Wild Purple Chinese House Flowers in East Bay. Photo by Jay Huang

DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: B.F. Sisk dam safety project breaks ground; Should the state ban grass to save water?; CDFW trucks salmon smolts around adverse river conditions; Lake Oroville reaches peak for the year; and more …

In California water news this weekend …

B.F. Sisk dam safety project breaks ground

The US Bureau of Reclamation has kicked off its 120th anniversary year this week at San Luis Reservoir with the groundbreaking of the B.F. Sisk Dam Safety Modification Project.  The billion-dollar effort received a $100 million investment earlier this year from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This is USBR’s largest project under the 1978 Safety of Dams Act and when complete will modernize the dam to reduce risks due to seismic events. … “  Read more from International Water, Power, and Dam Construction here: B.F. Sisk dam safety project breaks ground

California has a drought and 4 million acres of lawns. Should state ban grass to save water?

Californians have thousands of square miles of lawns, enough grass to cover almost every inch of Connecticut and Delaware combined — and they use a lot of water to keep them green. A lawn in the Sacramento area can soak up an average of 45,000 gallons a year, according to state calculations. But when the State Water Resources Control Board imposed a new round of drought restrictions last month, it targeted a much narrower slice of water usage. The agency ordered businesses and local governments to stop watering the “non-functional” turf that grows around hotels, shopping malls, roadway medians and the like. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: California has a drought and 4 million acres of lawns. Should state ban grass to save water?

CDFW trucks salmon smolts around adverse river conditions

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is nearing the completion of its efforts to transport 19.7 million hatchery-raised fall-run and 960,000 spring-run juvenile Chinook salmon (known as smolts) to the San Pablo Bay, San Francisco Bay and seaside net pens this spring and summer.  CDFW raises the fish at Feather River, Nimbus, Mokelumne and Merced salmon hatcheries and monitors river conditions carefully to estimate the smolts’ chances of successful migration. During times of drought, low flows and elevated water temperatures can be a lethal mixture for the young salmon. This year, conditions are expected to be particularly poor, prompting CDFW to move more than 95 percent of the smolts down river, thus bypassing 50 to 100 miles of hazardous river conditions. ... ”  Read more from the Department of Fish & Wildlife here: CDFW trucks salmon smolts around adverse river conditions

Lake Oroville reaches peak for the year

Lake Oroville likely reached its limit last month when lake levels lingered at slightly less than 777 feet.  The Department of Water Resources said the lake hit its peak storage for this water year on May 8 measuring at 776.95 feet elevation and 1.94 million-acre feet — about 400,000 acre-feet higher than the peak in 2021.  “The water year ends on Sept. 30 and it is unlikely we will see significant rainfall before that time,” DWR officials said in an email. ... ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here: Lake Oroville reaches peak for the year

Costa’s newest bill would help the Valley’s water supply

A bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Costa of Fresno aims to beef up federal response to the continuing drought in California and other western states.  The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act Amendments of 2022 seek renewed investment in the water supply of the San Joaquin Valley and other western communities.  “We cannot ignore the devastating impacts of drought on California and the West. We must quickly and effectively invest in our crumbling water infrastructure so that we can conserve every drop of water possible,” said Costa in a news release. “I am proud to co-sponsor this bipartisan legislation that will provide improved financing tools that allow us to better invest in our water system.” … “  Read more from GV Wire here: Costa’s newest bill would help the Valley’s water supply

U.S. Court of federal claims rules for Bureau of Reclamation in City of Fresno case challenging 2014 deliveries to San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors

On June 6, 2022, the United States Court of Federal Claims issued a decision in City of Fresno, et al. v. United States and San Luis & Delta Mendota Water Authority, et al., and Central California Irrigation District, et al., denying Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and granting Defendant and Defendant-Intervenor’s motion for summary judgment as to liability.  The case involves the United States Bureau of Reclamation’s (Reclamation) operation of the CVP, which is guided in part by Reclamation’s various contracts with water users across the Central Valley. This includes the Exchange Contract, comprised of a series of purchase and exchange contracts between Reclamation and water rights holders on the San Joaquin River, the Exchange Contractors. The initial Purchase Contract transferred all of the Exchange Contractors’ water rights on the San Joaquin River to Reclamation except for a specified amount of flows called Reserved Flows. The Exchange Contractors then transferred all of the Reserved Flows to Reclamation so long as an agreed upon substitute supply is delivered to the Exchange Contractors from other sources. … “  Read more from Somach Simmons & Dunn here: U.S. Court of federal claims rules for Bureau of Reclamation in City of Fresno case challenging 2014 deliveries to San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors

How the almond industry is trying to become more sustainable

Almonds are enjoyed in many ways, from chocolate almond bark to a salad with green beans and red rice. It is also found in beverages like its own version of milk and as an ingredient in energy bars. Since the popularity of almonds has only grown in recent years, its industry has taken strides to be more sustainable during a time when it has faced significant natural challenges. Those challenges include a reliance on bees and water; both of which can be in short supply in California, where almonds are the state’s largest crop (per SFGATE). The widespread death of honey bees, which are required for the pollination of almond trees, and drought across the state, have created significant hurdles for the almond industry. … ”  Read more from the Tasting Table here: How the almond industry is trying to become more sustainable

