DAILY DIGEST, 3/29: Californians face water restrictions as drought intensifies; Gray calls for state audit over water loss; Water availability, regs spur farmland value chasm; Lake Powell continues to disappear as Colorado hits pause on plan to prop up levels; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • WEBINAR: Integrating Land Use and Water Management: Nationwide Planning and Practice from 9am to 10am. There has been noted interest in recent years from several states in formalizing a connection between land use and water planning. This webinar will share recent research into state laws for integrated land use and water management planning: the connection points between land use and water management, the range of legal contexts nationwide, how law impacts local action, and how stand-out communities are integrating land and water management, either according to their state’s standards or above and beyond them. Presented by the Alliance for Water Efficiency. Click here to register.
  • FREE WEBINAR: Practical Applications of Soil Moisture Information from 11am to 12pm. The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and the National Weather Service (NWS) are pleased to host two webinars on soil moisture data and applications. The webinars are intended to help NWS operational forecasters, and other weather and climate service providers, to better understand soil moisture monitoring and its practical applications.This second webinar in the series will include the following presentations on the use of soil moisture to inform drought monitoring and decision making.  Click here to register.
  • Office Hours: Repurposing farmland that will be fallowed as part of SGMA from 12pm to 1pm.  Join Mavens Notebook, the Groundwater Exchange, CivicWell (formerly the Local Government Commission) for the third in a series of groundwater lunch time “office hours.” These reoccurring sessions offer an informal forum to ask experts about Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) implementation.  On March 29, our guests will be Anna Schiller, Project Manager with the Environmental Defense Fund, and Vicky Espinoza, UC Merced PhD Candidate and YouTube channel CaliWaterAg. They will provide an overview of a new program from the Department of Conservation that provides funding to help land repurposing projects be implemented, and discuss the new guidance document, Community and Grower Engagement in Multibenefit Land Repurposing.  Click here to register.
  • RIVER ROUNDTABLE: Bring Back the Kern from 5:15pm to 6:45 pm.  Bring Back the Kern hosts first event in a series of “River Roundtables” to show community paths to restore a flowing river.  The Kern River isn’t the only river in California to be dried up by water diversions. Others have been dried up, but in many instances stakeholders on other rivers have found ways to restore flowing water to dried up rivers with long term win-win solutions.  The first session of the River Roundtable series will be focused on Putah Creek.  Click here to register.

Newsom’s drought executive order …

Californians face water restrictions as drought intensifies

An aerial drone view showing low water near the Enterprise Bridge at Lake Oroville with a water elevation of 743 feet on March 17, 2022. Photo by Kelly M. Grow / DWR

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday enacted some of the strictest water conservation measures since 2016 after a record-breaking dry start to 2022.  Newsom signed an executive order that mandates the State Water Resources Control Board evaluate whether to ban nonessential irrigation of grass in front of large industrial and commercial buildings.  The order will not apply to private lawns or school fields, for instance, but is an indication that Californians will once again have to return to measures aimed at curtailing the use of water. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: Californians face water restrictions as drought intensifies

Newsom imposes new California water restrictions — leaves details to locals

As a dry summer looms, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered water suppliers across California to step up their local drought responses, but fell short of requiring water rationing or setting a statewide conservation target.  Despite pressure from experts urging a strong mandate, the order leaves the exact conservation measures up to the urban water providers and major water wholesalers that supply the vast majority of Californians. It does not affect agricultural water providers, or the small water systems that are especially vulnerable to drought.  Newsom also ordered state water regulators to consider banning irrigation of decorative lawns at businesses and other institutions.  California’s water watchers said that the order wasn’t enough. ... ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Newsom imposes new California water restrictions — leaves details to locals

Newsom broadens drought order – but again stops short of mandatory urban water cutbacks

Gov. Gavin Newsom, acknowledging the severity of the drought, ordered California cities and other local water agencies Monday to reduce their water usage and tighten their conservation rules. Newsom, however, continued to resist mandatory statewide cutbacks in urban water use, just as he did last year during the recall campaign. Instead, he ordered urban water agencies to implement the second stage of their water shortage contingency plans — protocols that are to take effect when water shortages approach 20%. While those rules vary from one jurisdiction to the next, they usually include restrictions on outdoor watering, customer rebates for installing efficient plumbing fixtures and stepped-up public-relations efforts and “water waste” patrols. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Newsom broadens drought order – but again stops short of mandatory urban water cutbacks

Newsom calls for more aggressive water conservation amid third year of drought

On the heels of the driest ever start to the year in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday issued a sweeping executive order calling on local water suppliers to implement more aggressive conservation measures as reservoirs dwindle and residents backslide in their efforts to cut back.  Specifically, the order requires that urban water suppliers activate “Level 2″ of their locally customized contingency plans, meaning they must prepare for a shortage of up to 20%. The order also introduces steps to address a frenzy of well drilling in California’s Central Valley and directs state regulators to consider a ban on watering decorative grasses at businesses and public properties, among other measures. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Newsom calls for more aggressive water conservation amid third year of drought

