DAILY DIGEST, 5/25: State Water Board adopts emergency water conservation regulation; Tribes, environmental groups demand better management of the Bay-Delta; Gray fighting bill could lead to higher river flows; Requirements proposed for chemical in tires that harms salmon; and more …


On the calendar today …

  • MEETING: Delta Conservancy Board will meet from 9am to 1pm. Agenda items include consideration of Delta Conservancy Draft 2022 Implementation Plan; updates on Prop 1, Delta Drought Response, and Community Enhancement Grant programs; Overview of ‘Reorienting to Recovery’ Central Valley Recovery Project; and an EcoRestore update. Click here for the full agenda and remote access instructions.
  • California Financing Coordinating Committee Funding Fair from 9am to 2pm. This is a great opportunity for local government employees, water industry professionals, city planners, economic development and engineering professionals, water and irrigation district managers, financial advisors, project consultants, and California Native American tribes to learn about current available infrastructure grant, loan, and bond financing programs through federal and state agencies. The afternoon session includes time to speak directly with state and federal program staff about your project and issues affecting your community.  Click here for more information.
  • SoCAL WATER DIALOG: One Water – Actions to Take Today to Ensure Water Reliability Tomorrow from 12pm to 1:30pm.  Join us for a discussion with U.S. Water Alliance CEO Mami Hara, leader of the national ‘One Water’ movement and Metropolitan GM Adel Hagekhalil to learn what urgent actions are needed today and how this innovative approach to sustainable water management can deliver water reliability for Southern California’s future. Click here to register.
  • WEBINAR: Introduction to Groundwater U: an online library of Groundwater educational videos from 12pm to 1pm. This presentation will describe the goals and value of the GroundwaterU educational initiative, how to use the website, and how volunteers can share their own expertise with a global audience via customized videos at no cost. Click here to register.
  • WORKSHOP: Scott and Shasta Rivers Drought Emergency Regulation from 2pm to 4pm.  As California heads into a third consecutive dry year, the State Water Resources Control Board Division of Water Rights is considering the readoption of a drought emergency regulation to establish minimum instream flows and curtail water rights in the Scott River and Shasta River watersheds. Preliminary changes to the drought emergency regulation include: (1) updates to the minimum flow requirements as recommended by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife; (2) extension of the inefficient livestock watering prohibition through March 31; (3) a new local cooperative solution option for inefficient livestock watering; and (4) other minor amendments to improve implementation of the regulation.  Click here for the full meeting notice.  Zoom Link: https://waterboards.zoom.us/j/95175826052?pwd=WHo5OHNzQjlxY1hkc0RBZXFHYUcwQT09

In California drought news today …

California bans watering “non-functional” grass in some areas, strengthening drought rules

California’s top water regulators adopted emergency drought rules Tuesday that scale up conservation requirements for water suppliers throughout the state and prohibit watering grass that is purely decorative at businesses and in common areas of subdivisions and homeowners associations.  The regulations outlaw the use of potable water for irrigating “non-functional” grass at commercial, industrial and institutional properties.  The ban doesn’t apply to yards at individual homes. There are exemptions for sports fields, grassy areas where people gather, and for watering to keep trees healthy. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: California bans watering “non-functional” grass in some areas, strengthening drought rules | Read via Yahoo News

Press release: State Water Board adopts emergency water conservation regulation

In response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s March 28 Executive Order the State Water Resources Control Board adopted an emergency water conservation regulation today that will ensure more aggressive conservation by local water agencies  across the state.  The new regulation bans irrigating turf at commercial, industrial, and institutional properties, such as grass in front of or next to large industrial or commercial buildings. The ban does not include watering turf that is used for recreation or other community purposes, water used at residences or water to maintain trees. The regulation also requires all urban water suppliers to implement conservation actions under Level 2 of their Water Shortage Contingency Plans. … ”  Continue reading this press release here: Press release: State Water Board adopts emergency water conservation regulation

SEE ALSO:

Statement by Governor Newsom

California is facing a drought crisis and every local water agency and Californian needs to step up on conservation efforts. I am hopeful the measures enacted by the State Water Board will lead to a reduction of water use across the state. These conservation measures are increasingly important as we enter the summer months. I’m asking all Californians to step up, because every single drop counts.”

Statement by the California Farm Water Coalition

Today’s State Water Board emergency water conservation regulation continues to demonstrate how serious this year’s drought is. Water conservation measures are reaching farther and farther into our communities and now go beyond the water supply cuts felt by California farms and rural communities earlier this year.  The taps that deliver surface water to the farms that grow the local food we buy at grocery stores were effectively turned off in March and April. Almost half of the irrigated farmland in California has had its surface water supply reduced by 50% or more.  We live in an increasingly unstable world, but politicians and regulators are not doing the work needed to guard our safe, affordable, domestic food supply during these uncertain times. Failing to act will not only worsen rising food costs, they may permanently disrupt the food systems that many now take for granted.

Click here to continue reading this statement from the California Farm Water Coalition.

California farms produce over half of the country’s fruits, nuts, and vegetables. California foods aren’t just in the produce aisle, but also in the ready-made foods and ingredients we eat every single day. That can’t happen without water and we cannot simply move California production to other states. A safe, affordable, domestic food supply is a national security issue, just like energy. The government must make it a priority.  Water supply shortages affect families throughout the state and the nation that depend on California farms for the safe, fresh, and locally-produced farm products we all buy at the grocery store.