Project diverting exhaust into orchard looks to improve farming efficiencies

Piping carbon dioxide into a greenhouse to increase crop yield is one thing, but venting it into an almond orchard in hopes of boosting production? That’s the idea on about a third of an acre off Weedpatch Highway as part of a $100,000 commercial demonstration project aimed at improving ag efficiencies by applying the fundamentals of photosynthesis. Aside from the potential benefits to agriculture, the state-funded effort near Lamont is intended to pioneer a low-cost method of addressing climate change through carbon sequestration. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here: Project diverting exhaust into orchard looks to improve farming efficiencies

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In commentary this weekend …

California’s water supply goes beyond the current drought

Craig Miller, General Manager at Western Municipal Water District, and Paul Helliker , General Manager at San Juan Water District, write, “After being repeatedly told to conserve, most Californians realize we have been in a drought for several years and that water supplies are running dangerously low as summer approaches.  What most Californians do not realize is that we are now in a full-fledged water supply crisis, and almost every aspect of daily lives, community health, and our state’s economy will continue to be impacted by the inadequacy of California’s water system, policies, and insufficient supply.  With worsening and changing hydrologic conditions, California’s existing water system is failing to meet the needs of our state. The current water supply crisis is exacerbated by the changing climate, a doubling of the state’s population, increased environmental and regulatory constraints, and reliance on the same basic water infrastructure that has been in place since 1968.  The responsibility to address the water crisis and invest in securing an adequate and reliable water supply for California starts with the governor and Legislature. … ”  Read more from the Riverside Press-Enterprise here: California’s water supply goes beyond the current drought

Just in time for summer: Drought heating up California’s water war

Dennis Wyatt, editor of the Manteca Bulletin, writes, “Get ready for the main event.  And instead of having a ringside seat you’re going to be in the ring duking it out and fighting for survival.  It’s the ultimate California war.  It’ll make locals dynamiting canals and Los Angeles using trickery to steal water from farmers in the Owens Valley seem like a lovefest.  And if all goes south — general conditions as well as actual water to the SoCal region — it will be a fight to stay alive.  The day of reckoning that 39.5 million people were blissfully ignorant of not simply being a possibility but of being inevitable has arrived. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here: Just in time for summer: Drought heating up California’s water war

Letters to the Editor: Why is California stopping the only guarantee of more water?

To the editor: Reading about the reduced water flow in the Colorado River yet again, potentially leading to new restrictions if reservoir levels drop much further, I can’t help but think of recent articles on the creation of the Sites Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley and the refusal of the California Coastal Commission to grant a permit to for a desalinization plant in Huntington Beach.  As the existing reservoirs filled by the Colorado, Sacramento and Owens rivers show, you can’t store water that you don’t have. The only net fresh water gain would have been from the desalination plant. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Letters to the Editor: Why is California stopping the only guarantee of more water?

Editorial: California environmental group’s Yosemite tree-clearing lawsuit increases wildfire dangers

The Fresno Bee editorial board writes, “Yosemite National Park officials want to clear standing and dead trees from alongside 40 miles of roads and trails and across 2,000 acres to reduce the chance of wildfires. But an environmental group has sued to stop the Park Service from conducting such work. Among the claims are that the federal government did not follow its own rules for sizing up impacts to plants and animals in the targeted areas. The litigation represents the latest skirmish between federal scientists who believe forests in the Sierra Nevada can be properly thinned out, and environmentalists who contend tree removal does more harm than good. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Editorial: California environmental group’s Yosemite tree-clearing lawsuit increases wildfire dangers | Read via the Modesto Bee

Rebuttal: Yosemite’s logging project will make the forest more at risk of wildfires, not less

Chad Hanson, Ph.D., an ecologist with the John Muir Project and the author of the book, “Smokescreen: Debunking Wildfire Myths to Save Our Forests and Our Climate,” writes, “The Fresno Bee’s Editorial Board has gone on record opposing the lawsuit, by the John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute, against a huge commercial logging project in Yosemite National Park. But the Editorial Board relies upon a scientifically discredited study by logging interests that blatantly manipulated data to promote a false and economically self-serving “overgrown forests” narrative. While it may seem counter-intuitive to some people, the truth is that the strong weight of scientific evidence and opinion indicates that removing live and dead trees from forests does not stop or curb wildfires, and often increases overall fire severity. … “  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Yosemite’s logging project will make the forest more at risk of wildfires, not less | Read via Yahoo News

Yes, a California court ruled that a bee is a fish. No, that’s not the crazy part

