DAILY DIGEST, 9/28: Speaker: Government control creeping ever further into water rights; Madera Co. approves penalties for excess groundwater extraction; An update on the Sites Reservoir water right permit process; Investigators say more than 70% of cannabis growers use illegal water; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • WEBINAR: The Colorado River – Adjusting to a Hotter, Drier Future from 12pm to 1:30pm. Prolonged drought and low runoff conditions accelerated by climate change have led to historically low levels in Lakes Mead and Powell. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has told the Colorado River Basin States that urgent action is needed to protect the long-term sustainability of the Colorado River System. Every sector is being called upon to preserve supplies to ensure the entire Colorado River Basin can function and support all who rely on it.  Join us for a discussion with interested parties from across the Colorado River Basin working to identify opportunities to protect the River and ensure more sustainable deliveries.  Click here to register.
  • WEBINAR: Access to Safe & Affordable Water: The Case for Water Reuse from 1pm to 2pm. Water reuse is a principal solution to the challenges of water access, affordability, and resiliency. During this 60-minute webcast water reuse experts will discuss water recycling’s role in affordability through a national and local context.  Attendees will learn about essential investments in water recycling programs throughout the nation that successfully help mitigate the water supply consequences of climate change, support economic stability and growth, and ensure broader water accessibility and affordability, particularly in disadvantaged communities. The webcast will dive deeper into a recently published Texas case study looking at onsite water recycling’s role in affordable housing units conducted by the National Wildlife Federation. Following presentations, attendees are encouraged to engage the panelists in a question-and-answer segment.  Click here to register.
  • PUBLIC HEARING: Delta Conveyance Project Draft EIR from 5:30pm to 7:30pm.  The last of three virtual public hearings to receive comments on the Delta Conveyance Project Draft EIR.  Join on Zoom here: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84861494062?pwd=jnx2K-i2_XhG47Dtw8DkncMBc-b-jD.1

In California water news today …

Speaker: Government control creeping ever further into water rights

In a fast-paced trip through the evolution of California’s water rights, attorney Valerie Kincaid explained how the system has gone from the “wild, wild west” to one pervaded by ever greater government creep.  By expanding its authorities under what had been thought of as several limited court decisions, state government is now essentially dictating operations on several watersheds, has ignored priority rights and is on the verge of amassing even more control under the guise of “modernization,” Kincaid told a packed room during a Water Association of Kern County luncheon on Tuesday the Water Board.  “People say we have to modernize our system and that sounds dynamic and interesting,” Kincaid said. “But if you look at the actual proposals about what modernization would mean, it’s largely lifting of any jurisdictional restraint and expanding the authority of the (State Water Resources Control) Board.” … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Speaker: Government control creeping ever further into water rights

Madera Co. approves penalties for excess groundwater extraction

Madera County farmers who extract more groundwater from their wells than they are allocated are set for stiff penalties, beginning next year.  Tuesday, the Madera County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to implement the penalties beginning at $100 per acre-foot for farms in the Madera, Chowchilla and Delta Mendota Subbasins in 2023.  The three subbasins belong to the Madera County Groundwater Sustainability Agency, tasked with administering the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, California’s marquee legislative cutback of groundwater usage.  Supervisor David Rogers was the lone dissenting vote to the penalty structure. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Madera Co. approves penalties for excess groundwater extraction

Over pumping will sting Madera growers, just not as much

There will be a penalty for over pumping groundwater in Madera County, but it won’t be as painful as it could have been.  That was the upshot from a nearly three-hour – sometimes fiery – meeting on Tuesday of the Madera County Board of Supervisors.  Supervisors opted for a penalty of $100 per acre foot for growers who pump more than what they are allotted by the Madera County Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA). That will increase by $100 each year starting in 2023.  The original penalty was proposed to be $500 per acre foot for going over allotments.  Eliminating the painful $500 penalty could continue drastic declines in groundwater levels, some supervisors warned. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Over pumping will sting Madera growers, just not as much

SEE ALSOMadera County farmers must now decrease water use or pay penalty, from KFSN

Shasta Lake level causing far-reaching ripple effects

California’s largest reservoir, Shasta Lake, is located 175 miles north of Sacramento. But what happens there impacts farming throughout the entire Central Valley.  Shasta Lake is capable of holding 4,552,100 acre-feet of water, which is almost five times the capacity of Folsom Lake. When full, Shasta boasts 365 miles of scenic shoreline. But for those visiting the lake in recent months, it is impossible to ignore how that shoreline is shrinking. The water is about 150 feet below the ideal surface level.  “We’re coming out of the three driest years on record,” explained Don Bader, area manager for the Bureau of Reclamation. “So that’s a huge hit to our storage, as you can see.” … ”  Read more from KTXL here: Shasta Lake level causing far-reaching ripple effects

