DAILY DIGEST, 3/28: Is Monday’s storm the last shot at substantial rain for the season?; Valley agriculture needs “greenlash” to CA restrictions; Sites project could break ground in ’24; Arizona’s future water shock; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • WEBINAR: California-Nevada Drought & Climate Outlook Webinar at 11am.  The California-Nevada Drought Early Warning System March 2022 Drought & Climate Outlook Webinar is part of a series of regular drought and climate outlook webinars designed to provide stakeholders and other interested parties in the region with timely information on current drought status and impacts, as well as a preview of current and developing climatic events (i.e., El Niño and La Niña).  Click here to register.
  • EVENT: Delta Lead Scientist Ask Me Anything at 12pm. Join Delta Lead Scientist Dr. Laurel Larsen in a conversation with Delta Independent Science Board Chair-Elect Dr. Lisa Wainger and Delta Science Program Manager Dr. Lauren Hastings on March 28 at 12:00 PM. Together, they will explore the Delta ISB’s role in and impact on Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta science, policy, and management; how the Board develops its work plan; and its evolution since being established. The conversation will build on the March 2022 release of the Delta Science Program’s assessment of the Delta ISB, led by Lauren Hastings. Questions via the comments section are encouraged during the Instagram live. Instagram Live @deltastewardshipcouncil
  • MEETING: Delta Plan Interagency Implementation Committee from 1pm to 3pm. Agenda items include Collaboration Across the Estuary, an update on the DPIIC Restoration Subcommittee, Delta salinity management, and Delta Plan Performance Measures: 2021 Year in Review. Click here for the full agenda and remote access instructions.

In California water news today …

Storms to soak the Bay Area into Monday. Is it the last shot at substantial rain for the season?

A storm dipped down from the Gulf of Alaska and arrived in the Bay Area Sunday night, dropping a decent amount of rain on a region left parched by an unusually dry start to the new year.  Rain showers continued to move east Monday, leaving slick roads for a wet morning commute, with the potential for more thunderstorms for the rest of the day, according to the National Weather Service. After a brief lull in the rain, showers are expected to be focused primarily in the Central Coast into the early afternoon before tapering off into the evening. Meanwhile, the Sierra Nevada could receive several more inches of snow, with the Sonora Pass projected to get between eight and 12 inches. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Storms to soak the Bay Area into Monday. Is it the last shot at substantial rain for the season?

Much-needed rain making its way across parched Southwest

AccuWeather forecasters say a significant and widespread rain event is underway for the southwestern United States and will continue early this week. While any rain will be beneficial for the abysmally dry region, some issues may still arise due to its intensity.  It all kicked off late Sunday for the West Coast, according to forecasters.  A developing storm approached the California coast on Sunday and overspread rain into coastal areas like San Francisco by the evening and will spread into Santa Barbara and Los Angeles overnight. Farther north, places like Medford, Oregon, will begin to encounter showers Sunday night. … ”  Read more from AccuWeather here: Much-needed rain making its way across parched Southwest

Water confab makes clear: Valley agriculture needs “greenlash” to Calif. restrictions

The San Joaquin Valley’s future as the agricultural heartbeat of the United States and the world faces an existential crisis, an assembled group of water policymakers and state lawmakers warned Friday.  Following a pandemic break, the Fresno-based California Water Alliance hosted its second-ever annual water forum, bringing in more than 100 attendees from the farming, water, and government sectors to dive into a wide-ranging discussion covering some of the most hotly-debated topics affecting the region’s water supply.  As California enters its second bone-dry year of drought, a growing exasperation at the lack of long-range strategic planning to avoid the boom-and-bust cycle of the state’s water woes emerged. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Water confab makes clear: Valley agriculture needs “greenlash” to Calif. restrictions

Sites project could break ground in ’24

The long-awaited Sites Reservoir project in Northern California could break ground in late 2024, a local TV station is reporting.  The Sites Authority is moving forward to secure water right and critical permits for the project, which would capture Sacramento River waters during very wet years for use during droughts, executive director Jerry Brown recently told KRCR-TV in Redding.   … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Sites project could break ground in ’24