Josh Gohlke, Deputy California Opinion Editor for McClatchy and The Sacramento Bee, writes, “It turns out that a publication need not be named after an insect to be fascinated by its taxonomy. News outlets across the country and beyond have puzzled over and bristled at a California court’s recent ruling that a bee, contrary to all folk and scientific wisdom, is a fish. That’s probably because beyond its obvious Dadaist appeal, the finding fits well-worn California story lines. Lefty California, where out-of-control bureaucrats will call a bug a barracuda just so they can regulate it! Wacky California, where you can be whatever you say you are, even if it’s in a whole other phylum! The ruling does employ superficially surreal reasoning to reach the conclusion that bees, which are among the most crucial threatened life forms on earth given their role in pollination, can be protected by a law designed for just such a purpose. But it’s not the ruling that’s absurd so much as the case itself. … ”  Read more at the Sacramento Bee here: Yes, a California court ruled that a bee is a fish. No, that’s not the crazy part

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In people news this weekend …

Delta Protection Commission announces new Executive Director

The Delta Protection Commission today announced that Bruce Blodgett of Elk Grove has been hired as Executive Director, effective August 8, 2022. He replaces Erik Vink, who is retiring effective early August.  Blodgett has served as Executive Director of San Joaquin Farm Bureau since 2005. In that position, he managed the organization’s efforts to represent San Joaquin County agriculturalists and reported to a 53-member board of directors. “I’m excited for the opportunity to represent the people who live, work and recreate in the Delta region, from our farmers to our boaters,” Blodgett said. “As the meeting place of our state’s two great rivers and one of the oldest and most productive agricultural regions in California, the Delta is a special place and a region that faces many challenges from the state’s water management efforts.” … ”  Read more from the Delta Protection Commission here: Delta Protection Commission announces new Executive Director

Don Devine, organic farming leader and Westlands board member, passes at 79

Don Devine, a longtime Harris Ranch executive who became a local evangelist and pioneer for organic farming, passed away on June 4 at the age of 79.  Devine was born in Central City, Kentucky, on Jan. 13, 1943, to Alva Clinton Devine and Juanita Kathryn Vincent.  Following six years of service in Vietnam with the Army, he graduated from Arizona State in 1974 with a degree in Accounting, which led to him obtaining his CPA license.  Devine worked for Harris Ranch Feeding Company for around 40 years, including his most recent position as the Senior Vice President of Finance before shifting over to the Harris Farms Board of Directors in retirement. … ”  Continue reading at the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Don Devine, organic farming leader and Westlands board member, passes at 79

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Podcasts …

BEYOND THE FOG PODCAST: San Francisco Baykeeper w/ Sejal Choksi-Chugh

Sejal Choksi-Chugh is a fierce defender of the environment. From a young age she wondered why the water was murky, why the air was polluted, and why no one seemed to be doing anything to fix it. After receiving her law degree with a certificate in environmental law in 2002 from UC Berkeley, Sejal’s been taking charge at San Francisco Baykeeper, a non-profit whose mission is to protect our Bay. Using law, science and advocacy as their tools, SF Baykeeper seeks out polluting businesses and holds them accountable by any means necessary. Sejal has been Executive Director since 2015.  Sejal’s environmental advocacy work extends even beyond our bay. She sits on the governing council of the global Waterkeeper Alliance and co-founded the Bay Area chapter of Environmental Professionals of Color. We were thrilled to interview her this March on the Baykeeper boat.


FIFTH AND MISSION PODCAST: What to expect of Bay Area’s upcoming “cruel summer”

Hot, dry weather in California means the state will face persistent problems this summer: increasing water restrictions, rolling blackouts, wildfires and smoke. Chronicle reporter Kurtis Alexander joins host Cecilia Lei to talk about what Bay Area residents should expect. Plus: State Capitol reporter Daniel Gardiner analyzes why Gov. Gavin Newsom has been hesitant to issue statewide water restrictions.


GOLDEN STATE NATURALIST: The Sutter Buttes (World’s smallest mountain range!) with Steve Roddy

Did you know that Northern California is home to the smallest mountain range in the world? It lies smack in the middle of the Sacramento Valley, and it is a hotbed for unexpected creatures and unexpected stories alike. Join me with California Naturalist, Sutter Buttes guide, and educator Steve Roddy, as we explore the heart of the Buttes and discuss what makes the place so special.  How were the Buttes formed? What kinds of plants and animals live there? What was the significance of this place to California Native People? Who lives in the Buttes? Can I visit them? If it’s a mountain range on land in the middle of a valley, why is it sometimes called the inland island?


WATER IS A MANY SPLENDOR’ED THING PODCAST: Water is Really Really Good

Are you planning to drink eight tall glasses of water each and every day? Water is important, really important, especially in Afghanistan. Water is a Many Splendor’ed Thing brings you another water relationship that has a personally significant impact to your life.  Podcasts pProduced by Steven Baker, Bringing People Together to Solve Water Problems, water@operationunite.co , 530-205-6388


WHAT ABOUT WATER PODCAST w/JAY FAMIGLIETTI: Going to extremes: Heat, water scarcity, and food

From farmer’s fields to the high arctic, from your morning cup of coffee to a glass of wine – everything we eat and drink depends on water. In the second episode of our summer mini season, we draw from our past interviews about water scarcity and its effect on our food supply.  We take a look at last year’s drought and withered crops on the Canadian prairies, and how melting permafrost in the arctic threatens traditional knowledge about food from the land for the Inuit of Iqaluit. We hear how coffee farmers in Sierra Leone are cultivating the climate-resilient “Stenophylla” species to bring it to market, and how crops like coffee beans and wine grapes are sensitive indicators of climate change — and changes coming to these industries.


