A wrap-up of posts published on Maven’s Notebook this week …
Note to readers: Sign up for weekly email service and you will receive notification of this post on Friday mornings. Readers on daily email service can add weekly email service by updating their subscription preferences. Click here to sign up!
The first webinar featured Laurel Firestone, a member of the State Water Resources Control Board and co-founder and co-director of the Community Water Center, a statewide nonprofit environmental justice organization based in the Central Valley and Central Coast; and Kristin Dobbin, who recently completed her Ph.D. from UC Davis and is now a postdoc at UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation. Their presentation gave an overview of water and environmental justice, discussed the Human Right to Water, and then presented some of the local, regional, and state efforts to implement the Human Right to Water in the state.
BAY-DELTA SCIENCE CONFERENCE: A new model to address legacy Gold Rush mercury in the Delta
It can be a bit hard for some to comprehend, but it is true: Here in the 21st century, California is still being impacted from actions taken in the 19th century: Mercury mined in California’s Coastal Range and used in the Sierra Nevada Gold Rush in the 1800s continues to contaminate water that flows into the Delta today.
In 2010, the Central Valley Regional Water Board adopted a Delta methylmercury TMDL, including a control program to reduce methylmercury and inorganic mercury in the Delta. The first phase has been completed, which included developing a model for mercury in the Delta.
At the 2021 Bay-Delta Science Conference, Jamie Anderson, Ph.D., Senior Engineer in the Department of Water Resources Delta Modeling Section, discussed the new model and what has been learned. She acknowledged the many collaborators who contributed to this work, including Reed Harris, Dave Hutchinson, and many staff in DWR’s Division of Environmental Services and Delta Modeling Section.
After 27 years, litigation over the Monterey Agreement comes to an end
“Over a quarter century of CEQA litigation over the validity of an agreement between the Department of Water Resources and State Water Project contractors finally came to an end with the court of appeal’s decision in Central Delta Water Agency v. Department of Water Resources, 69 Cal. App. 5th 170 (2021), and the California Supreme Court’s denial of a petition for review of that decision. In 1994, the Department of Water Resources entered into an agreement with State Water Project contractors called the “Monterey Agreement” in an effort to settle disputes over water allocations under long-term water supply contracts. Broadly, the Monterey Agreement modified formulas incorporated in the contracts for allocating water among SWP contractors, changed certain operations of SWP facilities and provided for the transfer of 20,000 acres of farmland for development of a water bank in Kern County. … ” Read more from the California Land & Development Report here: After 27 years, litigation over the Monterey Agreement comes to an end
California water districts to get more supply than planned
“Last month’s wet winter storms led California officials on Thursday to announce they’ll release more water than initially planned from state storage to local agencies that provide water for 27 million people and vast swaths of farmland. The Department of Water Resources now plans to give water districts 15% of what they’ve requested for 2022. That’s up from last month, when the state said it would supply 0% of requested water beyond what was needed for necessities such as drinking and bathing. It was the first time ever the state issued an initial water allocation of nothing. … ” Read more from KTLA here: California water districts to get more supply than planned
Water agencies table Delta drought regulation
“The Department of Water Resources and Bureau of Reclamation have withdrawn an emergency drought regulation for the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta. Despite a dry January, board staff said the regulation, known as a temporary urgency change petition (TUCP), would not improve conditions if implemented as planned in February. They found no potential benefits to Shasta and Trinity reservoirs, which have the greatest need for water. … ” Read more from AgriPulse here: Water agencie tables Delta drought regulation
A bitter feud centers on source of Arrowhead bottled water