Students raise money to help supply water to communities in need

With each stroke of her pen, Stella Becir is bringing attention to the global water crisis. It’s an issue Becir and her best friend Jenna Barad became involved with their freshman year. They recently made signs to hold up during a walk that was held on Sunday in Hollywood to help bring attention to the Global water crisis.  The march also marked World Water Day, which is recognized on March 22 annually. The day celebrates water and raises awareness of people living without access to safe water.  Becir and Barad became involved in the issue after they signed up to take part in the Thirst Project chapter at Palisades High School.  “We came to the first meeting to get a sense of what it was like, and then it was kind of this huge shock moment, and we were just completely in awe learning about the global water crisis,” said Becir. … ”  Read more from Spectrum 1 here: Students raise money to help supply water to communities in need

Nature has solutions…What are they? And why do they matter?

California’s water problems are intense; so much so they are often referred to as ‘wicked’ for their extraordinary depth of complexity and general unsolvability. Yet it recently occurred to me that some of the better and more creative solutions often derive from one particular source – nature itself. Indeed, studies of nature-based solutions or ‘NBS’ are rising rapidly (Davies and Lafortezza 2019; Nelson et al. 2020; Acreman et al. 2021), and are especially popular within the NGO and environmental communities. This blog is a brief exploration of the concept, examples of nature-based solutions, both for California water and also generally, and why they might matter to us. As a fish ecologist, most of my thoughts are, as usual, focused on the status and conservation of our native fishes. ... ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Nature has solutions…What are they? And why do they matter?

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In commentary today …

State Auditor needs to investigate water agency over inaccurate data

Assemblymember Adam Gray writes, “We need to talk about what happened to all the water that was lost.  We already know what happened to thousands of farmers: They went without.  We know what happened in cities up and down the state: They went dry.  We know what happened to salmon eggs and juveniles: More perished than usual.  In the 2021 water year, California water officials disastrously miscalculated the moisture content of the Sierra Nevada snowpack. Because the Department of Water Resources didn’t know how much water was in the snow, or how much would be absorbed by the parched ground beneath, the department grossly overestimated how much would flow into reservoirs. That led the department to allow nearly 700,000 acre feet – some say much more – to flow to the ocean.  … ”  Continue reading at Cal Matters here: State Auditor needs to investigate water agency over inaccurate data

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Today’s featured article …

GUEST COMMENTARY: Don’t be too quick to write off Delta smelt

Guest commentary by Bill Bennett

The situation for the endangered Delta smelt is pretty dire, to say the least. Monitoring results show that the population of this tiny, silvery fish – which only lives for one year, used to be one of the most abundant fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and is at the heart of California’s water wars – has declined to record low levels in recent years.

This population decline has led numerous commentators to conclude that the species is “virtually” or “effectively” or “functionally” extinct.

Not so fast. To quote the famous “bring out your dead” scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Delta smelt are “not dead yet.”

There are two main reasons behind the false impression that the fish is extinct.

Click here to read this guest commentary.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


Column: The Drought- doing nothing is the only sure way to fail

Jim Shields, Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, and the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, writes, “You can say everybody who’s a politician is getting into the drought act. They’re all coming up with solutions to end all solutions.  It would help if Mother Nature were giving her advice to the office-bearers, and who knows if they’d listen.  After California recorded its driest January and February in more than 100 years of records in the Sierra Nevada, Gov. Newsom announced this week that the state 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. ... ”  Read more from the Ukiah Daily Journal here: Column: The Drought- doing nothing is the only sure way to fail


Sacramento area water providers receive $10.3 million in grants to boost groundwater banking, resiliency to drought