Newsom urges ban on watering lawns at businesses as drought worsens

As California’s exceptional drought stretches into a third year, Gov. Gavin Newsom is urging state water regulators to ban the watering of lawns at businesses and government buildings.  Newsom signed an executive order Monday that asks the state Water Resources Control Board to prohibit large commercial and public institutions from irrigating grass or “non-functional” turf that serves only an ornamental purpose. The ban would not apply to residential households or irrigation needed to keep trees and other landscaping alive, nor to grass that serves a recreational purpose, such as school fields or parks.  Still, Newsom’s administration said the move would save hundreds of thousands of acre feet of water this year. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Newsom urges ban on watering lawns at businesses as drought worsens

Gavin Newsom proposes ban on watering decorative grass in California: What that means

Amid California’s worsening drought conditions, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday called on local water agencies to introduce new water-use restrictions and for state regulators to ban watering decorative grass at businesses and institutions, the governor’s office said in a statement.  In the executive order, the governor asks the California State Water Resources Control Board to consider making it illegal to water non-functional grass at commercial, industrial and institutional buildings. The restriction would not include residential lawns or grass used for recreation such as sports fields and parks, the governor’s office said. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here: Gavin Newsom proposes ban on watering decorative grass in California: What that means

Reactions to drought executive order

From the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA):

Governor Newsom’s Executive Order recognizes the extensive drought contingency planning already undertaken by local water agencies. It is critical that the state continues to empower local water supply and demand efforts that were proven effective during the last drought.  “ACWA member agencies have been committed to water use efficiency, as well as increasing longterm climate resilience in preparation for longer and more severe periods of drought. Agencies have made significant improvements and investments in water supply reliability, diversity and efficiency.  “At the same time, the state has put in motion a broad range of actions to address unprecedented drought conditions brought on by climate change. This includes notices of curtailments, reduced State Water Project allocations, and construction of barriers in the SacramentoSan Joaquin BayDelta to prevent salt intrusion. … “

Click here to continue reading this statement by ACWA.

Most importantly, state funding approved in 2021 is a promising start on repairing and updating our aging infrastructure system. This commitment must continue on an expanded level if we are serious about building climate change resilience.  “ACWA is advocating for further state investment in the final state budget action in 2022, including state funding assistance for safety and climate resilience projects for California’s dams. This urgent need is unaddressed in the current budget. Not only will this investment protect Californians, it can restore the capacity of many of our reservoirs to store water that can help blunt the impacts of drought.  “We look forward to continuing our collaboration with our partners at the state and federal levels in keeping the focus on these investments as the most promising path toward climate change resilience.”

From the Community Water Center, Clean Water Action, and the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability:

Today, Governor Newsom signed an executive order intended to protect the majority of Californians who rely on groundwater for their water supply. Over-pumping groundwater continues to cause shallow domestic and community water wells to run dry, threatening communities’ water supply throughout the state. When addressing statewide drought in past executive orders, the focus has been on reducing urban water usage through conservation. However, only so much can be done by reducing urban use when over 80% of water in California goes directly to agriculture.  “We applaud Governor Newsom’s commitment to bolstering conservation efforts by addressing the largest water users in California — agriculture,” says Nataly Escobedo Garcia, Policy Coordinator for Water Programs for Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability. “When surface water supplies run dry, new and deeper wells are drilled to access the next source of water under our feet. This has already left  families and frontline communities that rely on nearby shallow private wells and small water systems without water and, if unchecked, will put additional homes at risk of losing their supply altogether.” … ”  Continue reading at the Community Water Center here:  Governor’s Historic Executive Order Protects Water Access for Vulnerable Communities

From Ann Hayden, Associate VP, Climate Resilient Water Systems with the Environmental Defense Fund:

We applaud Gov. Newsom for taking a multipronged approach to building resilience in our water systems. There is no single silver bullet solution to adapting to the more extreme swings in weather that climate change is causing and we need all hands on deck — city residents and urban water agencies, farmers and rural communities, conservationists — to do all we can to prepare for the likelihood of drought persisting for another year or more.   Expediting groundwater recharge projects is one important way to ensure we are better able to seize opportunities to store excess water during winter storms like the atmospheric rivers in October and December. Despite those events, it has still been a very dry winter, which makes it increasingly obvious that there simply isn’t enough water to go around. Consequently, we must remain laser-focused on meeting the needs of people and nature through a wide variety of strategies, including groundwater recharge, strategic farmland repurposing, water conservation and reuse.”

From Congressman Doug LaMalfa

Congressman Doug LaMalfa stated, “Limiting urban water use makes sense in this major drought, but a reduction of at most 20% of urban use yields only 2% net total, i.e. 20% of 10%. To date, neither the state nor federal government has announced major curtailments of the largest user of water, the ridiculous pie in the sky environmental water mandates. We are facing a major drought and everyone, the “environment” included, needs to share in the pain.  It is insane in a year even the President of the United States is warning of food shortages, that the state and federal government continue to prioritize unchecked amounts of water for fish. Restricting water for human basic needs such as food makes no sense, at a time when agriculture, which produces the food we need to survive, already has been cut an estimated 70% between the state and federal government. The state plan is to not deliver agriculture water in order to save deep water in the lakes for fall run salmon. … ”

Click here to continue reading this statement from Congressman Doug LaMalfa.

