Water is released from Lake Natoma at Nimbus Dam into the American River in Sacramento County, California as a precaution against flooding after an atmospheric river storm dumped heavy rain and snow across Northern California. Photo taken January 5, 2023 by Jonathan Wong / DWR

DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: More atmospheric rivers on the way, CA water officials prepared for record flooding; Russian River forecast to hit 39 feet; Storms bring frustration for San Joaquin Valley water managers; and more …

California storms …

California’s not done. Three more atmospheric rivers are on the way.

San Francisco is dealing with one of its wettest stretches on record. A whopping 10.33 inches of rain — equivalent to more than two months’ worth of water — has come down in 10 days, causing widespread flooding and scattered rockslides. The culprit? A series of atmospheric rivers, or tongues of deep tropical moisture buffeting the Golden State, which have also been accompanied by strong winds and high surf. And the waterlogged and windy pattern isn’t going away anytime soon. At least three other storm systems, one of which appears to be especially significant, are on the way in the next seven days. The most significant is anticipated between Sunday night and Monday night, which will probably bring “widespread flooding, damaging winds, and dangerous beach and marine conditions.” according to the National Weather Service. Thereafter, signs point to a pattern that will keep the moisture fire hose aimed at the state through at least mid- to late-January. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post here (gift article): California’s not done. Three more atmospheric rivers are on the way.

Dangers to life, property remain high in California as storm onslaught continues

California has faced a frenzy of storms that have unleashed deadly impacts since the end of 2022, and AccuWeather meteorologists say the onslaught is far from over. One storm in the bunch is poised to aim a firehose of moisture at the Golden State early in the new week, potentially leading to “catastrophic” flooding, in addition to widespread mudslides and road closures, forecasters say.  “The impacts from this storm cannot be understated,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Joe Bauer said.  As a standalone storm, the amount of rain and snow expected would be enough to raise flooding concerns and snarl travel in the mountains. AccuWeather experts say what sets this storm apart and could catapult it to extreme and historic levels is the preceding conditions. … ”  Read more from AccuWeather here: Dangers to life, property remain high in California as storm onslaught continues

California water officials say they are prepared for record flooding as rain continues

California water officials emphasized the likelihood of record flooding in some areas as rain is expected to continue to pound the state next week.  Speaking to reporters via zoom Saturday evening, Department of Water Resources officials stressed the state’s preparedness for a second atmospheric river storm expected to usher in more power outages for residents still recovering from last week’s deluge.  Last week’s storm brought a combination of high winds and flooding across the Bay Area and Northern California regions, leaving thousands without power, downed trees and residents displaced from their homes. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: California water officials say they are prepared for record flooding as rain continues

‘Relentless parade of cyclones’ to bring rain, renewed flood risk to California

Storm-weary California was getting little in the way of a reprieve this weekend, as the latest in a series of powerful winter storms trained its eye on the state.  In a bulletin published Saturday, the National Weather Service warned of a “relentless parade of cyclones” barreling out of the Pacific toward California, which was expected to intensify the risk of flooding in some parts of the state this week.  The first of five approaching atmospheric rivers — a stream of storms that will continue until about Jan. 19 — arrived this weekend. Heavy rain and mountain snow began late Friday night in Northern California and spread to Central California on Saturday, with some parts of the state expecting more than a foot of snow through early Sunday. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: ‘Relentless parade of cyclones’ to bring rain, renewed flood risk to California | Read via Yahoo News

Drought busters? Why Northern California storms could mean temporary relief in 2023

The hazardous weather bearing down on Northern California has flooded overwhelmed rivers and creeks, toppled trees and knocked out power to a storm-weary region. It also could be a short-term drought buster. … Climatologists and state and local water officials are cautiously optimistic that the recent storms will provide a one-year reprieve from the dry conditions. No part of the state is in an “exceptional drought” stage, according to federal drought monitors, and the portion of the state’s population living in areas of severe and extreme drought has fallen dramatically since September. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Drought busters? Why Northern California storms could mean temporary relief in 2023

EXPLORE MORE STORM COVERAGE:

In other California water news this weekend …

Why we can — and cannot — collect rainwater in places like California

A bomb cyclone hit California this week, knocking out power, downing trees, dumping massive amounts of water. Now, that last one, massive amounts of water – it’s interesting because all that rain is hitting in a state that has been stricken with drought. Some California residents are watching this precious resource wash away and wondering, why can’t we save the water for later, for times when we desperately need it? Well, Andrew Fisher, hydrogeologist and professor at UC Santa Cruz, attempted to answer that question in an op-ed for The LA Times. And we have brought him here to try to answer it for us. ... ”  Listen to radio show or read transcript from NPR here: Why we can — and cannot — collect rainwater in places like California

Column: On this flooded island of homeless people, climate change has never been more real

Anita Chabria and Erika D. Smith write, “We have written many times about the colliding emergencies of homelessness and extreme weather exacerbated by climate change.  In the fall, as temperatures soared to unrelenting triple digits, we looked at how heat waves were making life harder for people living in tents on our sidewalks. And over the summer, we wrote about how disasters, such as wildfires, may one day force us into tough conversations about where and how we should live.  But few places in California demonstrate this better than Bannon Island, a sad spit of land between the Sacramento River and an old freeway that’s at once a few miles and a world away from the state Capitol.  For decades, even as politicians have talked about solving homelessness and building affordable housing, Bannon Island has been allowed to grow into a massive encampment, full of humans, dogs, tents, tarps, bicycles and other detritus both necessary and unnecessary for survival. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Column: On this flooded island of homeless people, climate change has never been more real

In 1997, California was devastated by historic floods

If you lived in the Bay Area during the winter of 1996-1997, one memory probably jumps to mind: flooding.  Much like this year, the week of New Year’s started out stormy. And the rain didn’t stop. For a week, California was inundated, and its rivers and creeks rose. On Jan. 1, 1997, catastrophe struck Sonoma County. The Russian River burst its banks, cresting at 45 feet, well over its flood stage of 34 feet. (This week, the river is forecast to hit about 36 feet.)  Dramatic rescues were needed to help the residents of Guerneville who had failed to, or were unable to, evacuate in time. The Press Democrat reported that 175 needed retrieving “by military trucks, although officials said a few were rescued by boat and seven were brought out by air.” … ”  Continue reading at SF Gate here: In 1997, California was devastated by historic floods

Sites Reservoir receives more funding as California experiences substantial rainstorms

The Sites Reservoir project has received additional funding support from the Bureau of Reclamation. Last week, the project received $80 million through the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act). The announcement comes after an additional award of $30 million was provided to the project through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.  “Thanks to the continued support of our federal elected officials and Commissioner Touton, we are maintaining momentum on Sites Reservoir and advancing critical project milestones,” Sites Project Authority Chairman Fritz Durst said in a news release. “Sites will help ensure California has a reliable water supply in the face of prolonged drought uncertainty.” … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here: Sites Reservoir receives more funding as California experiences substantial rainstorms

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In commentary this weekend …

California could capture its destructive floodwaters to fight drought

Erica Gies, author of “Water Always Wins: Thriving in an Age of Drought and Deluge,” writes, “After a long, dry summer, winter has brought the gift of water to California, via a series of atmospheric river storms. Unfortunately, as these sprawling rivers in the sky have met developed areas covered with concrete and rivers locked in by levees, they have brought destruction: floods, mudslides, washed-out roads, blackouts, uprooted trees and at least six deaths.  But California doesn’t have to passively suffer through the whiplash of drought and floods. To reduce risk from both, it can return some of its land to water, working with natural systems.  One way to do this is by making use of unique geologic features called paleo valleys. These buried canyons carved into the state’s Central Valley were formed by Ice Age rivers that flowed down the western flank of the Sierra Nevada and were later filled in with coarse sand and gravel from glacial melt. … ”  Read more from the New York Times here: California could capture its destructive floodwaters to fight drought

Precious water: Agribusiness must step up to conserve

Elizabeth Reid-Wainscoat, a campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity, writes, “The California storms that kicked off 2023, bringing flooding and record high snowpack, might seem enough to end a prolonged dry spell. But if history is our guide, we know that wet winters doesn’t always end a mega-drought. … Using TikTok videos and bus stop posters, Save Our Water has been promoting ways for people to reduce water use. The message is that we should turn off the taps while brushing our teeth and take five-minute showers.  These tips might come in handy but like the latest storms, they’re not going to lift us out of a mega-drought. … ”  Read more from Capitol Weekly here: Precious water: Agribusiness must step up to conserve

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In people news this weekend …

Promotions, passings, profiles – submit people news items to maven@mavensnotebook.com.