ENGINEERING WITH NATURE PODCAST: Leveraging federal partnering to infuse nature into urban community resilience

We’re discussing the role of EWN and nature-based solutions (NBS) in addressing urban challenges to build community and regional resilience. Host Sarah Thorne is joined by new co-host, Burton Suedel, Research Biologist at the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE); Abby Hall, Senior Advisor on Local and Regional Planning, with the Office of Community Revitalization, at the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA); and Jim McPherson, Federal Coordinating Officer for Region 1, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

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In regional water news this weekend …

NORTH COAST

Ukiah enrolls in first-of-its-kind California water sharing program following landmark drought, curtailments

A historic new program in California will allow water right holders in the Russian River watershed to share water allocations among one another this year as they face near-inevitable curtailments on water use. Ukiah played a leading role in developing the new initiative, and its city council voted unanimously to participate in the program on Wednesday night.  In presenting the program before councilmembers, Ukiah Water Resources Director Sean White suggested that it arose as an alternative to possible litigation against the State Water Resources Control Board. “The item before you is really a product of the duress we experienced last year,” he explained. … “  Read more from the Mendocino Voice here: Ukiah enrolls in first-of-its-kind California water sharing program following landmark drought, curtailments

Federal judge declines to block redwood logging project

A timber company’s proposal to fell redwoods in a Northern California old-growth redwood forest won’t put endangered frogs and salmon species in harms way, a federal judge said Friday in declining to issue an order that would temporarily halt the project while conservationists pursue a legal challenge.  California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, approved the plan in September 2021, spurring a lawsuit from the Friends of Gualala River, a group dedicated to preserving the Gualala River watershed.  U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria delivered his five-page ruling following a lengthy hearing last week, where FOGR argued that California Red-Legged frogs and salmon would be imperiled by falling trees and heavy machinery in the “Little North Fork” floodplain, an area of coastal Mendocino County. … “  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: Federal judge declines to block redwood logging project

Clearlake City Council presented with Cache Fire monitoring results

The Lake County Water Resources Division presented Cache Fire post-fire monitoring results during the Clearlake City Council regular meeting Thursday. Mayor Dirk Slooten, who is currently in vacation, still took part in the streaming virtually.  According to the Invasive Species Program Coordinator at County of Lake and Certified Lake Manager, Angela De Palma-Dow, the post-fire water quality monitoring response to the Cache fire (a quick-moving wildfire in Lake County which burned at least 60 homes and forced evacuations in the communities of Lower Lake and Clearlake last year) implemented by the division, is “fast and affordable”. … ”  Continue reading at the Lake County Record-Bee here: Clearlake City Council presented with Cache Fire monitoring results

MOUNTAIN COUNTIES

Snow flurries hit Lake Tahoe — in June! — the third time this month

Snow in June?  The summer season at Lake Tahoe has been off to a chilly start, with snow flurries at Incline Village and rain showers around the lake Saturday hampering sunbathing and boating.  “It doesn’t look or feel anything remotely like mid-June,” said meteorologist Scott McGuire of the National Weather Service’s Reno office.  Saturday’s snow marks the third time so far this month that snow, however light, fell on the Tahoe area. And as much as it may have ruined picnic plans, “it won’t do anything remotely to put a damper into the drought we’re experiencing,” McGuire said. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Snow flurries hit Lake Tahoe — in June! — the third time this month

Like a Roomba for the sand, beach-cleaning robot makes debut at Lake Tahoe

Summer’s almost here, which means big crowds at Lake Tahoe. Unfortunately, that also means a lot of trash.  That’s where a robotic trash picker-upper comes in.  It’s solar-powered, remote-controlled and works similarly to Roomba vacuum cleaners.  It can cover five miles of sand in an hour, collecting trash buried up to four-inches deep. … “  Read more from ABC 30 here: Like a Roomba for the sand, beach-cleaning robot makes debut at Lake Tahoe

Tuolumne Utilities District implements state-imposed water restrictions due to drought

As the ongoing drought in California worsens, Tuolumne Utilities District will enforce state-imposed restrictions that include mandatory prohibitions on certain types of water use and voluntary cutbacks on outdoor watering. The agency that more than 33,000 Tuolumne County residents rely upon for water announced Friday that it has begun implementing “level II” of its Water Shortage Contingency Plan, as all water providers throughout the state were required to do by June 10 under an executive order that Gov. Gavin Newsom issued in March. … ”  Read more from the Union Democrat here: Tuolumne Utilities District implements state-imposed water restrictions due to drought

