DAILY DIGEST, 5/23: Sacramento Valley struggles to survive unprecedented water cuts; CA regulators not considering research on the risks of oil field wastewater; Water Commission finalizes white paper on groundwater trading programs; and more …
WEBINAR: California-Nevada Drought & Climate Outlook Webinar from 11am to 12pm. The California-Nevada Drought Early Warning System May 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.
MEETING: California Water Plan Tribal Advisory Committee from 1pm to 3pm. The second meeting of the California Water Plan Update 2023 Tribal Advisory Committee (TAC) will be held over Zoom on May 23, 2022. The TAC is specifically for Tribal Government Leaders, Tribal Representatives, Tribal Environmental Staff, and Agency Tribal Liaisons. The meeting will be from 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm. You can join the meeting here: https://kearnswest.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYuf–qrzwpGtysMO7lNtlFdYKdfF0wJYQl
In California water news today …
‘Everyone loses’: Sacramento Valley struggles to survive unprecedented water cuts
“Standing on the grassy plateau where water is piped onto his property, Josh Davy wished his feet were wet and his irrigation ditch full. Three years ago, when he sank everything he had into 66 acres of irrigated pasture in Shasta County, Davy thought he’d drought-proofed his cattle operation. He’d been banking on the Sacramento Valley’s water supply, which was guaranteed even during the deepest of droughts almost 60 years ago, when irrigation districts up and down the valley cut a deal with the federal government. Buying this land was his insurance against droughts expected to intensify with climate change. But this spring, for the first time ever, no water is flowing through his pipes and canals or those of his neighbors: The district won’t be delivering any water to Davy or any of its roughly 800 other customers. ... ” Read more from Cal Matters here: ‘Everyone loses’: Sacramento Valley struggles to survive unprecedented water cuts
Tensions rise as drought worsens and heat surges across California
“The effects of climate change are advancing at a pace no one could have anticipated in California, as the state enters its third consecutive summer of a painful drought. Research published in February showed that California’s current drought season is linked to a longer megadrought, which has persisted since 2000. But the 22-year period, which is the driest in 1,200 years, is fueled by human-caused climate change, according to environmental scientists. As a result, the state is battling relentless wildfire seasons that blot out the sky, forcing some people to keep their windows shut for months and others to become climate refugees. … ” Read more from the Washington Post here: Tensions rise as drought worsens and heat surges across California
California water regulators still haven’t considered the growing body of research on the risks of oil field wastewater
“California is heading into its dry season after one of the driest winters on record, preceded by a brief reprieve from the worst drought in its history. No wonder water managers in the Central Valley’s parched farm belt are increasingly interested in a controversial practice: reusing oil field wastewater to grow crops. Last fall, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board assured critics that it had reviewed studies of the practice and found no elevated risks to human health or crop safety. The board focused primarily on one question—are crops grown with produced water safe to eat?—and considered as beyond the scope of its responsibility the wider range of potential harms associated with recycling the oil industry’s wastewater. The board acknowledged that it did not study how long-term use of oil companies’ “produced water” might affect crops and soil that are irrigated with it, or whether toxic chemicals in the wastewater could accumulate over time in the nuts, oranges and grapes that are sent around the world. … ” Read more from Inside Climate News here: California water regulators still haven’t considered the growing body of research on the risks of oil field wastewater
Water Commission’s white paper on groundwater trading programs emphasizes safeguards for vulnerable water users
“The California Water Commission [last Wednesday] approved a white paper that contains its findings and thepotential next steps for State engagement in shaping well-managed groundwater trading programs withappropriate safeguards for vulnerable water users: natural resources, small- and medium-size farms, andwater supply and quality for disadvantaged communities. The white paper will be shared with theSecretaries for Natural Resources, Environmental Protection, and Food and Agriculture, who requestedthe Commission’s engagement on this topic. The paper will guide the continued work on Water ResiliencePortfolio Action 3.6 by the California Departments of Water Resources, Fish and Wildlife, and Food andAgriculture, and the State Water Resources Control Board. … ” Read more from the California Water Commission here: Water Commission’s white paper on groundwater trading programs emphasizes safeguards for vulnerable water users
Saving water and generating power in California: Can one project achieve both?
