WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for Sept 25-30: Sedlak lays out five challenges for expanding water reuse and desal, SF Estuary Blueprint; Bleak water year ending; Govt control creeping further into water rights; and more …

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

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This week’s featured articles …

WATER REUSE CONFERENCE: Dr. David Sedlak lays out five challenges for expanding water reuse and desalination in California

Vallaincourt Fountain, Embarcadero Square, San Francisco. Photo by Thomas Hawk.

Climate change and drought are forcing California to reimagine its water supply future.  One promising tool in the toolbox is water recycling, something California has been doing since the 1970s.  Recycled water can be used for agricultural and landscape irrigation, industrial and commercial uses, seawater intrusion barriers, and groundwater recharge.  More importantly, putting recycled water to use can free up potable water for other uses and provides a local source for water supplies.

Most recycled water projects are what Dr. David Sedlak, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Berkeley and the co-director of the Berkeley Water Center, describes as ‘water for wealthy people in cities.’  But the benefits of water recycling and desalination technologies can be expanded beyond just the large cities, he says.  At the WateReuse conference held earlier this month in San Francisco, he issued five challenges to water professionals to find ways to expand the benefits of water recycling to smaller communities, the environment, and even agriculture.

Click here to read this 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 California water news this week …

Bleak water year ending, with hope for future elusive

Nearing the end of the water year on Sept. 30, California farmers and water officials are eager to turn the page to begin the next opportunity for the state to accrue snowpack and precipitation.    However, with a La Niña atmospheric phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean, which generally signals drier, warmer conditions, water officials say they are preparing for a fourth dry year next year.  “We are currently in a La Niña condition, and that is forecasted to persist through December with a high level of certainty and about a 50% to 60% probability through January into the spring months,” said Jeanine Jones, California Department of Water Resources interstate resources manager. “As a prudent measure, we’re actively preparing for a fourth dry year.” … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here: Bleak water year ending, with hope for future elusive

What will it take to escape drought?

A rare September storm brought wetting rains to the region, with the storm bringing much above normal rain totals in September for California. The storm was not nearly enough to quell drought conditions in the state. California finds itself in a third year of drought and desperately in need of a soaking winter.  A rare third year straight of La Nina could make this difficult. …  With summer now over and California’s wet season approaching, it begs the question: What will it take to escape the drought? According to Jim Peifer, Executive Director of the Regional Water Authority in Sacramento, it’s a bit of a trick question. He offered to phrase the question in a different way. “Perhaps the question is… what will it take to soften the severity of the current drought emergency,” said Peifer. … ”  Read more from Channel 10 here: What will it take to escape drought?

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

Westlands spearheaded Delta restoration project. Now, it faces puzzling ‘greenlash.’

If California sees its environmental goals get met, does it really matter who contributed to the success?  Among certain environmental groups, the answer can be boiled down to a single word: “It depends.”  Or, in the the case of a long-standing project by the state’s largest agricultural water district, the powerful Westlands Water District, the answer is a bit longer: “Yes, and no good deed goes unpunished.”  The district faces a skirmish with environmental advocates over an effort to strengthen and restore fish habitat within the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta – including the oft-maligned Delta smelt – in support of long-term goals laid out by California regulators.  Now, two years after Westlands completed the restoration, environmentalists are seeking to dispute the work and effectiveness of habitat restoration sought by state regulators and tamper with the bottom line for the water agency. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Westlands spearheaded Delta restoration project. Now, it faces puzzling ‘greenlash.’

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

Will Madera Co.’s SGMA rebellion offer blueprint – or warning – for reckoning with farm water restrictions, costs?

In front of a standing room only crowd, the Madera County supervisors met as the board of the Madera GSA on September 13, 2022, in the county office building.  The key agenda item was consideration of penalties for growers who exceed their water allocations. Over a hundred farm workers and their families were on hand, coordinated by local labor contractors and grower Ralph Pistoresi.  He has been vocal in his opposition to the per acre fees set in June to fund the groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) in the subbasins covered by the GSA.  In the hour before the meeting, a large group of farm workers had gathered outside the building to listen to several speakers say in English and Spanish that the county GSA program would ruin the ag industry and thereby threaten their jobs.  Madera County Supervisor Tom Wheeler called the GSA meeting to order at 10:52 a.m. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Will Madera Co.’s SGMA rebellion offer blueprint – or warning – for reckoning with farm water restrictions, costs?