Statement by Adel Hagekhalil, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District

Using our precious water resources to irrigate thirsty grass that serves no function is wasteful, particularly during this severe drought. We appreciate the State Water Board’s leadership today to eliminate this practice in the commercial, industrial and institutional sectors. Our priority must be to preserve and stretch our limited supplies to ensure we have enough water to meet human health and safety needs.  As our climate changes and we face a future of increasingly stressed water supplies, we must all take steps to become as water efficient as possible in our homes and businesses. While the state board’s action is an immediate response to the drought crisis, we must also consider the long-term cost of retaining non-functional turf. For more than 30 years, Metropolitan has been working to reduce and eliminate non-functional turf through our turf replacement program. Replacing thirsty grass with water-efficient California Friendly® and native plants not only saves water, it maintains the cooling properties of grass and provides critical habitat for birds, butterflies and bees.  These investments have helped change the landscape of Southern California, providing rebates that have encouraged residents and businessowners to remove more than 200 million square feet of grass, saving enough water to serve 62,000 homes annually. Now, we must build on this progress and do even more.”

Statement by the Regional Water Authority

We support the State Water Board’s action today as California endures a third year of serious drought. The resolution focuses on local actions, providing water suppliers with flexibility to implement Stage 2 of their Water Shortage Contingency Plans, and also makes an exception for trees in guidelines for fallowing non-functional turf in the commercial, industrial and institutional sectors.  The RWA Board of Directors recently unanimously supported a call for customers to conserve water by at least 15 percent. This call was renewed from 2021 despite the fact that local water providers are well positioned to meet water supply needs this year, even with drought conditions. Sacramento is part of a larger integrated statewide water system that is under stress, and we are prepared to do our part. … ”

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

RWA’s action is meant to reinforce the local conservation guidelines and mandates already in place since 2021 or that are currently under discussion as local water providers prepare to implement demand response actions in their Stage 2 water shortage contingency plans, if they haven’t already.  The cities of Roseville and Folsom, for example, have been requiring customers to conserve 20 percent since August of 2021. Other water providers significantly increased rebate amounts to encourage conservation, setting new records for rebate applications in Sacramento, Roseville and the Placer County Water Agency.

“RWA in 2021 also significantly ramped up its regional advertising to further encourage customer conservation, via television, radio and billboards, a campaign that will continue throughout this summer.  Unfortunately, despite these efforts, local water use reductions have remained below targets. This is not unexpected, given that the January through March period this year was the driest in state history, and most household water use in our area occurs in landscapes.

“We must do more to conserve, but we also need to move away from managing water supplies through emergency measures. We need to build the infrastructure that will allow California to adapt to our changing climate. The Sacramento Regional Water Bank will help us do that by allowing us to store excess surface water underground so that it is available during dry times. 

“Today, as we enter the peak water use season, we are calling on residents and businesses to do their part to conserve by reducing sprinklers by two minutes each cycle while continuing to water your trees. In addition, take steps to stop water waste both inside and outside your home and business. About a third of landscape water is lost due to overwatering and evaporation. Although there are many ways to save water at home, conserving water outdoors can make the biggest difference of all—especially as we head into the hot summer months where household use doubles or triples compared to winter use.

You can find conservation tips, details about rebates, information about efficiently watering trees  and a regional map with watering guidelines at BeWaterSmart.info. You can find information about operational changes such as groundwater banking at rwah2o.org/waterfuture.”

Drought tolerant landscape might be key to state water usage issues

California continues to deal with cyclical drought scenarios, but each year as water demand rises, water resources are strained.  California Governor Gavin Newsom proposed the idea that, if local water regulators can’t find a way to lower water usage among customers, he would consider setting regulations statewide. UC Davis assistant professor and urban ecologist Alessandro Ossola says there is a balance that needs to be met when it comes to urban landscapes and drought tolerant plants. Across the state, some regions require more water than others, like valley spots as opposed to coastal areas. … ”  Read more from Channel 10 here:  Drought tolerant landscape might be key to state water usage issues

Cattle ranchers battle drought while struggling to maintain conservation habitats

California’s vast land doesn’t just consist of valleys, mountains, and oceans. There are rolling hills, home to major grassland and wildlife. It’s a territory that can have the most amazing views of large acreage, but it also comes with its faults. The land needs to be managed and is often great for grazing goats and sheep, as well as cattle. Most of the territory can’t be mowed, and the nooks and crannies are perfect for livestock. It is also home to bears, wild pigs, coyotes, deer, and, in the past, elk. Aside from these large animals, hundreds of thousands of birds fly over this area for a place to land, when there is water. Cattle ranchers Mike and Kathy Landini, have about 2,000 acres on their ranch, known as Divide Ranch, in Elk Creek, near Willows. … ”  Read more from Channel 10 here: Cattle ranchers battle drought while struggling to maintain conservation habitats

How cities in the West have water amid drought

As drought and climate change tighten their grip on the American West, the sight of fountains, swimming pools, gardens and golf courses in cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Boise, and Albuquerque can be jarring at first glance.  Western water experts, however, say they aren’t necessarily cause for concern. Over the past three decades, major Western cities — particularly in California and Nevada — have diversified their water sources, boosted local supplies through infrastructure investments and conservation, and use water more efficiently.  Peter Gleick, president emeritus of the Pacific Institute, has studied water resources for decades. He calls the reduction in per capita water use a “remarkable story” and one that’s not widely acknowledged.  “That’s a huge success throughout the West,” Gleick said. “All of the cities in the West have made progress.” … ”  Read more from the AP via KTLA here: How cities in the West have water amid drought

