WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for June 5-10: Managing salinity in the Delta in a changing climate; Curtailments expanded through out the Delta watershed; Lawmakers mull buying out farmers to save water; and more …

A wrap-up of posts published on Maven’s Notebook this week …

Note to readers: Sign up for weekly email service and you will receive notification of this post on Friday mornings.  Readers on daily email service can add weekly email service by updating their subscription preferences. Click here to sign up!

This week’s featured articles …

CCST WEBINAR RECAP: Managing Salinity in the California Delta in a Changing Climate

The Delta is an intricate network of waterways, canals, and sloughs connecting the Sierra Nevada watershed with the San Francisco Bay.  It is considered the hub of California’s water supply, supplying fresh water to two-thirds of the state’s population and millions of acres of farmland.  It is also the largest freshwater tidal estuary on the west coast, providing important habitat for birds along the Pacific Flyway and the fish that live in or migrate through the Delta.  However, increasing drought and sea level rise make it more challenging for water managers to meet the freshwater needs of all who rely on the Delta.

In May of 2022, the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) brought together experts to discuss the issues related to managing salinity in the Delta, given the impacts of climate change.  The briefing was in partnership with the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Science Program and the Office of Assemblymember Aguilar-Curry.

Click here to read this article.

DELTA WATERMASTER: Water use reporting, Investigation of alleged unlawful water diversion in the Delta, Implementation of the Delta Dry-year Response Program, and more …

At the May 24th meeting of the State Water Resources Control Board, Delta Watermaster Michael George updated the board members on the changes to water use reporting schedules, the Delta Dry Year Response Pilot Program, the investigation into alleged unlawful diversions in the Delta, and curtailments in the Delta.

Return to top

In California water news this week …

State imposes sweeping ban on pumping river water in San Joaquin Valley, Bay Area

San Joaquin River, South Delta.

In sweeping water curtailments stretching from Fresno to the Oregon state line, cities and growers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed have been ordered to stop pumping from rivers and streams.  The cutbacks, announced today by the State Water Resources Control Board, will affect 4,252 water rights in the Delta watershed, including 400 or more held by 212 public water systems, beginning Wednesday. But they’re concentrated around the San Joaquin River and its tributaries, where state officials expect “significant, very deep cuts.”  Water board staff called the cutbacks “unprecedented,” although similar curtailments were imposed in the watershed last year, just much later in the year, in August. ... ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: State imposes sweeping ban on pumping river water in San Joaquin Valley, Bay Area

Notice:  Curtailments expanded through out the Delta watershed

This update contains important information about the curtailment status of water rights and claims of right within the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) watershed pursuant to Initial Orders Imposing Water Right Curtailment and Reporting Requirements in the Delta Watershed (Order for water rights/claims under 5,000 acre-feet and Order for water rights/claims over 5,000 acre-feet).  The following water rights are curtailed, effective June 8, 2022, unless and until the State Water Board advises that this determination has been updated … ”  Continue reading this notice from the State Water Resources Control Board here: Notice:  Curtailments expanded through out the Delta watershed

California lawmakers mull buying out farmers to save water

After decades of fighting farmers in court over how much water they can take out of California’s rivers and streams, some state lawmakers want to try something different: use taxpayer money to buy out farmers.  A proposal in the state Senate would spend up to $1.5 billion to buy “senior water rights” that allow farmers to take as much water as needed from the state’s rivers and streams to grow their crops. If state officials owned those rights, they could leave the water in the rivers to benefit endangered species of salmon and other fish. California has been mired in drought for most of the last two decades, prompting intense scrutiny of the state’s complex water system and how it might be modified to ensure steady supplies during exceptionally dry periods — including a separate state proposal that would pay farmers to grow fewer crops to save water. … ”  Read more from the AP here: California lawmakers mull buying out farmers to save water

‘This is give a little to save a lot’: California water rights buyback proposal met with enthusiasm, resistance