CA State Water Board issues “Denial of Request for Reconsideration” on Delta Plan Implementation

Represented by the Environmental Law Clinic at Stanford, California Tribes and Delta environmental justice organizations this week received a Denial of Request for Reconsideration from the State Water Resources Control Board in response to the coalition’s Request for Reconsideration of the Board decision in June 2022 of denying the coalition’s Petition to Review and Revise the Bay-Delta Water Quality Standards.  The Request urged the Board to address its decades-long failure to update water quality standards as required under state and federal law and its failure to set forth a pathway to remedy the discriminatory effects of that inaction on Indigenous Peoples, communities of color, and other vulnerable groups in the Delta. … ”  Read more from Restore the Delta here:  CA State Water Board issues “Denial of Request for Reconsideration” on Delta Plan Implementation

Newsom vetoes bill to prohibit foreign governments from buying CA agricultural land

A bill to prohibit foreign governments from purchasing or leasing agricultural land in California was vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom Tuesday.  Senate Bill 1084, authored by Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger), would have prohibited a foreign government from purchasing, acquiring, leasing, or holding an interest in agricultural land within the California. The bill would also exempt land held by foreign governments before January 1, 2023, from that prohibition, and would have specified that it does not apply to federally recognized Indian tribes or their government units and enterprises. In addition, SB 1084 would have created yearly reports by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to list how much agricultural land is still owned by foreign governments and what recommendations are. … ”  Read more from the California Globe here: Newsom vetoes bill to prohibit foreign governments from buying CA agricultural land

State not ponying up enough $$ for farmland retirement, critics say

Though $40 million was added to the state’s farmland retirement pot, some worry it won’t be nearly enough.  Gov. Gavin Newsom authorized the funding Tuesday night to be added to the state’s new Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program.  The program, initially funded with $50 million in 2021,  pays for farmland to be taken out of production and repurposed to less water intensive uses such as groundwater recharge facilities, habitat for wildlife and open spaces for recreation.  The added $40 million brings total funding to $90 million, but is just a “drop in the bucket,” according to Ann Hayden, associate vice president of nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) water program. EDF has worked closely with the state and other organizations involved in the repurposing program. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: State not ponying up enough $$ for farmland retirement, critics say

Congressman Valadao introduces sweeping California water legislation

Today, Congressman David G. Valadao (CA-21) introduced the Working to Advance Tangible and Effective Reforms (WATER) for California Act. This bill focuses on operational stability, infrastructure, and accountability to bring more water to the Central Valley. Congressman Valadao was joined in introduction by the entire California Republican delegation.  “For too long, the Central Valley has suffered from devastating drought conditions, unfair water allocations, and a gross mismanagement of the water we do have by Sacramento bureaucrats and environmentalists,” said Congressman Valadao. “This bill will bring more water to the farmers, businesses, and rural communities in the Valley and throughout California, doing everything possible to survive this devastating drought. I promised my constituents that I would fight to secure a reliable and clean supply of water for our communities. This legislation would do just that by streamlining operations, expanding water storage infrastructure, and increasing accountability.” … ”  Continue reading from Congressman Valadao’s office here: Congressman Valadao introduces sweeping California water legislation

SEE ALSO: McCarthy, Valadao Introduce WATER for California Act, from Congressman McCarthy’s office

Oakley City Council opposes resurrected Delta tunnel proposal

Forty years before Donald Trump coined his “Stop the Steal” campaign, California’s voters used the phrase to oppose and defeat the proposed Peripheral Canal. Back then the prize wasn’t electoral success, but something far more precious here—water. It’s the Big Pipe That Won’t Die.  The proposal (under a variety of names) to build a pipe to ship Northern Californian water to Southern California has been the subject of fighting words for decades. Governors from Jerry Brown to Arnold Schwarzenegger to Gavin Newsom have backed the concept that aims to divert fresh water from the upper reaches of the Sacramento River, bypass the Delta river network and pump it to southern state faucets and farmers. … In a public joint meeting held this week at the Diablo Water District headquarters, members of the Oakley City Council, the Ironhouse Sanitary District and the water district met to hear an update on the Delta Tunnel from Ryan Hernandez, a planner with the Contra Costa County Water Agency and two lawyers with the environmental law office Soluri Meserve based in Sacramento. … ”  Read more from The Press here: Oakley City Council opposes resurrected Delta tunnel proposal