La Niña lives! — and that’s bad news

For two winters in a row, La Niña has steered desperately needed rain and snow storms away from the U.S. Southwest, exacerbating a decades-long drought that has shriveled reservoirs and spurred horrific wildfires.  Now, hopes that the climate pattern would relent and allow moisture to rebound next winter have suffered a serious blow. La Niña — Spanish for “the girl” — persisted through April, and there’s a 61 percent chance she’ll stick around for a third winter, according to the latest monthly update from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.… ”  Read more from Discover Magazine here: La Niña lives! — and that’s bad news

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In other water news today …

Tribes, environmental groups demand better management of the Bay-Delta

Years of drought and pollution have taken their toll on the San Francisco Bay and San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta. The watershed — a key resource for Californians throughout the state — has seen declining numbers of salmon and an uptick in harmful algal blooms in recent years.  On Tuesday, tribes and environmental groups gathered outside the state water board’s headquarters in Sacramento to demand better management of the Bay-Delta. Speakers at the gathering said that current management of the watershed has taken a toll on the communities surrounding it.   Caleen Sisk, chief of the Winnemem Wintu tribe, says that her tribe’s history and cultural traditions are intertwined with the Bay-Delta. She says that the state’s decisions prioritize corporate agricultural interests over that of communities impacted by the worsening conditions of the watershed.  “We’re the ones who are left with the water deficiency and the water pollution so that a handful of people can get rich off of that water,” Sisk said. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here: Tribes, environmental groups demand better management of the Bay-Delta

‘Its condition impedes our cultural practices’: Tribal communities ask California to protect the Delta

As drought conditions continue, people who rely on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are demanding California make sure their communities are protected.  Early Tuesday, a group gathered in front of the California State Water Resources Control Board building to demand the state enforce the Bay-Delta plan.  It’s been a long fight and the group said enough is enough. For many of the tribes, the Delta is an important lifeline.  “My people have stewarded and utilized resources from the Delta for sustenance, medicine, transportation, shelter, clothing, ceremonies since time memorial,” Malissa Tayaba, vice-chair of the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, said. … ”  Read more from Channel 40 here: ‘Its condition impedes our cultural practices’: Tribal communities ask California to protect the Delta

Press release: Tribes and environmental justice groups link Bay-Delta collapse to water rights from California’s racist past

Today, a coalition of California Tribes and Delta-based environmental justice organizations (standing in front of the HQ of the California State Water Resources Control Board) announced the filing of a “Petition for Rulemaking Review.”  The coalition, represented by the Environmental Law Clinic of Stanford Law, took this formal action today to demand the California State Water Resources Board update and enforce the Bay-Delta Plan as required by law.  The State Water Board and the Governor’s Office have made numerous commitments to centering environmental justice, and tribal consultation in public decision-making. The California Legislature codified many of these commitments into law.  “This petition gives the Board an opportunity to make these promises real by updating Bay-Delta water quality standards through the robust, participatory public process required by law, centering the interests and participation of tribes and other impacted communities,” said Stephanie L. Safdi, Environmental Law Clinic, Mills Legal Clinic, Stanford Law. ... ”  Read the full press release via Maven’s Notebook here: Press release: Tribes and environmental justice groups link Bay-Delta collapse to water rights from California’s racist past

Bill could lead to higher flows on Modesto-area rivers. Local lawmaker is fighting it

Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, is maneuvering against a bill that seeks higher flows on local rivers. Assembly Bill 2639 would set a Dec. 31, 2023, deadline for the State Water Resources Control Board to complete its plan for tributaries to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. They include the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers. The decision would follow decades of wrangling over whether fish should get more water on the lower rivers at the expense of farms and cities. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here: Bill could lead to higher flows on Modesto-area rivers. Local lawmaker is fighting it

SEE ALSO: Sounding the alarm on sneaky legislation threatening Stanislaus-area water, editorial by the Modesto Bee

California proposes requiring tiremakers to consider safer alternative to chemical that kills coho salmon

Companies manufacturing motor vehicle tires for sale in California will have to evaluate safer alternatives to 6PPD, a chemical that readily reacts to form another chemical known to kill threatened coho salmon, under a new regulation proposed by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).  Manufacturers use 6PPD to reduce tire cracking and extend the useful life of tires. If approved, the regulation would compel tiremakers to look for ways to reduce the use of 6PPD without affecting the functionality or performance requirements of their products sold in the state.   The loss of coho salmon in California has significantly impacted Native American tribes who have traditionally relied on fish as an important food source. The confirmed presence of 6PPD-quinone in California’s waterways threatens the state’s remaining coho salmon populations, which are endangered or threatened, and may jeopardize the recovery of this species. ... ”  Read more from the Department of Toxic Substances Control here: California proposes requiring tiremakers to consider safer alternative to chemical that kills coho salmon

CalEnviroScreen: a geographic approach to environmental justice

Glimpsed through the windshield as you head south out of San Francisco, the Bayshore Freeway is just a 50-mile stretch of US Route 101 that connects the city with San Jose. What you don’t see is a mile-wide corridor of higher-than-average pollution to the west.  By the time you reach Redwood City and enter Silicon Valley, the pollution corridor has widened and switched sides. There, the heavy pollution zone lies almost exclusively east of the freeway, which appears as a dividing line between two worlds, as solid and impermeable as a political border.  CalEnviroScreen, an online map built by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), part of the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), provides this view. Combining data related to pollution and people, the map shows California from an environmental justice perspective. … ”  Read more from the ESRI blog here: CalEnviroScreen: a geographic approach to environmental justice