“High in the San Bernardino Mountains, water seeps from the ground and trickles down the mountainside among granite boulders and bay laurel trees. Near this dribbling spring, water gushes through a system of tunnels and boreholes, and flows into a network of stainless steel pipes that join together in a single line. The water then courses downhill across 4.5 miles of rugged terrain in the San Bernardino National Forest to a tank, where some is hauled away in trucks to be bottled and sold as Arrowhead 100% Mountain Spring Water. Local environmentalists say the bottled water pipeline doesn’t belong in the national forest and is removing precious water that would otherwise flow in Strawberry Creek and nourish the ecosystem. After nearly seven years of fighting against the extraction of water, activists say they hope California regulators will finally order BlueTriton Brands — the company that took over bottling from Nestlé last year — to drastically reduce its operation in the national forest. … ” Read more from the LA Times here: A bitter feud centers on source of Arrowhead bottled water
2022 SAFER Aquifer Risk Map: Estimating groundwater quality risk for domestic wells and state small water systems
“The Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) drinking water program is a set of tools, funding sources, and regulatory authorities to provide assistance to the nearly one million Californians who currently lack safe drinking water. The Aquifer Risk Map fulfills one of the requirements in Senate Bill 200 (Monning, statutes of 2019), and is a component of the SAFER program. The Aquifer Risk Map uses existing water quality data to estimate where domestic wells (serving less than five connections) and state small water systems (serving between 5 and 15 connections) are at risk of accessing groundwater that does not meet primary drinking water standards. The Aquifer Risk Map is intended to inform Water Boards staff in the preparation of the annual Fund Expenditure Plan and to help identify at-risk state small water systems and domestic wells as required in SB 200. For the 2022 Needs Assessment, the SAFER program will combine the results of the Aquifer Risk Map with drought risk data from the Department of Water Resources to produce a combined risk assessment for state small water systems and domestic wells. … ”
Click here to continue reading this press release from the State Water Board.
“This past summer, as California faced a historic drought, reservoirs used by the small city of Healdsburg dropped to record lows. “It puts us in a situation where we just simply don’t have enough water to go about our normal daily practices,” says Terry Crowley, the city’s utility director. He says to conserve water, Healdsburg needed to slash consumption by 40%. City officials limited household use and banned watering ornamental lawns. But they did not want residents’ trees and bushes to die, so they found a creative solution. … ” Read more from Yale Climate Connections here: California city finds a creative way to conserve water
Groundbreaking for Friant-Kern Canal repairs is Tuesday
“It’s been a long time in coming but the much needed repairs for the area’s major water source will finally begin. The groundbreaking for what’s called the Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday [January 25]. The groundbreaking will be held along the Friant-Kern Canal at the intersection of Avenue 96 and Road 208 in Terra Bella. The groundbreaking will begin a project that will take several years that should eventually end with much needed repairs of a 33-mile stretch of the canal being completed. The 33-mile stretch goes from between Lindsay and Strathmore to north Kern County. After more than three years of planning the project is finally going to become a reality. … ” Read more from the Porterville Recorder here: Groundbreaking for Friant-Kern Canal repairs is Tuesday
Rice fields benefit endangered salmon
“Waterfowl and flooded rice fields have long been understood to be a natural fit. Now scientists believe that juvenile salmon may likewise benefit from the same winter habitat rice farmers provide their feathered friends. Andrew Rypel is a fish biologist with the University of California. In a collaborative effort between the California Rice Commission and California Trout, Rypel and others are looking at how salmon can benefit from flooded rice fields and associated Sacramento Valley flood plains during the winter months. “Before I came here there had been some pilot work to look at whether salmon grew well in rice fields, and lo and behold, it seemed like they did,” Rypel said. … ” Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Rice fields benefit endangered salmon
A freezer full of eyeballs (and other oddities) animate the quest to save California’s salmon
“Carson Jeffres is a senior researcher and lab director at UC Davis’s Center for Watershed Sciences. For over 20 years, he’s studied how native fish utilize and benefit from restored habitats in both Brazil and California. His current research focuses on the recovery of salmon populations in California. We asked him to update us about the effort to save this iconic, embattled fish. Q: Could you summarize what people should know about fish and floodplains, and what this means for California salmon? A:When river water leaves the channel and spreads out across the floodplain, it slows down, clears up, and becomes productive, making lots of great insect food for fish. Many fish evolved to take advantage of this, whether they’re spawning on floodplains or using that food during their migration upstream or downstream. But dams and levees prevent water from getting out onto floodplains, disconnecting fish from this important resource. ... ” Read more from the PPIC here: A freezer full of eyeballs (and other oddities) animate the quest to save California’s salmon