Three Lake Oroville boat launches close because of low water level

The water level at Lake Oroville is lowering and the early seasonal rainfall hasn’t been enough to bring it back up.  Three of the five ramps surrounding the lake have closed because of low water levels with only Bidwell and Loafer Point still available to the public for boat launching.  According to the California Department of Water Resources, which oversees lake operations, both open ramps are expected to stay open as they run deep into the lake. Additionally, boat ramps at the Thermalito Afterbay and South Forebay are open as well.  While dozens of boats still span the water at Lime Saddle, many mariners and houseboat owners are once again finding it difficult to access their boats as well as the mainland. DWR said Lime Saddle was closed in the last week of August and the Spillway boat ramp was closed Sept. 19. Loafer Creek hasn’t been open since 2020. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here: Three Lake Oroville boat launches close because of low water level

Four in a row: California drought likely to continue

As California’s 2022 water year ends this week, the parched state is bracing for another dry year — its fourth in a row.  So far, in California’s recorded history, six previous droughts have lasted four or more years,  two of them in the past 35 years.  Despite some rain in September, weather watchers expect a hot and dry fall, and warn that this winter could bring warm temperatures and below-average precipitation.  Conditions are shaping up to be a “recipe for drought”: a La Niña climate pattern plus warm temperatures in the Western Tropical Pacific that could mean critical rain and snowstorms miss California, according to Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with UCLA and The Nature Conservancy. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Four in a row: California drought likely to continue

An update on the Sites Reservoir water right permit process

Sites Reservoir reached a critical milestone in May of this year when the Sites Project Authority submitted its water right application to the State Water Resources Control Board. A requirement for the Project to advance, the water right permit process is complex and sometimes iterative. It requires careful analysis and deliberate consideration.  The Authority recently received a response letter from the State Board indicating they had accepted the application and determined that the Authority needed to supply additional information as part of the permitting process. It is fairly common for the State Board to request additional information from applicants. In fact, we’re not aware of any applications receiving a finding of sufficiency on the first submittal. Some applications take years to be found complete.  We are currently working on the response to the State Board and are confident we can provide the information needed to secure the Project’s water right permit. ... ”  Read more from the Sites Reservoir JPA here: An update on the Sites Reservoir water right permit process

Prisoners forced to work for showers are now being punished for taking them

For the past 20 years, Steven Brooks has worked various jobs behind bars in California’s prisons in exchange for a shower. Before the pandemic, under severe drought conditions, Steven found this arrangement unhygienic, but in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and overcrowding in prisons, the 50-year-old has found it to be inhumane.  Steven came to prison in 1996 and to San Quentin in 2014. He doesn’t remember a time prior to 2015 when accessing water was limited or considered grounds for punishment. The grass was regularly watered. Sprinkler systems and water hoses were constantly used. The water fountains worked. Toilets flushed routinely.  But then-Governor Jerry Brown’s executive order, proclaiming a state of emergency due to severe drought conditions in California, set a new precedent around water. The order called for a 25 percent reduction of water usage on a statewide level, but made no mention of how to conserve water in prisons. In the absence of clear direction, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) developed its own protocol. … ”  Read more from The Nation here:  Prisoners forced to work for showers are now being punished for taking them

California growers get federal funding to become eco-friendly

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Climate Smart Commodities Program,” is allocating a total of $130 million in federal money to California farmers to lessen their impact on the climate, including lowering water usage and carbon emissions.  “California grows 80% of the almonds,” said Kelli Evans, Owner of Evans farming in Sutter County, whose family has grown the nuts for decades. “Our family has been farming since 1948. It’s changed dramatically and it’s amazing how each generation sees such differences.”  In recent years, Almond growers like Kelli have worked to upgrade their systems, to be more eco-friendly Including changing the way they water crops.  But there’s one problem with eco-friendly practices.  “They’re extremely expensive,” said Evans. … ”  Read more from CBS News here: California growers get federal funding to become eco-friendly

Hell/ No Water: Exploring California’s worsening drought, wildfire crisis

The FOX 11 documentary Hell/ No Water looks at the vicious cycle of drought and wildfires… who’s fault is it and what we can do now.