California is the largest agricultural producing state in the nation, and with many crops, if we don’t grow it, American consumers won’t get it. Inflation is hitting the low-income earners the hardest, how much worse will that be when basic food commodities prices skyrocket over the next 18 months because the government chose fish over people? There is a very limited window of time to get this policy right. Right now, farmers are planting during 2022 what U.S. consumers will use in 2023. Once the planting window is over there aren’t do-overs for another year; the crop year is lost, once the water is wasted meeting unattainable temperature or salinity goals for fish, we won’t have it.  Government policy is pricing the people out of the supermarket to satisfy their environmentalist masters.”

From Adel Hagekhalil, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District:

Our drought emergency shows no signs of lifting. Mandatory conservation, as called on by Gov. Newsom, is necessary to generate the increased level of water savings we need to stretch our limited State Water Project supplies through the end of the year. Southern California communities that depend on these supplies must immediately and significantly reduce their water use. The increased conservation actions local water agencies need to employ in response to the governor’s call today will help residents and businesses make these much-needed cuts and stretch reserves. We appreciate the governor’s recognition that each community knows best what measures will spark the greatest conservation among its residents, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach.  Metropolitan’s board will consider taking additional actions next month to further prompt the application of mandatory conservation measures. ... ”

Click here to continue reading this statement from the Metropolitan Water District.

We also applaud the state for taking steps to end the wasteful practice of watering non-functional turf. It is time for us all to recognize that, with our water supplies so stressed by drought and climate change, we should no longer be using precious water to nourish grass that no one plays on, no one walks on and only serves ornamental purposes. It is time to replace this non-functional turf with more water-efficient, and more beautiful, California Friendly® and native landscaping.

“Now is the time to make investments, big and small, to ensure the reliability of our water supply. While we ask residents and businesses to make changes to increase their water efficiency, Metropolitan and the state are likewise investing in storage, local supplies and other infrastructure to build resiliency to drought and climate change. We are grateful to the state for its support and recognition of the value of this investment for California’s success.”

From Jim Piefer, Executive Director of the Regional Water Authority:

Water conservation is critical, both as a daily habit of life and as one tool for responding to drought emergencies. Local water providers appreciate that Sacramento-area residents have reduced their water use since July 2021, in response to calls for voluntary conservation.  Since the historic storms of last October and December, California has experienced the driest January to March period on record. Given the forecast for worsening drought conditions, we appreciate the Governor’s comprehensive approach, which calls for both conservation and water recharge and storage improvements, for navigating these difficult conditions. This is the approach local water providers also plan to take to withstand the drought.  We are confident our residents will respond as they did during the 2012-16 drought when the Sacramento region achieved some of the highest conservation rates in the state. Since that time, water use in the region remains 13 percent lower than before the drought. … ”

Click here to continue reading this statement from the Regional Water Authority.

Although the Sacramento region can meet the near-term water supply needs of local residents and businesses due to decades of drought-resiliency investments, our watershed is part of an integrated, statewide water system that is under stress. The Executive Order will hopefully spur residents and businesses throughout the state to conserve their water use even more. Our state and federal water managers must do their part, too, by preserving water levels in Folsom Reservoir so that supplies are available for residents and the environment of the lower American River.

“As important as conservation is to preserving our precious water supplies, we must emphasize that conservation cannot be our only response to the ‘boom and bust’ water cycles that are intensifying with climate change. Because of climate change, water will arrive at different times and in different ways than it has historically.

“The future of our communities, local economy and the environment depend on building a modern, more adaptable water management system. This means we must increase our ability to store more water in an underground water bank. In 2021, we demonstrated the benefits of groundwater banking, as water providers shifted to using 30 percent more groundwater and left more water in Folsom Reservoir and the lower American River.

“Our growing groundwater banking capacity is the result of $200 million in local investments and $80 million in state investments. Consequently, we have created enough water supply in drought conditions to meet the needs of more than 100,000 households.

“But we must do much more. Local water managers have identified projects that will double the resilient supplies. To secure the funds necessary to invest in these planned projects, we look forward to continuing our work with our state and federal partners to address more extreme climate conditions in the future.”

From Sandra L. Kerl, General Manager of the San Diego County Water Authority

Governor Newsom issued the fifth in a series of executive orders March 28 asking Californians to increase water conservation, while at the same time allowing every local water supplier to determine where additional water-use measures are needed and set rules accordingly. This strong but measured approach for locally appropriate actions will provide aid and assistance to areas of the state that are most suffering the impacts of drought, while maximizing flexibility where warranted by local conditions. The Governor’s approach is especially insightful because it acknowledges and rewards past investment in water conservation and local supply development, as Californians come together to address the real-world impacts of our changing climate.  We look forward to working with agencies across the state and with the State Water Resources Control Board to implement the Governor’s Executive Order according to its intention. …

Click here to continue reading this statement from the San Diego County Water Authority.

Years of planning and billions of dollars of investment in water conservation in Imperial County have prepared the San Diego region for periods of drought, even extended periods of drought such as the state is now experiencing.