Climate change resilience begins with water, say these UC ag researchers
“On the rare days it rains in western Fresno County, the soils in Jeffrey Mitchell’s experimental fields soak up the water like a sponge. “The water disappears within less than a minute, even for four inches of water,” he said, laughing. Mitchell is a cropping systems specialist with the University of California Cooperative Extension. His quick-absorbing soils keep the rainfall from pooling and overflowing, like it does in many surrounding fields. “There’s the risk of that water evaporating if it stays there long enough,” he said, “and even more serious, perhaps, is that the water wouldn’t even infiltrate into the field at all and it would just simply run off and go out eventually into the ocean.” Mitchell’s water-efficient soils are the product of more than two decades of research into regenerative agricultural practices. … ” Read more from KVPR here: Climate change resilience begins with water, say these UC ag researchers
No celebration in Sacramento: environmental groups divided on Newsom’s big, headline-grabbing budget
“This week Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled his 2022-23 state budget proposal in Sacramento, including a $45.7 billion budget surplus, receiving both criticism and praise from environmental and climate justice advocates. The budget proposal followed one of the most catastrophic years for fish and the ecosystem in California history, one that saw the Delta smelt become virtually extinct in the wild, while only 2.6% of winter-run Chinook juveniles on the Sacramento River below Keswick Dam survived warm water conditions, and most spring-run Chinook salmon on Butte Creek perished before spawning. The proposal also came after a year in which Consumer Watchdog and Fractracker Alliance revealed at www.NewsomWellWatch.org that Newsom’s oil and gas regulatory agency, CalGEM, had approved a total of 9,728 oil drilling permits from January 1, 2019 until October 1, 2021. In addition, the groups found that the Newsom Administration approved 150 offshore drilling permits in state waters since January 1, 2019. … ” Read more from the Sacramento News & Review here: No celebration in Sacramento: environmental groups divided on Newsom’s big, headline-grabbing budget
In increasing State Water Project allocations, DWR is taking huge risks
Deirdre Des Jardins of California Water Research writes, “The Department of Water Resources has just announced that they are increasing the State Water Project allocations to 15%. Given the huge problems last year with watershed runoff forecasts, DWR is taking a huge risk of not meeting environmental water needs later in the year. In November 2021, nine scientists from leading California water research institutions wrote: “Delivering as much water as practicable to urban and agricultural users leaves no room to adjust for errors in forecasting or unanticipated worsening of conditions. Yet, as 2021 and previous drought years show, forecasting, modeling, and operational errors are the norm – not the exception – during droughts. These errors inevitably lead to increased harm to the environment and the likelihood of errors is increasing with a changing climate. … ” Continue reading at the California Water Research blog here: In increasing State Water Project allocations, DWR is taking huge risks
Proposed ballot measure would create water infrastructure
Edward Ring, former senior fellow at California Policy Center and the lead proponent of the Water Infrastructure Funding Act, writes, “Silicon Valley is known for its startup culture where so-called angel investors provide financing to launch companies that aspire to change the world. Innovations spawned in Silicon Valley have indeed changed the world, and in the process, made the San Francisco Bay Area home to thousands of near-billionaires and billionaires. With wealth like that comes social responsibility and political power, and many of the individuals wielding this wealth have stepped up. Powerful individuals from Silicon Valley are changing the destiny of the world. Might not the world’s destiny be improved if there was abundant water, everywhere? Shouldn’t California set an example to the world, instead of accepting a future of water scarcity and rationing? … ” Read more from Cal Matters here: Proposed ballot measure would create water infrastructure
No Water, No peace: Social justice begins with access to safe, clean, affordable drinking water
