WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for Sept. 11-16: Rain and snow in the forecast; Court ruling puts Water Board’s curtailment authority in question; and more top California water news of the week

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

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This week’s featured articles …

FIVE QUESTIONS: Deirdre Des Jardins with California Water Research

Deirdre Des Jardins, Director of California Water Research, has become a bit of a fixture at state agency meetings, such as the Delta Stewardship Council, Delta Independent Science Board, California Water Commission, and others.  If you have attended these meetings, you’ve likely heard her speak during public comments.  But who is she?   I wanted to know more, so I sent her five questions.

Deirdre has done integrative synthesis of actionable science on climate change and California water issues since 2009.  She previously did research on nonlinear dynamics and complex systems theory at NASA Ames Research Center, the Center for Nonlinear Studies at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and The Santa Fe Institute for Complex Systems.  She describes herself as a teller of inconvenient truths about climate change impacts on California water, and has advocated for use of best available science in climate adaptation plans and related projects.

Click here to read this article.

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In California water news this week …

Most significant storm in months for Northern California on the way with rain, mountain snow

AccuWeather meteorologists are closely monitoring the potential for a powerful storm to bring rain and what would be the season’s first mountain snow to Northern California from this weekend into early next week.  A sprawling area of low pressure in the eastern Pacific Ocean is expected to track southeast this weekend and remain off the Pacific Northwest coast. It is then predicted to stall out and perhaps even track a bit to the west before it eventually moves onshore in Northern California. This system appears poised to deliver the Golden State’s best opportunity for a widespread, long-duration rainfall event in several months. … ”  Read more from AccuWeather here: Most significant storm in months for Northern California on the way with rain, mountain snow

Snow in the forecast for Yosemite and Tahoe peaks

The storm expected to arrive in Northern California this weekend could bring snow to the Sierra Nevada, the National Weather Service said.  Latest forecasts predict a half-inch to 2 inches of rain over much of the region Sunday and Monday — and possible snow above 8,000 feet from Fresno County northward. Thunderstorms are possible Monday and Tuesday, the weather service said.  Its Hanford office gives a 47% chance of some snow at Yosemite’s Tioga Pass (9,943 feet) and a 25% chance of at least an inch there from Sunday morning to Tuesday morning. Yosemite Valley is expecting highs in the mid-50s and lows around 40 those days.  Tioga Road remains open; most years, it closes for the season in November. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Snow in the forecast for Yosemite and Tahoe peaks

Court of Appeal determines that the State Water Resources Control Board exceeded its authority in 2015 when it ordered curtailment among valid pre-1914 water right holders based on insufficient water to serve their priorities

San Joaquin River, South Delta.

Today, the Court of Appeal for the Sixth Appellate District agreed with Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Walsh (Ret.) that the State Water Resources Control Board’s (State Board) curtailment of certain water right holders’ diversions during the 2015 drought was done outside of its enforcement authority under Water Code section 1052.  In 2015, the State Board issued curtailment orders to valid pre-1914 appropriative water right holders. The curtailment orders demanded these water right holders to immediately cease diversions and certify that their diversions, in fact, had ceased. The State Board based the curtailment orders on a purported insufficient available supply of water to serve these water rights. Numerous water service providers located in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta challenged the curtailment orders. ... ”  Read more from Somach Simmons & Dunn here: Court of Appeal determines that the State Water Resources Control Board exceeded its authority in 2015 when it ordered curtailment among valid pre-1914 water right holders based on insufficient water to serve their priorities

California’s drought regulators lose big case. What it means for state’s power to police water

California’s drought regulators have lost a major lawsuit that could undermine their legal authority to stop farms and cities from pulling water from rivers and streams. With California in its third punishing year of a historic drought, an appeals court ruled Monday that the State Water Resources Control Board lacks the power to interfere with so-called “senior” water rights holders and curtail their diversions of water from rivers. The case stems from orders imposed by the state board in 2015, during the previous drought, when it halted farms and cities throughout the Central Valley from taking water from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.  A group of farm-irrigation districts centered in and around the Delta itself — the freshwater estuary that feeds vast farmlands and serves as the hub of California’s complex water-delivery network — brought the lawsuit challenging the state board’s actions. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: California’s drought regulators lose big case. What it means for state’s power to police water

