A wrap-up of posts published on Maven’s Notebook this week …
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REGIONAL WATER AUTHORITY: Coffee and conversation with DWR Director Karla Nemeth
DWR Director Karla Nemeth discusses the Department’s efforts to respond to the drought and why she is optimistic we can meet the challenge of climate change
Last week, the Regional Water Authority hosted a discussion with Karla Nemeth, the Director of the Department of Water Resources, as part of RWA’s “Coffee and Conversation” series. The discussion was led by RWA’s Executive Director, Jim Piefer.
URBAN WATER INSTITUTE: Are we ready for a “black swan” event in the water business?
Felicia Marcus, Pat Mulroy, Jeffrey Kightlinger, and Tom Kennedy discuss unexpected events and how the water industry can prepare for them
A black swan is an unpredictable event that is unexpected and has potentially severe consequences; covid-19, for example. Could a black swan event happen in the water industry, and if so, are we ready for it? At the Urban Water Institute’s spring conference recently held online, a panel of experts tackled the question.
Judge clears Biden Delta plan to replace Trump’s biological opinions
“A federal judge is allowing the Biden administration to replace Trump-era biological opinions on endangered fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta with a temporary plan as federal agencies enter a years-long process to seek a permanent replacement. The Newsom administration has been a partner in the effort. Environmental and fishing groups were seeking an immediate halt to the 2019 biological opinions and more stringent protections than those in the interim plan. Irrigation districts and water project contractors, on the other hand, were supporting the original opinions, arguing the calendar-based pumping operations were outdated and the Delta needed a more flexible management approach. Several California Democrats in Congress opposed the plan as well, including Senator Dianne Feinstein. … ” Read more from Agri-Pulse here: Judge clears Biden Delta plan to replace Trump’s biological opinions
Big new Northern California reservoir on track for $2.2 billion federal loan
“A long-delayed plan to build a giant reservoir in Northern California to help withstand the U.S. West’s notorious droughts got a huge financial boost on Thursday when the federal government signaled its intent to loan the project nearly $2.2 billion — about half of the cost to design, plan and build it. The proposal would flood what’s left of the town of Sites, a tiny community with just a handful of residents nestled in a valley of the coastal range mountains in rural Colusa County. The idea has been around since the 1950s, but there has never been enough money or political will to move it forward. But now a megadrought caused by climate change that researchers say is the worst in 1,200 years has renewed interest in the project, and efforts to move the project forward are happening quickly. … ” Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Big new Northern California reservoir on track for $2.2 billion federal loan
California Water Commission increases potential funding for seven water storage projects
“The California Water Commission has increased the potential funding amounts for the seven projects in the Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP). Proposition 1, approved by California voters in 2014, directed the Commission to create a competitive process for funding water storage projects based on their public benefits. The projects were evaluated and ranked on criteria established in the WSIP regulations. … This month, with approximately $64 million in available funding remaining, the Commission voted to increase the potential funding amount for the Sites Project by $25 million, correcting a shortage from 2018 due to limited funding. … ”
Click here to read the full press release from the California Water Commission.
“The California Water Commission must fund two Central Valley water projects to provide desperately needed water to California farmers, argued Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, argued in a letter to Commission Chair Teresa Alvarado. “I write to ask the California Water Commission to continue its support of the Kern Fan Project and Sites Reservoir – two water storage projects that are critical to the Central Valley and will benefit the entire state,” Fong wrote in the letter. “The Kern Fan Project consists of canals, pump stations and a new turnout at the California Aqueduct to convey water between the project facilities and the California Aqueduct. Sites Reservoir captures and stores stormwater flows from the Sacramento River for use by urban and agricultural uses.” … ” Read more from the Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Alert here (scroll down to second story): Fund water projects, lawmaker says
With dry winter, California readies next drought actions
“The Department of Water Resources plans to soon drop State Water Project allocations to 0%, following a temporary 15% bump after December storms. DWR Director Karla Nemeth outlined for the State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday this and other coming actions. DWR will resubmit a temporary urgency change petition (TUCP) to the board on Friday, after withdrawing the proposal in February. If approved, the emergency regulation will preserve stored supplies for critical human health and safety needs. The department is evaluating further actions to protect endangered fish as well this year and will close a notch in a Delta salinity barrier installed last year to prevent saltwater intrusion. DWR will also work on collaborative reductions with settlement contractors along the Feather and Sacramento rivers, which hold senior water rights that predate the formation of the state water board. … ” Read more from Agri Pulse here: With dry winter, California readies next drought actions
Newsom administration boosts state funding for drought emergency
“After California recorded its driest January and February in more than 100 years of records in the Sierra Nevada, Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration is spending an additional $22.5 million to respond to the immediate drought emergency. The additional $22.5 million allocation includes more funding for the Department of Water Resources, State Water Resources Control Board and the California Department of Food and Agriculture. More than a third of the money – $8.25 million – will be used to increase outreach efforts to educate Californians on water conservation measures and practices. … ”
Click here to continue reading this press release from the Governor.
