping, and compounding events caused by drought in the Delta? In early December, the California Council for Science and Technology brought together four experts to discuss the impact of drought on water quantity, water quality, ecosystem health, public health, agriculture, and more in the California Delta.
State agencies detail progress implementing water resilience portfolio
“A new report released today conveys significant progress made in the past 18 months to implement the Water Resilience Portfolio, the Newsom Administration’s water policy blueprint to build climate resilience in the face of more extreme cycles of wet and dry. The report summarizes work done on each of 142 separate actions called for in the Water Resilience Portfolio. The portfolio was developed by the California Natural Resources Agency, California Environmental Protection Agency, and California Department of Food and Agriculture in response to Governor Newsom’s April 2019 Executive Order calling for a suite of actions that would help California communities, the economy, and the environment address long-standing water challenges while adapting water systems to a changing climate. … ” Continue reading at Maven’s Notebook here: State agencies detail progress implementing water resilience portfolio
California precipitation is 132% of average for the water year. What’s next?
“After an atmospheric river unleashed a torrent of rain over Northern California in October, the state saw another moisture-rich system in November and then a parade of storms across December. … Jeanine Jones, the drought manager for the California Department of Water Resources, said that as of Jan. 10, statewide precipitation is 132% of average for the water year, a 12-month period from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 that follows the water cycle and is used by water managers. That number encompasses the total rainfall and snowfall at dozens of gauges monitored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration across the state. This is all promising, but the drought is not over. … ” Continue reading at SF Gate here: California precipitation is 132% of average for the water year. What’s next?
Californians continue to struggle with a lack of safe, sanitary drinking water
“Around 370,000 Californians rely on drinking water which may contain high levels of arsenic, nitrate, or hexavalent chromium – all of which can have acute toxic effects on humans if consumed. Since 2012, access to safe, clean, and affordable drinking water has been recognized as a human right in the state of California. Community water systems are required by federal regulations to undergo regular testing for contaminants that are harmful to human health. However, many California community water systems do not meet regulatory standards, and because of this, unsafe water has disproportionately impacted communities of colour. In addition, many largely rural households receive their tap water from private domestic wells that continue to be largely unregulated by the state. ... ” Read more from Open Access Government here: Californians continue to struggle with a lack of safe, sanitary drinking water
Early rain surge is challenging for pomegranates
“The pomegranate, a deciduous fruit that contains hundreds of deep-red seeds known as arils, is one of the oldest recorded fruits and is considered by many cultures a symbol of prosperity and luck. But for some pomegranate farmers, these traits went out the door this harvest season once Mother Nature got involved. “At the outset, it was shaping up to be a grand season. What farmers were able to harvest before that damaging rain in mid-to-late October was top-quality fruit,” said Tom Tjerandsen, manager of the Pomegranate Council. But when the storms hit, many pomegranates couldn’t handle the prosperity of all that sudden water. “With the rain that showed up,” Tjerandsen said, “the bushes greedily suck up the water and send it out into the branches, and the fruit welcomes it but can’t expand fast enough, so it splits.” … ” Read more from Ag Alert here: Early rain surge is challenging for pomegranates
Researchers pinpoint which bird species pose food safety risk to crops
“Concerns over foodborne risk from birds may not be as severe as once thought by produce farmers, according to research from the University of California, Davis, that found low instances of E. coli and Salmonella prevalence. While the research found that the risk is often low, it varies depending on species. Birds like starlings that flock in large numbers and forage on the ground near cattle are more likely to spread pathogenic bacteria to crops like lettuce, spinach and broccoli, according to the study of food safety risk and bird pathogens. In contrast, insect-eating species were less likely to carry pathogens. The findings, published in the journal Ecological Applications, suggest that current practice of removing bird habitats around produce growers’ farms over concerns the animals could bring foodborne pathogens into their fields may not solve the problem. … ” Read more from UC Davis here: Researchers pinpoint which bird species pose food safety risk to crops
Gov. Newsom announces plan to deal with extreme heat
“Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration this week announced a plan for addressing extreme heat that includes recommendations on how to monitor deaths caused by heat waves and the possible establishment of temperature limits for residential units. The release of the plan follows the publication of a Los Angeles Times investigation that revealed that California has done a poor job tracking the number of people who have died due to extreme heat and has largely failed to provide resources to communities that are most vulnerable to the effects of heat and global warming. “Extreme heat threatens public health and safety, economic prosperity and communities and natural systems, with profoundly disproportionate consequences for the most vulnerable Californians,” California Natural Resources Agency officials said in a statement. … ” Read more from the LA Times here: Gov. Newsom announces plan to deal with extreme heat
The devastating mudslides that follow forest fires