State Water Board issues statement on ruling by Sixth District Court of Appeal regarding its curtailment authority

Statement from the State Water Resources Control Board regarding the ruling by the Court of Appeal (see here and here):  Water scarcity is one of the most important challenges facing Californians. Ensuring that water districts and others divert and use water consistent with the state’s water right priority system is critical to protecting public health and the delivery system for farms, communities and the environment.  The Sixth District Court of Appeal’s Sept. 12 decision takes a narrow view of the State Water Resources Control Board’s customary enforcement authorities. In doing so, it shields the most senior water right holders (those with appropriative rights developed before 1914) from certain enforcement actions. ... ”  Continue reading this statement from the Water Board via Maven’s Notebook here: State Water Board issues statement on ruling by Sixth District Court of Appeal regarding its curtailment authority

Stanislaus-area river diverters were central to ruling against state drought cutbacks’

Water suppliers in and near Stanislaus County had a leading role in a ruling Monday limiting state cutbacks during drought. The 6th Appellate District Court found that the State Water Resources Control Board lacks the power to interfere with so-called “senior” water rights holders and curtail their diversions of water from rivers. The case stems from orders imposed by the state board in 2015, during the previous drought, when it halted farms and cities throughout the Central Valley from taking water from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here: Stanislaus-area water suppliers are at center of court ruling

Turlock Irrigation District moves closer to a voluntary agreement with Water Board

Turlock Irrigation District’s board of directors voted unanimously Sept. 6 to move toward a voluntary agreement that would supersede flow requirements within the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan.  That plan was first adopted in 2018, but the flow requirements never have been implemented. But since then, the plan has been the flashpoint for a debate — in simplest terms, think of it as fish vs. farms — that pits the environmental groups, such as the Tuolumne River Trust, against public utilities, such as the Turlock Irrigation District, Modesto Irrigation District and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Those three agencies share the Tuolumne River’s water rights.  The 5-0 vote gives TID general manager Michelle Reimers and staff the green light to sign a memorandum of understanding, which very likely will lead to the voluntary agreement with the state’s Water Resources Control Board. … ”  Read more from the Ceres Courier here: Turlock Irrigation District moves closer to a voluntary agreement with Water Board

Farmers blame lack of water on state policies

“”Water is always an important factor for us as farmers, it’s how we grow our crops, it’s how we keep our livelihoods, it’s how we keep our employees employed, it’s everything to us,” Jason Giannelli, a Bakersfield farmer, said.  Gianelli is a fourth generation farmer in Bakersfield. He says the drought has caused farmers to change their cropping patterns and they’ve had to fallow or rest more ground this year, because there simply wasn’t enough water for the crops.  “We’re not in a drought made by climate change, we’re in a drought made by man, because they’ve released so much water out to the delta, for environmental purposes that they’ve squandered all of our water that we technically pay for and that’s why we’re in this drought,” Giannelli, said. … ”  Read more from Bakersfield Now here: Farmers blame lack of water on state policies

Heat domes and heat waves take more water from reservoirs

The historic drought in California could be made worse as water levels fall in the state’s reservoirs. Officials say accelerated evaporation is to blame, the good news they say is one records heatwave is not enough to do serious damage.  “That increment increase, for a few days; it’s not gonna make a big impact in our scheme of things,” said East Bay MUD Water Supply engineer, Chris Potter.  According to officials, two things will make a difference. As the drought parches the land, it gets so dry, so deep that a lot of rain and snow runoff will likely not make it to reservoirs. … ”  Read more from KTVU here: Heat domes and heat waves take more water from reservoirs

NASA helping decision-makers improve water management

A new study from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Western States Water Council (WSWC) and Airborne Snow Observatories, Inc. points the way to accelerating how knowledge and technology are transferred to and from public agencies and environmental organizations. The team’s publication, “Paths to Research-Driven Decision Making in the Realms of Environment and Water”, sets out a roadmap for how environmental research and stewardship can come together.  “NASA has extensive data sets from state-of-the-art satellites,” explained Indrani Graczyk, Director of NASA’s Western Water Applications Office (WWAO). “These resources are needed more than ever before. At WWAO we’re working to transfer NASA’s knowledge and technology to decision makers on the ground.”  In this latest paper, the team outlines a path for how to protect environmental resources by not only offering technical solutions, but by developing strategic relationships and fostering a culture of organizational support. … ”  Read more from NASA JPL here: Helping decision-makers improve water management

Removing turf-grass saves water. But will it increase urban heat?