SACRAMENTO VALLEY

Butte County nuts farmers adapt to less water

The ongoing drought in California has affected nut growing in Chico but is not as dire as in other parts of California and farmers are implementing ways of dealing with the water shortage.  “Butte County is a special place,” said Farm Bureau Pest Control Adviser Lee Heringer, who is also a nut farmer. “We are blessed with more abundant resources than surrounding counties. However, everyone is changing their practices and how we farm has changed over the past several decades. We use monitoring services to monitor trees and soil, and only water the trees when they really need it.”  Heringer said farmers have new ways of watering. … ”  Read more from the Oroville Mercury Register here: Butte County nuts farmers adapt to less water

Yuba City:  ‘We’re preparing for the future’

With an ongoing drought and water restrictions currently in place for much of California, being able to detect water losses and better serve water customers has been a high priority for many municipalities and jurisdictions in the state.  With this heightened awareness, the city of Wheatland with the help of Yuba Water Agency is installing about 1,200 new and modern water meters throughout the city that will not only do a better job of detecting water loss, but also hopefully save the city and its water customers money in the long run. … ”  Read more from Yahoo News here: Yuba City:  ‘We’re preparing for the future’

How these Sacramento homeowners converted lawns to drought-resilient yards

Jack McKeon’s drought-friendly front yard may not be the prettiest in town, but he loves it. Last year, McKeon and his wife, Rebecca, bought a home in Sacramento’s La Riviera neighborhood. The home’s small front yard looked just like nearly every other one on the block: Green grass, a lawn that they’d have to soak with water even as state regulators were urging Californians to cut back their water use to address the state’s worsening drought. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: How these Sacramento homeowners converted lawns to drought-resilient yards

Sacramento property owner sues city alleging it illegally raised stormwater fee

A Sacramento property owner has sued the city claiming the city violated state law when it submitted over 2,000 ballots on a measure to raise the stormwater fee earlier this year. The city cast ballots for each individual property it owns — more than 2,000 — which the lawsuit alleges violated the state’s Right to Vote on Taxes Act. If the city had not done that, the measure would have failed, the lawsuit alleged. “By casting votes on behalf of city-owned property in favor of a fee that will effectively be paid to the city, the city subverted (state) Proposition 218’s goal of protecting taxpayers by limiting the methods by which local governments exact revenue from taxpayers without their consent,” the lawsuit read. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Sacramento property owner sues city alleging it illegally raised stormwater fee

Solano groundwater agency looks to charge $2.79 per acre for long-term management

Property owners within the Solano Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Area will be asked to tax themselves $2.79 per acre to pay for long-term groundwater management.  The groundwater agency will conduct a Proposition 218 election. If approved, the tax is expected to cover the projected annual cost of $573,000. The charge will initially be in effect for five years.  “We will be looking at grants to reduce costs. We will also be looking at a potential graduated charge in the future, based on how much groundwater a landowner uses,” Chris Lee, assistant general manager of the Solano County Water Agency stated in an email response to the Daily Republic. … ”  Read more from the Daily Republic here: Solano groundwater agency looks to charge $2.79 per acre for long-term management

BAY AREA

After a cool weekend that brought snow flurries to Tahoe, a heat wave is coming. Here’s what to expect in Bay Area

Bay Area residents should enjoy the cool weekend while they can — after chilly and breezy temperatures Friday, conditions will warm up to well above normal by the middle of next week, according to the National Weather Service.  Saturday’s temperatures were expected to hit highs about 5 to 10 degrees below normal, with coastal areas largely staying in the 60s and low 70s and inland areas warming into the mid to upper 70s, according to Brooke Bingaman, a meteorologist with the weather agency. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: After a cool weekend that brought snow flurries to Tahoe, a heat wave is coming. Here’s what to expect in Bay Area

South Bay pushes for smart meters to fight water waste

California has been struggling with water waste for some time. Across the state, new water meters are being implemented to help combat this issue and alleviate the drought season.  The results of new laws enacted several years ago and efforts to combat water waste are being seen now, and a push to install more smart water meters is taking shape across the Bay Area.   Water districts are getting more approvals to replace analog antiquated meters and bring in the new and improved.  Detecting an irrigation leak, resulting in wasted water, and a higher bill, could be made a lot quicker if you have some help from Advanced Metering Infrastructure, also called AMI. … “  Read more from CBS News here: South Bay pushes for smart meters to fight water waste

Water well in Gilroy found to have excessive nitrate levels, officials warn

A water well in Gilroy tested for high nitrate levels on Thursday evening, the city’s public works department reported.  The well at Gilman Road and Camino Arroyo was found during routine testing to have 12 milligrams of nitrates per liter, exceeding the maximum contaminant level of 10 allowed under federal drinking water regulations. The cause of the high nitrate level is under investigation, and the well is no longer providing water to any residents. ... ”  Read more from KTVU here: Water well in Gilroy found to have excessive nitrate levels, officials warn