Farm Bureau board advocates on issues

Arriving in Washington, D.C., amid concerns over global conflict, the pandemic and inflation, the California Farm Bureau board of directors met with members of Congress, federal agencies and others on pressing issues affecting agriculture.  Discussions focused on themes including the California drought, trade challenges and immigration and farm workforce issues.  “This drought is even more historic in terms of zero water allocations and the number of farms that it affects in California,” said California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson. “Then, couple that with the inability of some to move food around in terms of the supply chain and getting the inputs that we need. There’s a perfect storm brewing that could pretty traumatically affect our food supply.” … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here: Farm Bureau board advocates on issues

Sea otters were once hunted to near extinction. Now scientists might return them to California’s North Coast

The sea otters tumbled onto pickleweed along the estuary, a pup nuzzling its mother for milk as she tried groom it. Soon they were a rolling bundle of wriggling brown fur, each animal’s flippers and head indistinguishable from the other’s.  “They’re always touching,” said Jay Fukushima, a volunteer with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, speaking of how mother and pups interact even when resting in the water. Fukushima was at the Elkhorn Slough helping conduct an annual census of sea otters on the California coast to monitor how the threatened species is doing. The stakes are high: Federal wildlife managers are studying whether it would be possible to return sea otters to parts of the West Coast where they thrived centuries ago before being hunted almost to extinction. Some scientists have suggested otters could be reintroduced to the Sonoma-Mendocino coast or San Francisco Bay. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Sea otters were once hunted to near extinction. Now scientists might return them to California’s North Coast

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In commentary today …

Editorial: Sounding the alarm on sneaky legislation threatening Stanislaus-area water

The Modesto Bee editorial board writes, “A sneaky legislative attempt to swipe water from Stanislaus-area farmers and Modesto homes must be stopped, right now. The long and ongoing fight to prevent a so-called state water grab has been bad enough. At least that was put on hold while those who manage irrigation and drinking water from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers try negotiating a fairer deal for our people. But Assembly Bill 2639 represents a cynical end run around those talks. The bill, expected to come to an Assembly floor vote sometime this week, would cut off those negotiations, harming our farmers and our economy as well as a drinking water source relied on by Modesto, Salida, Empire, Manteca, Lathrop and Tracy; Turlock and Ceres will, too, in a few years. ... ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Editorial: Sounding the alarm on sneaky legislation threatening Stanislaus-area water

Our answers on groundwater leave more questions

Breanne Vandenberg, Merced County Farm Bureau Executive Director, writes, “In April, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order outlining the temporary strategies for California to manage the ongoing drought. Within this order, he outlined rules for counties, cities and other public agencies as it relates to new wells or alterations to an existing well.  One rule requires farmers and ranchers to get written verification from their local groundwater sustainability agency that the new well or alterations “would not be inconsistent with any sustainable groundwater management program” for the area. The rule says any new well must be unlikely “to interfere with the production and functioning of existing nearby wells” or “cause subsidence that would adversely impact or damage nearby infrastructure.” … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here: Our answers on groundwater leave more questions

Blog commentary: Over-summering spring-run chinook salmon in Mill Creek and Deer Creek

Tom Cannon writes, “In a recent research paper, authors Cordoleani, Phillis, and Sturrock describe what they call a “rare” life history of spring-run Chinook salmon in Mill Creek and Deer Creek, tributaries to the Sacramento River. The authors suggest that this life history is becoming increasingly important in our warming climate. … What the authors of this study are noting is the two dominant life history patterns of Chinook salmon: subyearling and yearling smolt production, or “ocean” type vs. “river” type Chinook. One type or the other often dominates in a particular river system, but often both types exist, providing for a diversity of life history that protects the species from extinction. … ”  Read more from the California Fisheries Blog here: Over-summering spring-run chinook salmon in Mill Creek and Deer Creek

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In regional water news and commentary today …

NORTH COAST

Flights over Klamath River provide view of dams set for removal

On whitewater raft trips, many sections of the Klamath River rumble through walls of frothing whitewater.  But from above the river looks benign, just a tiny thread of water passing through a fractured canyon carved over eons of geologic upheaval. Five of us were watching from hundreds of feet above, including Bruce Gordon who was flying the small Cessna airplane along and over the Klamath River, tracing its winding path from Klamath Falls to far northern California. Sponsored by the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC), the purpose of the flight was to offer birds-eye views of the river and four dams slated for removal in coming years, possibly in 2024. … ”  Read more from the Herald & News here: Flights over Klamath River provide view of dams set for removal

Tar is still leaking into the Smith River after last month’s suspected DUI crash, officials confirm

Gobs of oily tar continue to slip past containment booms and drain into the Smith River, nearly a month after an overturned trailer spilled 2,000 gallons of the hot asphalt binder onto U.S. 199 between Hiouchi and Gasquet.  Spokesperson Eric Laughlin with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response confirmed with the Outpost that the toxic goop is actively leaking into the Smith River, and that the agency received new reports of the material traveling downstream on Friday.  “It looks like the cleanup is going to resume this week in areas where the spill happened, but that’s not going to be the extent of the cleanup,” Laughlin said. “We’re committed to a comprehensive cleanup effort.” … ”  Read more from the Lost Coast Outpost here: Tar is still leaking into the Smith River after last month’s suspected DUI crash, officials confirm