“The summer of 2021 brought ideal fire weather to southern British Columbia in Canada. A dome of hot, high-pressure air settled over the area, sending temperatures soaring into record territory after months of drought. … The blaze raised concern about another imminent threat: landslides from the destabilized hills. In mid-November, a massive storm known as an atmospheric river dumped a month’s worth of rain on the region in just two days. When the downpour hit the burnt, scarred slopes, it set off giant surges of mud and debris that swept across the highway and railway lines. … The central region of British Columbia has always had wildfires but now the province is even seeing blazes in coastal areas. The models used to forecast inland debris flows simply wouldn’t work for these regions, where the soils and vegetation differ, Jakob says. It’s a similar scenario in the United States, where fires in the past few years have scorched areas of northern California, Oregon and Washington that rarely burn. … ” Read the full article at Nature here: The devastating mudslides that follow forest fires
Ed Davis, professional agronomist and water science specialist, writes, “Are we all comfortable with 43 California municipalities dumping their “treated sewage affluent” into the ocean? We must be. California has been doing it for decades! I’m reminded of a Jacque Cousteau special in 1972. He made the argument that any dumping of sewage into the rivers, lakes, seas and oceans is most destructive. Unfortunately, all California coastal communities pump millions of gallons of “sewage effluent” into the Pacific Ocean daily! All of these coastal cities are really to blame for the decrease of flora and fauna in our ocean. … ” Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here: Sewage effluent is hurting oceans
Spend infrastructure dollars on projects, not process
Dan Keppen, executive director of the Family Farm Alliance, writes, “The historic enactment of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) provides a “once-in-a-generation” funding opportunity to support the modernization of our Western water infrastructure and restoration of our forested watersheds. The IIJA targets billions of dollars for the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Forest Service, and Natural Resources Conservation Service that align with the solutions advanced by over 230 Western water, agricultural and urban organizations. … The Family Farm Alliance was part of the steering committee that helped guide the energies of our coalition. Now, those energies will be redirected to the agencies overseeing administration of the funds. We want to ensure that most of these dollars are spent on-the-ground for the intended purpose. … ” Continue reading at the Western Farm Press here: Spend infrastructure dollars on projects, not process
Want to see a big project happen in the Shasta Trinity National Forest? Now’s the time
“The Shasta Trinity national Forest was given roughly $400,000 in federal grants to spend on restoration projects within the forest in Shasta County. Now, they have some money left over and want the community’s input on how to spend it. KRCR previously reported the grant opportunity when it was first introduced to the national forest in the Month of September. Since then, the committee says they have money left-over from the grant. … ” Read more from KRCR here: Want to see a big project happen in the Shasta Trinity National Forest? Now’s the time
More than 2 weeks after Sierra snowstorms, these Northern California counties were still struggling without power.
“Several hundred Nevada County residents were expected to turn on their lights, furnaces, televisions and other electric appliances late Tuesday after enduring more than two weeks without power following a string of punishing Sierra snowstorms that knocked out power to tens of thousands of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. customers. Early Tuesday, 567 customers in the Sierra were still without power — most of them in the Nevada City and Grass Valley areas of Nevada County. Megan McFarland, a PG&E spokesperson, said that 423 Nevada County customers along with 143 in Sierra County and 1 in Placer County were still without power Tuesday morning and that service had been restored to all customers in El Dorado County. … ” Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: More than 2 weeks after Sierra snowstorms, these Northern California counties were still struggling without power.
Commentary: Ukiah’s smarter strategy for water
Sean White, Director of Water and Sewer for the city of Ukiah, writes, “December brought significant snowpack to the Sierra, breaking records set in the 1970s. But areas like Mendocino and Sonoma counties are still showing severe drought conditions, and our state’s reservoirs have a long way to go to recover from last year’s historic lows. … Ukiah’s experience with water shortages and the Russian River watershed’s dramatic, headline-capturing shortfall in 2021 provide key information for water managers on the state and local level to learn — specifically, the need for strategic, regionally focused, long-term preparation to prevent last-minute turmoil and curtailments. ... ” Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: Commentary: Ukiah’s smarter strategy for water
Recent storms washed microplastics into San Francisco Bay, studies show
“Walk along Damon Slough in Oakland and you’re likely to see trash heading towards San Francisco Bay. David Lewis of the environmental group Save the Bay, says much of it comes from the nearby 880 freeway and local storm drains. “Every time it rains, anything that’s on the streets goes into the storm drains and straight out into the bay unfiltered. And we see this on all of the freeways and all of our urban road,” Lewis explains. And experts say the pollution you can actually see is only part of the threat. Floating along side, often invisible to the naked eye, are microplastics. They’re tiny particles, that can come from clothing, cigarette butts, and even the rubber from car tires. ... ” Read more from ABC here: Recent storms washed microplastics into San Francisco Bay, studies show
‘No real end in sight’ for S.F. Bay Area’s stretch of dry weather. Is that normal for this time of year?