Salton Sea Independent Review Panel recommends against importing water to shrinking lake

An independent review panel convened to evaluate water importation concepts for the shrinking Salton Sea is advising against water importation plans, instead recommending a combination of desalination and water from the Imperial Irrigation District.   The state-appointed Salton Sea Independent Review Panel was established in October 2021 to evaluate 18 water importation concepts submitted in response to two Requests for Information issued in 2018 and 2021. The panel was specifically tasked with taking a “long-term” perspective for resolving longstanding public health issues caused by receding shorelines at California’s largest lake.  Thirteen water importation concepts passed an initial screening, and three passed a “fatal flaw” review in July — all of which involved importing water from the Sea of Cortez, which lies between Baja California and mainland Mexico.   But in its fourth and final report issued Thursday, the panel ultimately did not recommend importing water from the Sea of Cortez — or anywhere else — to address long-term problems at the Salton Sea. … ”  Read more from The Desert Sun here:  Salton Sea Independent Review Panel recommends against importing water to shrinking lake

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

California dam can consider endangered trout’s migration – appeals court

A federal appeals court has found agencies operating a dam in central California are able to protect an endangered population of Steelhead trout by releasing water to help with its migration, reversing a lower court’s order finding their hands were tied by federal law.  The 9th Circuit on Friday issued a split decision finding the operators of the Twitchell Dam are allowed to consider releasing more water in order to facilitate reproductive migration of the Southern California Steelhead. The decision upended a district court’s reasoning that the law, which authorized the infrastructure’s development in the 1950s, only allowed the dam to be used to recharge the region’s aquifer, and was therefore not liable for illegal “take” under the Endangered Species Act. … ”  Read more from Reuters here: California dam can consider endangered trout’s migration – appeals court

The environmental benefits of the Water Storage Investment Program

In August, the Newsom administration announced its Water Supply Strategy. Storing water in wet years is central to this strategy, principally to cope with increasing drought intensity and the resulting water scarcity that will impact supplies for cities and farms.  As part of our recent study, Storing Water for the Environment, we investigated current efforts to expand storage under the Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP)—a key component of a water bond passed by voters in 2014 (Proposition 1). WSIP put forth significant funding for storage—$2.7 billion—and it uses a novel approach. It requires that this funding go only to the public benefit portion of new storage, including new water for the environment.  Seven WSIP projects are slated to receive support. The amount of funding for each project was determined based on the value of its public benefits, which were calculated as part of a complex and often contentious process. Ecosystem benefits had to make up at least half the public benefits, and projects had to improve conditions in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta watershed. ... ”  Read more from the PPIC here: The environmental benefits of the Water Storage Investment Program

Western forests, snowpack and wildfires appear trapped in a vicious climate cycle

When Stephanie Kampf visited one of her wildfire test plots near Colorado’s Joe Wright Reservoir in June of 2021, the charred remains of what had been a cool, shady spruce and fir forest before the Cameron Peak Fire incinerated it nearly took her breath away.The surveys, up at about 10,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains west of Fort Collins, were part of a rapid response science assessment to measure just how much the extreme 2020 wildfire season in the West disrupted the water-snow cycle in the critical late-snowmelt zone which serves as a huge natural reservoir. The snowmelt sustains river flows that nurture ecosystems, fills irrigation ditches for crops and delivers supplies of industrial and drinking water to communities.The findings of the study, published earlier this month in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, suggest that the relationships of snow and water in many Western mountain forests are caught in a vicious climate cycle, with more fires leading to faster snowmelt and reduced water, which, in turn, makes forests more flammable. ... ”  Read more from Inside Climate News here: Western forests, snowpack and wildfires appear trapped in a vicious climate cycle

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.