“California needs more water and renewable energy, and Solar AquaGrid CEO Jordan Harris is trying to help. “We need some bold solutions and big solutions,” he said. A big idea is starting with a small stretch of canals in the Turlock Irrigation District, located just south of Modesto. This fall, groundbreaking will begin on a pilot project to build solar panel canopies over existing canals. “Our demands are only going up, so we really need to take advantage of these already disturbed spaces, and in the case of these aqueducts and canals, make them work even harder,” said Harris. … ” Read more from ABC 7 here: Saving water and generating power in California: Can one project achieve both?
Farmers don’t have enough water. Can AI help?
“For the fourth time in 10 years, farmers I know in California are facing a harsh reality — they won’t see a drop of water from federal government reserves to supplement the little bit they’ll get from Mother Nature. Water allocations have become a hot-button issue throughout the state, as citizens, environmentalists and farmers fight for their fair share in a drought that’s made it impossible to please everyone. With no help coming from reserves, farms have been left to draw water from the ground where they can. Working with a fraction of their usual supply, many farmers have no choice but to leave fields fallow, a devastating hit to their bottom line. For smaller farms, that can be the beginning of the end.But I’ve also seen a very different approach. … ” Read more from Entrepreneur here: Farmers don’t have enough water. Can AI help?
A conservation bill you’ve never heard of may be the most important in a generation
“This blog is a short introduction to a lesser known federal bill that is one of the most significant pieces of fish and wildlife legislation in decades. In Spring of 2021, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) introduced the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. During July 2021, a separate adaptation of the act was also introduced in the Senate (S.2372) by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO). At its core, the bipartisan bill seeks to provide $1.39B in annual funding for state and tribal fish and wildlife agencies to protect and conserve declining species. ... ” Continue reading at the California Water Blog here: A conservation bill you’ve never heard of may be the most important in a generation
Plastics industry, facing crackdown, targets Democrats with mailers deemed deceptive
“Cheryl Auger was stunned this month when one of her Pasadena neighbors and friends received a flier in the mail featuring her state assemblyman, with a line stating, “Higher taxes on plastic products will enrich corporate interests with no guarantee of reducing plastic waste.” Although she didn’t know it at the time, Auger’s friend was on the receiving end of a plastics industry campaign to pressure state lawmakers into weakening proposed restrictions on single-use containers, which legislators are mulling in bill form and which could become a November ballot measure. … ” Read more from the LA Times here: Plastics industry, facing crackdown, targets Democrats with mailers deemed deceptive
Has California’s fire season begun?
“More than half a dozen wildfires broke out across California in a 48-hour span late last week, an unsettling picture of what’s to come as temperatures warm and drought conditions worsen this summer. On Thursday afternoon, a blaze erupted in Kern County and grew to nearly 700 acres. Another in Tahoe National Forest forced the closure of a nearby highway. A brush fire north of Vacaville prompted evacuation orders Saturday in Solano County. As you probably know, California’s fire season traditionally peaks between July and October — and it’s only May. Yet weather officials are warning there could be even more dangerous fires before spring is over. … ” Read more from the New York Times here: Has California’s fire season begun?