A new proposal in the California Senate includes using taxpayer money to buy out farmers’ water rights.  The $1.5 billion plan would see the government purchase “senior water rights” for the purpose of benefitting endangered fish species in the state.  Proponents argue it’s an opportunity to conserve not just water but types of salmon that are rapidly facing possible extinction while possibly paving the way for environmental water rights. Opponents believe it could force farmers to give up their long-held rights and potentially set a precedent for further rollbacks of those rights. … ”  Read more from CBS 13 here:  ‘This is give a little to save a lot’: California water rights buyback proposal met with enthusiasm, resistance

SEE ALSONorthstate farmer reacts to state proposal to buy water rights, from KRCR

As new deadline looms, groundwater managers rework ‘incomplete’ plans to meet California’s sustainability goals

Managers of California’s most overdrawn aquifers were given a monumental task under the state’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: Craft viable, detailed plans on a 20-year timeline to bring their beleaguered basins into balance. Earlier this year, DWR rendered its verdict: Most of the basin plans were incomplete. Now groundwater agencies responsible for 12 of the 20 basins are racing to meet a late July deadline to submit revised plans that meet SGMA’s requirements or risk the state stepping in to manage their groundwater basins. ... ”  Continue reading at Western Water here: As new deadline looms, groundwater managers rework ‘incomplete’ plans to meet California’s sustainability goals

Will California’s new groundwater rules hurt small-scale farms and farmers of color?

Decades of unregulated agricultural pumping combined with a warming climate and prolonged droughts have wrung California dry and left a massive water crisis. A landmark law, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which was passed in 2014 and will be fully implemented over the next 20 years, is supposed to cut groundwater withdrawal and stabilize water levels. If it succeeds at doing that, it could be a win for all who depend on groundwater, in theory.  But a report recently released indicates that as local agencies try to figure out how to achieve that balance, some of the tools being proposed—including fees, limits on pumping, and water trading programs—may harm historically marginalized farmers and small-scale farms.  The report titled “SGMA and Underrepresented Farmers,” by Clean Water Action, Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), Civic Well, University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources, and the Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability, also questions whether all local agencies charged with devising Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) are adequately including small farmers and farmers of color in the planning process. … ”  Read more from Civil Eats here: Will California’s new groundwater rules hurt small-scale farms and farmers of color?

How CA’s ancient hidden waterways could be key to recharging state’s depleted groundwater

For California’s water experts, months in the air could soon reveal secrets under the ground, including the remnants of ancient waterways hidden for thousands of years. It’s a discovery that could be key to recharging the state’s depleted groundwater.  Katherine Dlubac, Ph.D., is overseeing the high-tech survey for the California Department of Water Resources.   “What we’re looking for with these potential recharge sites in areas where we have a pathway or recharge connection, between the surface of the earth and the aquifer itself,” Dlubac explains.  To help find those channels, helicopters deploy spaceship-sized antennas, ping the ground with electromagnetic signals, mapping the geology deep below the surface. The technique was piloted in California by researchers at Stanford, led by prof. Rosemary Knight Ph.D. … ”  Read more from ABC 7 here:  How CA’s ancient hidden waterways could be key to recharging state’s depleted groundwater

Conference highlights deficiency of models for drought situations

As the drought in California and across much of the western United States enters another summer season, several experts participated in a conference hosted by the California Department of Water Resources and the Water Education Foundation on Thursday to discuss issues of how modeling precipitation can impact decisions made by policymakers.  One of the main takeaways of the conference was that the current modeling programs are not effective as they should be in helping water districts, state water agencies and federal departments in planning water distributions. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: Conference highlights deficiency of models for drought situations