“Bay Area residents could expect a stretch of dry, partly cloudy and reasonably warm winter weather for at least the next week, meteorologists said Tuesday. While a wet weather system was tracking toward the West Coast, it was expected to veer into the Pacific Northwest — prompting flood watches and warnings in places such as Seattle — while leaving much of Northern California and the Bay Area dry. “We’re not seeing any strong signals for any system that’s really going to impact us,” said Jeff Lorber, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. ... ” Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: ‘No real end in sight’ for S.F. Bay Area’s stretch of dry weather. Is that normal for this time of year?
Environmentalists sue Point Reyes National Seashore over cattle ranches
“Three environmental groups sued the National Park Service this week over a plan that allows cattle ranching to continue at the popular Point Reyes National Seashore. The lawsuit, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court of Northern California, contends that administrators of the picturesque park along the Marin County coast are prioritizing dairy and beef operations over wildlands and wildlife, including the area’s famous herds of tule elk. The suit takes issue with a policy that permits native elk to be killed, in order to keep elk populations in check and make room for cattle, as well as with dirty runoff from ranches that threatens the health of local waterways. … ” Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Environmentalists sue Point Reyes National Seashore over cattle ranches
Santa Clara County: After recent wet spell, thoughts turning anew to storage
“Is California’s drought coming to an end? Experts say no, not yet, despite the recent historic levels of rain and snow throughout the state. And while 2021 was the driest in California in a century, 2022 is giving people hope that the seemingly interminable drought may finally be over, at least for now, following record-breaking snows along the linchpin of California’s water supply, the Sierra Nevada. It is also heightening the discussion over whether new reservoirs should be built, and nowhere is that discussion more intense than in Santa Clara County, population 1.9 million. … ” Read more from Capitol Weekly here: After recent wet spell, thoughts turning anew to storage
Santa Clara County adopts initiative to address concerns over rising sea level
“On Tuesday, Santa Clara County leaders moved forward with a resolution to address sea levels rising and mitigate the impacts of climate change in the region. At the first Board of Supervisors meeting of 2022, county supervisors adopted Supervisor Otto Lee’s resolution to join regional partners in adopting the Bay Adapt Joint Platform (BAJP), an initiative to address rising sea levels and climate change. BAJP sets out guiding principles, priority actions, and tasks to help enable the region to adapt more quickly, effectively, and equitably to a rising San Francisco Bay. … ” Read more from KRON here: Santa Clara County adopts initiative to address concerns over rising sea level
Central, South Coasts get some impressive rainfall, but water experts say it’s just a down payment on easing drought
“A series of storms dumped impressive amounts of rainfall on the Central and South Coasts during the last quarter of 2021. But, water experts say people need to understand what we’ve had is nothing close to being a drought buster. There was a lot of excitement in the drought-stricken region. By the end of 2021, the news media was reporting that places like Camarillo had received 176% of normal-to-date rainfall, Oxnard 211%, and Santa Barbara 168%. But, water experts say many people are misunderstanding the nuances of the statistics. “We’re off to an excellent start, but we only have about 50% of what we need to hit average by the end of the water season in October.” said Joe McDermott. He’s the Director of Engineering and External Affairs for the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District. … ” Read more from KCLU here: Central, South Coasts get some impressive rainfall, but water experts say it’s just a down payment on easing drought
SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY
Groundwater use capped for some Tulare County farmers
Kings Co. OKs deal to secure water for Kettleman City
“Despite little support from Sacramento, Kettleman City will not run dry in 2022. On Tuesday, the Kings County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a deal with the Mojave Water Agency to purchase enough water to serve the impoverished community’s needs this year. The deal will cost Kings County $329,000 for 235 acre-feet of water, which comes in at a rate of $1,400 per acre-foot. The Kettleman City Community Services District reserve fund will foot the bill for the payment, but the water district is exploring state and federal grants to cover the cost. … ” Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Kings Co. OKs deal to secure water for Kettleman City
Trees are chilling out, which is good news
“Fruit and nut trees up and down the Central Valley are chilling out this winter—which is exactly what their farmers want to see. Nick Gatzman, who grows and packs almonds in Manteca with his father-in-law, Dave Phippen, said the winter of 2021-2022 looks as though it will be a good one for cold weather. “I think we’re going to have sufficient chill hours,” Gatzman said. “We’re pretty similar to the last five years, with the exception of last year.” At this point, 2020 had a couple hundred more hours, he added. … ” Read more from Ag Alert here: Trees are chilling out, which is good news
Palmdale: Recent storms help a little with drought