After the Blaze: Climate change creates challenging conditions for California wineries
“A column of smoke lurched toward the vineyard like a mountain-shaped monster. Last August, Miraflores Winery was one of five El Dorado County wineries suddenly in the path of a billowing volcanic spectacle that was invading Pleasant Valley. From its tasting room, one could see the broad trunk of ash expanding until distant trees were lost in a gray, dingy veil. The inferno was heading straight toward Miraflores, one of the most environmentally conscious wineries in the entire region. … In the end, Miraflores and the other wineries were saved from Caldor’s reach. Even after fire crews turned the blaze back, Cappelli and his colleagues were left with the bedeviling dilemma around potential smoke taint affecting the grapes in the vineyards. … ” Read more from Comstock’s here: After the Blaze: Climate change creates challenging conditions for California wineries
Klamath Basin dam removal needs a science-driven oversight plan
Jeffrey Mount, senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center, and Peter Moyle, a distinguished professor emeritus and associate director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the UC Davis, writes: “The Klamath Basin is on the cusp of the most ambitious dam removal effort ever attempted. If all goes to plan, efforts will get underway by next year to bring down the four aging hydropower dams that divide the basin in half. Are we ready for this? The ramifications of this dam removal effort are vast, affecting not only the river’s mainstem but ultimately all the tributaries where so much biodiversity resides. Removal of the dams will be an important first step — albeit with many steps to go — in improving salmon and steelhead stocks in the basin. A robust science and monitoring program is essential to ensuring the success of the project — and will help guide future similar dam removal projects around the world. Although more than $450 million has been allocated for the dam removal, to our knowledge, little has been allocated to fund the science needed to evaluate it. This is a mistake. ... ” Read more from Cal Matters here: Klamath Basin dam removal needs a science-driven oversight plan
Listen: How groundwater got mixed into restrictions on water use in the Scott and Shasta Rivers
“The ongoing drought forces some tough decisions on water allocations. On the California side, state regulators are working to protect streams in which threatened coho salmon live, including the Scott and Shasta rivers. Protection measures even include preventing some landowners from using groundwater for irrigation, because ground and surface water are so closely linked in the area. The temporary state regulations do not sit well with members of Scott Valley AgWA (Agriculture Water Alliance), a group of farmers and ranchers. We hear the concerns from Scott Valley AgWA organizers Theodara Johnson and Sari Sommarstrom.” Listen at Jefferson Public Radio here: Listen: How groundwater got mixed into restrictions on water use in the Scott and Shasta Rivers
North Coast trail plan complicated by US rail ruling
“A ruling by federal regulators has put a damper on plans to turn 300 miles of rail line from Humboldt County to Marin County into the Great Redwood Trail. The Surface Transportation Board issued a decision Tuesday that it will not prioritize trail use and, in so doing, cast aside the established process for considering offers from the North Coast Railroad Co. and the Mendocino Railway to acquire or subsidize rail service along either the entire corridor or a stretch of the line. The ruling said an offer of financial assistance to acquire or subsidize rail lines “should take priority over a trail use proposal because of the strong congressional intent to preserve rail service wherever possible.” … ” Read more from the Mercury News here: North Coast trail plan complicated by US rail ruling
Clear Lake: The fight for an invisible fish
“This spring, in response to reports of dead and dying fish, teams of government wildlife staff and Tribal environmental specialists grabbed their backpack electrofishers, dip nets, buckets, aerated coolers and rubber gloves. For weeks they searched along drought-stressed creeks to save what fish they could find. One by one, they gently stunned and netted 360 adults and fry (juveniles) in rapidly diminishing pools before transporting them for release into a nearby lake. This was not the first such rescue — similar efforts to save the rare and rapidly declining Clear Lake hitch (Lavinia exilicaulda chi) took place in 2014, 2016 and 2018. … Clear Lake hitch are vanishing because of our unabated appetites for fossil fuels, sportfishing, irrigation water and wine. … ” Read the full article at the Revelator here: Clear Lake: The fight for an invisible fish
$225,000 in grants awarded for Placer County water purveyors
“At the May 19 meeting of the Placer County Water Agency (“PCWA”) Board of Directors, the Board awarded five grants totaling $225,000 to four public water purveyors in Placer County. The grants, funded through PCWA’s Financial Assistance Program (FAP), support Placer County special districts with projects that enhance safe and reliable drinking water service, water infrastructure reliability, and water and energy resources stewardship. The 2022 grant recipients are included below along with a brief description of each project. … ” Read more from Roseville Today here: $225,000 in grants awarded for Placer County water purveyors
Caution urged when heading to rivers as Sacramento temperatures surge
“The summer heat is attracting large crowds to the American River in an effort to find relief from the sweltering temperatures. “We’re just hanging out by the river, just trying to make a little trip, go down and float maybe a few hours,” said Alexander Gurr, who was using the parkway in Rancho Cordova. As crowds grow in size along the river, Sacramento Metropolitan Fire water rescue crews at station 65 are preparing for a busy summer ahead. On Saturday, crews pulled a man from the river in a dramatic water rescue at Ancil Hoffman Park. Capt. Parker Wilbourn with Sac Metro Fire says the department has two jet boats dedicated to water rescues. … ” Read more from Channel 10 here: Caution urged when heading to rivers as Sacramento temperatures surge
More severe droughts are looming. Could Santa Rosa’s pioneering water recycling program help stave off disaster?