Water usage increases in California as drought continues

Years of drought, low snowpack, repeated requests and orders to cut back water usage have all seem for naught, according to a new report released Tuesday by the State of California Water Resources Control Board which shows that water usage in urban areas actually increased by 17.6% compared to last year.  The report covers water usage from April 2021 to April 2022 and shows that urban areas have failed to meet the goal set by California Governor Gavin Newsom to cut water usage by 15%.  “In California, the hots are getting hotter and the dries are getting drier. California will enter the dry summer months with below-average reservoir storage and with the state’s largest reservoir, Shasta Lake, at critically low levels. The Sierra snowpack is essentially gone, and runoff into the state’s streams and reservoirs has largely peaked for the year. The latest water use numbers reported to the Water Board are disappointing, and the Governor has made it clear that if we do not start seeing increased conservation across the state there may be a need to move to mandatory state water conservation measures,” the California Governor’s Office said in a statement. … ”  Continue reading at the Courthouse News Service here: Water usage increases in California as drought continues

California seeks to rein in water usage by closing a nearly two-month gap in getting data from suppliers

In response to prolonged drought across the West and ahead of the scorching summer months, California is asking its urban water suppliers to voluntarily report water consumption data sooner — so the state can better assess whether its water conservation goals are being met.  Years of low rainfall and snowpack coupled with more intense heat waves have fueled the state’s historic, multiyear drought conditions, rapidly draining its reservoirs.  Now California Gov. Gavin Newsom has responded by calling on local water agencies to submit water usage data by the third business day of every month — or sooner — in a bid to measure water conservation goals accurately and to foster greater transparency. … ”  Read more from CNN here:  California seeks to rein in water usage by closing a nearly two-month gap in getting data from suppliers

Video: Shasta Lake vs Oroville Lake vs Folsom Lake: The difference in water levels

Folsom Lake stands in stark contrast to Oroville Lake and Shasta Lake, in terms of water levels. Monica Woods explains why.

Governor wants a long-term drinking water assistance program in California

For 35 days between March and April of this year, Dante Woolfolk went without any running water in his house in Brooktrails, a small town nestled amid the leafy canopies of Mendocino County in Northern California.  A spiraling unpaid water bill had led the local water system to turn off the spigot. For those 35 days, says Woolfolk, his life was upended. He purchased water to cook, make coffee and clean the house. He believes he “easily” spent $600 on bottled water alone. The 36-year-old’s three children stayed with a nearby friend. Woolfolk showered there, too. “I’m so grateful for that,” Woolfolk says of his friend’s largesse. But those 35 days without running water were hard, he says. … Woolfolk’s experience underscores a gaping hole in California’s low income safety net: the lack of a long-term drinking water rate-payer assistance program.  The state has been working towards such a program for years, but these efforts have been shaped by disagreement over issues like long-term funding sources and which agency should manage it. … ” Read more from City Watch here: Governor wants a long-term drinking water assistance program in California

A tale of two ocean water desalination plants and finding a solution to drought

This is the story of two ocean desalination plants. One: a huge facility proposed by desalination company Poseidon in Huntington Beach that faced massive public resistance. It was rejected by the California Coastal Commission last month, leaving that project dead in the water. And two: a smaller plant being considered at Doheny State Beach that has faced little resistance from environmentalists. It has sailed through the permitting process so far and the Coastal Commission is expected to make a final decision later this year.  Brown’s organization was one of the most ardent opponents of the Poseidon project, but it supports the Doheny project. He said the latter is a model for doing desalination right.  “Every desal project has to be analyzed on its own merits,” Brown said. … ”  Continue reading at the LAist here: A tale of two ocean water desalination plants and finding a solution to drought

San Diego continues to argue for exemption to emergency drought rules; state officials disagree

It’s no secret that San Diego County’s top water managers are deeply frustrated with California’s new conservation rules, even as drought continues to ravage the American Southwest.  The San Diego County Water Authority, the region’s wholesaler, has repeatedly lobbied the state for an exemption to prohibitions on watering commercial and other landscapes that go into effect this month. Officials point out that San Diegans are currently using little, if any, water from the state’s imperiled Sacramento River Delta, which feeds urban and agricultural communities through the 705-mile State Water Project. Rather, the region imports more than half of its water from the Colorado River, making up most of the balance with water that is desalinated, recycled or from other local sources. However, California’s top water officials aren’t buying that logic. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here: San Diego continues to argue for exemption to emergency drought rules; state officials disagree