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has announced the award of over $10.3 million in grant funding for two Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) groundwater wells that allow water providers to add treated water into the groundwater aquifer during wet times, store that water underground for weeks, months or even years, and extract it during dry times.  …  “Every amount of state investment accelerates the Sacramento region’s comprehensive plan to build a more drought- and climate-resilient water system through the Sacramento Regional Water Bank by expanding our ability to store—or bank—water in the underground aquifer during wet times to be used during dry times,” said RWA Executive Director Jim Peifer, noting that the Sacramento region’s groundwater aquifer has the ability to store twice the volume of Folsom Reservoir. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Regional Water Authority here: Sacramento area water providers receive $10.3 million in grants to boost groundwater banking, resiliency to drought


Judge requires EIR for Napa County’s Mountain Peak winery

Napa County Superior Court judge has ruled that Napa County must set aside its approval of Mountain Peak winery at Soda Canyon and do an environmental impact report before reconsidering the matter.  Judge Cynthia Smith issued a March 21 order saying a fair argument can be made that the project might harm surface water and biological resources. That potential triggers the need for more in-depth study.  It was unclear Friday whether Napa County will appeal the ruling. … ”  Read more from the Napa Register here: Judge requires EIR for Napa County’s Mountain Peak winery

Napa Valley’s living landscapes: The Napa River Bay Trail, American Canyon’s best kept secret

I wasn’t alone when I decided to “walk on the wild side” along the Napa River Bay Trail in a bracing wind one early spring day.  Although not crowded in the least, this appears to be a well-loved place to walk and enjoy the prolific birdlife. I entered the trail at the American Canyon Wetlands View Trailhead at Wetlands Edge Road and Eucalyptus Drive. (A handy brochure with a map can be found online.)  These lands were home to the Indigenous people called Patwin for thousands of years. Then, they thrived on the marsh’s many plants, which they used for every phase of life. They wove beautiful multi-purpose baskets for carrying water, cooking, baby baskets, burden baskets for hauling items, ceremonial baskets, fish traps, and even constructed boats and huts from native marsh plants, like the tule reed. … ”  Read more from the Napa Valley Register here: Napa Valley’s living landscapes: The Napa River Bay Trail, American Canyon’s best kept secret


Marin interests make push for beavers in Lagunitas Creek

A coalition of biologists, ranchers, public agencies and environmental groups is exploring the idea of reintroducing beavers to lower Lagunitas Creek as a way to improve habitat for endangered salmon and provide benefits to nearby landowners.  While the idea of reintroducing beavers to Marin is by no means new or close to being implemented, it recently has gained a broader range of supporters who are now endeavoring to bring state wildlife officials on board.  Two ranches near Point Reyes Station that include sections of the creek have given their support for allowing beavers on the land. The Marin Municipal Water District, which is responsible for monitoring Lagunitas Creek and its endangered fish runs, is preparing a letter to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to begin more seriously evaluating the idea. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Marin interests make push for beavers in Lagunitas Creek

Belvedere to pursue tax, charter plan for disaster defense

Belvedere intends to move forward with a tax proposal and a new city charter to fund its seawall and natural catastrophe defense project.  A City Council meeting held on Tuesday focused on the $28 million seawall project, its funding and the passage of city charter required to levy a proposed real estate transfer tax.  The council did not vote during the meeting. Instead, officials fielded questions and comments from the public, many of whom remain skeptical about the fairness or the viability of the tax proposal.  The city plans to establish a city charter in order to levy a 1% real estate transfer tax to help fund the infrastructure plan, dubbed the “Protect Belvedere Project.” As a general law city, Belvedere does not have the authority to levy that tax. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here:  Belvedere to pursue tax, charter plan for disaster defense

Burlingame plans for projected sea level rise

Plans to construct a comprehensive network of seawalls and levees to protect the Peninsula from projected sea level rise are moving forward, with the early phases of design work for a portion along the Bayshore in Millbrae and Burlingame slated to begin this year.  Sizable portions of both cities could be inundated in coming decades as melting polar ice is expected to raise global sea levels by multiple feet over the next century. In response, a countywide effort calls for infrastructure to be built with a height 6 feet above the current elevation of a “100-year flood” — an event with a 1% chance of occurring in any given year. In Burlingame, that means walls will be built up to 16 feet or more. … ”  Read more from the Daily Journal here: Burlingame plans for projected sea level rise