California prepares for 3rd dry year after few winter storms
“Drought-stricken California is facing another year of parched conditions and pleas for conservation as the winter comes to a close with little of the hoped-for rain and snow. A wet December that dumped snow in the mountains fueled optimism as 2022 began, but the state may end this month with the distinction of the driest January through March in at least a century. State water officials are preparing to tell major urban and agricultural water agencies Friday that they will get even less water from state supplies than the small amount they were promised to start the year, and major reservoirs remain well below their normal levels. … ” Read more from the AP here: California prepares for 3rd dry year after few winter storms
The worst drought in 1,200 years: California at the Rubicon
“A paper that was recently published in the journal Nature Climate Change had a convoluted title: Rapid Intensification of the Emerging Southwestern North American Megadrought in 2020-2021. But what the paper detailed was explicit, easily understood – and terrifying. Using tree-ring data, researchers determined that the decades between 2000-2021 were the driest 20-year period in the American Southwest (including much of California) since 800 CE. Moreover, the current drought will likely continue through 2022, making it equivalent to a prolonged “megadrought” that afflicted the area in the late 1500s. “Reservoirs are low,” said Jay Lund, the co-director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis. “Lake Shasta is lower than it was at this time last year. The warming climate is making smaller droughts bigger, even as it’s increasing weather variability … ”
Click here to continue reading this press release from the California Water Impact Network.
CA water manager says ‘disaster fatigue’ is why people aren’t focused on drought
“California water conservation efforts are worsening and some water managers are blaming “disaster fatigue” for the state’s abysmal conservation numbers. Last summer Governor Newsom called on all Californians to cut their water use by at least 15%. Niema Quiet has been doing her part to conserve water and told KCBS Radio that she has been washing some of her clothes by hand. “As a kid we didn’t even have washers and dryers so I look at it like that,” Quiet said. “I had to wash all my clothes by hand a lot.” … ” Read more from KCBS via MSN here: CA water manager says ‘disaster fatigue’ is why people aren’t focused on drought
The longest drought: Climate scientists reconsider the meaning and implications of drought in light of a changing world
“Maps of the American West have featured ever darker shades of red over the past two decades. The colors illustrate the unprecedented drought blighting the region. In some areas, conditions have blown past severe and extreme drought into exceptional drought. But rather than add more superlatives to our descriptions, one group of scientists believes it’s time to reconsider the very definition of drought. Researchers from half a dozen universities investigated what the future might hold in terms of rainfall and soil moisture, two measurements of drought. The team, led by UC Santa Barbara’s Samantha Stevenson, found that many regions of the world will enter permanent dry or wet conditions in the coming decades, under modern definitions. The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveal the importance of rethinking how we classify these events as well as how we respond to them. … ” Read more from UC Santa Barbara here: The longest drought:Climate scientists reconsider the meaning and implications of drought in light of a changing world
California Water Supply: A debate between Scott Slater and Michael Hiltzik
“Scott Slater is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Cadiz Inc., appointed to the role of President in April 2011 and Chief Executive Officer effective February 1, 2013 with the purposed of fulfilling the company’s California water supply project plans. Mr. Slater has been a member of the company’s board of directors since February 2012. Mr. Slater is an accomplished water rights transactional attorney and litigator and, in addition to his role at the company, is a shareholder in Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP, the nation’s leading water law firm. For nearly 40 years, Mr. Slater has focused on negotiation of agreements and enacting policy related to the acquisition, distribution, and treatment of water. … In this exclusive 5,399 word interview with the Wall Street Transcript, Scott Slater details his company’s quest to develop a water supply project in California. ” Read more from Wall Street Transcript here: California Water Supply: A debate between Scott Slater and Michael Hiltzik
Press release: Judge sides with DWR, rejects plaintiffs’ challenge to extension of State Water Project contracts