Retiring Delta Watermaster advises “pray for rain” but “plan for drought”

It may be raining now but Michael George, Watermaster for the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta, urged his colleagues at the State Water Resources Control Board to always be planning for drought.  ​​“The Delta mantra: we pray for rain; we’re getting it. We plan for drought; it will be back,” George said during his final report before the Water Board on Jan. 4.  George, also an experienced water lawyer, retired Jan. 5 as Delta Watermaster after completing two four-year terms in the position.  The well-liked and respected George said he is retiring in part to make way for an expert in data management, as that is what he sees as the next frontier for the Watermaster’s office. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Retiring Delta Watermaster advises “pray for rain” but “plan for drought”

Podcasts …

WATER IS A MANY SPLENDOR’ED THING: Maintaining Levees is Important

It’s easy to miss if you are not looking for it. Sometimes, its ridge line towers over you. Other times it blocks your way when you try to get to the other side of it. This long pile of dirt and rock holds a critical responsibility to both safety and economics. How does something so “In your face” not get the attention that it needs. Water is a Many Splendor ’ed Thing brings you another water relationship that has a personally significant impact to your life.  Produced by Steven Baker, Bringing People Together to Solve Water Problems, water@operationunite.co 530-205-6388


WATER ZONE: Max Gomberg: Setting the record straight

Special guest Max Gomberg, former climate change mitigation specialist for the California State Water Resources Control Board, shares his take on various project updates and what’s really going on related to state water management project implementation. He provides carefully detailed insight to what has happened within the State Resources Board and current issues that have tarnished the board’s reputation and work activities.


TALK + WATER: Steve Lohr – Sustainable Water Management Practices for Vineyards

Texas+Water Editor-in-Chief Dr. Todd Votteler talks with Steve Lohr, President and CEO of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines in California, about sustainable water management practices for vineyards.  As the President and CEO of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Lohr is responsible for the overall management and strategic planning of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, with a particular focus on sales and finance. In 1972, at age 10, Lohr helped his father, Jerry, plant their first vineyards in Greenfield, California. After graduating from Stanford University with degrees in civil engineering and economics, he split his time between winegrowing and designing and building high-end custom homes on the San Francisco Peninsula.  In 2003, Lohr wrapped up his flourishing custom home-building career to devote his full energy to J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines. In 2013, he was promoted to CEO of J. Lohr Winery. Steve sits on the Board of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, which promotes the adoption of sustainable practices throughout California’s vineyards and wineries. He was Chairman of the Board from 2016-2018.


TALK + WATER: Michael Hanemann – Economics of Water Markets & Water Transfers

Texas+Water Editor-in-Chief Dr. Todd Votteler talks with Dr. Michael Hanemann about the economics of water markets and water transfers.  Dr. Hanemann is the Chancellor’s Professor and Professor of Environmental and Resource Economics at the University of California Berkeley, and also serves as a Distinguished Sustainability Scientist and the Julie A. Wrigley Chair in Sustainability at Arizona State University. He is also the Director of the Center of Environmental Economics and Sustainability Policy at Arizona State University. Hanemann is an environmental economist who works in the areas of water economics and policy, climate change, and non-market valuation.


JIVE TALKING: David Zetland on the Commons

In this interview-episode, Cornelia asks me a few questions about the commons — what they are, why they matter, and how we are (mis)managing them.


THE LANDSCAPE: Fighting a plan to mine oil in Utah using billions of gallons of Colorado River water

On this episode of The Landscape, Kate and Aaron are joined by Grand Canyon Trust staff attorney Michael Toll to discuss a plan to mine hundreds of thousands of barrels of waxy crude oil in Utah near Dinosaur National Monument, using billions of gallons of Colorado River Water.