With Feds sending no water to local farms, growers in San Benito County are forced to cut back production

After years of drought — and an exceptionally dry start to the year — farmers in San Benito County will be receiving no water this year from some of California’s biggest reservoirs.  San Benito County receives its water from three places: the federally-managed Central Valley Project, local groundwater basins and a small amount of reclaimed, or recycled water. But this will be the second year in a row that the county isn’t getting its federal allocation.  “We’ve just had to adjust and rely more on those other sources. And for us, it’s ground water,” said Richard Bianchi, Board Member of the San Benito County Farm Bureau, and Regional Manager of Sabor Farms in Hollister. “The problem with our groundwater in San Benito County is the quality isn’t as good as our federal water is.” … ”  Read more from KION here: With Feds sending no water to local farms, growers in San Benito County are forced to cut back production

Guest column: Expect mandatory conservation until drought is over

Anthony Goff, general manager of Calleguas Municipal Water District, and Adel Hagekhalil, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, write, “With a historically dry start to the year, mandatory conservation is imminent for much of Ventura County. Reducing water use is now a necessity and not an option.  There is only so much imported water that is expected to reach Ventura County, which is part of a six-county water grid that connects us to supplies from Northern California and the Colorado River. The grid at present has some plumbing constraints, with Ventura County connected mostly to supplies from the Sierra, with limited access to the Colorado. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star here: Guest column: Expect mandatory conservation until drought is over

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Along the Colorado River …

Arizona’s future water shock

” … Last year Scottsdale authorities, concerned about the effects of the megadrought and the August 2021 federal Colorado River water shortage declaration, decided to protect the city’s 241,000 residents. They issued an order under Scottsdale’s drought management plan that will bar tanker trucks from using a city-owned depot to haul water to homes outside the city limit. Rio Verde Foothills, where Nabity, Simpson and at least 500 other homeowners rely on the depot for their drinking water, falls into that category. The city set a December 31, 2022 deadline for the water shut off.  Scottsdale’s water shut down and Rio Verde Foothills’ scramble for a new supply is unique to Arizona at the moment. However, the significance of the community’s encounter with the real-life menace of drought and shrinking groundwater reserves is more than a one-off water shortage event. It is a flashing red warning that Arizona’s growth-centered economic determinism is crashing hard into severe ecological constraints. … ”  Read more from the Circle of Blue here: Arizona’s future water shock

Rio Verde homeowners sue county over water

Supporters of creating a water district in the Rio Verde Foothills have sued the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to force it to vote.  The group wants Superior Court to order the board to vote on whether to create a non-contagious domestic water improvement district, or DWID, noting it has been before the board since Feb. 17, 2021.  DWID supporters say they need to buy water for the district by June and simply do not have any more time for the supervisors, who by law must vote to create it, to drag their heels. … ”  Read more from the Scottsdale Progress here: Rio Verde homeowners sue county over water

How Colorado water history shapes the science of snow

Nestled in the spires of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains lie acres of crystalline snowpack, slowly carving the granite formations where they rest. The snowpack feeds a litany of creeks and rivulets that form the Colorado River, the bedrock of the West’s water supply.  Snow is crucial to fulfilling the Colorado River Compact’s promise of 7.5 million acre-feet allocations to the upper and lower basins. Nearly 40 million people among seven Western states depend on the river’s swift currents to power their daily lives – which snowpack monitoring helps inform by creating more accurate predictions of how much snowmelt will make its way downstream. Guided by the Compact’s allocations, the science of snowmelt reflects an overlooked facet of water planning and makes water history an integral part of outdoor recreation and hydrology. ... ”  Read more from Colorado State University here: How Colorado water history shapes the science of snow