Your house vs. climate change? A new site offers risk forecast for next 30 years

Nearly two-thirds of properties in Riverside are expected to be at risk from wildfires as climate change worsens over the next 30 years.  Los Angeles and Anaheim are most at risk to be hurt by drought during that time, while San Bernardino residents face the most elevated risk among major Southern California cities for extreme heat as the planet continues to warm up.  These projections are part of a new database from Berkeley-based ClimateCheck Inc. The firm — a partnership between data, climate science and real estate experts — aims to drive home the effects of the global climate crisis by quantifying the potential risks posed to specific properties, cities and states, and then sharing those assessments with the public. … But the data also offers detailed and specific risk assessments. Residents can enter an address on the firm’s website and get a score, on a scale of 1 to 100, that describes and measures the potential for various climate-related risks for that property. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Your house vs. climate change? A new site offers risk forecast for next 30 years

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In commentary this week …

Water board should force Caltrans to stop trashing the Bay

David Lewis, executive director of Save The Bay, writes, “The ongoing failure of Caltrans to stop litter blighting Bay Area communities, flowing into local creeks and San Francisco Bay recently prompted San Jose Vice Mayor Chappie Jones to describe our trash-filled local highways “a hot mess.”  Trash on our state roads isn’t just an eyesore. It blows into surrounding neighborhoods, adding to the air and noise pollution they already suffer. And it washes down storm drains that funnel plastic, Styrofoam and other trash to the Bay, where it poisons fish and wildlife and smothers sensitive wetlands.  Larger trash in the Bay can choke or strangle seals. When herons, pelicans or other birds eat plastic it may fill their stomachs until they starve. And toxics leaching from discarded cigarette buts and plastic pieces can poison fish and concentrate up the food chain. ... ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Water board should force Caltrans to stop trashing the Bay

Damn the Delta conveyance profiteers

Liz Amsden, a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives, writes, “First it was the Twin Tunnels and then it was the California WaterFix, and now it’s the Delta Conveyance Project.  Any way you cut it, it’s a boondoggle wrapped up in controversy with significant negative environmental implications.  The current iteration is just another in a long line of projects driven by special interests and a hundred years of poor water policies.  The original systems that moved water throughout California were built as pork approved by folks in Congress to benefit wealthy investors (and the politicians they supported), and as part of a game of brinksmanship between the Army Corps of Engineers, the US Bureau of Reclamation, the State Water Project and a consortium of bought and paid-for politicians at all levels of government. … ”  Read more from City Watch here: Damn the Delta conveyance profiteers

It is time to implement the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta and Malissa Tayaba, Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, write, “In a recent CalMatters commentary, Jennifer Pierre general manager of the State Water Contractors and David Guy, president of the Northern California Water Association claim “a broad coalition of interests stand in support of the Newsom administration’s call for bold actions that replace contentious, drawn-out regulatory alternatives in favor of a science-based approach that provides more flexible, adaptive operations based on real-time conditions.”   We disagree. … ” Continue reading at the Stockton Record here:  Your views: It is time to implement the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan

Create a ‘skunk works’ mentality to help ease the western drought

John Boal writes, “In the 1940s, my father worked at Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank, California when our nation was in dire need of a jet fighter to counter the growing fleet of German war planes.  Years later, he told me about the secretive Skunk Works group at Lockheed.   Spearheaded by Clarence “Kelly” L. Johnson and his select team of engineers and mechanics, the Skunk Works deftly designed and built the XP-80, the nation’s first jet fighter, in less than five months!  To meet this stressful challenge, Johnson’s created crystal clear efficiency by eschewing the stifling chain-of-command protocol hell-bent on conventional thinking that simultaneously stripped away pure innovation.  With the Western United States in the grips of another dire crisis — our crippling megadrought — is it possible to create a Water Works, a la the streamlined focus of the Skunk Works? … ”  Read more from the Good Men Project here: Create a ‘skunk works’ mentality to help ease the western drought