Column: California spends billions rebuilding burned towns. The case for calling it quits

Most days, Ken Donnell steals a moment to gaze at the forested valley that surrounds this remote grid of streets in the mountains.  Before the Dixie fire came barreling through the Sierra Nevada last year, leveling everything here but a few houses, businesses and a school, this was a charming — if dying — Gold Rush-era town that about 800 people called home. Now, much of the charm is gone along with most of the residents, replaced by the skeletal remains of conifer trees and the deathly silence of block after empty block.  But even as Donnell has mourned, his mop of gray hair a fixture at community meetings on how to bring the town and the surrounding Plumas County valley back to life, he has become grateful.  It’s good that Greenville burned down when it did, he believes. Sooner rather than later. Because one day, in a not-so-distant future ravaged by climate change, many of Northern California’s far-flung rural towns — founded in another time and for another economy — might not get rebuilt at all. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Column: California spends billions rebuilding burned towns. The case for calling it quits

CNRA announces tool to improve wildfire resilience with support from google.org

California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) and the USDA Forest Service, along with support from Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, has developed Planscape – a new wildfire resilience planning tool that uses state and federal resilience data to create user-friendly models that will be easily accessible to land planners. A demonstration of Planscape was released today at the California Wildfire & Forest Resilience Task Force meeting.  This new tool will ensure that state, federal and private forest planners have current and sophisticated data at their fingertips allowing them to plan landscape-scale projects in a way that improves wildfire safety while enhancing biodiversity, watershed health, carbon storage and providing other ecological benefits. With a decision support and workflow guide, planners – along with foresters and the public – will have access to the leading forest ecology climate data and scientific models that will make it easier to determine where treatments (such as tree thinning, undergrowth clearing or other action) will be most effective and when and how to treat those areas. … ”  Read more from CNRA here: CNRA announces tool to improve wildfire resilience with support from google.org

Department of Water Resources announces new climate team advancing climate, equity, and science

The Department of Water Resources (DWR), as part of its ongoing commitment to address climate change, has formed a new executive team that will provide science-based leadership to help build resiliency and equity in water management.  The team, which will report directly to Director Karla Nemeth, will guide DWR on integrated decision-making across all departments from the State Water Project, integrated water management, flood control, sustainable groundwater, habitat restoration for fish and wildlife, water conservation, water equity, energy, agriculture, health and human safety, and more. Assessing the social and environmental impacts of climate change and how best to respond will be at the center of the new team’s work and will build on the department’s existing efforts. ... ”  Read more from DWR News here: Department of Water Resources announces new climate team advancing climate, equity, and science

In commentary today …

Water is expensive in California. A new bill could change that

Susana De Anda, executive director of Community Water Center, and Michael Claiborne, directing attorney at Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, write, “Last month, California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot warned Bay Area residents to brace for a fourth dry year in a row. As the state’s drought continues to compromise the drinking water supply of millions of people across the state, for some Californians, scarcity isn’t the only reason they can’t access water.  For California’s low-income communities, the cost of potable water is increasingly out of reach.  For years, the cost of treating, monitoring and delivering clean water to Californians has been rising and that cost has been passed on to residents. According to the California Urban Water Agencies, a nonprofit corporation of 11 major urban water agencies — which includes the San Francisco, Santa Clara, Alameda, East Bay and Contra Costa water districts and public utilities commissions — the residential water bills within its member agencies’ jurisdictions increased an average of 7% per year from 2007 to 2014. That is more than double the rate of inflation. … ”  Continue reading at the San Francisco Chronicle here: Water is expensive in California. A new bill could change that

Urge feds to reform unsustainable CA water contract

Doug Obegi, Director of California River Restoration, NRDC’s Water Division, writes, “Will the Biden Administration act before October 17th to begin renegotiating one of the most inequitable and unsustainable water contracts in California, the San Joaquin River Exchange Contract?  As my blog from earlier this summer explains, the Exchange Contract benefits four irrigation districts along the San Joaquin River who claim senior water rights to water from the San Joaquin River, which they “exchanged” for delivery of substitute supply from the Delta.  But in fact, the Exchange Contract has provided these four districts with far more water than they would be entitled to under their claimed water rights, even more than the entire flow of the San Joaquin River in many years – which would of course be unreasonable under California law.  As a result, this year these four districts appear to be getting nearly six times as much water from the Delta as the millions of people served by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and more water from the Delta than anyone else. … ”  Continue reading at the NRDC here:  Urge feds to reform unsustainable CA water contract

Supreme court to decide which wetlands receive federal protection:  How the court interprets ‘wetlands’ could protect – or undercut – clean water