As Las Vegas and other Southwestern cities look for ways to reduce water use during a historic drought, the removal of grass lawns and other areas of “nonfunctional turf” has been recommended by the Southern Nevada Water Authority and written into Nevada state law with AB356. But, will this change from turf-grass to other landscaping types result in other unintended climate impacts in urban areas, such as increased air or surface temperatures?  In a new study in the journal Hydrology, a team of scientists from DRI, Arizona State University (ASU), and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), examined the irrigation water requirements of three common types of urban landscapes. … The three landscape types analyzed in the study were a “mesic” tree and turf-grass landscape with water-intensive plants; a “xeric” landscape consisting primarily of desert plants on drip irrigation; and an intermediate “oasis” landscape type with a mix of high-and low water use plants. ... ”  Read the full story at the Desert Research Institute here: Removing turf-grass saves water. But will it increase urban heat?

What’s in your waterway? Imidacloprid water contamination map of urban areas in California

Neonicotinoids, “neonics” for short, are a class of insecticides linked to bee die-offs. These pesticides disrupt the nervous system of bees and other insects and can cause paralysis and death. Research also shows that neonics can harm the development of baby bee brains.   In 1991, imidacloprid became the first neonicotinoid registered for use. In this map, we look at water contamination from imidacloprid.   According to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), there are 253 pesticide products registered for use in California that contain imidacloprid. This insecticide can remain in the soil for long periods of time and be transported by rain or irrigation systems, which leads to contamination in California’s water. Explore the map and graph below to see your community’s imidacloprid contamination levels in waterways. … ”  Find out more and check out the map at Environment America here: What’s in your waterway? Imidacloprid water contamination map of urban areas in California

Aquatic restoration made easier for federal agencies in California

This month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized a statewide consultation to help simplify implementation of important aquatic habitat restoration project in California for the benefit of wildlife and people while federal agencies fulfill Endangered Species Act obligations.  “We are proud to announce this comprehensive statewide consultation completed in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Restoration Center, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Sustainable Conservation, who has been championing efficient ways to accomplish more restoration and protect imperiled species,” said Paul Souza, regional director for the Service’s Pacific Southwest Region.  The Section 7 consultation and accompanying materials cover 72 federally listed species and 40 critical habitat areas for 10 types of restoration projects. Currently, eligible projects funded, authorized or carried out by federal agencies referenced above are covered by the consultation. However, any agency interested in using this consultation when conducting qualified restoration projects may join the consultation as a “late arriving agency.” ... ”  Read more from the US Fish & Wildlife Service here: Aquatic restoration made easier for federal agencies in California

Tidal marsh or ‘fake habitat’? California environmental project draws criticism

Southwest of Sacramento, the branching arms of waterways reach into a patchwork of farm fields and pastures. Canals and wetlands fringed with reeds meet a sunbaked expanse of dry meadows.  These lands on the northwestern edge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta have now been targeted for restoration following the widespread destruction of estuary marsh habitats that began over a century ago.  But one habitat restoration project funded by a large agricultural water district is drawing criticism from environmental advocates. They say that while the project is based on claims of ecologically important marsh habitat, a large portion of the land is a high-and-dry former cattle pasture that does little to benefit endangered fish.  The dispute over the roughly 2,100-acre property centers on questions about which lands should be counted as tidal marsh habitat in the delta, one of California’s primary water sources. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Tidal marsh or ‘fake habitat’? California environmental project draws criticism | Read via AOL News

Pollutants from burning structures linger in waterways post-wildfire

As the frequency of wildfires has increased, so have pollutants in the waters from burned watersheds, say researchers in a review paper that highlights the need for more research in the area. “Much less studied are the effects of fire burning not only forests and grasslands but also houses, vehicles and other human-made material,” said Stephen LeDuc of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Center for Public Health and Environmental Assessment. “There have only been a few studies of pollutants mobilized from these types of fires.” LeDuc is a coauthor of the new paper, published today in Water Resources Research, AGU’s journal for original research on the movement and management of Earth’s water. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here: Pollutants from burning structures linger in waterways post-wildfire