MOUNTAIN COUNTIES

Fighting fire: Nevada County supervisors look toward storm clean up, mitigation

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday accepted a grant it intends to use toward reducing fire fuels.  The unanimous approval touches on several aspects of fire, and will bring in $950,000 through Cal Fire for storm clean up, wildfire mitigation and green waste mitigation efforts.  “Protecting life and property is a huge part of fuels reduction,” said Craig Griesbach, Building Department director. … ”  Read more from The Union here: Fighting fire: Nevada County supervisors look toward storm clean up, mitigation

Non-motorized watercraft can still spread invasive species at Lake Tahoe

Everyone boating in Lake Tahoe already goes through a process of “Clean, Drain, Dry” protocols prior to launching to keep invasive species out of the big, beautiful lake. But what about other vessels in the lake like paddle boards, electric surfboards, kayaks, and canoes?  Summer is finally here, and water activities are starting to ramp up.  The award-winning Clean, Drain, and Dry protocol from Lake Tahoe’s Watercraft Inspection Program is universally seen and understood throughout the region for boats and jet skis. The process ensures that no new aquatic invasive species are introduced to the lake — and none have since inspections began in 2008. … ”  Read more from South Tahoe Now here: Non-motorized watercraft can still spread invasive species at Lake Tahoe

SACRAMENTO VALLEY

Measuring success of Battle Creek restoration

CalTrout’s restoration project site in Eagle Canyon on Battle Creek recently received a visit and inspection by our Mt. Shasta-Klamath Region Director, Damon Goodman. Last year, we completed construction at this site to remove a rock barrier in the canyon that had been blocking fish passage. As a result, more than 8 miles of anadromous habitat became available for endangered winter-run Chinook salmon, with the first cohort this spring traveling from the ocean high into source waters along North Fork Battle Creek, the same reach of creek that was just restored.  To gauge the efficiency of the project and help inform future work, Damon returned to Eagle Canyon last week to perform streamflow measurements. … ”  Read more from Cal Trout here: Measuring success of Battle Creek restoration

Upcoming enrollment opportunity for fall flooding through Bid4Birds

Snow geese in rice fields; Photo by Bruce Barnett/Flickr

The California Ricelands Waterbird Foundation (Foundation), is happy to announce the upcoming enrollment period for the Fall Bid4Birds habitat program.   The Bid4Birds Program focuses on extending the flooding period in rice fields for the benefit of waterbirds, particularly shorebirds. While the standard winter flooding period is beneficial for many migrating waterbirds on the Pacific Flyway, there are a variety of species that arrive in the late summer or early fall when most rice fields and marshes are dry. Providing flooded habitat is especially critical this year given the current extreme drought conditions throughout the state. … ”  Read more from California Rice News here: Upcoming enrollment opportunity for fall flooding through Bid4Birds

Documentary examines history of Yuba County, Yuba Water Agency

The history of Yuba Water Agency and Yuba County is portrayed in a new documentary that premiered Monday night for area officials and others who have worked to help protect the livelihoods of those that both work and live in the Yuba-Sutter region.  Called “The Tricky Yuba,” this documentary produced by J Comm, Inc., provides viewers with a deeper understanding of why the agency was originally formed and what it took to complete incredibly important projects such as New Bullards Bar Dam — projects that have had lasting positive effects to this day. … ”  Read more from Yahoo News here: Documentary examines history of Yuba County, Yuba Water Agency

Yuba City: Hydraulic fluid, oil enter storm drains after truck fire

An intense fire involving a Recology garbage truck early Monday evening in Yuba City led to the spillage and cleanup of about 50 gallons of hydraulic fluid and 12 gallons of motor oil that made its way onto city streets and into storm drains, officials said.  According to Yuba City Fire Department Chief Jesse Alexander, the department was dispatched at about 5:30 p.m. to Bogue Road and Rapid Water Way because of a Recology garbage truck that caught fire. … ”  Read more from Yahoo News here: Hydraulic fluid, oil enter storm drains after truck fire

NAPA/SONOMA

Sonoma Co. vineyard exec faces $3.75M fine over alleged environmental violations

A well-known Sonoma County vineyard executive is facing a multi-million-dollar state fine for allegedly removing trees and destroying a small wetland on a rural patch of land east of Cloverdale.  Hugh Reimers and Krasilsa Pacific Farms could be on the hook for up to $3.75 million in fines for allegedly cutting down trees, grading, ripping and other activities near tributaries to Little Sulphur Creek, Big Sulphur Creek and Crocker Creek in the Russian River Watershed, according to the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. … ”  Read more from CBS San Francisco here: Sonoma Co. vineyard exec faces $3.75M fine over alleged environmental violations

SEE ALSO: Vineyard developers face $3.75 million fine for harming streams, wetlands in Sonoma County, press release from the North Coast Regional Water Board

BAY AREA/DELTA

As Bay Area faces prolonged drought, recycling and desalination are the only two real options

Despite being surrounded by water, Bay Area residents are routinely told during dry years to take shorter showers, let lawns brown and slow the rush of water from their taps.  But as climate change prolongs drought and challenges local water supply, regional water managers are warning that none of those actions will be enough. Many say the time has come to invest in technically feasible, though politically and environmentally complicated alternatives like purifying wastewater and sucking salt out of seawater to bolster stores.  “We need a fundamental transformation of where we’re getting water from,” said Adrian Covert, senior vice president of public policy at the Bay Area Council, an association of local businesses dedicated to economic development. “And really, the two options are recycling and desalination.” … ”  Read more from the SF Examiner here: As Bay Area faces prolonged drought, recycling and desalination are the only two real options