Albert C. Lin, a Professor of Law at UC Davis, writes, “The U.S. Supreme Court opens its new session on Oct. 3, 2022, with a high-profile case that could fundamentally alter the federal government’s ability to address water pollution. Sackett v. EPA turns on a question that courts and regulators have struggled to answer for several decades: Which wetlands and bodies of water can the federal government regulate under the 1972 Clean Water Act?  Under this keystone environmental law, federal agencies take the lead in regulating water pollution, while state and local governments regulate land use. Wetlands are areas where land is wet for all or part of the year, so they straddle this division of authority.  Swamps, bogs, marshes and other wetlands provide valuable ecological services, such as filtering pollutants and soaking up floodwaters. Landowners must obtain permits to discharge dredged or fill material, such as dirt, sand or rock, in a protected wetland. This can be time-consuming and expensive, which is why the case is of keen interest to developers, farmers and ranchers, along with conservationists and the agencies that administer the Clean Water Act – the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. … ”  Read more from UC Davis here: Supreme court to decide which wetlands receive federal protection

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Today’s featured article …

DELTA STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL: An overview of the San Francisco Estuary Blueprint

The document is a collaborative five-year roadmap that outlines 25 actions to address chemical, physical, biological, and social-ecological processes in the San Francisco Estuary

At the August meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Caitlin Sweeney, Executive Director of the San Francisco Estuary Partnership, provided an overview of the newly updated 2022-26 Estuary Blueprint.

Click here to read this article.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


Three counties’ leaders propose collaboration to manage Klamath Watershed

Three counties across state lines are proposing that their counties and other stakeholders in the Klamath Watershed form a new alliance to address the broad needs of its limited water supply. It also wants to coordinate watershed projects’ funding that it calls a “piecemeal approach (that) does not require results or require any accountability.”  In a letter signed by five elected county leaders from Klamath, Modoc and Siskiyou Counties and issued to news media today, they wrote, “We have proposed that the tribes and counties form an advisory committee that would work together to make recommendations to federal and state agencies on the best uses of available funding. Through that collaboration, we can restore relationships and trust, and serve the overall public interest.” … ”  Read more from KDRV here: Three counties’ leaders propose collaboration to manage Klamath Watershed

Mussel bound in the Basin: Strengthening mussel knowledge through collaboration and hard work

One of the mussel survey sites in the mid-Klamath Basin of northern California. Credit: USFWS.

Alex Jones, biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional office in Sacramento probably didn’t realize what a workout his muscles would get by searching for, what else, mussels this past summer.  Jones, along with Supervisory Fish Biologist Josh Boyce of the Arcata field office and Emilie Blevins, the freshwater mussel conservation lead for Xerces Society, channeled their inner mussel – and flexed their own muscles – to snorkel sites on the Scott, Shasta, Trinity, and Klamath Rivers surveying for these freshwater mollusks.  In addition to muscle power, the team leveraged their combined knowledge of specific areas within the Klamath Basin to identify sampling locations with help from a Xerces Society database of historical mussel bed sites.  Jones said this survey will help fill gaps in the known information for California’s native freshwater mussels as part of a larger, nationwide collaborative project led by the Service. The goal is to develop condition status assessment tools to determine the health and abundance of freshwater mussels. … ”  Read more from the US Fish & Wildlife Service here: Mussel bound in the Basin: Strengthening mussel knowledge through collaboration and hard work

Feasibility study explores potential for catastrophic failure of Upper Lake levees

The condition and stability of Upper Lake’s levee system, highlighted in a feasibility study released by the county of Lake last year, has raised concerns about danger to the Upper Lake community and has led to the scheduling of a special workshop this week.   The Western Region Town Hall, or WRTH, is hosting the special workshop at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, at the Habematolel community center, 9460 Main St. in Upper Lake.  The area of concern includes the Middle Creek and Clover Creek diversion levees, the diversion structure and Old Clover Creek closure structure in Flood Zone 8, which the county calls the “Middle Creek Flood Control Project” and is operated by the Lake County Watershed Protection District.  ... ”  Read more from the Lake County News here: Feasibility study explores potential for catastrophic failure of Upper Lake levees


Well-drillers in California too busy to do government drought-relief work, Shasta County official says

Shasta County has been approved for about $2.4 million in state drought relief money.  It’s money that could help residents whose wells have dried up due to the third year of California’s historic drought.  The problem is finding a company to drill a new well, Public Works Director Al Cathey told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.  “We have contacted all the local (well-drillers) in the Redding area and they are so busy they don’t need the government work, is what they are telling us,” Cathey said.  Cathey added that the county also has contacted well companies from outside the area. The response has been “crickets.” … ”  Read more from the Redding Record Searchlight here: Well-drillers in California too busy to do government drought-relief work, county official says