“On March 9, 2022, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Hon. Kevin R.Culhane handed down his final decision in which he ruled in favor of the California Departmentof Water Resources (DWR) on every claim asserted by plaintiffs inCalifornia Department ofWater Resources Vs. All Persons Interested in the Matter(Case No. 34-2018-00246183). Thiswell-reasoned and strongly worded decision represents a significant milestone in the lengthyeffort to extend the long-term water contracts DWR currently has with 29 public wateragencies (Contractors) and to implement other changes aimed at improving the fiscal integrityand financial management of the State Water Project (SWP) moving forward. … ” Continue reading from the State Water Contractors here: Press release: Judge sides with DWR, rejects plaintiffs’ challenge to extension of State Water Project contracts
Through challenges of drought, locally led solutions for groundwater sustainability are advancing
“California’s groundwater basins are a critical part of the state’s water supply for millions of people. Small communities rely on it, individual homes rely on it. It is a source of drinking water as well as irrigation for California’s agricultural community. Groundwater is a fragile lifeline for some communities and as we find ourselves entering a third year of a severe drought, conservation will be critical as many of the monitoring wells statewide now show groundwater levels below historical average. Despite this year’s dire drought circumstances, there is hope on the horizon for long-term groundwater sustainability and drought resiliency. That’s because California started taking action after the last drought. … ” Read more from DWR News here: Through challenges of drought, locally led solutions for groundwater sustainability are advancing
California’s new farmland repurposing program requires community engagement. This guide describes how.
“Many regions in California are embarking on a new era of water and land management strategies as local agencies implement sustainability initiatives and climate change intensifies droughts and water scarcity. However, too often low-income rural communities have had little opportunity to influence land and water decisions that directly impact — and often harm — them, including wells drying up and limited access to parks. California’s new Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program aims to ensure these communities as well as small-scale farmers are more involved in land and water use planning by making their engagement a requirement for funding recipients. … ” Read more from the Environmental Defense Fund here: California’s new farmland repurposing program requires community engagement. This guide describes how.
Deadline to apply for $50M to retire farmland coming up April 1
“The state has $50 million to spend to retire farmland, which it intends to give out as block grants to local agencies, tribes and nonprofits in the San Joaquin Valley. But there are strings attached to the money. The groups that receive the block grants will have to work directly with farmers and community members to find ways to reduce irrigated cropland while still using the land in a beneficial way. That could be a problem seeing as how outreach in rural areas has proven to be a challenge for other programs. The deadline for groups to apply for the block grants is coming up on April 1. … ” Read more from SJV Water here: Deadline to apply for $50M to retire farmland coming up April 1
Groups Defend Needed Regulations for the Delta: 19th century “water rights” should not trump drought management
“On Thursday 3/10/22, a coalition of California Indian Tribes and Delta community groups (represented by the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic) filed an amicus brief in state appellate court defending the State Water Resources Control Board’s power to protect the California Bay-Delta by regulating and enforcing against excessive diversions of water, which harm the Delta watershed and the communities that depend on it. The Winnemem Wintu Tribe, Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, Little Manila Rising, and Restore the Delta are parties to the brief. The amicus brief was submitted in the “California Water Curtailment Cases.” The cases arose in 2015, the fourth year of drought, when the State Water Board issued curtailment orders to senior water right holders in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River and Delta watersheds. … ” Read more from Restore the Delta here: Groups Defend Needed Regulations for the Delta: 19th century “water rights” should not trump drought management
The Santa Rosa Press Democrat editorial board writes, “Rain came early last fall, but whatever hope blossomed for a better than normal — or even average — year is gone. There is no March miracle in the forecast, and summers are dry in California, so mandatory water conservation isn’t going away any time soon. “We had a great start to the beginning of the wet season … and we have basically flatlined since then,” Jeanine Jones of the California Department of Water Resources said during a virtual town hall meeting on Thursday that Sonoma Water billed as “a huge reality check.” … ” Continue reading at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: For California, drought is the new normal