LA TIMES PODCAST: The Colorado River in crisis, part 1

The Colorado River is the water lifeline for tens of millions of people across the American Southwest, which couldn’t have developed the way it is today without it. But all the damming and diversion done to the Colorado has put it at a tipping point where a future with no water is no longer just fantasy but perilously possible.Today, “The Times” kicks off “a six-part special on the future of this vital waterway. New episodes will publish every Friday through Feb. 10. Follow the project here. Read the full transcript here.Host: Gustavo Arellano.  Guests: L.A. Times water reporter Ian James. 


RIPPLE EFFECT: The Colorado River System Conservation Pilot program (SCPP)

Lily Bosworth of the Colorado River Authority of Utah explains the new 2023 System Conservation Pilot Program (SCPP). SCPP was originally instituted between 2015-2018 to gauge interest in leasing water to aid declining Colorado River flows. As part of the Upper Colorado River Commission’s 5 Point plan, SCPP has been reinstituted for 2023 to assist with acute drought conditions.

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In regional water news this weekend …

NORTH COAST

Klamath River dam removal project faces lawsuit

The removal of four dams along the Klamath River near the Oregon-California state line, cheered by tribal, state and federal officials last month, is facing additional litigation. Siskiyou County Water Users Association board member Anthony Intiso has filed a lawsuit against Wade Crowfoot, the secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, claiming Crowfoot is illegally using taxpayer money to fund the historic project, KDRV-TV in Medford reported. “The secretary of natural resources has authority over the implementation of anything that affects wild and scenic rivers. He’s also … in charge of the bond money,” Intiso told the station. ... ”  Read more from Herald & News here: Klamath River dam removal project faces lawsuit

‘A great day:’ President signs Karuk land back bill into law

President Joe Biden today signed a bill into law placing federal lands in Humboldt and Siskiyou counties into a trust for the Karuk Tribe, fulfilling a years-long effort to put the sacred lands back into tribal hands.  Under The Katimiîn and Ameekyáaraam Sacred Lands Act, 1,200 acres of U.S. Forest Service land will be transferred to the tribe, including a mountain known as á›uuyich to the Karuk people, for whom it is the center of the world, which sits at the confluence of the Klamath and Salmon rivers as well as the nearby historic village of Katimiîn, where the tribe’s annual world renewal ceremony to restore balance to the universe takes place, and Ameekyáaraam, site of the Jump Dance and First Salmon Ceremony. … ”  Read more from the North Coast Journal here: ‘A great day:’ President signs Karuk land back bill into law

MOUNTAIN COUNTIES

Snow removal personnel gearing up for series of storms

A team of 31 handle snow removal, on a 24-hour schedule, for the city of South Lake Tahoe’s. Eight plow drivers work in 12-hour shifts, with a zone each and do their best to keep up with the heavy snowfall.  Cal Trans District Public Records Request Coordinator Steve Nelson told the Tribune it has 45 people on staff, including kitchen and mechanics, five blowers, five graders, 11 plow trucks, three front end loaders, eight pick-up trucks, and a snow cat at their disposal to remove snow within their jurisdiction which includes the main stretch through the city along U.S. Highway 50.  Chief of South Lake Tahoe Police, David Stevenson, said it’s not just the plows that are needed during a storm. … ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune here: Snow removal personnel gearing up for series of storms

SACRAMENTO VALLEY

Flood watch issued for Sacramento Valley

A flood watch is in effect in the Sacramento Valley starting at midnight until Wednesday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.  The NWS says that excessive runoff may result in flooding of rivers, creeks, streams, and other low-lying and flood-prone locations. It also said that creeks and streams may rise over their banks and flooding may occur in poor drainage and urban areas. Drivers should be aware that low-water crossings may be flooded and storm drains and ditches may become clogged with debris.  The NWS also said that extensive street flooding and flooding of creeks and rivers are likely. Area creeks and streams are running high and could flood with more heavy rain. Continued rises on mainstream rivers will lead to several river forecast points rising above flood stage, especially along the Sacramento and Cosumnes Rivers. … ”  Read more from the Red Bluff Daily News here: Flood watch issued for Sacramento Valley