But long before these investments, and as a result of our ratepayers’ continued efforts, San Diego County’s water use has dropped over 40%. Taking shorter showers, fixing leaks immediately and removing areas of unnecessary turf from landscapes have all added up over time to increase our region’s water use efficiency.

The Water Authority is a team player.  We support the Governor and will remain vigilant in our promotion of water conservation and engagement in drought management efforts, locally, regionally and across the State of California as we work together in the face of the current devastating statewide drought conditions and climate change.”

From Jennifer Pierre, General Manager of the State Water Contractors:

This is a serious drought that requires serious action. We learned a lot from the last drought, in addition to the increased drought planning requirements and responsible preparation that were put in place, the Governor is wisely focusing on local shortage contingency plans with today’s Executive Order. Urban water agencies throughout the State have Water Shortage Contingency Plans that can be activated right away to ensure conservation and other actions consistent with their region’s unique circumstances.  Managing through this drought requires each and every Californian to reduce their water usage. The Governor’s Order today recognizes the diversity of California communities and their water supply conditions. Ordering agencies to exercise their specific plans strikes that important balance of statewide needs and local action.”

In other California water news today …

‘Why was no one held accountable?’ Gray calls for state audit over water loss

Assemblyman Adam Gray says he has asked California’s Legislative Audit Committee to audit the Department of Water Resources and State Water Resources Control Board after the state miscalculated Sierra Nevada water. According to a news release from Gray’s office, the loss of 700,000 acre-feet of water last year prompted his audit request. Gray said the water could have supplied 1.4 million California homes for a year. “Why was no one held accountable after the state grossly miscalculated how much moisture was actually stored in the Sierras last year?” Gray, D-Merced, said in the release. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: ‘Why was no one held accountable?’ Gray calls for state audit over water loss

Water availability, regs spur farmland value chasm

It took a few years, but ag land values in California now reflect action taken by legislators eight years ago to pass the state’s landmark groundwater law. A growing chasm is evident as land values rise and fall significantly across the state.  Four northern San Joaquin Valley irrigation districts – South San Joaquin, Oakdale, Modesto, and Turlock – serve farmers in the counties of San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Merced. They sit in a region known for its prime soil and access to central Sierra watersheds served by the Tuolumne and Stanislaus Rivers. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Water availability, regs spur farmland value chasm

Could rangeland return to the Central Valley?

California’s farmers are struggling to irrigate their crops during the current severe drought. At the same time, they’re in the early days of a major longer-term transition that will see them using less water overall to safeguard the long-term availability of groundwater, under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). A significant amount of irrigated farmland in the Central Valley—including many fruit and nut trees—will need to come out of production over the next two decades to help bring local groundwater basins into balance. This fallowing will have both environmental and economic consequences. Converting formerly irrigated farmland into rangeland—one of its historical uses—is one possible alternative to fallowing. It would keep the land economically productive, and the transition might bring other benefits—including avoiding some of the negative consequences of fallowing.  ... ”  Read more from the PPIC here: Could rangeland return to the Central Valley?

Salmon travel deep into the Pacific. As it warms, many ‘don’t come back.’

Salmon in the Pacific Ocean face dramatically different fates from one river system to the next. As the planet warms, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, scientists say changes in ocean conditions are helping drive these wild swings and collapses of key stocks. These North Pacific fish account for most of the world’s wild-caught salmon, and their survival has implications for economies and cultures around the Pacific Rim.  During her three decades as a government scientist, as climate change has intensified, Laurie Weitkamp has watched these fluctuations in salmon numbers become bigger and the models that predict how many salmon will return from sea become more unreliable. “Salmon will go out, in what we think is a really good ocean, and then it collapses,” said Weitkamp, a fisheries biologist with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration based in Oregon. “They don’t come back.”... ”  Read more from the Washington Post here: Salmon travel deep into the Pacific. As it warms, many ‘don’t come back.’

State releases nearly $30 million to Friant-Kern Canal repairs, holds back $7 million

The Friant-Kern Canal has been in distress for several years thanks to severe drought and now requires millions of dollars in repairs.  According to a Friant Water Authority (FWA) press release the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced it will throw $30 million dollars in funding to assist with repairs.  “Through this investment, we are furthering a partnership to restore California’s major water conveyance systems to improve the resiliency of California’s water supply during drought and flood conditions,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “The projects, when completed, will maximize the canal’s capacity to move water efficiently through the system and improve California’s ability to boost and store its water supply.” ... ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: State releases nearly $30 million to Friant-Kern Canal repairs, holds back $7 million

Covering canals with solar panels has potential to save water while generating clean energy

Two thousand to 2021 was the driest 22 year period since the year 800. That’s according to a study from researchers at the University of California Los Angeles and Columbia University.  But there’s a promising new pilot project in California that aims to conserve water while producing renewable energy.  Cracked soil, dead plants and low water levels are just some of the repercussions that states like Arizona and California are currently experiencing from the drought.  And in places like Turlock, California, farmers have had to adjust to these circumstances. … ”  Read more from KJZZ here: Covering canals with solar panels has potential to save water while generating clean energy

Long-range S.F. Bay Area forecast shows a return to dry conditions. That’s not good news for wildfire season