Mandate water conservation rules in California — now
The San Jose Mercury News & East Bay Times editorial board writes, “What is Gov. Gavin Newsom waiting for? California is experiencing historically horrific drought conditions. The past three years are on pace to be hotter and drier than conditions during the peak of California’s 2013-15 drought, considered the most severe in state history dating back to 1850. And Californians learned Tuesday they are failing miserably at meeting the state’s voluntary conservation goals. The situation calls for the governor to impose mandatory water conservation rules. Now. Before reservoirs drop any lower. The mandate should include fines and penalties for cities and water districts that fail to comply. … ” Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Mandate water conservation rules in California — now
This megadrought’s dry years to come
The Southern California News Group editorial board writes, “Reading the tree rings from Montana to northern Mexico, from Pacific beaches to the Colorado Rockies, a team of scientists led by a UCLA researcher has shown that the current long-term drought in the West is the most severe in 1,200 years. It’s not just a dry spell — it’s a megadrought. The rigorous study, aided by NASA, shows all that talk you have heard most of your life, about how the lack of rain in these parts is normal, and about how “we live in a desert anyway” — we don’t; we live in a rare Mediterranean climate — is nonsense. … ” Read more the San Bernardino here: This megadrought’s dry years to come
Are curtailments a balanced water use?
Mike Wade, Executive Director of the California Farm Water Coalition, writes, “California’s water supply continues to face serious challenges and nowhere is the evidence clearer than on the farms that grow our food. Some of the most critical shortages expected this year extend from the Klamath Basin and Scott Valley, near the Oregon border, to Bakersfield at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley. This 450-mile stretch includes some of the most productive farmland on the planet, where the ongoing drought threatens thousands of farms. And it’s not just farmers who will suffer the consequences of vanishing water supplies. Consumers also face uncertainties when it comes to the food they buy. It’s hard to imagine empty shelves at the grocery store but the evidence of food shortages is already here in the form of higher prices. In the Scott Valley an unprecedented water curtailment by the State Water Resources Control Board is aimed at reducing the use of irrigation water from both the Scott River and the area’s groundwater basin. … ” Continue reading at the California Farm Water Coalition here: Are curtailments a balanced water use?
Farms, fish and the future: State water board must balance the needs of all Californians
Mike Wade, the executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, writes, “On Wednesday, March 16 the State Water Resources Control Board will meet to discuss Sacramento River temperature management and its impact on salmon for 2022 and beyond. Salmon, salmon fishermen, and all Californians, are struggling with drought impacts. And as we work toward long-term solutions, that doesn’t make this year easier for anyone. However, it is important to maintain balance between all water users and observe the California Water Code, which requires “reasonable” decisions among competing water uses. And while some may want to define “reasonable” solely on the basis of an amount of water allocated to each user, it’s clearly not that simple. … ” Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Farms, fish and the future: State water board must balance the needs of all Californians
Westlands sounds the alarm about Valley farm jobs. California’s leaders need to listen
The Fresno Bee editorial board writes, “The importance of farming in the San Joaquin Valley is shown in a new report that captures the significant economic impact of the nation’s largest agriculture water district, which spans parts of Fresno and Kings counties. Westlands Water District, which runs from Kettlemen City on the south to near Firebaugh on the north, had a total economic impact of $4.7 billion in 2019, the most recent year for which data is available. When it comes to employment, Westlands’ 700 farms supported more than 35,000 jobs. Of those, 16,000 were linked directly to farm work, while nearly 18,000 were secondary jobs involved in processing the fruits, vegetables and nuts grown in the district. … ” Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Westlands sounds the alarm about Valley farm jobs. California’s leaders need to listen
Saving California’s salmon is now up to Governor Newsom