“Homes and businesses across central Sonoma County generated more than 5 billion gallons of wastewater last year, enough to fill more than 7,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools. That sewage flowed into Santa Rosa’s regional treatment plant south of Sebastopol, where it was cleaned up and nearly all of it put to a second use. About 4 billion gallons of recycled water was pumped north from the Llano Road treatment plant in a 41-mile pipeline and up a steep slope into The Geysers geothermal fields southeast of Cloverdale. There it was injected into the ground to generate enough clean, renewable energy for about 100,000 North Bay households. … ” Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: More severe droughts are looming. Could Santa Rosa’s pioneering water recycling program help stave off disaster?
Report examines history of debris flows in southern Santa Barbara County
“The bulldozers are back at Randall and East Valley roads this month, working on the final phase of the Montecito’s newest debris basin — a giant bowl designed to trap boulders and fallen trees and help protect the downstream homeowners on San Ysidro Creek from catastrophic debris flows. When it is finished in late August, the $10 million Randall Road basin will be the fifth on Montecito’s deadly creeks. … ” Read more from Noozhawk here: Report examines history of debris flows in southern Santa Barbara County
Riverside County fire officials ban outdoor burning amid megadrought, early wildfire season
“Riverside County fire authorities are suspending all outdoor burn permits amid worries that the 2022 wildfire season could be even more destructive than in years past due to the ongoing, statewide megadrought. “As we enter the summer months, we are experiencing critical fire behavior due to warmer temperatures and tinder-dry vegetation,” said Bill Weiser, the chief of the Riverside County Fire Department/CalFire, on Sunday, May 22. … ” Read more from the Riverside Press-Enterprise here: Riverside County fire officials ban outdoor burning amid megadrought, early wildfire season
No boating or fishing at Lake Hodges while dam is repaired
“Boating and fishing at the Lake Hodges reservoir in North County will be prohibited for about five months as the city of San Diego repairs cracks in the face of the Lake Hodges dam. Preliminary work for the repair project is underway. As the project moves forward, the lake’s water level must be lowered, leaving the boat launch ramps inaccessible, and exposing slippery, muddy banks that will be unsafe for public access, said Arian Collins, a city spokesperson, in an email. Hiking on the San Dieguito River Park trails around the reservoir will not be impacted during the draw-down of the water or construction work on the dam, said Collins. … ” Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here: No boating or fishing at Lake Hodges while dam is repaired
Drought, winds to fuel Southwest wildfires as heat builds
“For weeks, the Southwest has been gripped by extreme drought, rapidly spreading wildfires and surges of heat. AccuWeather forecasters say that this trend will continue with the temperatures in some cities possibly approaching record territory. Across the Southwest, the fire season is already off to an active start. Earlier this month, destructive wildfires raged from Texas to Arizona, some of which are still active fires. The Hermits Peak Fire, which started in New Mexico when crews lost control of a prescribed burn, was only 40% contained with over 310,000 acres lost as of Monday morning. Farther south in the state, the Black Fire remained only 8% contained with over 130,000 acres burned as of the start of the week. ... ” Read more from AccuWeather here: Drought, winds to fuel Southwest wildfires as heat builds
Priceless seeds, sprouts in New Mexico a key to post-fire future in the West
“A New Mexico facility where researchers work to restore forests devastated by fires faced an almost cruelly ironic threat: The largest wildfire burning in the U.S. was fast approaching. Owen Burney and his team knew they had to save what they could. Atop their list was a priceless bank of millions of ponderosa pine, spruce and other conifer seeds meant to help restore fire-ravaged landscapes across the American West. Next were tens of thousands of tree sprouts, many of which were sown to make them more drought tolerant, that were loaded onto trailers and trucked to a greenhouse about 100 miles away. New Mexico State University’s Forestry Research Center in the mountain community of Mora is one of only a few such nurseries in the country and stands at the forefront of a major undertaking to rebuild more resilient forests as wildfires burn hotter, faster and more often. … ” Read more from the Colorado Sun here: Priceless seeds, sprouts in New Mexico a key to post-fire future in the West