“While the recent storms have helped the state and local water supply outlook, Palmdale Water District officials cautioned that the historic drought is by no means over. “That rain really did help, but we’re still in a drought,” PWD Resource and Analytics Director Peter Thompson II said in a presentation to the Palmdale Water District Board of Directors, on Monday. Late December and early January rain and snow helped move much of the state from exceptional and extreme drought conditions to severe and moderate conditions, he said. … ” Read more from the Antelope Valley Press here: Palmdale: Recent storms help a little with drought
Largest and lowest cost wind farm in LADWP’s history begins operation
“The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) has moved closer toward becoming 100% carbon free by 2035 with the completion of the largest, most efficient and lowest cost wind farm in LADWP’s renewable energy portfolio to date. The Red Cloud Wind Project, located about 85 miles southeast of Albuquerque, New Mexico, began commercial operation December 22, 2021, generating up to 350 megawatts (MW) of new wind power. That amount of clean energy is expected to serve about 222,300 Los Angeles homes and save 464,040 metric tons of carbon emissions annually — the equivalent of removing nearly 100,000 gas-fueled cars from the road per year. ... ” Read more from the LADWP here: Largest and lowest cost wind farm in LADWP’s history begins operation
LA faces 2nd lawsuit over Hyperion sewage spill
“More residents living in or near El Segundo have sued the city of Los Angeles, saying folks in the area, as well as many of their pets, were exposed to hydrogen sulfide gas and other dangerous toxins in the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant’s sewage spill last summer. The city’s L.A. Sanitation and Environment plant flooded with raw sewage on July 11, when all debris-filtering machines, also known as bar screens, became clogged and inoperable. … The 21 plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court this week said they had dizziness; eye, nose, and throat irritation; respiratory distress; anxiety; nausea; and at times, vomiting. Many of their cats and dogs, they said in the suit, have experienced rashes and nausea, as well as “other distress.” … ” Read more from the Daily Breeze here: LA faces 2nd lawsuit over Hyperion sewage spill
Newsom voices pledge to Lithium Valley
“Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday, Jan. 10 announced a commitment to incentivize and spur development of the state’s lithium reserves around the Salton Sea. “We have what someone described as the Saudi Arabia of lithium here in the state of California down in Imperial County near the Salton Sea,” Newsom said on Monday as he unveiled his budget proposal for 2022-2023 dubbed “The California Blueprint.” Newsom’s administration will work on a new regulatory framework to spur private investment, create loan programs to reduce investment risks, and “focus on environmental and labor standards right up front” to accelerate investment and “and focus on regionalizing economic opportunity in part of the state that deserves more investment and more attention,” he said. ... ” Read more from the Holtville Tribune here: Newsom voices pledge to Lithium Valley
Stop Cottonwood Sand Mine organizers say draft EIR is “flawed,” fails to address major impacts on community
“The Draft Environmental Impact Report for the proposed Cottonwood Sand Mining project fails to address serious impacts to the community, say organizers of the Stop Cottonwood Sand Mine effort– and they are urging the public to speak out. “We believe the Project DEIR is a flawed document that does not adequately analyze the significant impacts of the Project to the people, wildlife, water, air, and roads of the community,” Elizabeth Urquhart stated in an email to ECM. “The DEIR does not propose adequate mitigation or alternatives to address those impacts.” ... ” Read more from the East County Magazine here: Stop Cottonwood Sand Mine organizers say draft EIR is “flawed,” fails to address major impacts on community
New proposal would transform much of northeast Mission Bay into marshland
“Mayor Todd Gloria unveiled a proposal Tuesday to transform much of northeast Mission Bay into marshland to help fight sea level rise and restore animal habitats destroyed when the area was aggressively dredged decades ago. Gloria’s proposal is a big win for environmentalists in their years-long battle with golfers, campers and recreation advocates over the prime area, which became available for redevelopment six years ago when a mobile home park closed. The proposal includes 90 acres for recreation and 50 acres for camping, but the lion’s share of the area would be 221 acres of marshland and another 44 acres of dunes and environmental buffers. … ” Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here: New proposal would transform much of northeast Mission Bay into marshland
As the Colorado River shrinks, can new technology save water on farms? The answer is complicated
“On a warm November day in Yuma, Arizona, the desert sun is beating down on a sea of low, green fields. Here, near the banks of the Colorado River, Matt McGuire is surveying an expanse of vegetables that sprawls into the desert landscape. “You find it on the grocery shelf and it’s a leafy green,” he said, “it probably came from here. Because about 80-85% of the vegetables in the wintertime come from this area.” McGuire is the chief agricultural officer for JV Smith Companies, which grows produce in Arizona, California, Colorado and Mexico. The rows that grow those vegetables are striking in their perfection. ... ” Read more from KUNC here: As the Colorado River shrinks, can new technology save water on farms? The answer is complicated
Desalination has guided water exchanges for Israel and Jordan. Could it play a role in the Colorado River basin’s future?