CENTRAL COAST

Monterey: Illegal dumps choke watersheds and open space

Bean Creek Road winds through the redwoods of the Santa Cruz mountains, flanked on one shoulder by steep hillside, and the other, an abrupt ravine. A discreet dirt pull-off offers a sweeping view of emerald tree tops. But shifting your gaze downward offers a much grimmer sight: discarded furniture, mattresses, rusted-out car parts and trash tumbling into the creek below.  This disconcerting mess is one of the thousands of illegal dumping grounds fouling California’s communities. … “  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Illegal dumps choke watersheds and open space

SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY

Kern County: Owner of renewable fuels refinery settles injection well violations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has fined a local renewable fuels refiner $9,559 for violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act after the company operated a broken injection well, used it later to dispose of wastewater without permission and failed to properly monitor the facility. Torrance-based Global Clean Energy Holdings Inc., doing business locally as Bakersfield Renewables LLC, agreed to pay the amount in a settlement dated Tuesday. The order calls for the company to plug and abandon a separate well on the refinery property, which is located at 6451 Rosedale Highway and was formerly known as Big West. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here: Owner of renewable fuels refinery settles injection well violations

EASTERN SIERRA

Ridgecrest: Analysis to be performed on sewer trunk lines leading to waste water plant on base

The city of Ridgecrest has proposed an analysis to determine the condition of sewer trunk lines on NAWS China Lake to determine earthquake damage and needed repairs.  “This is the last portion of our lines that we need to have looked at to see if there is anything that needs to be done to bring them up into working condition,” Travis Reed, public works director for the city of Ridgecrest, told The Daily Independent.  The trunk lines are the main feeds to the sewer treatment plant located on the base.  Said Reed, “These are the lines that collect everything from the city feed them to the plant.” … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Analysis to be performed on sewer trunk lines leading to waste water plant on base

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board extends study period in Newport Bay

An already 20-year-long timeline to complete the study of fecal coliform bacteria in Newport Bay has been given an eight-year extension by the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, much to the dismay of Orange County Coastkeeper.  “We believe everyone has the right to swimmable, drinkable, fishable water, and the regional board’s TMDL [total maximum daily loads] extension impedes that goal for Newport Bay,” said O.C. Coastkeeper’s associate director of programs Ray Hiemstra on Friday. “Unfortunately, this decision is part of a long pattern from this board of granting extensions rather than holding others accountable.  “Now it’ll be over eight years until we see any action on the shellfish contamination issue impacting the bay’s water quality.” … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board extends study period in Newport Bay

Early developer behind Portola Center in Lake Forest fined $6.6 million for alleged runoff

A regional water control board has ordered a $6.6 million fine against developers overseeing a sprawling neighborhood construction project in Lake Forest for more than 6 million gallons of sediment-laden storm water that ran into the Aliso Creek between 2015 and 2016.  The seven-member San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board approved the fine last week, following a series of public hearings held earlier this year on a complaint filed in 2020 against then Portola Center South developer Baldwin & Sons and its partners.  The agency alleges the developer violated a number of permit requirements for controlling runoff from construction, including ones governing sediment and erosion control, as well as failed to comply with corrective or cease-and-desist orders from the city of Lake Forest. … ”  Read more from the OC Register here: Early developer behind Portola Center in Lake Forest fined $6.6 million for alleged runoff

Trash-snaring vessel to clean Newport Beach waters gains Coastal Commission approval

Newport Beach is drifting closer to operating a solar-powered, trash-snaring vessel known as a water wheel to clean up its bay, following recent approval from the California Coastal Commission.  The water wheel is expected to look like a snail with a paddle wheel or a conch shell crossed with a steamboat, mirroring its cousins in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, where the first of two was installed in 2014.  As proposed, two booms would span the width of San Diego Creek and funnel trash toward the stationary barge, which would be mounted with a 17-foot-tall water wheel. Any debris would land on a conveyer belt, then travel into two dumpsters mounted on a fixed rail system. The dumpsters would be conveyed to land, where a garbage truck would access them and dispose of the trash. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Trash-snaring vessel to clean Newport Beach waters gains Coastal Commission approval

SAN DIEGO

San Diego: Radio show: Water restrictions begin as California drought worsens

A discussion on environmental news this week, including the rollout of new water-use restrictions and new developments in the cross-border sewage contamination issue forcing the closure of beaches in Imperial Beach and Coronado.  KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman hosts a discussion with KPBS environment reporter Erik Anderson, Voice of San Diego environment reporter MacKenzie Elmer and LA Times staff writer Hayley Smith.”  Listen at KPBS (25:59):  Radio show: Water restrictions begin as California drought worsens

Dirty water: Beach closures have Coronado, Imperial Beach cities bracing for bummer summer

As summer unfolds, Coronado and Imperial Beach are facing an uncomfortable question: What’s a beach city without its beach?  Both places have seen their sandy shores dotted in recent weeks with yellow “keep out” signs that warn visitors about unsafe ocean water contaminated by sewage from Tijuana.  The persistent closures have government officials, residents, tourists and business owners bracing for a bummer summer in the South Bay.  “It could be devastating for our local economy and for the overall public perception of our beaches,” said Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey. “The beaches are a natural resource enjoyed by the entire region. Having them closed all the time would be a tremendous loss for everyone.” … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here: Dirty water: Beach closures have Coronado, Imperial Beach cities bracing for bummer summer

Editorial: San Diegans must demand end to local beach sewage crisis.