Editorial: All stakeholders in the West rely on one another for competent water management

The Las Vegas Sun editorial board writes, “As the states and Native American tribes that share water from the Colorado River prepare to renegotiate how the water supply is allocated, the cardinal rule for these talks should involve conservation. Any state that shows up at the table without a plan to staunchly conserve its existing water supply should be penalized, and any with robust conservation plans should be rewarded.  For too long, some states in the 100-year-old Colorado River Compact have treated their allocation as if the end of the drought is right around the corner and the flow of the river will return to normal.  That’s magical thinking. … ”  Continue reading at the Las Vegas Sun here: Editorial: All stakeholders in the West rely on one another for competent water management

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In national water news today …

Report: Over half of U.S. waters are too polluted to swim or fish

Back in 1972, U.S. legislators passed the Clean Water Act with a 10-year goal: Make it safe for people to fish and swim in the nation’s waters. Fifty years later, around half of all lakes and rivers across the country that have been studied fail to meet that standard, according to a recent report by the Environmental Integrity Project, a D.C. watchdog and advocacy nonprofit. Instead, they’re classified as “impaired” — meaning that their fish are inedible, their water undrinkable, they’re unsafe for humans to swim in and inhospitable to aquatic life.  The Clean Water Act delivered a major win — it laid the groundwork for essential enforcement on industry — but there were key failures. … ”  Read more from the High Country News here: Report: Over half of U.S. waters are too polluted to swim or fish

Groundwater is an incredible resource. It’s time to treat it like one.

Off the top of your head, where is the closest freshwater source to you right now? Before you openGoogle Maps to find the nearest lake or river, think about what’s deep beneath your feet.  When it comes to flowing freshwater, most of it is buried out of sight. Around 99 percent of it exists underneath the Earth’s surface, resting in aquifers and groundwater reservoirs.  “If you’re looking at the Great Lakes and the Amazon, plus the Nile, Congo, Mekong rivers … all of these put together only account for one percent of the freshwater available,” says Richard Connor, editor-in-chief of the United Nations World Water Development Report (WWDR). Currently, around 50 percent of the world’s urban populations rely on more-hidden sources of freshwater for drinking, domestic uses, and irrigating crops, according to the UN. ... ”  Continue reading from Popular Science here: Groundwater is an incredible resource. It’s time to treat it like one.

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And lastly …

Best-selling author, weather enthusiasts explain allure of California weather

In the city of Los Angeles, every time the heavens open up, the hashtag #LArain trends on Twitter. People say rain, and the weather in general, is different in California. Anyone who has lived in the Desert Southwest long enough is fascinated by the rare appearance of rain and the wonder of a storm.  Every wind gust and raindrop is big news in L.A. In Arizona, the monsoon comes and goes every year like clockwork. But what precisely is different about rain in the desert? To find out, we asked a bestselling author, a storm chaser and TV meteorologists who have known both coasts. ... ”  Read more from AccuWeather here: Best-selling author, weather enthusiasts explain allure of California weather

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More news and commentary in the weekend edition …

This weekend in California water news …

  • California’s snowpack is ‘roasting in the dry and sunny conditions’
  • No March miracle: Bay Area, California remains in drought as end of rainy season arrives
  • A harbinger: Trash and debris, temperatures and a hellacious drought just set the stage for another shocking fish die-off
  • DWR to use innovative airborne technology to map state’s groundwater basins
  • Watersheds and river basins: Here’s why they are vitally important
  • New State and Federal PFAS regulation
  • New EPA Regional Administrator tackles water needs with a wealth of experience and $1 billion in federal funding
  • EYES ON EARTH PODCAST: Aquatic Ecosystems, ECOSTRESS, and the Delta smelt
  • Klamath: Bureau of Reclamation talks lake levels and water partitioning ahead of April announcement
  • A coming storm could drop the most rain the S.F. Bay Area has seen this year
  • Study previews how climate change may alter rain-making atmospheric rivers by 2100
  • And more …

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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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