Isleton forms abatement district to reduce flood risk

The city of Isleton is on Andrus Island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Region, the sprawling, low-lying expanse of Northern California formed by the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. Indeed, much of Isleton, which has a population of approximately 1,000 people, is situated beside the Sacramento River. Because of land subsidence, Isleton, like most of the delta, has an elevation below the adjacent river and must rely on an extensive, and aging, levee system to stay dry. However, a single levee breach could mean devastation for the small community, which experienced just such an event 50 years ago.  Looking to prevent another such disaster, Isleton — which contains two historic districts and has roots that date to the 19th century — is taking a unique approach. … ”  Read more from Civil Engineering Source here: Isleton forms abatement district to reduce flood risk

California drought: Water wasters could face fines of up to $10,000 in Santa Clara County under new rules

Residents in Santa Clara County could face fines of up to $500 — and in extreme cases, $10,000 — for wasting water, under new drought rules approved Tuesday afternoon that are among the toughest of any urban area in California.  Citing the worsening drought, dwindling local water supplies and residents’ failure to hit conservation targets, the board of the Santa Clara Valley Water District, a government agency based in San Jose that serves as the wholesale water provider to 2 million residents, voted unanimously to set up an enforcement program to warn, and then fine, property owners who are violating outdoor watering rules.  “This is a direction we have never taken in our history,” said Rick Callender, CEO of the district. “But never in history have our conditions been as dire as they are now.” … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: California drought: Water wasters could face fines of up to $10,000 in Santa Clara County under new rules

First district affirms judgment rejecting CEQA challenges to Marin County’s approval of 43-home mountaintop subdivision opposed for nearly five decades by neighbors and town of Tiburon

On May 12, 2022, the First District Court of Appeal filed a 108-page published opinion affirming a judgment denying a CEQA writ petition that challenged Marin County’s approval of a 43-lot single-family residential subdivision on a 110-acre parcel atop a mountain overlooking the Town of Tiburon and San Francisco Bay.  Tiburon Open Space Committee v. County of Marin (The Martha Company, Real Party in Interest, and Town of Tiburon, Intervenor and Appellant) (2022) ___ Cal.App.5th ___.  Apart from its factual background of nearly a half-century of intense legal battles over (and effectively blocking) the property’s development – which the Court described as “this woeful record before us” – the decision is notable for its legal analysis of how CEQA applies when a lead agency’s discretion in considering a project for approval is constrained by legal obligations. ... ”  Read more from Miller Starr Regalia here: First district affirms judgment rejecting CEQA challenges to Marin County’s approval of 43-home mountaintop subdivision opposed for nearly five decades by neighbors and town of Tiburon

CENTRAL COAST

Pajaro Valley pushes back rate increases

Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency (PV Water) Board of Directors voted unanimously to delay the effective date of the previously approved Delivered Water Charge and Groundwater Augmentation Charge rate increases, from July 1 to December 1 through November 30, 2026. The Board took this action after considering input from customers and considering the recently announced award of a $7.6 million grant provided by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) through the Sustainable Groundwater Management Grant Program. The grant funds will support implementation of the College Lake Integrated Resources Management Project. … ”  Read the full press release here: Pajaro Valley pushes back rate increases

Column: Disaster averted at Moss Landing

Gary Griggs, a Distinguished Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at UC Santa Cruz, writes, “The Santa Cruz end of Monterey Bay faced down a number of environmental challenges in the 1970s. Moss Landing, in the middle of the bay, faced a different set of issues in the preceding decades.  The area has changed considerably from the days when Cato Vierra and Captain Charlie Moss arrived in the 1860s and began to develop what was to become Moss Landing with its pier, fish processing plants and canneries, a whaling station and salt ponds.  Kaiser Refractories built a large plant to extract magnesium from seawater for the manufacture of high temperature bricks for steel furnaces on the inland side of the highway in 1945 and forever changed the face of this little town. … ”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel here: Column: Disaster averted at Moss Landing

Ordinance will allow Santa Barbara County to permit water wells again

An urgency ordinance that will allow Santa Barbara County to again issue permits to drill water wells was unanimously approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors, despite one supervisor’s concerns about how it will affect Cuyama Valley.  In response to those concerns, the board unanimously agreed to direct staff to review groundwater sustainability agencies’ determination and supporting technical reports on the impact a well would have on sustainability plans in two high-priority aquifers.  The ordinance specified a state-certified hydrogeologist had to determine the impact of a new well on a groundwater basin, and supervisors asked that an amendment be brought back that would allow that to be done by a state-licensed geologist with documented experience. … ”  Read more from the Santa Maria Times here: Ordinance will allow Santa Barbara County to permit water wells again

SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY

State edict: Say goodbye green grass

The grass in front of city halls in Manteca, Lathrop and Ripon is going to turn brown.  So is the grass in front of churches, Doctors Hospital of Manteca, Kaiser Manteca Hospital, non-play areas  at school campuses, commercial and industrial properties and in landscaped corridors such as along Spreckels Avenue.  It will happen due to an emergency state order issued Tuesday that such watering of grass areas will not be allowed starting June 10 as the acute drought griping California deepens. It applies to all turf in front or next to industrial and commercial buildings and that of institutional properties such as cemeteries, schools, government facilities, colleges, and such. Grass that can’t be watered includes anything that’s used for decoration and not for regular activities or events. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here: State edict: Say goodbye green grass