Water flows at Poe Reach of the North Fork Feather River to increase

People are being advised to take extra safety precautions at Poe Reach of the North Fork Feather River as water flows will be increased Saturday and Sunday.  Poe Reach, the 7.6-mile portion of the North Fork of the Feather River in the Plumas National Forest in Butte County, between Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s Poe Dam near Pulga and the Poe Powerhouse just upstream of Lake Oroville will experience class III, IV and V rapids, which are only appropriate for skilled paddlers, and not appropriate for tubing, said PG&E in a press release on Monday. … ”  Continue reading at the Oroville Mercury-Register here: Water flows at Poe Reach of the North Fork Feather River to increase


Ellsworth files complaint against Clover Flat Landfill

St. Helena Mayor Geoff Ellsworth has filed a consumer complaint with the Napa County District Attorney’s Office, alleging fire and contamination risks at Clover Flat Landfill near Calistoga and the Upper Valley Disposal Service facility on Whitehall Lane outside St. Helena. “With wildfire season upon us I feel an urgency in bringing a complaint of negligence and reckless endangerment towards public health and safety in Napa County/Napa Valley related to significant and unnecessary fire and wildfire risk” at the two facilities, wrote Ellsworth, who filed the complaint as a Napa County resident, not in his capacity as mayor. ... ”  Read more from the Napa Valley Register here: Ellsworth files complaint against Clover Flat Landfill


Baykeeper sues Santa Clara Valley Water alleging practices that are ‘fatal to fish’

Bay Area environmental watchdog San Francisco Baykeeper filed suit on Tuesday against the Santa Clara Valley Water District for allegedly violating the California Constitution and the Fish and Game Code through its water management practices.  “Valley Water has failed for years to manage its waters in a manner that protects fish and wildlife,” said Baykeeper in a statement.  According to Baykeeper, Valley Water is responsible for area creeks and rivers that support salmon, steelhead, longfin, smelt, riffle sculpin, rainbow trout and “many other public trust resources.”  Baykeeper alleges that Valley Water “routinely” causes temperatures in the creeks and rivers it manages to be too warm and at flow rates that are too low, something Baykeeper says is “fatal to fish.” ... ”  Read more from NBC Bay Area here:  Baykeeper sues Santa Clara Valley Water alleging practices that are ‘fatal to fish’ 

Largest active Santa Clara Valley reservoir only at 39% capacity

The largest active reservoir in the Santa Clara Valley was only at 39% capacity Tuesday, and the water agency doesn’t expect things to improve for several years.  The water level at Lexington Reservoir, near Los Gatos, is expected to stay low, even if there’s an abnormally high rainy season. Lexington currently is the largest reservoir in the valley with Anderson Reservoir offline for a years-long seismic retrofit.  The other reservoirs in the county aren’t doing much better, with Guadalupe Reservoir at a startlingly low 18%, and the future doesn’t look so bright for that one either.  “I’d say for the next decade, how you see the reservoirs now is how it’s going to be in the future,” said Chris Hakes, dam safety expert at the Santa Clara Valley Water District. … ”  Read more from NBC Bay Area here: Largest active Santa Clara Valley reservoir only at 39% capacity

Three homes have become the first in the Bay Area to be publicly named as using too much water

“Three East Bay households this month became the first in the Bay Area to face fines for using too much water during the drought, a group that will probably swell to hundreds as bills with a novel “excessive use” charge continue to go out.  The penalties, which are as high as about $120 over a two-month period, come as the East Bay Municipal Utility District launches one of the most aggressive — and punitive — conservation policies in the region in an effort to protect its water supplies.  The policy sets a relatively high limit on how much water residential customers can use: an average of about 1,646 gallons per day over the billing cycle. But according to data released Tuesday in response to a public records request, about 2,250 households received warnings for going over the limit during their early-summer billing period while at least three continued to exceed the threshold for a second period. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Three homes have become the first in the Bay Area to be publicly named as using too much water

Creeks Committee outlines accomplishments, next steps

Members of the Lafayette Creeks Committee presented to the city council on Sept. 12 a report on progress made by the committee and the goals set as it moves forward and brings the city’s Downtown Creeks Preservation, Restoration and Development Plan to the next stages.  Committee chair Will Elder began the joint panel presentation by announcing that the 1st Street and Golden Gate Way Rain Garden that broke ground Sept. 6 is expected to be complete in November. A celebration for opening the rain garden and the expected ribbon cutting ceremony are in the planning stage. Interpretive signage at the site is being developed in collaboration with the Resource Conservation and Flood Control districts, primarily undergoing refinements related to language and messaging. … ”  Read more from Lamorinda Weekly here: Creeks Committee outlines accomplishments, next steps