With a few exceptions, Sunday night’s rain could be the last significant precipitation the Bay Area sees for a while, stoking concerns for Northern California’s upcoming fire season.  Across the Bay Area, most locations saw 0.25 to 0.75 inches, according to the National Weather Service, with 2 to 3 inches in the Santa Cruz Mountains, which held on to the rain clouds and squeezed out extra precipitation.  It was a welcome storm for a parched region, but it won’t do much to delay the hills from turning from green to gold, or to put off an early start to fire season, said Brian Garcia, a National Weather Service meteorologist for the Bay Area. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Long-range S.F. Bay Area forecast shows a return to dry conditions. That’s not good news for wildfire season

Learn to Burn:  Scientists estimate that California needs to burn one million acres a year to prevent catastrophic wildfires

As a ceiling of wet winter fog gives way to the morning sun, about two dozen people gather on a small farm in western Sonoma County. Their attention is focused on a lithe young woman in heavy trousers and leather work boots.  “We’re looking at a max temperature of 64, a minimum humidity of 64 percent, a peak wind of 6 miles per hour east-southeast,” says Sasha Berleman, the director of Fire Forward, a prescribed fire program that teaches laypeople to burn overgrown forests and meadows to help prevent extreme wildfires.  This January morning, the ground is damp, but the breeze may yet dry out things enough for fire to catch. Berleman, who holds a PhD in wildland fire science and has been setting fire to landscapes since 2009, points behind her to an incline densely wooded with Douglas fir, tanoak, bay, and madrone.  “We’re going to be on that opposite hill, burning down to the road,” she says. The plan is to burn about 15 acres. ... ”  Read more from Bay Nature here: Learn to Burn:  Scientists estimate that California needs to burn one million acres a year to prevent catastrophic wildfires

California wildfire smoke may rise to practically unbearable levels in next decades

The unrelenting wildfire smoke that’s etched in the memories — and lungs — of many Californians after several difficult fire seasons is expected to worsen in coming years. The extent of the uptick, though, may be far greater than previously thought.  Residents in the Pacific Northwest and parts of Northern California could see particle pollution from wildfires increase more than 50% by the middle of the century, compared with recent decades, and triple by century’s end, new research shows. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: California wildfire smoke may rise to practically unbearable levels in next decades

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In commentary today …

Coastal wetlands can provide our next climate solution

Julie Packard, executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, writes, “California is blessed with an 1,100-mile coastline. Before the modern era, it supported an immense network of coastal estuaries. Their underwater seagrass meadows were nurseries for fish and other marine life and important refueling stops for migratory birds. Offshore, dense kelp forests were equally productive homes for wildlife. Both estuaries and kelp forests benefitted from the key role played by sea otters — the top predator that helped them thrive.  Today, more than 90% of our wetlands are gone, lost to urbanization, coastal development, pollution and runoff of smothering sediments. But wetlands and kelp forests can make a comeback. And, as state leaders now recognize, they also can serve as the vital first line of defense for vulnerable coastal communities that must adapt to rising sea levels from accelerating climate change. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Coastal wetlands can provide our next climate solution

Column: Pages From a Farmer: And then the rain never came

Carine Hines writes, ““Bombtober” some called it, when an incredible atmospheric river drenched the drought-stricken soils and mountains of California. We all danced and rejoiced, and much thought, and may still think, that we made it through the recent stretch of drought. Was it realistic to believe that a few days of heavy rain could undo the harm of months and years of drought? Only if it continued to rain, but it never did. This winter we experienced the driest January and February in recorded history, which are typically our wettest. And we will not have a “Miracle March”. Staring down the barrel of the coming summer, the entire West Coast should be terrified. California farmers are certainly shaking their usually calm and often-optimistic heads at what is to come. … ”  Continue reading at the Napa Register here: Pages From a Farmer: And then the rain never came

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Today’s featured article …

BLOG ROUND-UP: Models that forecast water that isn’t there hurt all beneficial uses; Negotiating a Klamath Water Settlement based on what the River needs; Radio-tracking study greatly advances Central Valley salmon science; and more …

Click here to read the blog round-up.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


Klamath County to disperse state funds to help with wells

Klamath County is receiving $4 million in funding via a state measure helping residents faxing domestic well problems because of the ongoing drought.  The Klamath County Board of Commissioners will disperse grant awards. The money is part of a $100 million drought relief package approved by the Oregon Legislature late last year. The program includes $12 million to help for drought stricken wells and irrigation in the Klamath basin as well as $40 million in forgivable loans to farmers and irrigators. … ”  Read more from the Herald & News here: Klamath County to disperse state funds to help with wells


$29 million in federal funds to Lake Tahoe

A federal bill was signed into law March 17 that delivers additional investments to improve Tahoe’s environment, protect its ecology and support its community.  With concerted support from Tahoe’s federal delegation Tahoe will receive $23.8 million through the Lake Restoration Act, plus $3.4 million from the previously approved bipartisan infrastructure law and $2 million in community project funding through the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2022.  “Tahoe doesn’t belong to just Nevada and California; it’s a national treasure,” said Darcie Goodman Collins, CEO of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, also known as Keep Tahoe Blue. … ”  Read more from the Mountain Democrat here: $29 million in federal funds to Lake Tahoe