Water shortage impacting California cotton farmers

The California Department of Food and Agriculture says that more than 90% of the cotton harvested in California has been grown in the San Joaquin Valley but continuing dry weather is posing significant challenges for growers.  Consumer demand is driving the market for cotton, including high-quality Pima cotton now reaching record levels of more than $3 a pound. But as California faces another dry year many farmers in Kern County are impacted not only by an increase in price but also by a decrease in production. … ”  Read more from Channel 23 here: Water shortage impacting California cotton farmers

EASTERN SIERRA

Mono Lake:  Surface water exports curtailed by low Grant Lake Reservoir storage

During the 2021 runoff year (April 1, 2021–March 31, 2022), the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) was allowed to export up to 16,000 acre-feet of stream diversions from the Mono Basin because Mono Lake was above 6380 feet above sea level on April 1, 2021. Yet, only 13,300 acre-feet of water was taken, consistent with the low reservoir requirements in DWP’s water licenses, which were amended last year by the California State Water Resources Control Board.  The new licenses contain an overall minimum level of 11,500 acre-feet of storage for Grant Lake Reservoir, with a minimum of 20,000 acre-feet for July–September. On March 15 of this year, dropping levels in Grant forced DWP to curtail surface water exports and on April 4, Grant came within 36 acre-feet of the minimum level. This summer it will remain below the 20,000 acre-foot summertime minimum, with similar conditions as the 2015 drought year. … ”  Read more from the Mono Lake Committee here: Mono Lake:  Surface water exports curtailed by low Grant Lake Reservoir storage

Protecting California Gulls at Mono Lake’s low levels

Each autumn Mono Lake Committee staff optimistically hope for a wet and snowy winter, but cautiously prepare for drought. Last fall, drought contingency planning included the possibility of re-deploying the mile-long temporary electrified fence to protect California Gulls; no small feat to be sure.  Each spring tens of thousands of California Gulls migrate inland to Mono Lake’s islets to nest, making Mono Lake host to one of the three largest California Gull breeding colonies in the world. However, when Mono Lake’s elevation drops, a landbridge begins to form, making the nesting grounds accessible to coyotes. The worst instance of this occurred in 1977 after decades of excessive water diversions to Los Angeles lowered the lake far enough that coyotes were able to access Negit Island, the black volcanic island that was the former nesting habitat for the California Gull. The gulls have avoided nesting on Negit ever since and have instead nested on smaller, adjacent islets. … ”  Read more from the Mono Lake Committee here:  Protecting California Gulls at Mono Lake’s low levels

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Letters to the Editor: We once relied on the L.A. River for water. Let’s try doing that again

To the editor: If you go to the Los Angeles Public Library and look up the photo collection on the L.A. River, you will find many photographs of the 52 miles of zanjas, the channels that once crisscrossed Los Angeles in the 1850s to irrigate the vineyards, orange groves and, yes, lawns.  The sluice gates were moderated by paid zanjeros who could open them in times of flood and close them in times of drought. In Chinatown, a giant waterwheel transported L.A. River water up to the Zanja Madre and into the Pueblo de Los Angeles.  Though viewers of the photos might exclaim, “Oh, how quaint,” we could do well by looking at these practical solutions to help us live within our means once again. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Letters to the Editor: We once relied on the L.A. River for water. Let’s try doing that again | Read via Yahoo News

The first of four PFAS treatment facilities in Garden Grove begins operation

The Orange County Water District and the City of Garden Grove began operating one of four treatment plants being constructed in Garden Grove to remove perand polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from local well water.  PFAS are a group of thousands of manmade, heatresistant chemicals that are prevalent in the environment and are commonly used in consumer products to repel water, grease and oil. Due to their prolonged use, PFAS are being detected in water sources throughout the United States, including the Orange County Groundwater Basin, which supplies 77% of the water supply to 2.5 million people in north and central Orange County. Despite playing no role in releasing PFAS into the environment, water providers must find ways to remove it from their local water supplies. ... Read more from the Orange County Water District here: The first of four PFAS treatment facilities in Garden Grove begins operation

IMPERIAL/COACHELLA VALLEYS

State water board bans watering ‘non-functional’ turf at businesses, institutions

” … In a comment letter to the State Water Board, Desert Water Agency called on the board to remove HOAs from the regulation. The letter stated that HOAs, typically condos, are “prevalent in Desert Water Agency’s service area, which is considered a Disadvantaged Community,” and that removing non-functional turf from HOA common areas would be an environmental justice issue. “Desert Water Agency serves a large number of HOAs, home to socioeconomically diverse residents and retirement communities, so many are fixed income seniors… HOA common areas are commonly designed in ways that are similar to a front yard for a single-family home, or common areas of apartment complexes. The emergency regulations are punitive to HOAs that have shared grass areas in-lieu of personal yards,” said Vicki Petek of Desert Water Agency. … ”  Continue reading at the Desert Sun here: State water board bans watering ‘non-functional’ turf at businesses, institutions

SAN DIEGO

California tightens drought rules as San Diego officials fear higher water rates

California approved new drought restrictions Tuesday, much to the chagrin of San Diego County’s top water managers, who fear increased conservation will further drive up the region’s soaring cost of water.  The new rules, called for by Gov. Gavin Newsom, require nearly all water suppliers in the state to ratchet down residential water consumption, while banning commercial water users from irrigating “non-functional” turf.  The new rules, which go into effect in June, specifically require water agencies to activate what’s known as “Drought Level 2,” a series of actions and prohibitions outlined in locally drafted contingency plans required by the state. The idea is to prepare for a water shortage of up to 20 percent. ... ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here:  California tightens drought rules as San Diego officials fear higher water rates