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In commentary this week …

Broad-based buy-in is key to Bay-Delta water plan

Jennifer Pierre, general manager of the State Water Contractors, and David Guy, president of the Northern California Water Association, write, “California is at a transformational moment when it comes to managing water. As aridification of the western United States intensifies, we have an opportunity to advance a better approach to flow management in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and our rivers through a process of voluntary agreements to update the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan.  The agreements, signed by parties from Red Bluff to San Diego, propose a new structure for managing water resources in the Delta and beyond in a way that is collaborative, innovative and foundational for adapting to climate realities while benefiting communities, farms, fish and wildlife.  As representatives of the northern, central and southern corners of our state, we recognize the important and historic nature of the voluntary agreements. ... ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Broad-based buy-in is key to Bay-Delta water plan

Delta Tunnel’s science-denying premise: diverting more water out of Sacramento will ‘restore’ fish

Dan Bacher writes, “I’m an independent journalist that’s covered the fish, environmental justice and water issues for 40 years. Different versions of this same gigantic and wasteful public works project — the Peripheral Canal, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, the California Water Fix and now the single Delta Conveyance — have cast a dark, toxic shadow over California water policy since it was first decisively rejected by California voters in November 1982 as the Peripheral Canal.  Tunnel proponents claim the tunnel will protect the reliability of water transport infrastructure, address the impacts of sea level rise, and “improve” the Delta’s aquatic conditions. However, the project will do none of these things, instead hastening the extinction of Sacramento River winter and spring-run Chinook salmon,  Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt and green sturgeon. It’s feared these fish species will die off as the multi-billion tunnel keeps indebting Californians for generations to come. … ”  Continue reading at the Daily Kos here: Delta Tunnel’s science-denying premise: diverting more water out of Sacramento will ‘restore’ fish

Expand access to safe drinking water for all communities with the Delta Conveyance Project

Rick L. Callender, Esq., president of the California/Hawaii State Conference NAACP, writes, “In many communities of color, severe drought conditions result in a lack of safe and reliable drinking water for families that are already struggling to meet their day-to-day needs. According to the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), more than 250 water systems serving nearly a million people were out of compliance with drinking water standards in 2020.  The vast majority of those were in low-income and disadvantaged communities.  And with climate change already resulting in longer periods of drought and periodic flash floods, we have to upgrade our infrastructure to adapt. Communities of color are at greater risk from the fallout resulting from climate change.   That’s why the NAACP supports Governor Newsom’s plan to fix our failing water infrastructure through the Delta Conveyance Project. Without action, problems with access to reliable water in disadvantaged communities will continue to grow. ... ”  Read more from the LA Sentinel here: Expand access to safe drinking water for all communities

Will ruling on pre-1914 curtailments force the Water Board to track stored water?

Deirdre Des Jardins writes, “On September 12th, 2022, the Sixth District Court of Appeal issued a ruling that the State Water Resources Control Board did not have the authority to curtail pre-1914 water rights under Water Code section 1052(a). This code section provides that “The diversion or use of water subject to this division other than as authorized in this division is a trespass.” In 2015, the Water Board had curtailed some pre-1914 diversions based on the assertion that “the existing water supply in the Sacramento-San Joaquin watersheds and Delta watersheds is insufficient to meet the needs of some pre-1914 claims of right.” … The State Water Board may ultimately have to revise their water unavailability analysis for the Delta watershed to track releases and diversions of SWP and CVP stored water. Currently the Water Board does not collect enough information to do such an analysis. … ”  Read the full post at California Water Research blog here: Will ruling on pre-1914 curtailments force the Water Board to track stored water?