Plumbing is a hallmark of civilization, starting with ancient ones. Egyptians dug wells as deep as 300 feet and invented the water wheel. Greek cities pioneered hot and cold running water. The Romans built elaborate channels to bring water from rural lands to populated areas and created sewage systems for waste disposal. Primitive systems gave way to much more sophisticated versions over the last 300 years. In America, flush toilets were patented in 1775. In the early 19th century, New York City took major steps to ensure water was much more easily available, partly motivated by the destruction caused by rampant structure fires. … So how is it possible that in the 21st century, this long history of plumbing progress ground to a halt in the affluent San Diego-Tijuana mega region? ... ”  Continue reading at the San Diego Union-Tribune here: Editorial: San Diegans must demand end to local beach sewage crisis.

San Diego border sewage plan moves forward

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants the public to weigh in on a $630 million plan to fix the region’s cross border pollution problems.  Federal officials have completed a draft environmental impact review on a project that would treat sewage in the waters along the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego and they are looking for public comment.  The agency is recommending a sweeping plan to bolster the capture and treatment of sewage tainted flows on both sides of the international border. … ”  Read more from KPBS here: San Diego border sewage plan moves forward

SEE ALSO: Draft environmental impact statement released for projects to mitigate transborder water pollution, press releases from the EPA

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Along the Colorado River …

The Southwest’s unchecked thirst for Colorado River water could prove devastating upstream

Among those who love to chase trout with flies made of feathers, just the mention of a certain seven-mile stretch of Utah’s Green River can turn a hardened man rhapsodic.  “I’ve guided in New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, Alaska,” said Gordon Tharrett, describing his 30-year career guiding elite fly fishers around the world. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” … But bring up the American West’s worst drought in 1,200 years and their reverie turns to head-shaking anxiety and disgust. They may have more water than most — hundreds of miles from fallowing farms in Arizona or browning lawns in Los Angeles — but they know that on the Colorado River system, the massive, unchecked demand for water downstream is threat to everything upstream. … ”  Read more from CNN here: The Southwest’s unchecked thirst for Colorado River water could prove devastating upstream

Colorado River states need to drastically cut down their water usage ASAP, or the federal government will step in

During a U.S. Senate hearing on Western drought earlier this week, the commissioner for the Bureau of Reclamation told the states in the Colorado River Basin that they have 60 days to create an emergency plan to stop using between 2 and 4 million acre-feet of water in the next year or the agency will use its emergency authority to make the cuts itself.  For context, the entire state of Arizona is allowed to use 2.8 million acre-feet of Colorado River water each year.  “The challenges we are seeing today are unlike anything we have seen in our history,” Commissioner Camille Touton said at the hearing. She said hotter temperatures driven by climate change have led to less water reaching Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the two largest reservoirs in the U.S., which have both recently hit their lowest levels on record. … “  Read more from Colorado Public Radio here: Colorado River states need to drastically cut down their water usage ASAP, or the federal government will step in

Under federal pressure, Colorado River water managers face unprecedented call for conservation

Colorado River water managers are facing a monumental task. Federal officials have given leaders in seven Western states a new charge — to commit to an unprecedented amount of conservation and do it before an August deadline.  Without major cutbacks in water use, the nation’s two largest reservoirs — Lake Powell and Lake Mead — are in danger of reaching critically low levels.  On June 14, Bureau of Reclamation commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton came to a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing with a prognosis, a goal and a threat. … ”  Read more from KUNC here: Under federal pressure, Colorado River water managers face unprecedented call for conservation

Editorial: Why Arizona lawmakers must act now – and do something big – on water

The Arizona Central editorial board writes, “Arizona lawmakers have a chance to do something significant on water this year – something helpful and timely, given the massive cuts looming on the Colorado River.  Or they could waste a giant opportunity.  It all comes down to the next few weeks.  There is wide agreement to put $1 billion toward water projects.  The hang-up is over how to invest it and who should make those decisions. Gov. Doug Ducey has proposed creating a water authority to oversee the cash, but he faces opposition from Republicans who say that would create an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy that could delay distribution of the cash for years.  They have a point. … ”  Read more from Arizona Central here:  Why Arizona lawmakers must act now – and do something big – on water | Read via Yahoo News

Commentary: Declining water levels caused by government, not climate

Greg Walcher, former director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, writes, “Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton recently told a Senate Committee the government must reassess its management of the Colorado River Basin, because of unprecedented drought. She cited the historically low levels of both Lake Powell and Lake Mead, though her testimony was long on drama and short on plans. In fact, she offered no indication that she understands the role her own agency has played in what she admits is a crisis.  She thinks the crisis is about drought, but it is more about management. That’s because the government can’t do much about snow volumes, but it has complete control over its management of reservoirs. The existing “drought contingency plan,” agreed upon by the seven states with legal rights to Colorado River water, expires in 2026. She urges changing the management plan sooner, but without explaining how. … ”  Read more from Complete Colorado here: Commentary: Declining water levels caused by government, not climate