Where parched California is finding new water sources

As drought-plagued western states watch their water sources literally dry up, California is digging deeper to tap the most basic source of all: groundwater.  Amid a worsening drought scorching much of the western U.S., California’s numerous and varied potential drinking water sources are becoming unusable or, when purchased from Colorado or other districts, too costly. As reservoirs, rivers and washes dry out, state water resource administrators are boosting use of alternative supplies to ensure water keeps flowing.  Groundwater is the “abandoned child of the water system because we have not been very meticulous in the way we gathered data or managed or protected it,” says Newsha Ajami, chief development officer for environmental research at Lawrence Berkeley Lab in Berkeley, Calif., and a longtime state drought expert.  But more reliance on groundwater is problematic for a variety of reasons. … ”  Read more from Engineering News-Record here: Where parched California is finding new water sources

The problem with pools

” … According to a 2015 report from Metrostudy Inc., there are 1.18 million pools in the nation-state of California. About 70 percent are in Southern California. In Los Angeles, where swimming pools are as much a part of the cultural tapestry as palm trees, celebrities, and drought, there are an estimated quarter million private pools, according to Bloomberg.  That’s a lot of water. I’m no tree hugger, but it’s really bugging me I’ve done the research. I can’t drain my pool. I can’t fill it with dirt. And I can’t cover it. For various reasons I will explain, there is no good solution I can find.  Except one.  Honestly, it seems kind of crazy. But I think I’m going for it. … ”  Read more from LA Magazine here: The problem with pools

The past, present and future of the West’s water woes

On June 1, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California began implementing an extreme set of water restrictions on some of the most populous counties in the entire country, including Los Angeles County. This policy, which allows for only two days of outdoor watering per week, among other rules, is in response to the continued drought that’s plaguing the entire American West.  This particular policy will have an exceedingly small effect on the overall water situation in the West, and in the Southwest in particular. To know why, and to know what might actually work, we have to know how we got to this point. … ”  Read more from Modern Farmer here: The past, present and future of the west’s water woes

Return to top

In commentary this week …

California should buy some water rights

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat editorial board writes, “If Californians want to ensure that there is water available for endangered salmon and other wildlife, then Californians ought to pay for that water. That’s exactly what some lawmakers want to do.  The yearslong drought is upending how Californians live and think about the environment around them. Water restrictions on residents can only go so far. Mandatory limits on watering lawns or suggested — and mostly ignored — cutbacks by the governor won’t save enough.  There are more than 9 million irrigated acres of farmland accounting for more than three-quarters of all water used by businesses and homes. To achieve real water savings, agriculture must be part of the plan. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: California should buy some water rights

Column: Groundwater law has not stopped subsidence

Columnist Thomas Elias writes, “Drive almost any road in the vast San Joaquin Valley and you’ll see irrigation pipes standing up several feet tall in the middle of fields and orchards, pipes that once were underground.  These metallic artifacts are emblematic of the utter failure of a 2014 law once billed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown as a landmark achievement. The omnipresent pipes, often unnoticed by speeding motorists, are symptoms of subsidence, the result of decades of overpumping groundwater in all the frequent episodes when California endured drought conditions, right up to this moment. ... ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Column: Groundwater law has not stopped subsidence

Water restrictions show folly of California’s rejection of large-scale desalination projects

Marc Joffe, senior policy analyst at Reason Foundation, writes, “As the state continues to grapple with drought conditions, water restrictions are being placed on six million residents in Southern California. The latest restrictions are another reminder that the California Coastal Commission’s recent rejection of the Orange County desalination plant, after 24 years of delay, reinforces the state’s position as a laggard in adopting technology that could provide water security. While arid coastal countries worldwide are implementing desalination, the most obvious solution to water scarcity, the Coastal Commission unanimously voted against the Huntington Beach project.  Gov. Gavin Newsom, noting years of drought in the state, harshly criticized the rejection, saying, “We need more tools in the damn tool kit.” ... ”  Read more from the OC Register here: Water restrictions show folly of California’s rejection of large-scale desalination projects