Groundswell: Fighting for Water Justice writes, “Of all the racism faced by people of color in the United States in the last century, the most pernicious is racism in access to safe, clean drinking water. Hinkley, Flint, Brady, Compton, Vernon, Warm Springs. The names of these places have become synonymous with poisoned water, toxic waste and cancer in communities where the populations are majority Black, Latino, Native American and poor. The devastating health impacts suffered by communities of color due to lack of access to clean water are well-documented, indisputable and shameful. And, despite tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer funding for “clean water” projects – all claiming to prioritize disadvantaged communities – every single study confirms that, to this day, access to clean drinking water in the U.S. is still highly unequal, based on race, income, and geography. … ” Read more from Black Voice News here: No Water, No peace: Social justice begins with access to safe, clean, affordable drinking water
Lift prohibition on new kelp farms off California’s coast
Brandon Barney, co-founder of Primary Ocean, a San Pedro company developing seaweed farms, writes, “At a recent public hearing, I told the California Coastal Commission that the state is ripe for revolution – a seaweed revolution. Thankfully, they listened. The commission voted to approve an offshore project that plans to farm giant kelp. By the time it appeared on the commission’s docket, the project already had the backing of the federal government – including $5 million of federal funding. We’re thrilled that the outpouring of support from businesses, universities and nonprofits finally convinced regulators to let our project proceed. But securing the green light for a project that will advance such goals as sustainable agriculture, carbon emissions reduction and renewable energy shouldn’t have been such a headache in the first place. ... ” Read more from Cal Matters here: Lift prohibition on new kelp farms off California’s coast
Would Biden’s nominee save rare wildlife from extinction?
Jimmy Tobias, an environmental reporter, writes, “In the coming months, the Senate will vote on the nomination of Martha Williams to be the next director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency that enforces the Endangered Species Act. If confirmed, Williams will be responsible for safeguarding the future of America’s imperiled flora and fauna. That task is a monumental one. Scientists have warned that Earth is facing a “mass extinction event,” in which species are disappearing on a global scale. Deforestation, drilling, mining, urban sprawl, increased consumption and climate change, among other threats, are accelerating this trend. … ” Read more from the LA Times here: Would Biden’s nominee save rare wildlife from extinction?
California needs to do more than just throw money at climate change. It must act
The LA Times editorial board writes, “For the second year in a row, California has been blessed with a massive budget surplus, and Gov. Gavin Newsom is again seeking to spend billions of those dollars responding to climate change. The $22 billion Newsom proposed last week is the largest investment in climate change in state history. Combined with funds from last year’s state climate spending package, it would provide California with a total of $37 billion for climate-related initiatives over a six-year period. … Newsom is right to take advantage of this windfall to do more to adapt to the warming climate and push the state toward a carbon-free future, and the Legislature should support his proposal. … ” Read more from the LA Times here: California needs to do more than just throw money at climate change. It must act
Logging makes forests and homes more vulnerable to wildfires
Chad Hanson, Ph.D., author and research ecologist with the John Muir Project, and Dominick DellaSala, Ph.D., author and chief scientist with Wild Heritage, writes, “The West has seen some really big forest fires recently, particularly in California’s Sierra Nevada and the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. Naturally, everyone is concerned and elected officials are eager to be seen as advancing solutions. The U.S. Senate is negotiating over the Build Back Better bill, which currently contains nearly $20 billion in logging subsidies for “hazardous fuel reduction” in forests. This term contains no clear definition but is typically employed as a euphemism for “thinning”, which usually includes commercial logging of mature and old-growth trees on public lands. It often includes clearcut logging that harms forests and streams and intensifies wildfires. … ” Read more from The Hill here: Logging makes forests and homes more vulnerable to wildfires
In regional water news this week …
East Kaweah GSA limits groundwater pumping