Memo to lawmakers: Our future demands good water infrastructure

Jennifer Capitolo, executive director of the California Water Association, writes, “The record heat wave as well as the threat of wildfires and historic drought are reminders that climate change is shaping our future. These reminders are requiring new ways of preparedness to combat the challenges facing California.  In recent weeks, high temperatures and an unprecedented power demand caused California Gov. Gavin Newsom to call for a Flex Alert, a state of emergency.  Additionally, just a few weeks earlier, the governor held a press conference to share his long-term vision to support California’s water supply, sounding the alarm that our state’s supply will shrink by 10 percent given the continuation of warmer and drier conditions. … ”  Read more from Capitol Weekly here:  Memo to lawmakers: Our future demands good water infrastructure

Column: Every burned town is tragic. But Newsom needs to lead with science, not sentiment

LA Times columnists Anita Chabria and Erika D. Smith write, “You can’t help but root for Kevin Goss and Kira Wattenburg King: Both are starting over, down-home friendly and clearly, deeply in love.  But there’s another player in their relationship — the mangled, vulnerable town of Greenville — and we worry that makes for a threesome doomed for reasons the heart can’t conquer.  As much as for each other, Goss and Wattenburg King are head over heels for this minuscule mountain community that burned to ash in last year’s Dixie fire. The life they are rebuilding here revolves around saving a place that exists only in their imaginations. Though they, along with a few hundred others, are working ceaselessly to bring back its picturesque Gold Rush charm, climate change is working against them, ensuring that whatever returns will bear little resemblance to what was lost.  Instead, Greenville will be a hotter, drier, harsher place — one where the canopy of evergreens that once shaded its quaint downtown may never regrow, replaced instead by highly flammable shrubland. A place where rivers will be reduced to trickles for much of the year, and where the ownership of that water, which also feeds Southern California, is increasingly contentious. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Column: Every burned town is tragic. But Newsom needs to lead with science, not sentiment

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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In regional water news this week …

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

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

No herbicides detected in Tahoe Keys – final turbidity curtain removed

The Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association (TKPOA) project to test innovative methods to control the largest infestation of aquatic invasive weeds in the Tahoe Basin reached another milestone this week. Monitoring showed that herbicides were no longer present in the Area A test location. On Thursday, divers removed the rubber barriers, called turbidity curtains, that since May had sealed off the test area to restrict herbicide movement. This ends all boating restrictions in the Tahoe Keys lagoons and marks the successful end of the herbicide portion of a rigorous, three-year Control Methods Test (CMT) project. The test is the first of its kind in the United States and must meet high standards of safety, due in part to the designation of Lake Tahoe as an Outstanding National Resource Water. … ”  Read more from South Tahoe Now here: No herbicides detected in Tahoe Keys – final turbidity curtain removed

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

East Bay’s worst water waster used 3,191 gallons daily, EBMUD says

Water officials are cracking down on East Bay residents who used thousands of gallons of water at home daily in the midst of California’s severe drought.  Three residents who live in Richmond, Orinda, and Oakland, each used more than 2,000 gallons on average daily, according to the East Bay Municipal Utility District. The three residents were penalized with fines.  East Bay MUD said the following residents violated its Excessive Water Use Penalty Ordinance this summer in the months of July and August … ”  Read more from KRON here: East Bay’s worst water waster used 3,191 gallons daily, EBMUD says

New desalination plant proposed for SLO County

The words “drought-proof water supply” almost sound too good to be true, but there is a proposal in the works on the Central Coast for a water supply that does not rely on rain.  The San Luis Obispo county public works department is kicking off a project that aims to bring large-scale desalinization to the Central Coast to supplement our water supply long term. While the plan is just in its starting phases the next steps are already laid out. … ”  Read more from KSBY here: New desalination plant proposed for SLO County

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

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Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

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

NOTICE: Delta Conveyance Project Draft EIR Comment Period Extended to December 16

NOTICE: State Water Board Racial Equity Action Plan- Upcoming Board Workshop and Public Comment Period

PUBLIC COMMENT/WORKSHOP: Proposed Rulemaking Regarding the Delta Levees Investment Strategy

NOTICE OF OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT: CV-SALTS Final Management Zone Proposals and Early Action Plans

The Delta Plan Ecosystem Amendment: Updated Vision and Guidance for Restoration

Refuel on the Run: Winter-Run Chinook Migration in a Changing River

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