‘It’s just scary:’ Farmers and ranchers in Anderson and Cottonwood won’t get ag water

Due to the ongoing drought, farmers and ranchers who rely on water from the Anderson-Cottonwood Irrigation District, will not receive any water this year, creating a ripple effect through the Shasta County agriculture community.  John Currey, the district’s general manager, said this year marks the first time in the district’s 106-year history that it will be unable to send agricultural water to its 800 customers.  He said the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which controls water allocations for many water agencies in the county, can supply less than 20% of the district’s typical allotment. … ”  Read more from the Record Searchlight here: ‘It’s just scary:’ Farmers and ranchers in Anderson and Cottonwood won’t get ag water

Yuba City, Carmichael Water District awarded over $10 million to improve drought resiliency

For the past 20 years, water managers in the Sacramento Valley region have been working on ways to store water below ground when rain and snow are abundant. This Sacramento Regional Water Bank also allows water providers to withdraw that stored water during unusually dry periods.  Three months in and there’s no doubt that 2022 will be one of those dry periods.  On Monday, the Department of Water Resources announced new grant funding that will be used to expand the water bank by installing new Aquifer Storage and Recovery wells in Yuba City and in the Carmichael Water District. ... ”  Read more from KCRA Channel 3 here: Yuba City, Carmichael Water District awarded over $10 million to improve drought resiliency


Editorial: Don’t forget, water rationing is still in place

The Sonoma Index-Tribune editorial board writes, “The pitter patter of rain hit even harder than Will Smith’s now-famous Oscar slap on Sunday night, as social media became awash with the same excitable sentiment: “It’s RAINING!”  As it stands now, the first two months of 2022 were the driest in 128 years of records, with only a pittance of precipitation recorded so far. Our county reservoir Lake Sonoma sits at 59.6% of capacity, versus 63.4% in 2021, or 89.7% in 2020. With conditions like these, it’s no surprise that we’re heading into another drought year. And possibly a severe wildfire season.  What might be surprising to some, however, is that fact that we remain in a “Stage 2 Mandatory Water Conservation Shortage,” a classification of water restriction that comes with certain rules and regulations. ... ”  Read more from the Sonoma Index-Tribune here: Editorial: Don’t forget, water rationing is still in place


S.F. Bay Area to dry out again after much-needed rain

After a night of much-needed rain, the Bay Area weather was expected to dry out this week, the National Weather Service said.  The system that brought heavy widespread rain across the Bay Area Sunday night was moving south, where it was expected to bring scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms south of San Jose in Monterey and San Luis Obispo County counties Monday evening, weather officials said.  “It’s not looking like it’ll filter much into the Bay Area,” Murdock said. “There might be one or two showers.” … ” Continue reading at the San Francisco Chronicle here: S.F. Bay Area to dry out again after much-needed rain

North Bay farmers hang tight in lieu of drought

With prolonged drought on the horizon, Santa Rosa dairy farmer Doug Beretta is expecting expenses to rise as water supplies deplete.  As the pastures dry up sooner at Beretta Dairy, he estimates spending at least $2,500 more per load of hay to feed his cows. And the price of fuel might make that hay buying endeavor cost prohibitive as truckers are forced to drive farther away to get an ample supply of hay.  “It may not even be feasible to go farther,” Beretta said.  At least his allocation from the Santa Rosa reclaimed water program was increased slightly in this water year. But who knows  what the future brings. ... ”  Read more from the North Bay Journal here:  North Bay farmers hang tight in lieu of drought

Marin rain totals climb after storm

“A storm dipped down from the Gulf of Alaska and arrived in the Bay Area Sunday night, dropping over an inch of rain in select locations across Marin.  “There’s been some good spots,” said Brayden Murdock, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.  Ross recorded 1.83 inches, Mount Tamalpais had 1.14 inches, Barnabe Peak recorded 1.19 inches and Lagunitas recorded 1.44 inches in the last 48 hours, he said.  Other locations in the county to receive notable rainfall included San Rafael with 0.63 inches, Novato with 0.67 inches, Tiburon with 0.28 inches and Upper Coyote Creek with 0.43 inches. ... ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Marin rain totals climb after storm

Valley Water to begin construction on South County Recycled Water Pipeline

Santa Clara County is once again in a severe drought. This follows the historic drought from 2012 to 2016. The impacts of climate change have had a direct effect on water supplies locally and statewide. It is why conservation has truly become a California way of life.  Facing this reality, Valley Water continues to look for ways to increase the use of recycled water throughout Santa Clara County. We’re excited to soon begin construction on the South County Recycled Water Pipeline.  “This project is another way for us to save drinking water,” Valley Water Chair Pro Tem John L. Varela said. “By expanding the current recycled water pipeline we’ll be able to provide a dependable, drought-proof, and locally controlled water supply for the cities of South County, its residents, businesses and farms for generations to come.” ... ”  Read more from Valley Water News here: Valley Water to begin construction on South County Recycled Water Pipeline