Kate Poole, Senior Director of NRDC’s Water Division, writes, “The federal court has spoken on the matter of keeping the highly destructive Trump biological opinions in place this year and the verdict is that doing so would likely drive California’s wild salmon, their habitat in the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary, and all who depend on them, into a death spiral from which they may never recover. It’s time for the Biden Administration to acknowledge that these biological opinions are highly illegal and wildly destructive, and to impose adequate protections during the three years that it will take to write new biological opinions. In the meantime, it will be up to the State of California to step up and prevent California’s salmon and other native fish from disappearing off the face of the earth.… ” Read more from the NRDC here: Saving California’s salmon is now up to Governor Newsom
Column: Finding water for salmon
Bill Lynch writes, “California is in its third straight year of drought, which means that all creatures, human and otherwise, are in for more hot, dry and possibly dangerous months. It’s especially bad for fish. Lack of water is only half the problem. The other is water temperature. California’s native fish like trout and salmon are not the tropical variety. They die when the water gets too warm. That’s why those in the business of preserving and protecting California fisheries are promoting the idea of actually moving fish to cooler waters in our state. This was the subject of a recent article by John McManus, president of the Golden State Salmon Association. The GSSA’s mission is to restore California salmon for their economic, recreational, commercial, environmental, cultural and health values. … ” Read more from the Sonoma Index-Tribune here: Column: Finding water for salmon
Why California must fund water infrastructure upgrades
Edward Ring, co-founder of the California Policy Center, writes, “Californians have achieved impressive feats of water conservation over the past few decades. But that won’t be enough. While we’re drinking, washing, flushing, and irrigating less, demand for water still outpaces supply. Aging dams and canals need seismic retrofits, and new systems for harvesting and storing runoff water —and reusing wastewater — need to be built. What’s the hold-up? With care, environmentalist concerns over new water projects can be balanced with the need to provide Californians with an adequate water supply. But behind environmentalists, a diverse assortment of financial special interests is betting that Californians are going to live with chronic water scarcity forever. … ” Read more from the National Review here: Why California must fund water infrastructure upgrades
A wake-up call to our national leaders from a Western rancher
Patrick O’Toole, president of the Family Farm Alliance, writes, “Fifteen years ago, Family Farm Alliance leaders began ramping up efforts to convey the growing concerns many had with what they were seeing happen across the West. Agricultural water supplies were being reallocated to meet growing urban and environmental water demands. We started asking our political leaders pointed questions that we thought demanded answers. At what point will too much agricultural land be taken out of production? Do we want to rely on imported food for safety and security? We pointed out to policymakers that Europeans, who have starved within memory, understood the importance of preserving their food production capability. They recognized it for the national security issue that it is. And some of those countries still do. … ” Read more from the Capital Press here: A wake-up call to our national leaders from a Western rancher
Combatting California’s water crisis
Congressman Doug LaMalfa writes, “Last week, federal officials announced that no water would be delivered to many California farmers this year. Our state is facing a historic drought. But instead of trying to conserve water for beneficial use, like growing food or for basic drinking water, our state is continuing large unneeded releases of fresh water directly out to sea unused. I think that most people would agree that feeding our nation and preserving needed water for human use is more important than flushing unused water out to the ocean, but in California, who knows? … ” Continue reading at The Union here: Combatting California’s water crisis
Essay: Winnemem Wintu: A Process of Survival
Elena Neale-Sacks, a narrative audio and print reporter based in the East Bay, writes, “A quiet cemetery rests behind a metal fence at the end of a cul-de-sac in the Northern California city of Shasta Lake, beyond houses touting American flags. Our white pickup truck slows to a stop in front of the fence as two deer bound across the road, toeing the line between nature and suburbia. Caleen Sisk, chief of the Winnemem Wintu tribe, sits across from me in the driver’s seat, an 84-year reminder of what her people lost etched into the earth in front of our eyes. Caleen is 69 years old, with long black hair that’s shaved just above her ears, revealing peppered gray sideburns. She was born and now lives about 10 miles northeast of this cemetery, in a village at the end of a bumpy dirt road you’d miss if you weren’t paying attention. But her ancestors’ land stretches all the way to Mt. Shasta, the source of the McCloud River that runs down from the mountain between the parallel Sacramento and Pit Rivers. The name “Winnemem” has its origins here — it means “middle water.” … ” Read more from Bay Nature here: Essay: Winnemem Wintu: A Process of Survival