The Abundance Choice, Part 11: The desalination option

Edward Ring, contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, writes, “On May 12, the California Coastal Commission Board of Directors voted 11-0 to deny the application from Poseidon Water to build a desalination plant in Huntington Beach. Since 1998, Poseidon has spent over $100 million on design and permit work for this plant. At least half of that money was spent on seemingly endless studies and redesigns as the Coastal Commission and other agencies continued to change the requirements. Poseidon’s denial makes it very unlikely another construction contractor will ever attempt to build a large scale desalination plant on the California coast.  This is a historic mistake. If you’re trying to eliminate water scarcity, desalination is an option you can’t ignore. Desalination has the unique virtue of relying on a literally inexhaustible feedstock, the world’s vast and salty oceans. At an estimated total volume of 1.1 quadrillion acre feet (1.1 billion million acre feet), there will always be enough ocean.  A balanced appraisal of desalination would acknowledge its potential while also recognizing the absurdity of suggesting it is a panacea. ... ”  Read more from the California Globe here: The Abundance Choice, Part 11: The desalination option

The Abundance Choice, Part 12: Numbers don’t lie

Edward Ring, contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, writes, “Scope insensitivity happens whenever a statistic has huge emotional impact but in reality has little relevance to the issues and challenges it purports to illuminate.  It is scope insensitivity that makes conscientious Californians willing to put a bucket in their shower. They believe that by faithfully capturing some of that shower water that otherwise goes down the drain, and painstakingly reusing that water to fill their toilet tank, or water some houseplants, they’re going to help manage water scarcity in California.  This is well intentioned but ridiculous. Imagine if 40 million Californians saved a gallon of water from their daily shower every day, never missing a day, as if every Californian would ever do such a thing. That would amount to 44,836 acre feet per year, which equates to one-half of one percent of California’s average annual urban water consumption. And water going down the drain in California’s homes is already either reused, or could be with investment in upgraded wastewater treatment plants. … ”  Read more from the California Globe here: The Abundance Choice, Part 12: Numbers don’t lie

The abundance choice, part 13: The Lords of Scarcity

Edward Ring, contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, writes, “One of the farmers who supported our attempt to qualify the Water Infrastructure Funding Act for the November 2022 ballot was John Duarte. … During our first conversation, and subsequently, it was Duarte who coined the phrase the Lords of Scarcity. It is a vividly accurate way to describe the many special interests, public and private, that benefit from regulations and rationing.  This economic fact remains underappreciated: When regulations are imposed on businesses and public agencies that make it almost impossible for them to build something, whatever that something produces becomes more expensive. This fact rests on the law of supply and demand, and only requires a minor intuitive leap from that foundation: When demand exceeds supply, because supplies have been restricted, whoever owns existing supplies makes more profit. These owners are the Lords of Scarcity, and California is their citadel. … ”  Read more from the California Globe here: The abundance choice, part 13: The Lords of Scarcity

Editorial: Too many new straws in California’s groundwater milkshake

The LA Times editorial board writes, “It wasn’t that long ago that increasingly arid California seemed as watery as a wet sponge. At the time the state became part of the U.S., Tulare Lake was the largest body of freshwater west of the Great Lakes, and winter flooding made it even larger. In particularly wet years, when it overflowed its banks and joined with Kern Lake and Buena Vista Lake, it would have been possible to sail a boat from what is now Interstate 5 eastward to the Sierra foothills, and from Bakersfield to Fresno.  The change isn’t only because of warmer weather. Agricultural growth drained the lakes and dammed the rivers that fed them. Tulare Lake was gone by the 20th century, except for some occasional wet winter reappearances. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Editorial: Too many new straws in California’s groundwater milkshake | Read via Yahoo News