City of Santa Barbara prepared to weather drought

The pounding rain that arrived early Monday morning may have been strong enough to rattle a few windows, but it won’t be enough to extricate the South Coast from the drought. Thus far, slightly more than two inches were reported on San Marcos Pass — enough to temporarily raise concerns about the possibility of debris flow in the scar area of last summer’s Alisal Fire. The cities of Santa Barbara and Goleta got even less. Undoubtedly it will help some, but given that California is now in the 776th day of one of the most prolonged droughts in recorded state history, it will not be enough.  This Tuesday, the Santa Barbara City Council will review its water supply portfolio. ... ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent here: City of Santa Barbara prepared to weather drought


Wet weather not enough to cure drought in the Central Valley

Although Monday’s rain and mountain snow are not enough to end our severe drought, farmers are welcoming the precipitation on Central California’s parched ground and snow-bare mountains.  Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen says farmers are mostly welcoming the wet weather. “Rain this time of year is really no problem from an agricultural perspective. But the biggest risk we have is thunderstorms. Thunderstorms can bring that unwelcome hail. Hail can be extraordinarily damaging to those fields below it. And so that is a risk we have when you get those afternoon storms.”  Fresno is now some three inches behind its average rainfall this year… ”  Continue reading at Your Central Valley here: Wet weather not enough to cure drought in the Central Valley

SEE ALSO: Latest Valley storm not enough to impact water outlook, from KMPH

Project Nexus looks to provide water supply savings and generate renewable energy

The California Farm Bureau says that the state is progressing toward its goal of achieving 100 percent renewable and carbon-neutral electricity by 2045 and agriculture may be an essential part of the solution.  Project Nexus is a pilot project that is going to serve as a proof of concept from research done by the University of California Merced. The project looks to provide water supply savings and generate renewable energy by placing solar panels over 250 miles of canals within the San Joaquin Valley. … ”  Read more from Channel 23 here: Project Nexus looks to provide water supply savings and generate renewable energy


Ridgecrest: Water District board decides against flow restrictors

At their regular board meeting on March 14, the Indian Wells Valley Water District board of directors decided to halt plans on a policy to install flow restrictors on properties which are not paying their water bills.  Currently, the Water District will shut water off for a customer if they aren’t paying the water bill despite warnings and attempts from the Water District to work out a payment plan.  The scrapped flow restrictor policy would have allowed the Water District to install flow restrictors on delinquent properties instead of completely shutting off the water. This would allow the property to get just enough water for necessities. ... ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Ridgecrest: Water District board decides against flow restrictors


Column: Think of L.A. spring as the pause between California catastrophes — with poppies

Columnist Patt Morrison writes, “Winters are easy. Winters, we can look across the vast eastward miles, and regard with pity the icebound, housebound millions in the manacles of winter.  So too their summers: sweaty, fleeting weeks of melting Popsicles, malodorous with bug repellent, the calendar countdown to hurricane season.  Autumns: a season of Facebook posts of leaves tinted by xanthophylls, carotenoids and anthocyanins. You can get nature’s same color impact by looking at egg yolks, flamingoes and blueberries. Leaves end their lives sodden underfoot, or raked into picturesque bonfire heaps that fill the fall breezes with fragrant waftings of CO2 and photochemically reactive substances.  But spring? Our spring had always arrived on tiptoe and sat in the back row, the opposite of the ebullient temperate-zone season. … ” Read more from the LA Times here: Column: Think of L.A. spring as the pause between California catastrophes — with poppies

Antelope Valley: Reclamation project draws ire

With the much-delayed Water Reclamation Plant finally nearing the finish line, Rosamond Community Service District officials are questioning the construction management by the firm hired to oversee the project.  When complete, the plant will treat wastewater to a high degree, then percolate it into the ground to recharge the underlying aquifer and providing an additional source of groundwater for the District’s use.  Construction began, in November 2019, and was originally expected to be operational, in spring 2021.  However, the project has faced delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and supply-chain issues, as well as a faulty blower system that has been the latest obstacle to its completion. … ”  Read more from the Antelope Valley Press here: Antelope Valley: Reclamation project draws ire

First Los Cerritos Wetlands restoration project planning has started

Planning has begun for the first large-scale restoration of part of the Los Cerritos Wetlands, but with no funding source identified and considering the lengthy process any environmental project takes in California, it will be years before changes are seen.  Called the Southern Los Cerritos Wetlands Restoration Project, the proposal is for the 100 acres called the Hellman property in Seal Beach. The Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority purchased that land in 2010 and has combined it with 3.5 acres of wetlands owned by the State Lands Commission.  Once a vast marsh covering approximately 2,400 acres, the remaining 776 acres of degraded wetlands is primarily owned privately and is an active oil field. … ”  Read more from the Long Beach Press Telegram here: First Los Cerritos Wetlands restoration project planning has started


We need more lithium for EV batteries. Geothermal plants could be a source

Geothermal energy has long been the forgotten member of the clean energy family, overshadowed by relatively cheap solar and wind power, despite its proven potential. But that may soon change—for an unexpected reason. Geothermal technologies are on the verge of unlocking vast quantities of lithium from naturally occurring hot brines beneath places like California’s Salton Sea, a two-hour drive from San Diego. Lithium is essential for lithium-ion batteries, which power electric vehicles and energy storage. Demand for these batteries is quickly rising, but the U.S. is currently heavily reliant on lithium imports from other countries—most of the nation’s lithium supply comes from Argentina, Chile, Russia, and China. The ability to recover critical minerals from geothermal brines in the U.S. could have important implications for energy and mineral security, as well as global supply chains, workforce transitions, and geopolitics. ... ”  Read more from Fast Company here:  We need more lithium for EV batteries. Geothermal plants could be a source