Volunteer-led fish monitoring program launches for re-connected Alameda Creek

Alameda Creek is the largest watershed in the Bay Area, and for the first time in over 50 years salmon and steelhead will be able to access the watershed. To better understand how fish populations utilize and move through the newly connected Alameda Creek watershed, we need to watch them, which is why we are working with partners to launch a volunteer monitoring program.  Previously, fish had limited access to Alameda Creek, but soon they will be able to migrate above the downstream BART weir in Fremont to spawn. Migration is made possible by a fully-operational fish ladder at the weir and additional fish ladders at three upstream dams on Alameda Creek. This incredible opportunity for salmonids to migrate throughout Alameda Creek is the product of decades of hard work to improve fish passage by the Alameda County Water District and Flood Control District, Alameda Creek Alliance (ACA), California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), and CalTrout. … ”  Read more from Cal Trout here: Volunteer-led fish monitoring program launches for re-connected Alameda Creek

Conflict arises over harbor breakwater in San Mateo County

Two coastside agencies share a similar mission of hardening San Mateo County shores against the effects of climate change but their differing perspectives on how to achieve that goal and a lapse in communication could disrupt progress. Shore erosion, flooding and sea level rise are all top concerns for the San Mateo County Harbor District, which oversees harbor and marina facilities and operations at Pillar Point Harbor and Oyster Point Marina, and OneShoreline, the county’s Flood and Sea Level Rise Resiliency District. Len Materman, chief executive officer of OneShoreline, and Harbor District General Manager Jim Pruett both agreed that breakwaters or wall-like structures built by the U.S. Army Corps about 60 years ago are major contributors to the erosion. But the two agency heads disagree on whether it’s necessary to remove the barriers to reverse their effects to protect Pillar Point. … ”  Read more from the Daily Journal here: Conflict arises over harbor breakwater in San Mateo County


Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency Board sends managed aquifer recharge & recovery project to design phase

The Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency (PV Water) Board of Directors approved design and bid period services agreements for the Watsonville Slough System Managed Aquifer Recharge and Recovery Project (WSSMARR). The purpose of the Project is to reduce groundwater production and stop seawater intrusion by enhancing PV Water’s managed aquifer recharge and recovery capabilities. Over the last two decades, the Harkins Slough Recharge Basin, which was one of PV Water’s first projects, has diverted and infiltrated over 10,000 acrefeet of Harkins Slough water under an existing water right.  Goals of this project include increasing the volume of water recharged annually and increasing the annual yield by 1,200 acrefeet per year. … ”  Read more from the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency here: Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency Board sends managed aquifer recharge & recovery project to design phase

Court backs environmentalists efforts to help endangered steelhead on Central Coast

A court ruled in favor of environmentalists who filed a lawsuit seeking additional water releases from a Central Coast dam to help endangered steelhead fish.  A coalition of groups sued the Federal Bureau of Reclamation, and the Santa Maria Water Conservation District. The suit contended the agencies violated the Endangered Species Act by limiting water releases from Twitchell Dam into the Santa Maria River. They contended that limited releases are harming the imperiled fish. … ”  Read more from KCLU here: Court backs environmentalists efforts to help endangered steelhead on Central Coast

Investigators say more than 70% of cannabis growers use illegal water

An investigation by Lynker Technologies LLC and the Law Office of Marc Chytilo has alleged that more than 70% of all cannabis operations in the Santa Ynez River Valley bottom illegally use surface water during California’s worst drought.  According to the investigation, more than 500 acre-feet of water per year are being diverted from the Santa Ynez River Alluvial Basin to cannabis grows. The investigation by Lynker and the law office says this usage violates California law, which prohibits use of surface water for cannabis cultivation between March 31 and Nov. 1.  Of the 31 cannabis cultivation operations along the Santa Ynez River between Lake Cachuma and Lompoc, 22 appear to pump and irrigate illegally using water that is protected under California law, according to the investigation. … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara News-Press here: Investigators say more than 70% of cannabis growers use illegal water

Grover Beach approves new water restrictions amid projected shortfall

New water restrictions and penalties are set to impact more than 13,000 people who live in Grover Beach.  New projections show that Grover Beach could face a water supply shortfall in two years.  The city is now taking action to make sure that supply meets demand.  The Grover Beach City Council approved a citywide, mandatory 20 percent cutback in water use at its meeting Tuesday night. ... ”  Read more from KSBY here:  Grover Beach approves new water restrictions amid projected shortfall