It’s time to stop crop-shaming Western farmers amid drought

Dan Keppen, executive director of the Family Farm Alliance, and Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, write, “Finding solutions to complex problems, like the Colorado River’s dwindling supplies, requires working together, not divisive attacks. Fallowing productive farmland should be a last resort when it comes to America’s food supply.  The problem is, there isn’t enough water in the Colorado River to meet its demands, thanks to the ongoing drought in the Western United States.  The situation is bad enough that the Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees water operations on the river, is seeking 2 million to 4 million acre-feet of water reductions and additional conservation by users in the river’s seven basin states. That is a significant amount and will put a strain on everyone, but we can make it less painful by working together. … ”  Read more from The Desert Sun here: It’s time to stop crop-shaming Western farmers amid drought

California’s water threatened by overuse of unregulated pesticides and herbicides

Stan Gottfredson, CEO of Atraxia Law, writes, “The water scarcity California has been experiencing over the last two decades is the result of the worst drought to hit the American Southwest in the past 1,200 years. While climate change plays a significant role in reducing precipitations, the unsustainable use of groundwater aquifers further diminishes the state’s limited water supplies. This ongoing issue has been a significant concern garnering Federal-level attention, with the Senate passing the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act in August 2021 to improve California’s critical water infrastructure. Concurrently, issues regarding water quality arise due to the state’s high use of pesticides in agriculture, with several Environmental Protection Agency-reapproved toxic herbicides not being regulated by state legislation. … ”  Read more from The Times of San Diego here: California’s water threatened by overuse of unregulated pesticides and herbicides

California farmer reveals once-great agricultural powerhouse ‘now just a wasteland’

Samantha Change with The Western Journal writes, “Democrat-run California, once an agrarian juggernaut, has deteriorated into a parched “wasteland” amid crippling droughts and gross government mismanagement, according to farmers there.  Kurt Richter, a third-generation rice farmer in Colusa — the Golden State’s rice capital — said he and many other farmers have been forced to abandon their fields for the year because they’re unable to water them.  “It is now just a wasteland,” Richter told the San Francisco Chronicle on Saturday.  The latest drought and California’s inability to navigate a recurring problem are mind-boggling.  You’d think state officials would have figured out some way to manage California’s frequent water shortages since this has been happening for decades. … ”  Read more from the Independent Journal Review here: California farmer reveals once-great agricultural powerhouse ‘now just a wasteland’

Don’t be so quick to ditch those lawns when drought hits

Greg Campbell, the CEO of VGrid Energy Systems in Camarillo, writes, “Ventura County’s Turf Replacement Rebate Program is one of many in California making the news as of late. Aimed at protecting California’s diminishing water supply, the program pays homeowners as much as $3,200 to remove their lawns. As well-intentioned as this program is, there are better strategies for reducing water usage that should be explored before outright removing lawns at the expense of taxpayers.  As we look at long-term strategies, we need to start by reviewing the environmental impact of lawns. Removing so much greenery from our cities could have numerous environmental consequences. For one, lawns help counter the heat island effect, which occurs in major cities where large amounts of cement and infrastructure trap heat and cause these areas to experience exponentially higher temperatures than the surrounding rural areas.  But higher temperatures are not the worst of it. … ”  Read more from the Pacific Coast Business Times here: Don’t be so quick to ditch those lawns when drought hits

Personal responsibility & not hair-brained ideas key to weathering prolonged drought

Dennis Wyatt, editor of the Manteca Bulletin, writes, “The West — California, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico — is in  the throes of a megadrought that climatologists said started 20 years ago.  Forests are tinder dry.  Reservoir levels are plunging.  Water for every thing from fish flows and farming to urban users is in jeopardy.  So, what are the loudest voices on social media doing?  They’re slamming the government for failing to do what they believe is the obvious. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here: Personal responsibility & not hair-brained ideas key to weathering prolonged drought

Commentary: A life with salmon depends on dam removal

Amy Cordalis, attorney and a member of the Yurok Tribe, writes, “I don’t remember a time in my life without salmon. My family’s life revolved around the Klamath River salmon runs as they moved through the Yurok Reservation in Northern California. Every generation of my family since time immemorial fished at the same spots on the river – the salmon was in our DNA.  Growing up, I remember my parents loaded the gear and all five of us kids into the truck, drove to the fishing hole, set up camp, and then fished. We fished all 12 hours a day when the tribal fishery was open, sitting on the boat holding the net or on the shore waiting for salmon to “hit.” When we were lucky, a school of fish would move through and the gill net would come alive, corks bouncing up and down in the water, signaling success.  About six years ago, things started changing drastically, although I now know they had been worsening slowly, for decades. … ”  Read more from the Spokesman-Review here: Commentary: A life with salmon depends on dam removal