San Diego County could see mandatory water cuts amid drought

California officials worry some communities won’t have enough water to get through the summer — at least not without residents and businesses significantly cutting back on their usage.  The California State Water Resource Control Board met Tuesday to discuss proposed regulations to encourage more water conservation. This comes one day after Governor Gavin Newsom threatened the possibly of statewide mandates including San Diego County. … ”  Read more from Channel 10 here: San Diego County could see mandatory water cuts amid drought

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Along the Colorado River …

FOX 9’s Adam Klepp spoke to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation about the current tier-one shortage

This means less Colorado River water is flowing into Arizona.  Historic drought conditions are impacting critical infrastructure that provides water and power to the region, like the Hoover Dam, and Lakes Mead and Powell.  “It’s a really critical state of the system right now,” said Dan Bunk, who works for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation near Lake Mead in Nevada.  He helps manage water flows and orders into the lower Colorado River basin, and says due to high temperatures, and a historic 20-year drought, less water is coming. … ”  Read more from KYMA here: FOX 9’s Adam Klepp spoke to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation about the current tier-one shortage

Listen: What an updated 150-year-old mining law could mean for Arizona

Whether it’s because of the spike in gas prices, the recent chip shortage, or growing enthusiasm for alternative energy use, Congress is considering legislation that would update a 150-year-old mining law.  The bill, known as the Clean Energy Minerals Reform Act, was introduced by Democratic Congressman Raúl Grijalva of Arizona. Among other things, it would strengthen environmental standards and force mining companies to pay royalties for operations taking place on federal lands.  Aaron Weiss is deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities, a nonprofit conservation and advocacy organization.  The Show spoke with him to learn about the bill and its potential impact, as well as why an important part of U.S. mining law was written in the 19th century.”  Listen to radio show at KJZZ (7:33): Listen: What an updated 150-year-old mining law could mean for Arizona

Previously sunken boats are emerging at Lake Mead as water disappears

The water level in Lake Mead — the nation’s largest reservoir — dropped below 1,050 feet elevation for the first time last week, a critical milestone that signals more stringent water cuts are around the corner for the Southwest.  If the US Bureau of Reclamation determines in its August report that the lake level will be at or below that elevation in January 2023, the Southwest will move into the second tier of unprecedented water cuts that will further reduce the amount of Colorado River water that can be used by cities, industry and tribal water users.  As of Tuesday, Lake Mead’s level was around 1,049 feet above sea level.  As the water level drops, formerly sunken boats are emerging in the mud, and other vehicles are getting newly stuck. … ”  Read more from CNN here: Previously sunken boats are emerging at Lake Mead as water disappears

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In national water news today …

Senate, House water resources bills advance out of committee

Looking to continue the congressional tradition of passing critical water resources legislation every two years, key committees in the House and Senate recently approved separate versions of a new Water Resources Development Act. Commonly known as WRDA, the legislation sets policies and authorizes projects to be carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Despite their differences, the bills would direct the Corps to take certain steps to address risks associated with climate change and assess the need for improvements to its levees and dams.  Bipartisan support in the House and Senate for water resources legislation bodes well for efforts to finalize a Water Resources Development Act by year’s end. … ” Continue reading at Civil Engineering Source here: Senate, House water resources bills advance out of committee

PFAS pose ‘watershed’ moment for Superfund liability

The Biden administration’s ambitions to crack down on “forever chemicals” — touted as an administration priority — are facing headwinds from key industries that say they could be unfairly punished and held liable for contamination they did not create.  Members of the water and waste sectors are ramping up pressure on Congress and EPA to shield them from an upcoming proposal as the agency makes progress on addressing PFAS contamination. Linked to a variety of health impacts like cancer, the notorious family of chemicals are widespread throughout commerce, leading to their persistence in both water and waste utilities.  The industries say they are “passive receivers” of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and did not create the chemicals, which are used in everything from nonstick pans and dental floss to industrial firefighting foam. But they could soon face liability for PFAS contamination, whether they intentionally caused the problem or not. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: PFAS pose ‘watershed’ moment for Superfund liability

Conservation, Restoration and Resilience: GIS for environmental restoration

What does ecological restoration mean?  In other words, what are we restoring for? Conservation for healthy systems, restoration to historic conditions and/or resilience to changing conditions? The three are not mutually exclusive. Do we want to protect places and systems that are currently functional, restore them to previous conditions, or modify them to be able to adapt to changing conditions caused by anthropogenic factors, including climate change? In the various case studies below, I’ll give examples of all of these goals. … ”  Read more from Directions Magazine here: Conservation, Restoration and Resilience: GIS for environmental restoration

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And lastly …

Two donkeys were stranded on a shrinking California island. Their dramatic rescue story

A private rescue team consisting of a former NASCAR driver, animal advocates, government employees and construction workers rescued two donkeys stranded on an island in a reservoir in western Mariposa County on Tuesday, just days before the strip of land was expected to be submerged by water. Early in the day Tuesday, former NASCAR driver Kenny Shepherd told the Sun-Star that they’d just rescued the animals from Lake McClure and were on a barge headed back to open land. “The island is about under,” he said by phone. “It’s about a foot from going under at the high point. It’s just in time.” ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Two donkeys were stranded on a shrinking California island. Their dramatic rescue story | Read via Virginia Pilot

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOTICE: Revised Notice of May 26 Council Meeting

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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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