Desal pipeline construction ruffles feathers near Ortega Park

Some Eastside Santa Barbara residents visiting Ortega Park last week were shocked to find debris and construction equipment — heavy machinery, rows of pipes, cones, and piles of wood, metal, and tools — strewn along the curbs surrounding the park on Salsipuedes and Cota streets.  One group, at the park for a community meeting to plan for the upcoming Día de los Muertos celebration, reached out to the city to ask why the streets were being used as a “dumping ground” for construction in the area.  “We understand the necessity of growth and upgrades and building for a better community, and we appreciate the motivation,” wrote Andi Garcia, an Eastside resident, community activist, and one of the organizers behind the Occupy Ortega Park events. … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent here: Desal pipeline construction ruffles feathers near Ortega Park

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Along the Colorado River …

What is ‘dead pool’ and what does it mean for Colorado River?

The Colorado River lives many lives – harboring trout in the Rocky Mountains, powering ACs in Arizona, greening fields of alfalfa in California. The 1,450-mile-long lifeblood supports more than two dozen tribes, seven U.S. states, and Mexico, but Americans living outside the Western region benefit, too. The river preserves national parks and produces winter vegetables, shipped countrywide.  Yet a long-term rise in demand – and increasingly arid conditions linked to climate change – have resulted in a dire river reality. Though conservation efforts have helped states stay afloat, negotiations aimed at better balancing water supply and demand seem as stuck as the once-sunken boats now seen in depleted Lake Mead.  Worst-case scenario? Lake Mead and Lake Powell, major reservoirs along the river, could reach “dead pool,” with levels of water so low that the river can’t flow below the dams. That could turn off river supplies to cities like Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. … ” Continue reading at the Christian Science Monitor here: What is ‘dead pool’ and what does it mean for Colorado River?

Hay! Alfalfa is the biggest issue for western water

The Colorado River basin is running out of water. This is because the demand for water is going up while the supply is going down. This is obviously bad, because the Colorado River is the main source of water for the western United States, including population centers like Las Vegas, the Phoenix Metro Area, and much of southern California, and it is being used up faster than it can be replenished. The problem is only going to get worse as the population in the west continues to grow and climate change affects the snowpack and evaporation.  The good news is that there are things that can be done to mitigate the problem. For example, water conservation efforts can help to reduce the demand on the river. And, better management of the river basin’s resources can help to increase the supply of water. But, it is going to take a lot of work to get the river back to a healthy state.  But, deciding who should use less water can be politically and practically difficult. … ”  Read more from Clean Technica here: Hay! Alfalfa is the biggest issue for western water

A path through the brewing climate crisis on the Colorado River

The Colorado River’s average annual flow shrunk 20 percent in the last 30 years—half of that is directly attributable to climate change. The impact throughout the Basin is clear especially when considering that its two large reservoirs—Lake Mead and Lake Powell—are at all-time lows. Lake Powell is hovering at about 24 percent of full storage capacity. The water surface is roughly 60 feet above the level at which hydropower can no longer be produced and water can no longer reliably pass through Glen Canyon Dam (known as dead pool) on its way downstream through the Grand Canyon to Lake Mead. For context, Powell’s water surface elevation has dropped over 60 feet since fall of 2020. Lake Mead is approximately 27 percent full and roughly 40 feet from dead pool. The ecosystem is suffering and critical habitat disappearing—Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Bell’s Vireo, and native fish species populations are all in decline. Water users and managers have been developing agreements and programs to both mitigate the impacts of, and adapt to the evolving conditions driven by climate change. … ”  Read more from Audubon here: A path through the brewing climate crisis on the Colorado River

Feds will spend billions to boost drought-stricken Colorado River system

As climate change tightens its grip on the Colorado River basin, the states that use its water are struggling to agree on terms that will reduce their demand. Now, the federal government is stepping in with a plan to use billions of dollars to incentivize conservation.  The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced new measures in response to the ongoing dry conditions, unveiling plans to use a chunk of the $4 billion it received as part of the recently-passed Inflation Reduction Act. That money will be used for what the agency refers to as “short-term conservation,” to remove water-intensive grass in cities and suburbs, and to upgrade aging canals.  A detailed breakdown of that spending has not yet been released. Multiple sources close to the situation told KUNC that the bulk of Reclamation’s $4 billion will go to projects in the Colorado River basin, with the majority going to “system conservation.” That could include buying water from the agriculture sector to boost water levels in the nation’s largest reservoirs. … ”  Read more from Inside Climate News here: Feds will spend billions to boost drought-stricken Colorado River system

What caused the summer 2020 to spring 2021 drought in southwestern North America?