Editorial: Water woes will only get worse for California

The Antelope Valley Press editorial board writes, “We are so technologically advanced, that we can send messages to people thousands of miles away in mere seconds; we have access to a world of knowledge with a few computer keystrokes, cars can drive themselves and phones are mini computers that we carry in our pockets. Despite all the strides the human race has made to make life more convenient, we still struggle with things like drought, climate change and water shortages. This summer has been a particularly brutal in terms of water restrictions, but this is just the beginning — and while we complain about lawns that are beginning to resemble straw, there are much bigger problems on the horizon as the Colorado River dips to dangerously low levels. … ”  Read more from the Antelope Valley Press here: Editorial: Water woes will only get worse for California

California Gov. Newsom tackles water, electricity

Opinion writer John Seiler writes, ““In California, whisky is for drinking and water is for fighting,” said Mark Twain.  You can learn a lot even from people whose policies you generally don’t like. A good example is Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose political skills continue to evolve.  Newsom knows the two biggest issues in California are not the ones in the news most days, such as the economy, abortion, and climate change. The two biggest issues are water and electricity. Get those wrong and you’ll drown politically. Get them right and, although people might not notice, you will not be hammered because the lights went out for hours. Or they couldn’t water their lawns for years. ... ”  Read more from the Epoch Times here (free registration may be required): California Gov. Newsom tackles water, electricity

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In regional water news this week …

In California drought, the latest victims are rice farms

Rick Richter has spent the past 43 years flying biplanes over California’s Sacramento Valley, dropping rice seeds into vast, flooded fields that churn out grain for consumers across the globe.In a typical year, Mr. Richter’s company seeds 42,000 acres of rice, earning more than $3 million in revenue. This year, as a worsening drought prompts unprecedented cuts in water allocations to rice farms, he has seeded just 7,000 acres and expects sales of $550,000. … The American West has been caught in the worst drought in more than a millennium for most of the past two decades, spurring farmers in businesses from tomatoes to alfalfa to cut output and change the way they do business.  But until this year, Northern California farmers who grow rice, one of the state’s most water-intensive crops, have largely been spared. In the system of water allocation run by the federal government, rice farmers hold some of the state’s most senior rights, meaning they have received much of their assigned water while other crops withered. … ”  Read more from the Wall Street Journal via Yahoo News here: In California drought, the latest victims are rice farms

Salmon Festival back, bigger and better than ever

The 28th Annual Salmon Festival will feature more activities, events, vendors, music and food than ever before.  “The Salmon Festival is a great Oroville tradition. We are celebrating the return of the salmon, a celebration that has been going on for millennial. It’s an on-going tradition that celebrates the circle of life,” said Eric Smith, Chamber of Commerce CEO.  The festival kicks off with the Friends of the Feather River Nature Center Salmon Soirée starting at 6 p.m. Sept. 23. The soirée, which will take place at Centennial Plaza on Arlin Rhine Memorial Drive, on the levee behind the Oroville Convention Center, will feature small plates of hors d’oeuvres paired with beer or wine and live music. Tickets for this event must be purchased in advanced through the Visit Oroville Salmon Festival website. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here: Salmon Festival back, bigger and better than ever

Wildfire smoke contributing to blue-green algae growth in Lake Tahoe

A new growth in blue-green algae has environmental researchers worried for Lake Tahoe’s ecosystem. Researchers say the algae is more abundant than ever and they believe wildfire smoke has something to do with it.  Warning signs can be seen at Regan Beach in South Lake Tahoe where harmful algae covers portions of the shoreline.  Several kinds of algae are abundant in Lake Tahoe. However, some can be more detrimental to the ecosystem than others. … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento here: Wildfire smoke contributing to blue-green algae growth in Lake Tahoe

Divers removed 3,000 pounds of trash from a lake near Tahoe. But they left an old Ford Model T