Roseville using aquifer storage to retain excess water from storms

With each storm, there’s a similar question as area reservoirs release excess water: why are we getting rid of what we need?  Most local dams release water as a means of flood control with the expectation that more storms will come later in the year. But that still doesn’t change the base of the question of how we hold onto all this excess water. A piece of that answer may be in Roseville.  “The future of California water is underneath our feet,” said Ryan Ojakian who works in government affairs for the Regional Water Authority. … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento here: Roseville using aquifer storage to retain excess water from storms

SEE ALSO: Roseville: Persistent rainfall results in groundwater recharge, from the City of Roseville

The Sacramento weir has helped the capital city avoid flooding for more than 100 years

The Sacramento Weir directs water from the Sacramento River through the Sacramento Bypass Wildlife Area and into the Yolo Bypass, January 13, 2017. Florence Low / DWR

During Sacramento’s centuries-long history of battling flood waters, inhabitants have devised nearly every possible method of slowing or diverting water, and one of those methods is using the Sacramento Weir.  Completed in 1916, the more than 1,900-foot long weir featuring 48 gates sits along the west bank of the Sacramento River about three miles north of the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers.  However, the placement and purpose of the Sacramento weir differs from typical weirs found along other streams and rivers. … ”  Read more from Channel 40 here: The Sacramento weir has helped the capital city avoid flooding for more than 100 years

Flooded cars, levee repairs keep Wilton agencies busy during storms

Wilton Fire Protection District (WFPD) and Reclamation District 800 (RD800) were the first responding agencies when successive atmospheric river storms pounded the River Valley between Dec. 31 and Jan. 5.  The first storm between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day produced the most emergencies. Wilton firefighters responded to 25 vehicles stranded in flood water and half a dozen fallen power lines. They also cleared many downed trees from the roadways as they navigated around Wilton.  At the same time, RD800 contractors and workers were making emergency repairs to the Wilton Bridge and to levees that had been broken or over-topped by the river. … ”  Read more from the Elk Grove Citizen here: Flooded cars, levee repairs keep Wilton agencies busy during storms

SEE ALSO:

NAPA/SONOMA

Russian River forecast to hit 39 feet during next series of storms

The San Francisco Bay Area’s Russian River is expected to flood at least once in the next week as atmospheric rivers continue to pummel Northern California, data shows.  The Russian River floods when water levels exceed 32 feet. That’s expected to happen this coming Monday at about 3 p.m., the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s prediction map showed. Water levels are expected to peak at 39 feet on Tuesday morning. In preparation, residents living near the river from Healdsburg to Jenner have been placed under an evacuation warning, Sonoma County said Friday morning. The warning will stay in effect through the weekend for about 13,000 residents, Sgt. Juan Valencia of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office told SFGATE. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here: Russian River forecast to hit 39 feet during next series of storms

Russian River Valley braces to evacuate as nearly 40 feet of water is projected to flood the area

In the North Bay, an evacuation warning is still in effect for people living near the Russian River floodway between Healdsburg and Jenner.  Communities along the Russian River Valley are gearing up to evacuate as another stormy weekend lies ahead.  Some are calling it the countdown to the crest. For Lee Prince, the flooding threat is right in his own backyard.  “Cleaning up the mess of three years of not flooding and got comfortable,” said Prince raking his property. “Life on the river you got to keep it pretty minimal.” … ”  Read more from ABC San Francisco here: Russian River Valley braces to evacuate as nearly 40 feet of water is projected to flood the area

North Bay fire chief’s prediction for flooding along Russian River: ‘Disaster proportions’

In the North Bay, preparations are happening for the next round of storms which could bring flooding to communities along the Russian River. Fire Departments across the region are on standby, ready for possible water rescues and evacuations.  New aerial video from Saturday shows a waterlogged Russian River Valley, shot from ‘Sonoma One,’ the County Fire District’s new chopper.  Saturday’s reconnaissance mission showed swollen creeks and lagoons which normally take overflow from the Russian River, now reaching the top of their banks.  ABC7 News was there when Sonoma County Fire District Chief Mark Heine landed after surveying the rising water and with more storms on the way, his impressions were sobering. … ”  Read more from ABC San Francisco here: North Bay fire chief’s prediction for flooding along Russian River: ‘Disaster proportions’