Drought foreshadows another tough year for fish and farmers in the Klamath basin
“Snowpack levels are trending far below average in the Klamath basin, foreshadowing another year of drought and bare minimum Upper Klamath Lake levels. In the meantime, the downstream effects on farmers and multiple endangered species of fish continue to ripple throughout the valley with no sign of letting up. The man-made Klamath Lake has been managed by the Bureau of Reclamation since 1902. The body of water feeds the ‘A canal’ that irrigates some 130,000 acres of farmland in the Klamath Water Project. ... ” Read more from KDRV here: Drought foreshadows another tough year for fish and farmers in the Klamath basin
Drought and Dixie Fire impacts water quality at Lake Almanor
“A warming climate is altering ecosystems worldwide. In California we are experiencing prolonged drought and more intense wildfires, which are impacting water quality in lakes and reservoirs. Fortunately, at Lake Almanor a dedicated group of concerned community members has commissioned water quality studies for the past thirteen years to monitor these impacts. They are the Lake Almanor Watershed Group (LAWG) and the 2021 water quality report is now available at the website of the Sierra Institute for Community and Environment (sierrainstitute.us). The report analyzes changes in temperature, oxygen concentration, electrical conductivity, transparency and pH, as well as plankton types and population density, at three lake sites at four times during the year. These same parameters, except for plankton and transparency, are also analyzed in the main tributaries to Lake Almanor: North Fork Feather River, Bailey Creek and Hamilton Branch. … ” Read more from the Plumas County News here: Drought and Dixie Fire impacts water quality at Lake Almanor
State park near Antioch closing down due to ‘no resources’
“A California State Park based around a group of islands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is closing temporarily, beginning April 1. Brannan Island State Recreation Area, located north of Antioch along Highway 160, is a popular place for boating, windsurfing and swimming and has 120 campsites and a marina. It is described as “a maze of waterways” with “countless islands and marshes with many wildlife habitats” by the Department of Parks and Recreation. The Utah-based property management company that has been maintaining the park since 2013, American Land and Leisure, opted not to renew its month-to-month lease with State Parks, the department said Thursday. “Due to the remote location of the state recreation area, there are no resources within State Parks to keep it open,” the department said. … ” Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: State park near Antioch closing down due to ‘no resources’
San Lorenzo Valley Water District weighs CZU complex fire rebuild options
“The San Lorenzo Valley Water District could decide Thursday just how it will rebuild some 7 miles of scorched drinking water pipeline – which burned in the August 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fire. The flexible, yet thick high-density polyethylene pipeline didn’t fare well in the historic blaze. The plastic pipe wound through steep Santa Cruz Mountains topography, and sat above ground, which made it particularly vulnerable to wildfire. As a result, the district lost nearly all of its surface water sources, forcing the purveyor to rely on the Santa Margarita Groundwater Basin to provide drinking water — an aquifer that is critically overdraft, meaning more water has been pulled out of the aquifer than replenished over the years. … ” Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel here: San Lorenzo Valley Water District weighs CZU complex fire rebuild options
Monterey County water officials warn: collaborate or suffer
“Dozens of people from several government agencies, water districts, water providers and Monterey County residents worried about the current state of water supplies gathered Tuesday in a first-of-its-kind water summit to forge a collaborative regional approach to the often-disparate interests that have guided local water policy. Organized by Monterey County Supervisor Mary Adams, the gathering was never designed to reach any formal agreement. Instead, it was the first time the various interests were gathered in one room – both physically and virtually – to share their views on approaches to an extremely challenging water supply problem in the county. “This will be a collaborative effort for a regional solution and needed dialogue,” Adams said to kick off the meeting. “We all need to leave our biases behind and our guns at the door.” … ” Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Monterey County water officials warn: collaborate or suffer