From water to energy, Calif. policies disproportionately harm minority communities

Julian Cañete, president and CEO of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, writes, “As California continues to implement policies that are negatively impacting the agriculture and energy sectors, we must ask ourselves…who is looking out for California’s minority and disadvantaged communities?  The latest example is California’s Central Valley, particularly Kern County. Kern is a dynamic county that has a long history of welcoming people from other parts of the United States and immigrants from other countries. People come to Kern County to find jobs, build businesses, and raise their families. As the third largest county by size in California, Kern has become incredibly diverse, with a Latino population of nearly 55 percent, just shy of half-a-million people. And while Kern County continues to play an important role for small business owners, the state’s water and energy policies are taking jobs away and shuttering businesses – instead of helping people reach the American dream, these policies are creating a California nightmare. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: From water to energy, Calif. policies disproportionately harm minority communities

Water equity? A single irrigation authority gets more water than all of Los Angeles

Governor Gavin Newsom recently stated he might institute mandatory water restrictions on California ratepayers in response to the catastrophic drought afflicting the state. From one perspective, his declaration seems reasonable: despite an extremely dry winter and dwindling water supplies, water use in the state shot up almost 20% in March compared to the same month in 2020. It’s clear that ratepayers must shoulder their share of the responsibility for water conservation.  But Newsom’s position ignores a baseline reality: even if ratepayers let every plant in their gardens die, flush their toilets once a day, and forego five-minute showers for sponge baths, the water savings won’t be that great. That’s because cities only use 10 % of the state’s developed water. Fully 80 percent goes to agriculture.  The Governor has diligently avoided any talk of imposing deep cuts to the farming sector. But if he’s serious about saving water, said Carolee Krieger, the executive director of the California Water Impact Network, he’ll need to change his talking points – and fast. … ”

Click here to continue reading this press release from C-WIN.

“It’s mystifying that Governor Newsom refuses to engage on this issue,” said Krieger, whose organization advocates for greater water allocation equity. “The main reason we’re in such deep trouble today is because state reservoirs were drawn down precipitously during the past three years to benefit agriculture. But ratepayers are now expected to bear the brunt of the restrictions – and it still won’t be enough to avoid a deepening crisis.” 

Krieger said Newsom’s “mid-20th century approach to water” won’t work in the 21st century.

“Water rights claims already exceed the amount of available water in the state by five times,” said Krieger. “This is water that exists on paper, not in the real world – but it results in overexploitation of our scant water supplies, particularly by industrial agricultural. We can’t have a workable distribution policy until we acknowledged this unsustainable oversubscription of our public trust water resources.” 

In addition, said Krieger, “Climate change means there will be more droughts and less snowpack in the Sierra, and ultimately, less water in our reservoirs.”

Given this grim reality, Krieger observed, the Newsom administration must reconsider the basic way water is distributed – not just impulsively impose draconian cuts on ratepayers.

“Agriculture contributes only 2% to the state GDP, but it gets the lion’s share of the water,” she said. “We must allocate the water where it will provide the greatest benefit to our ratepayers, the economy, and the environment that sustains the high quality of life we all enjoy.”

Barbara Vlamis, the executive director of AquAlliance, a North State environmental organization, cited the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors as a prime example of California’s skewed water policy.

The contractors are long-established agribusiness beneficiaries of a settlement with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation that cleared the way for the construction of Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River. The four irrigation districts that participated in the settlement swapped their claimed rights to divert water from the San Joaquin River for water from the California Delta delivered via the federal Central Valley Project (CVP). 

During average years, the exchange contractors are allocated about 865,000 acre-feet of water from the CVP. That’s more water than Los Angeles uses in a year. But they typically get plenty of water even during catastrophically dry years. In 2020, 2021 and 2022, the contractors got 75% of their standard allotment (650,000 AF) – an outrageous amount, said Vlamis, given the West Coast is struggling with the worst drought in 1,200 years and California ratepayers are being urged to take three-minute showers.