At the end of summer 2021 the U.S. Drought Monitor reported, “90% of the West region (including Colorado and Wyoming) is characterized as ’in drought’ with 54% in Extreme Drought or Exceptional Drought”. Reservoir levels were low across almost the whole West including on the Colorado River’s Lakes Powell and Mead at just 31% and 35% of capacity, respectively. Multiple states rated most of their rangelands and pasture in poor to very poor conditions and in October a statewide drought emergency was declared for California. Drought extended from northern Mexico into western Canada and from the Pacific Ocean to the Plains. Notably, the drought was intense in the southwest despite large areas of above-normal precipitation in the summer of 2021. While not as severe as in 2021, drought conditions are still present over 90% of the Southwest in September 2022. … ”  Continue reading at the Climate Program Office here: What caused the summer 2020 to spring 2021 drought in southwestern North America?

Scottsdale’s water supply future fraught with uncertainty, official says

We can no longer rely on past indicators to predict what Scottsdale’s water future is going to look like, a panel an audience last week at the city’s Breakfast with the Mayor and Council.  “The new normal is change and uncertainty,” Ken Seaholes, manager of resource planning and analysis at the Central Arizona Project, told a crowd of several hundred people Sept. 22.  Seaholes was a member of a four-person panel discussing water issues. The panel included Scottsdale Water Resources Executive Director Brian Biesemeyer, SRP Senior Principal Ron Klawitter and Arizona Municipal Water Users Association Director Warren Tenney. … ”  Read more from the East Valley Tribune here: Water supply future fraught with uncertainty, official says

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In national water news today …

AccuWeather’s 2022-2023 US winter forecast

From the abundance of acorns in the fall to the bushiness of squirrel tails, there are many fanciful forecasting techniques have been used over the years as a means to glean a glimpse of what the weather will be like in the upcoming winter.  AccuWeather’s approach to concocting the winter forecast, one of its most highly-anticipated seasonal outlooks, is a bit different: The process involves a team of veteran long-range forecasters analyzing computer models, looking at how previous winters have played out and using their own personal experience to determine if it’s going to be a snowy winter, if and when the polar vortex will unleash Arctic air across North America and whether it will be a good season for skiers.  This winter is indeed looking like a snowy one across most of the northern tier of the contiguous United States, but AccuWeather senior meteorologist Paul Pastelok says, there is more to the forecast than just snowstorms.  Pastelok and his team of long-range forecasters are predicting a “triple dip La Niña,” as it is the third winter in a row that La Niña will shape the weather patterns across the U.S. … ”  Read more from AccuWeather here: AccuWeather’s 2022-2023 US winter forecast

Will a transition to a hydrogen economy affect water security?

The need for clean energy alternatives to reduce the impact of climate change encourages us to look at hydrogen as a potential new energy carrier. Hydrogen is now viewed by governments and energy companies as a viable alternative to the traditional fossil fuel-based energy industries. Terms such as ‘hydrogen economy’ or ‘hydrogen society’ encourage us to believe that we can completely move away from fossil fuels and rely solely on hydrogen. Growing worries over future water resources, however, show that relying solely on hydrogen may, in certain cases, overburden our water resources. Here, I examine the current energy use of various states and calculate the amount of hydrogen required to meet current energy demands. This amount of hydrogen is then converted into the amount of water required to produce this hydrogen via electrolysis. … ”  Read more from the World Economic Forum here: Will a transition to a hydrogen economy affect water security?

Climate change is turning trees into gluttons

Trees have long been known to buffer humans from the worst effects of climate change by pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Now new research shows just how much forests have been bulking up on that excess carbon. The study, recently published in the Journal Nature Communications, finds that elevated carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have increased wood volume—or the biomass—of forests in the United States.  Although other factors like climate and pests can somewhat affect a tree’s volume, the study found that elevated carbon levels consistently led to an increase of wood volume in 10 different temperate forest groups across the country. This suggests that trees are helping to shield Earth’s ecosystem from the impacts of global warming through their rapid growth. … ”  Read more from PhysOrg here: Climate change is turning trees into gluttons

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOTICE: September 27 Weekly Update on Curtailment Status of Water Rights and Claims in the Delta Watershed

NEPA DOCS: Purchase of Water for Support of Fish and Wildlife on the Sacramento River

NOTICE: San Joaquin River Restoration Program resumes Restoration Flows to protect burgeoning threatened salmon population

NOTICE: The California State Water Board is Recruiting for Delta Watermaster

NOTICE of Temporary Water Right Application T033328 – Madera County and Merced County

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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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