Westlands growers fear groundwater power grab by district general manager
“Divisions are deepening within the giant Westlands Water District as some growers fear the district’s longtime, controversial general manager is amassing too much power. In mid-February, district staff proposed new groundwater rules that would give General Manager Tom Birmingham almost total control over how groundwater is accounted for and to which grower accounts it would be credited, according to district growers. It was a move that shocked some and prompted a group of growers to send letters to the district opposing the rules and demanding fair governance. They say giving that much power to one staff person creates a situation ripe for favoritism and abuse. … ” Read more from Westlands Water District here: Westlands growers fear groundwater power grab by district general manager
Ridgecrest: Indian Wells Valley water pumping 2.7 times higher than natural recharge
“The annual water report for 2021 was presented on Wednesday at the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority regular board meeting. In short, water levels are declining. That much was already known, but questions revolved around gaps in the data. “We cannot be expected to control the overdraft until we understand the overdraft,” said Stan Rajtora, IWVGA board member representing the IWV Water District. The presentation was given by Stetson Engineers, the company performing the role of Water Resources Manager for IWVGA. … ” Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Indian Wells Valley water pumping 2.7 times higher than natural recharge
Congress approves second half of $412 million needed to fix Whittier Narrows Dam
“A $412 million project to repair the Whittier Narrows Dam is about to become a reality. The second half of funding, $219.5 million is included in the $1.5 trillion packaged to fund the federal government in the current year approved by the House of Representatives. Assuming President Joe Biden signs the bill, the money will fund a project that has been under consideration for most of the past decade. It began in 2016 when the Army Corps of Engineers upgraded the dam’s flood risk from high urgency to very high urgency. The re-inspection revealed a greater threat of erosion and breach which could cause massive downstream flooding to at least 1 million Southern California residents in the event of a severe storm event. … ” Read more from the Pasadena Star News here: Congress approves second half of $412 million needed to fix Whittier Narrows Dam
San Dominguez Channel: A massive fire unleashed a flood of toxic runoff, triggering an environmental disaster
“Nyla Olsen’s eyes moisten with rage as she recalls the day in early October when a surge of putrid water rolled out of the Dominguez Channel and turned life in Leeward Bay Marina into “a horror movie.” Fish were gasping for oxygen at the surface of the water or floating belly up, she said. Boat hulls were slathered with sticky black slime. An octopus died after trying to escape by climbing onto a vessel, she said. … Alvarez and others have long complained of emissions from nearby refineries and chemical plants, but residents say this was a far stronger and more disturbing odor. It was as though “there was something invisible and terrifying lurking in every room,” Alvarez said. “I never felt more afraid in the home I was born and raised in.” It took officials two months to figure out what caused the overpowering stench: A massive fire that ripped through a Carson warehouse had unleashed a flood of toxic runoff. … ” Read more from the LA Times here: A massive fire unleashed a flood of toxic runoff, triggering an environmental disaster
Lake Powell hits historic low, raising hydropower concerns
“A massive reservoir known as a boating mecca dipped below a critical threshold on Tuesday raising new concerns about a source of power that millions of people in the U.S. West rely on for electricity. Lake Powell’s fall to below 3,525 feet (1,075 meters) puts it at its lowest level since the lake filled after the federal government dammed the Colorado River at Glen Canyon more than a half century ago — a record marking yet another sobering realization of the impacts of climate change and megadrought. It comes as hotter temperatures and less precipitation leave a smaller amount flowing through the over-tapped Colorado River. Though water scarcity is hardly new in the region, hydropower concerns at Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona reflect that a future western states assumed was years away is approaching — and fast. … ” Read more from the Associated Press here: Lake Powell hits historic low, raising hydropower concerns
BLOG ROUND-UP: Are curtailments a balanced water use?; Learning about CA’s water rights is the first step to reform; Saving California’s salmon is now up to Governor Newsom; A brief history of the water wars; and more …