“Fewer than 2,000 irrigators are signatories to the Friant Dam settlement,” said Vlamis. “It’s both irrational and morally indefensible that they can wield so much influence in Sacramento and Washington and lock up so much water. We support agriculture. Farming is clearly essential to both California’s rural economies and, depending on the crop grown, national food security. But we must have some parity. It’s not just a matter of fairness – it’s about survival, plain and simple” 

Krieger observed there is a remedy to the inequity. 

“The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has a five-year contract renewal window with the San Joaquin irrigators,” she said. “The agency can alter the terms of the contract, making it more reasonable. Given the urgency of the current drought and the grim long-term implications of climate change, we’re asking the Biden administration to revisit the contract, and give the people of California the water they need and deserve.”

Visit C-WIN online.

California’s water problems go beyond drought

Jonathan Destler, founder of Opti-Harvest, writes, “California farmers are not only suffering the state’s third consecutive year of drought, but this year, 60 percent of the state is experiencing extreme drought conditions according to the California Water Board. As a result, total crop replants will be down again in 2022 with less overall acreage planted. Farmer frustration continues because the state is increasing curtailments as a solution instead of focusing on how they can better utilize storage. All while peak irrigation season runs through June, July and August. … ”  Continue reading at Newsweek here: California’s water problems go beyond drought

Organic agriculture helps solve climate change

Lena Brook, Director, Food Campaigns, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program at the NRDC, writes, “For the past year, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has been developing its 2022 Draft Climate Change Scoping Plan, intended to carve out a path to carbon neutrality for California by mid-century. After months of advocacy from NRDC and its allies calling on CARB to include incentives for organic farming as well as pesticide use reduction in the Natural Working Lands section, the agency released its proposed approach in May. In this draft, the agency recommends converting 20% of California’s agricultural lands to organic agriculture by 2045 as a way to mitigate climate change. While this recommendation is not nearly ambitious enough (California’s organic acreage grew by 44% from 2014 to 2019 according to a report from the state’s Department of Agriculture), it is nonetheless an important milestone because it recognizes and affirms the essential role that organic farming systems can play in climate-smart agriculture. … ”  Continue reading at the NRDC here: Organic agriculture helps solve climate change

Return to top

In regional water news this week …

Press release: State Water Board approves unprecedented voluntary water sharing agreement for Russian River

With ongoing drought conditions straining water supplies and creating uncertainty throughout California, the State Water Resources Control Board today approved a unique agreement that allows right holders in the Upper Russian River watershed to voluntarily reduce water use and share their available water.  The 2022 Upper Russian River Voluntary Sharing Agreement program protects supplies and enables individuals enrolled in the program who still have water under their water rights to share with other participants who do not, effectively serving as an alternative to curtailments, which are a blanket restriction on water diversions for those with younger rights when there is insufficient water supply.  “This is a truly significant development – and the first of its kind – as state and local leaders continue to innovate their response to drought and climate change while addressing the needs of residents in Sonoma and Mendocino counties,” said Sam Boland-Brien, a supervising engineer with the State Water Board. … ”  Continue reading this press release from the State Water Board here: State Water Board approves unprecedented voluntary water sharing agreement for Russian River

New study reveals what’s to blame for the fecal bacteria in Sacramento’s American River

Bird and dog feces — not human waste — are the main sources of E. coli found in the stretch of the American River below Sacramento’s sprawling riverside homeless encampments. On Friday, state scientists released those initial findings as part of their years-long DNA study that seeks to answer the controversial question that’s hounded the region for years: Whose poop is causing the dangerous spikes in E. coli fecal bacteria at popular swimming areas near downtown? The findings released by the State Water Resources Control Board on Friday seemed unlikely to settle the debate. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: New study reveals what’s to blame for the fecal bacteria in Sacramento’s American River

SEE ALSO: Study finds birds, dogs are most significant contaminators of the American River through Sacramento, from Channel 10