“Shattering the stillness of a frigid January moonlit sky, the sunrise’s amber aura glimmers over the Tinajas Altas mountain range — giving way to a sandscape of semi-succulent shrubs. The sun’s increasingly insistent rays animate an otherwise desolate desert corridor that links the city of Yuma, Arizona, to the San Luis Port of Entry along the U.S.–Mexico border. White school buses shuttle Mexican agricultural workers to Arizonan farm acreage, home to America’s heartland of winter leafy greens. Just a few miles west is the Colorado River, the region’s historic lifeblood — a lifeblood that is so under threat that the Bureau of Reclamation declared its first-ever federal shortage for the basin on Monday. A little more than 7,500 miles (12,000 kilometers) due east, another arid expanse — the Arava Valley — slithers through similarly hostile environmental conditions along the border of Israel and Jordan, enlivened by the occasional kibbutz or solar field. … ” Read more from the Good Men Project here: Desalination has guided water exchanges for Israel and Jordan. Could it play a role in the Colorado River basin’s future?
Proposed New Waters of the United States rule reminiscent of pre-2015 regulatory framework
“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) recently released the long-anticipated proposed rule redefining the scope of waters protected by the Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA strictly prohibits discharges of pollutants into “navigable waters of the United States” unless specifically permitted; however, the definition of what constitutes “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) has evolved over the past five decades, shifting with the political tides in Washington. Prior to 2015, WOTUS was defined by regulation (40 C.F.R. § 230.3(s)) and interpreted by U.S. Supreme Court decisions to include ... ” Continue reading from Somach Simmons & Dunn here: Proposed New Waters of the United States rule reminiscent of pre-2015 regulatory framework
Agriculture seeks clarity in revisions to U.S. water rules
“Farmers and ranchers are advocating for a federal “waters of the United States” rule under the Clean Water Act that is clear and concise and maintains exemptions for normal agricultural activities. Upon review of the previous Navigable Waters Protection Rule done during the Trump administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of the Army officials determined that the Trump-era rule reduces clean water protections. The agencies said that a proposed rule revision would restore the regulations defining WOTUS that were in place for decades until 2015—with updates to be consistent with relevant U.S. Supreme Court decisions. EPA and Department of the Army officials heard from farmers and ranchers on the issue last week, during a roundtable discussion held by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy. … ” Read more from Ag Alert here: Agriculture seeks clarity in revisions to U.S. water rules
EPA to assess impact on endangered species before signing off on pesticide ingredients
“The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will evaluate the potential impact of new pesticide active ingredients on endangered species before registering them, reversing a decades-long policy. It was the agency’s practice not to assess such potential impacts before registering new active ingredients in most cases. During that period, the EPA “has refused to do this, and … then they keep losing in court,” said Lori Ann Burd, a senior attorney and environmental health program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. The new policy means that if an EPA analysis determines a new pesticide active ingredient will likely have a negative impact on endangered species or their habitats, the agency will formally consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Services before making the registration official. … ” Read more from The Hill here: EPA to assess impact on endangered species before signing off on pesticide ingredients
Biden administration calls on agencies to better guard against political influence on science
This new 600-mile trail will connect 15 mountain towns for an epic adventure
“Think you’ve climbed every mountain? Searched high and low? Followed every byway and every path you know? Well, The Connected Communities Project is hoping to remedy that problem by bringing the hiking community a new 600-mile path to enjoy. The Connected Communities Project, a partnership between the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship (SBTS), the U.S. Forest Service, and other community partners, is on a mission to create a 600-mile network of multiuse trails that will one day connect 15 northern California mountain towns to Reno, Nevada. And it will be known as the Lost Sierra Route. ... ” Read more from Travel & Leisure here: This new 600-mile trail will connect 15 mountain towns for an epic adventure
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.