“In the face of deepening drought in October, the East Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency (EKGSA) passed an emergency groundwater allocation policy, and for the first time ever, the Tulare County area’s farmers were given limits and fines for how much water they can pump out of the increasingly parched ground. EKGSA governs water for much of the eastern portion of the Kaweah Sub Basin, which includes the towns of Lindsay and Strathmore, and the Exeter and Ivanhoe irrigation districts and the farmland that surrounds them. Michael Hagman, EKGSA’s executive director said even in wet years and the rain in late 2021, they just aren’t seeing wells recovering. … ” Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: East Kaweah GSA limits groundwater pumping
Visalia residents underwater on bills can breathe easier
“Nearly 14% of Visalia water users fell behind on their utility bills during the pandemic, but many of them will have at least a portion of that debt forgiven. California Water Service (Cal Water), which provides water service to nearly 45,000 homes and businesses in Visalia, received $20.8 million in relief for customers across its 23 service areas. The funding, which Cal Water advocated to help secure, is being administered through the State Water Resources Control Board and will enable the privately-owned utility to forgive past-due balances incurred by its customers between March 2020 and mid-June 2021. … ” Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: Visalia residents underwater on bills can breathe easier
Searles Valley Minerals responds to state approval of Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s flawed Groundwater Sustainability Plan
State Water Board member: Flowing water is “necessary” in the Kern River
“A technical legal gambit on the current Kern River case gave an interesting peek into the thoughts of one member of the powerful state Water Resources Control Board, which will ultimately decide the fate of any “loose” water on the river. The City of Bakersfield had filed a petition asking the board to reconsider an order that deferred consideration of public trust issues – meaning flows dedicated to the river for recreation, wildlife and drinking water – in the multi-phased administrative hearings to determine if there is available water on the river, if so, how much and who should get it. … ” Read more from SJV Water here: State Water Board member: Flowing water is “necessary” in the Kern River
Burbank officials fear bullet train will compromise airport safety and water supplies
“Several serious concerns have emerged this week about the California bullet train’s impact on Hollywood Burbank Airport, Burbank’s water supply and the taking of a massive commercial development along a proposed 13.7-mile route that is close to final environmental approval. The final decision for the downtown Los Angeles-to-Burbank segment, which would not begin construction for about a decade if the rail authority can find money for it, was outlined at a rail authority board meeting Wednesday. Approval of the environmental impact report was scheduled for Thursday. State officials said they had carefully considered impacts along the route and that it was time to certify the documents. … ” Read more from the LA Times here: Burbank officials fear bullet train will compromise airport safety and water supplies
SoCal: Water wasters in celeb-heavy suburb warned: 3 strikes and your flow is restricted
“In a wealthy enclave nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains that is a haven for celebrities, residents now face more aggressive consequences for wasting water — including the threat of having their water flows slowed to a trickle if they repeatedly flout conservation rules. The Las Virgenes Municipal Water District northwest of Los Angeles offers a bold example of how local authorities across drought-stricken California are trying to get people to use less water, voluntarily if possible but with the threat of punishment if they don’t comply. Before restricting water flows, the district hopes to spur savings by giving households a real-time look at their water use and stepping up fines for those homeowners who exceed their allotted “water budgets.” … ” Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Water wasters in celeb-heavy suburb warned: 3 strikes and your flow is restricted
Poseidon Water could receive millions in state bonds for Huntington Beach plant
“The controversial Poseidon Water seawater desalination plant in Huntington Beach could be in line to receive millions in state funds from the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee. The committee met Wednesday, a three-hour meeting during which it partially decided how to divide up more than $4.3 billion in tax exempt Private Activity Bonds that are available for distribution in 2022. Most of the money — about $3.7 billion — will go to qualified residential rental programs, which would fund affordable housing. However, the committee also voted to allocate about $510 million to other exempt facilities, which include Poseidon. … ” Read more from the LA Times here: Poseidon Water could receive millions in state bonds for Huntington Beach plant