Scuba divers who pulled 25,000 pounds of litter and junk out of Lake Tahoe last year have just begun a similar cleanup in Fallen Leaf, a small alpine lake adjacent to Tahoe, and they’re already surprised by the amount of garbage they’re finding.  After scouring one mile of the lake’s 7-mile shoreline down to 25 feet of depth, the crew has pulled out 3,000 pounds of refuse, including about 100 car tires.  “This is the dirtiest mile we’ve found yet,” said Colin West, founder and executive director of Clean Up The Lake, the Tahoe nonprofit coordinating the effort.  Over three days this fall, in addition to pulling up countless beer cans and glass bottles, West’s crew of 16 volunteers also discovered what they believe to be the remains of a 100-year-old Ford Model T automobile: four narrow tires, a chassis and an engine block resting on the silty lake bed. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Divers removed 3,000 pounds of trash from a lake near Tahoe. But they left an old Ford Model T

Bay Area Regional Needs Assessment Report

This Regional Needs Assessment report presents the findings from 13 individual needs assessment processes that were conducted between 2017 and 2021 by the Disadvantaged Community Outreach Partners, from a Tribal needs assessment process administered by five Tribal Outreach Partners, and from the peer-to-peer needs assessment to understand how people experiencing homelessness are accessing water for drinking, sanitation, and hygiene.  The needs assessment with people experiencing homelessness is presented first to elevate these voices because often people experiencing homelessness are not included in problem-identification or solutions development processes.  After the needs assessment with people experiencing homelessness, findings from the Disadvantaged Community and Tribal partners’ needs assessments are presented, followed by a Regional Connections section summarizing the consistently similar priorities for water management across participating Communities and Tribes. Best Practices for making grant programs more equitable and accessible to Disadvantaged Community groups and Tribes and other overall recommendations from the San Francisco Bay Area IRWM Region DACTI Program are presented at the end of this report.”  Read and download the report here from the San Francisco Estuary Partnership here: Regional Needs Assessment Report

‘A lesson in discrimination’: A toxic sea level rise crisis threatens West Oakland

Toxic waste lurking in the soil under West Oakland neighborhoods is the next environmental threat in this community already burdened by pollution.  The stability of buried contamination from Oakland’s industrial past relies on it staying in place in the soil. But once the rising waters of San Francisco Bay press inland and get underneath these pockets of chemicals and gases, a certain amount of that waste will not stay in place. Instead, it will begin to move.  More than 100 sites — colorless gases in dirt under schools, flammable chemicals buried in shallow soil near parks, petroleum in pockets of groundwater from iron manufacturing — lie in wait. … ”  Read more from KQED here: ‘A lesson in discrimination’: A toxic sea level rise crisis threatens West Oakland

Water use drops significantly in Santa Clara County; drought targets met by increased conservation

After months of missing water conservation targets while California’s drought worsened, the 2 million residents of Santa Clara County appear to have turned the corner and are making significant progress now — much of it by dialing back sprinklers that irrigate their lawns and other landscaping.  Santa Clara County residents reduced water use by 16% in July compared to July 2019 levels, according to new numbers out Tuesday, surpassing the goal of 15% set by the area’s main water provider, the Santa Clara Valley Water District.  “The residents and businesses of Santa Clara County have done an excellent job,” said Aaron Baker, a chief operating officer of the water district. “That has come from a lot of hard work. We greatly appreciate it.” … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Water use drops significantly in Santa Clara County; drought targets met by increased conservation

New Melones Reservoir could take years to refill, water managers say

New Melones Reservoir was 74% empty as of Friday, and water managers say it could take years to refill.  The man-made water storage facility was holding 634,625 acre-feet of water. Last time it was that low was Jan. 1, 2017. The elevation of the water in the reservoir was less than 885 feet above sea level. When full, the water level at New Melones reaches up to 1,083 feet. The last time the reservoir was that full was during the 1998-99 wet season. Staff at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages New Melones for irrigation water supply, hydropower generation, flood control, and recreation, said this week that statistical analyses of annual inflow volume and median inflow volume show it would take between 2.3 years and 2.7 years of “average” winters for the reservoir to reach 90% capacity — if all releases were stopped until the reservoir filled. ... ”  Read more from the Union Democrat here: New Melones Reservoir could take years to refill, water managers say