Data centers don’t have to be water hogs. But even in a record drought, some still are

With a record drought sweeping the Southwest, the massive amounts of water used to cool some data centers has come under increased scrutiny. Critics say the data center industry — and some of the world’s largest technology companies — aren’t employing the most efficient methods and are using far more water than necessary.  In order to cool their halls filled with thousands of heat-producing servers, all but the newest data centers use massive amounts of water: roughly 3 million to 5 million gallons per day.  Yet despite the strain data centers can place on water resources, data center developers love the desert, where the low humidity reduces wear on computer equipment. … “  Read more from Biz Now here: Data centers don’t have to be water hogs. But even in a record drought, some still are

New Mexico reaches $32M settlement over 2015 Gold King mine spill that polluted Colorado water

New Mexico and the U.S. government have reached a $32 million settlement over a 2015 mine spill that polluted rivers in three western states.  Similar environmental accidents will be intolerable in the future as the region grapples with shrinking water supplies amid drought and climate change, the governor said Thursday.  The spill released 3 million gallons (11 million liters) of wastewater from the inactive Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado, sending a bright-yellow plume of arsenic, lead and other heavy metals south to New Mexico, through the Navajo Nation and into Utah through the San Juan and Animas rivers. … “  Read more from the Colorado Public Radio here: New Mexico reaches $32M settlement over 2015 Gold King mine spill that polluted Colorado water

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In national water news this weekend …

New PFAS warnings put utility reputations at risk, not liability

Water utilities are likely to face public relations difficulties following the EPA’s announcement this week of PFAS-related health advisories, water attorneys say, even if legal challenges are less of a concern.  Utilities will be challenged to promote the drinking water they provide as safe after the EPA warned that “forever chemicals” may be harmful at levels undetectable in drinking water, since the utilities won’t know if their water exceeds those levels.  Most water utilities will be complying with state and federal water quality regulations, but “the public is not going to be satisfied with these answers because a health advisory isn’t a binding regulation,” said Ashley Campbell, an attorney at SL Environmental Law Group in Concord, N.H., who represents public utilities. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here: New PFAS warnings put utility reputations at risk, not liability

Environmental Protection Agency issues new drinking water health advisories

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new drinking water health advisories for four of the most common per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS):  Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), Hexafluropopropylene oxide dimer acid and its ammonium salt (GenX), and Perfluorobutane sulfonic acid and its potassium salts (PFBS).  In this June 15 health advisory, the EPA recommends an interim lifetime exposure limit of 0.004 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and 0.02 ppt for PFOS. The health advisory also recommends a final exposure limit of 10 ppt for Gen X and 2,000 ppt for PFBS.  Public water agencies in particular should monitor PFAS updates carefully, as they may be subject to new limits for PFAS entering their water or treatment biosolids. … ”  Read more from Best Best & Krieger here: Environmental Protection Agency issues new drinking water health advisories

Reclamation, which tamed rivers, marks a dry 120th birthday

In its heyday, the Bureau of Reclamation was the darling of the Interior Department: It built hundreds of dams, taming the arid West and its wild rivers first for agriculture and then for major cities.  For a time in the wake of World War II, the bureau even claimed more than half of the department’s overall budget.  But as the agency marks its 120th anniversary today — celebrating the signing of the 1902 act that housed its first iteration under the U.S. Geological Service — Reclamation’s major construction era is in its rearview mirror. The bureau now faces a new set of trials, from maintaining aging infrastructure to tackling the climate change-driven megadrought that threatens to drain reservoirs and shutter hydroelectric plants. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Reclamation, which tamed rivers, marks a dry 120th birthday

It’s not summer yet, but climate change is already showing its teeth in 2022

The evidence of how climate change is already affecting our world seems to grow more pronounced with every passing day.  At least 2,000 cows at a Kansas feedlot were killed this week by excessively high temperatures, as the latest record-breaking spring heat wave pushed east across the country.  “This was a true weather event — it was isolated to a specific region in southwestern Kansas,” A.J. Tarpoff, a cattle veterinarian with Kansas State University, told the Associated Press. “Yes, temperatures rose, but the more important reason why it was injurious was that we had a huge spike in humidity … and at the same time, wind speeds actually dropped substantially, which is rare for western Kansas.”  On Wednesday, the National Weather Service advised more than one-third of the U.S. population to remain indoors to protect themselves against that same potentially deadly combination of heat and humidity. … ”  Read more from Yahoo News here: It’s not summer yet, but climate change is already showing its teeth in 2022

Also on Maven’s Notebook this weekend …

REVISED NOTICE on Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Funding

NOTICE: Update on CWSRF and DWSRF 2022/23 Intended Use Plans

OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT: Lower San Joaquin River – Draft USBR 2023 Annual Work Plan

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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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