After three years of drought, Lake Mendocino rises

On a soggy weekend, all eyes are on Lake Mendocino, the rapidly filling reservoir behind Coyote Dam north of Ukiah.  The surging east fork of the Russian River is fast filling up the lake, promising to end three years of drought conditions with current levels on Saturday reaching close to 100 percent of the target water supply level for the coming year, according to local and state water officials.  “The rainfall is phenomenal. It has filled a big hole in the local water supply,” said Sean White, the city of Ukiah’s water director. … ”  Read more from the Redheaded Blackbelt here: After three years of drought, Lake Mendocino rises

BAY AREA

Weather service warns that several rivers in Bay Area could flood next week

The National Weather Service said Friday that several rivers in the greater Bay Area could begin flooding by early next week as the latest in a series of winter storms hits the region.  The weather service has issued a regionwide flood watch that begins Saturday morning and will last through Tuesday, and is warning of several rivers that could pose a danger to people and property.  In a hydrological outlook issued Friday afternoon, the weather service says, “Given the saturated soils and recent rains we can expect rapid responses on all streams and creeks with quick rises on the mainstem rivers, resulting in widespread flooding” early next week. … ”  Read more from NBC Bay Area here: Weather service warns that several rivers in Bay Area could flood next week 

Major flooding and evacuations from California storm rock Stinson Beach

Unrelenting California storms combined with a treacherously high tide caused major flooding and property damage in the beloved coastal community of Stinson Beach on Thursday. Approximately 22 structures were damaged when a 20-25 foot wave smashed into the Calles area of Stinson Beach. Three individuals needed to be rescued during the flooding, Jessi Peri, the chief of the Stinson Beach Fire Protection District, told SFGATE. There were no reports of injuries or missing persons. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  Major flooding and evacuations from California storm rock Stinson Beach

Marin water reservoir system near capacity amid storms

Marin County’s main water reservoirs have spilled or soon will spill — some for the first time in years — because of the series of storms in recent days, local agencies said.  Five of the seven reservoirs managed by the county’s largest supplier, the Marin Municipal Water District, were already spilling on Thursday after a “bomb cyclone” storm passed through on Wednesday. The cyclone was preceded by an “atmospheric river” rain flow just before the start of the new year.  Combined, the two storms brought the district’s reservoir storage up from 67% on Christmas Day to nearly 93% as of Friday morning, which is about 122% of the average storage for this time of year. The district serves 191,000 residents in central and southern Marin.  “Very likely that we’ll be at full capacity, which of course is fantastic for water supply,” said district official Paul Sellier. ... ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Marin water reservoir system near capacity amid storms

Marin commentary: Water supply discussion needs to focus on updating infrastructure

Gaetan Lion, of Mill Valley, an independent researcher, writes, “Most of us have seen the map, produced by the U.S. Drought Monitor data partnership. It shows the Bay Area and the entire American Southwest in a chronic state of severe drought.  However, this truly does not depict Marin County. Let me explain why.  First, Mount Tamalpais is a “water factory” with its front row seat to the moist Pacific Ocean’s westerly winds. Tam’s orographic lift effect raises the Pacific moist air. As the latter rises, it cools and its moisture condenses into rain.  Looking at rainfall data going back to 1951, Marin County (Lake Lagunitas station) averages about 51 inches of rain. If not for Mount Tam, Marin would get about 19 inches of rain on average, which is about what San Francisco gets. Since 1951, Marin, in its driest year (2021), still got over 20 inches of rain – over 1 inch more than San Francisco in an average year. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Marin commentary: Water supply discussion needs to focus on updating infrastructure

Column: Marin Municipal Water District has no time to waste in narrowing strategies

Columnist Dick Spotswood writes, “Praying for rain worked. Streams of concentrated moisture known as “atmospheric rivers” are drenching the North Bay.  By next week, Marin Municipal Water District’s dam spillways are expected to be overflowing. While that is terrific news, rain today doesn’t solve Marin’s long term water needs.  Coastal California is blessed by a Mediterranean climate. It’s a major reason why this is such a delightful and expensive place. Characterized by mild summers and winters, it’s also subject to prolonged dry spells. Right before our eyes, climate change is demonstrating that seasonal tendencies are already tilting toward the extremes.  Right now, when it’s still raining, is precisely the time to aggressively commence to locate and implement new water sources and increased storage capacity to meet long-term needs of residents in Marin and Sonoma counties. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Column: Marin Municipal Water District has no time to waste in narrowing strategies