L.A. conserving water at record levels, but it’s not enough as drought worsens

During a summer of soaring heat, shrinking supplies and mandatory drought restrictions, Los Angeles residents conserved water at an impressive pace in August, with that month’s usage dropping below a record low set during the previous drought.  But it’s becoming clear that this alone is not going to be enough. The crisis on the Colorado River, a key source of water for Southern California, is expected to bring painful cuts to supplies in the coming months. And hopes of a wet winter are looking more unlikely with another year of dry La Niña in the forecast.  Now, the pressure is on to not only increase savings, but also double-down on efforts to reduce reliance on imported supplies and to invest in long-term water solutions. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: L.A. conserving water at record levels, but it’s not enough as drought worsens

Column: Merge water districts in OC? One loathes the idea, the other loves it

In this alternate universe, one water agency sees black while the other sees white.  One sees good while the other sees bad.  One says yes while the other says no. And none of it would matter much — except that everyone who showers and drinks and flushes the toilet is paying for it.  Yes, the Orange County Water District (manager of groundwater for North/Central County) and the Municipal Water District of Orange County (chief water importer for South County) have filed their official “we reside on different planets” kudos and condemnations with the Orange County Grand Jury, as required. That grand jury, you may recall, told these two water giants in our compact little county to get over themselves, relinquish their pricey fiefdoms and form a single, unified, regional, county-level water authority to finally speak with — and this is the grand jury’s flourish — “One Voice.”  To summarize the official response: The Orange County Water District (total assets: $1.2 billion) thinks it’s a grand idea! The Municipal Water District (total assets: $52.9 million), not so much.  Suffice to say there may be a bit of a David/Goliath thing going on here. … ”  Continue reading at the OC Register here:  Merge water districts in OC? One loathes the idea, the other loves it

Cadiz water pipeline permit vacated after feds ask to reconsider decision

A judge vacated a permit to use a former natural gas pipeline to pump water from an underground reservoir in the Mojave desert to Southern California after the U.S. Bureau of Land Management told a federal judge it wants to reconsider the decision made in the final days of the Trump administration.  U.S. District Judge George Wu on Tuesday granted the bureau’s request for voluntary remand of the right-of-way Cadiz received in 2020 to transport water through the 64 miles of pipeline that runs across federal land. The judge also vacated the permit because it wasn’t based on a full agency review and decision-making process. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: Cadiz water pipeline permit vacated after feds ask to reconsider decision

Modified seawater intakes approved for Carlsbad desalination plant

“A permit approved Thursday by the California Coastal Commission will allow the Carlsbad desalination plant to modify its seawater intakes and discharge structures to better protect marine life and create a “stand-alone” system.  The desalination plant takes ocean water from the Agua Hedionda Lagoon through intakes formerly used for the cooling system at the now demolished Encina power plant, built by San Diego Gas & Electric Co. in the 1950s. The old power plant was replaced by a more efficient plant that does not use seawater for cooling.  However, the desalination plant, which began production in 2015, still uses parts of the power plant’s intakes and now needs additional upgrades to conform to state environmental requirements, according to a Coastal Commission staff report. ... ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here: Modified seawater intakes approved for Carlsbad desalination plant

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Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

NOTICE of 5-Year Temporary Water Right Permit Application (T033322) to Appropriate Water from the Cosumnes River in Sacramento County

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: Biden-Harris Administration announces $20 million funding opportunity for small surface and groundwater storage drought resilience projects

PUBLIC COMMENT OPEN on a Draft Federal Report on Microfiber Pollution

NOTICE OF PETITIONS for temporary water transfer of 45,000 AF for San Joaquin River Restoration

NOTICE OF AVAILABILITY for public comment on the amendment to the water quality control plan for the Tulare Lake Basin to remove the Municipal and Domestic Supply (MUN) and Agricultural Supply (AGR) beneficial uses from groundwater within a designated horizontal and vertical portion of the southern Lost Hills Oilfield and Substitute Environmental Documentation

NOTICE: September 13 Weekly Update on Curtailment Status of Water Rights and Claims in the Delta Watershed

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