How a shadow price on water could prime innovative technologies
“As corporate water stewardship strategies have evolved over the past several decades, so has a greater acceptance that the price of water — what a company actually pays per gallon or liter of water from a utility — is inadequate to quantify water as a business risk. That reality decelerates the adoption of innovative water technologies and business models to mitigate business risks. Meanwhile, it has become increasingly clear that the acceleration of climate change-related impacts and deeper corporate commitments require a more sophisticated framework to overcoming those adoption barriers. … How can stakeholders, in particular the private sector, contribute to scaling innovative water technologies and catalyze other stakeholders to accelerate changes in public policy to adapt to 21st-century water realities? … ” Read the full article at Green Biz here: How a shadow price on water could prime innovative technologies
Vertical farms: A rising form of agriculture
“It’s not an art installation; it’s rotisserie lettuce plants, going around and around inside a vertical farm, in the middle of downtown Jackson, Wyoming. This little tenth-of-an-acre plot produces 100,000 pounds of produce a year. Architect Nona Yehia is one of the founders of Vertical Harvest, which opened in 2016. She said, “Jackson has a four-month growing season, and so we really wanted to extend that. What we had was this plot of land, 30 feet wide by 150 feet long. So, we decided, ‘Well, what if we go up? Could we make more food?'” … ” Read more from CBS News here: Vertical farms: A rising form of agriculture
The wetlands are drowning
“Schoenoplectus americanus, or the chairmaker’s bulrush, is a common wetland plant in the Americas, and it has an existential problem. It has chosen to live in a place where it is always at risk of being drowned. … We often call them ecosystem engineers,” says Pat Megonigal, an ecologist who directs the Smithsonian’s Global Change Research Wetland and studies the plants. “If the water gets deep, they have the ability to raise themselves up. And, in fact, right here at this marsh they’ve been doing it for 4,000 years.” For a long while, wetland researchers have wondered whether that skill could help the plants build their way out of climate change. … For 30 years, Megonigal and his predecessors have been watching this marathon unfold in a single marsh in Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay. It’s a duel between sea rise and plant growth, two forces with a common origin—humans burning fossil fuels, adding more CO2 to the air—and at this point, the result is becoming clear: The wetlands are losing. … ” Read more from Wired Magazine here: The wetlands are drowning
Companies face billions in damages as PFAS lawsuits flood courts
“For years, plaintiffs’ lawyers suing over health and environmental damage from so called forever chemicals, known collectively as PFAS, focused on one set of deep pockets—E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. But over the past two years, there’s been a seismic shift in the legal landscape as awareness of PFAS has expanded. Corporations including 3M Co., Chemguard Inc., Kidde-Fenwal Inc., National Foam Inc., and Dynax Corp. are now being sued at roughly the same rate as DuPont, according to a Bloomberg Law analysis of more than 6,400 PFAS-related lawsuits filed in federal courts between July 2005 and March 2022. If PFAS went into a company’s finished product, odds are it’s being sued. A federal judge overseeing thousands of PFAS cases put the risks bluntly. … ” Read more from Bloomberg Law here: Companies face billions in damages as PFAS lawsuits flood courts
The plastisphere, marine snow and ocean plastics
Kat Kerlin writes, “I run across all sorts of interesting phrases in my work as an environmental science writer. For our story about “How Pathogens Can Hitch a Ride on Plastic to Reach the Sea,” two new-to-me phrases caught my ear: Marine snow, and the Plastisphere. So what are they? The Plastisphere is a diverse microbial community living on bits of plastic floating in the ocean. These communities are distinct from the surrounding water, suggesting that plastic serves as its own habitat in the ocean. ... ” Read more from UC Davis here: The plastisphere, marine snow and ocean plastics
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.