As geese leave mementos, San Mateo weighs a cull

They poop on the lawn. They poop in the park. That poop makes its way into the waterways. Officials in one California city have decided that enough is enough.  In Foster City, Calif., as in much of the United States, the Canada goose population is booming, and the birds are making a mess. Now the city is saying it may have no choice but to cull them in an attempt to reduce potential risks to the public from the birds’ feces.  “We all learn to be tolerant and to coexist with the wildlife, but lately we have been uncovering health hazards,” said Richa Awasthi, the mayor of Foster City, which winds around a lagoon about 22 miles south of San Francisco.  Of the poop, Ms. Awasthi added, “it’s everywhere.”   The proposal, however, has upset some residents and animal rights activists, who fear that the city will round up the birds and euthanize them. ... ”  Read more from the New York Times here: As geese leave mementos, a California city weighs a cull

Could Central Coast get 3 new reservoirs to generate power by pumping water between lakes?

As the prospect of a floating offshore wind energy development off San Luis Obispo County’s coast gets ever closer, energy storage developers are taking a good look at their prospects in the region. One company has proposals for pumped storage projects that involve moving water between reservoirs to generate electricity — which would call for three new reservoirs to be built along the Central Coast. Walnut, California-based Premium Energy Holdings LLC sent four preliminary permit applications to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) at the end of March for the projects. If granted, a preliminary permit would give the company permission to plan and conduct studies for four hydroelectric projects. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Could Central Coast get 3 new reservoirs to generate power by pumping water between lakes?

‘Game over’: The tiny Central Coast town of Cambria is about to run out of water

Nestled along the Central Coast, Cambria is a picturesque town famous for its vintage clothing and antique shops, its one-of-a-kind olallieberry pies, its scarecrow festival in the fall and its Disneyesque Christmas market and light display in December. Located right off of Highway 1 and 73 miles south of Big Sur, it’s a popular stop for those driving on the Pacific Coast Highway.  Cambria has also been running out of water for nearly four decades and — like many spots along the Central Coast in San Luis Obispo County — it does not have a permanent solution in the offing. The unincorporated town of more than 5,000 people is dependent wholly on two creeks, the Santa Rosa and San Simeon, for its water supply. As climate change ramps up, those creeks are drying out more rapidly and more frequently. … ”  Continue reading at SF Gate here: ‘Game over’: The tiny Central Coast town of Cambria is about to run out of water

After 100 years, it’s time for Edison to let loose of flows on the North Fork of the Kern River, groups say

It’s been more than 100 years since a 16-mile stretch of the North Fork of the Kern River has run full and free in its natural course.  Local boaters, anglers and other river enthusiasts say that’s long enough.  To that end, a new campaign called “Free the Kern” opposes the relicensing application for a Southern California Edison hydroelectric facility that pulls water from the river at the Fairview Dam near McNally’s Lodge and hauls it 16 miles by tunnel to the Kern River No. 3 (KR3) power plant near Kernville. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here:  After 100 years, it’s time for Edison to let loose of flows on the North Fork of the Kern River, groups say

Will water restrictions bring more destructive SoCal brush fires? Some demand more water

After losing dozens of oak trees, a guest house and a garage filled with mementos of her late husband in the 2018 Woolsey fire, Nicole Radoumis dreads the arrival of extreme fire weather amid a punishing California drought.  Recently however, the Agoura Hills resident grew even more apprehensive after the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California imposed strict one-day a week outdoor watering restrictions for areas that rely on water from the depleted State Water Project. Radoumis now worries that her two-acre property will be filled with dead, tinder-dry vegetation that will serve as fuel for wildfires.  In a city that falls almost entirely within a very high fire hazard severity zone, Radoumis and her neighbors argue that the watering restrictions could place their homes — and lives — at increased peril. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Will water restrictions bring more destructive SoCal brush fires? Some demand more water

Return to top

Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

Return to top

Print Friendly, PDF & Email