Tijuana sewage fix makes President’s budget

This week, an update on the issue I wrote about last week – a stalled, seemingly simple piece of legislation that would allow San Diego to spend $300 million from the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and stop more polluted water from reaching the Pacific Ocean. Chris Helmer, director of environment and natural resources for Imperial Beach, a coastal border town, wanted to know: who in Congress is holding it up?  The answer, at least according to the U.S. Democratic senators representing California: the other party.  … ”  Continue reading from the Voice of San Diego here: Tijuana sewage fix makes President’s budget

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Along the Colorado River …

Lake Powell continues to disappear as Colorado hits pause on plan to prop up levels

The Glen Canyon Dam may be one step closer to losing its ability to generate hydropower after water managers in Colorado announced last week that they will stop exploring one proposal to prop up the rapidly depleting levels in Lake Powell.  The plan — known as demand management — would compensate farmers and ranchers for voluntarily stopping irrigation on a temporary basis, sending water that would have been used for agriculture to the reservoir.  A drought contingency plan developed in 2019 by Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming identified demand management as one method that could be used to keep the water level in Lake Powell above 3,525 feet in elevation, around a quarter of its capacity, in order to protect electricity generation. … ”  Read more from the Salt Lake Tribune here: Lake Powell continues to disappear as Colorado hits pause on plan to prop up levels

Colorado hits a “hard pause” on water demand management as it waits for other states to catch up

“Colorado is taking a “hard pause” on investigating the viability of demand management, a program that would allow the state to pay water users to temporarily and voluntarily conserve water and store what’s saved in Lake Powell for future use.  “No more energy spent on this right now,” Colorado Water Conservation Board chair Jaclyn Brown said this week. “Until the facts change; until someone brings us new information.” ... ”  Read more from the Colorado Sun here: Colorado hits a “hard pause” on water demand management as it waits for other states to catch up

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In national water news today …

Race is on to remove lead pipes from under the US

After drinking state-issued bottled water for months because of concerning lead levels, the nearly 10,000 residents of Benton Harbor, Michigan finally had a date for when they might be able to safely turn their taps on again: May 2023.  For those working behind the scenes to fix the problem, though, the new date meant doing in 18 months what would normally take as much as five years.  Abonmarche, the engineering firm for the small city, and a team of five contractors have been going house by house to determine if the water service lines running from the curb to a home’s meter are copper or lead. With incomplete records of the types of pipes that lie beneath, or where they are exactly, the engineering team turned to a geographic information system (GIS) solution. With GIS maps and apps, the contractors can collect data and coordinate the pipe inventory as they replace lead service lines across the city. … ”  Read more from ESRI here: Race is on to remove lead pipes from under the US

President proposes $1.4 billion in Fiscal Year 2023 for Bureau of Reclamation

The Biden-Harris Administration today submitted to Congress the President’s Budget for fiscal year 2023. The President’s Budget details his vision to expand on the historic progress our country has made over the last year and deliver the agenda he laid out in his State of the Union address—to build a better America, reduce the deficit, reduce costs for families, and grow the economy from the bottom up and middle out.  President Biden proposed a $1.4 billion Fiscal Year 2023 Budget for the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation. The budget builds on recent accomplishments and supports the Administration’s goals of ensuring reliable and environmentally responsible delivery of water and power for farms, families, communities and industry, while providing tools to confront widening imbalances between water and power supply and demand throughout the West. … ”  Read more from the Bureau of Reclamation here: President proposes $1.4 billion in Fiscal Year 2023 for Bureau of Reclamation

Biden budget proposal includes nearly $2 billion increase for EPA

The White House’s proposed budget for fiscal 2023 would increase funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Energy Department and the Interior Department, according to materials shared with The Hill.  The budget proposes $11 billion for the EPA in fiscal 2023, an increase of about $1.5 billion from the $9.56 billion Congress authorized last year. The White House unsuccessfully sought similar increases in its proposed fiscal 2022 budget, with Congress eventually increasing the agency’s budget by about $323 compared to the previous year. … ”  Read more from The Hill here: Biden budget proposal includes nearly $2 billion increase for EPA

Inside Biden’s $5.8T budget: More for climate, clean energy

President Biden today unveiled a $5.8 trillion fiscal 2023 budget proposal that would continue his push for more spending across agencies on climate change, clean energy and conservation without offering any major, new environmental or energy policy initiatives.  The request, nearly two months late as fiscal 2022 spending was only finalized earlier this month, emphasizes bipartisan spending ideas and deficit reduction ahead of the midterm elections (E&E Daily, March 9).  It would propose a new tax on the wealthy but does not contain many of the more ambitious ideas from Democrats’ proposed climate and social spending bill, known as “Build Back Better,” that has stalled on Capitol Hill. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Inside Biden’s $5.8T budget: More for climate, clean energy

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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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