Marin Municipal Water District weighs rate hikes as reserves sag, costs rise

Marin Municipal Water District directors have embarked on series of discussions about how to replenish the utility’s financial reserves after two years of drought while expanding and repairing its aging water supply system.  The board’s meeting on Tuesday marked the first detailed look at increasing water rates and fees for the first time in four years. The proposed rate hikes are expected to be larger compared to others in recent history, staff said, in order to rebuild the district’s financial safety net, fund tens of millions of dollars worth of deferred maintenance of its aging water system and add new, potentially expensive sources of water to weather worsening droughts, staff said.  “If we are going to go forward taking into consideration the extreme dry years that we anticipate or we want to be prepared for, we need to have a different rate structure,” said Monty Schmitt, the board’s newly appointed president. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Marin Municipal Water District weighs rate hikes as reserves sag, costs rise

Wastewater, or wasted opportunity? Bay Area cities should rethink rain management

The Bay Area was lashed by a second wave of wet weather this week, slicking streets, downing trees, toppling gas stations, and flooding businesses and homes. But as the winter storms drenched the region in rapid succession, they brought with them questions of whether cities like San Francisco are doing enough to take advantage of the wet weather in an increasingly arid state. To water experts like Newsha Ajami, the effects of these storms, known as atmospheric rivers, represent flaws in urban planning, where the dominant philosophy has been to manage stormwater as a problem to be expelled from city streets instead of welcomed back into the parched soil to replenish groundwater or filter into cisterns to be used for flushing toilets or irrigating gardens. … ”  Read more from the Washington Examiner here: Wastewater, or wasted opportunity? Bay Area cities should rethink rain management

Millions of gallons of sewage flow into Bay following storms

East Bay Municipal Utility District officials said there were several sewage overflows just before New Year’s during the storms, raising concern from Baykepeer, whose environmental nonprofit keeps an eye on the health of the Bay. … In a statement on Friday, Baykeeper executive director Sejal Choksi-Chugh said there has now been possibly “millions of gallons of raw or partially treated sewage directly into the Bay, with even more rains on the way.”  And the upcoming storms are likely causing more sewage spills, as much of the Bay Area’s stormwater system is decades old. … ”  Read more from KTVU here: Millions of gallons of sewage flow into Bay following storms

In the atmospheric river’s bullseye, coastal Pescadero faces serious flooding

The entire town of Pescadero was gearing up for the approaching rainstorm Tuesday, but some who live there believe many of the flooding problems the community faces are actually man-made. … Pescadero sits at the very bottom of the San Mateo mountains watershed, just a stone’s throw from where it all washes into the ocean. Surrounded on three sides by hills, the town knew what was going to happen when it started raining again.  “Oh, yeah. It’s going to be slammed, are you kidding?” said resident Rob Skinner. “They said 6-10 inches, which is a whole lot of water. And that’ll drain off all the hills and this is the only place it has to go.” … ”  Read more from CBS News here: In the atmospheric river’s bullseye, coastal Pescadero faces serious flooding

CENTRAL COAST

Capitola slammed by California storm, staggers toward recovery

Gray clouds concealed Capitola on Friday morning as the residents in the beach town south of Santa Cruz continued to assess the devastation following the recent California storm. Earlier this week, huge swells consumed the village, the quaint area that faces the Pacific and is bordered by Soquel Creek. The waves punched a hole through the community’s beloved wharf while the creek and ocean overflowed into the residential and business areas. An evacuation order was issued, and images and videos online detailed the destruction. Capitola by the Sea was oversaturated. Two days later, the townspeople were determined to dig their way out of this once-in-a-generation disaster. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here: Capitola slammed by California storm, staggers toward recovery

SEE ALSO:  Capitola begins to dig out amid “absolutely devastating” damage , from SF Gate

Two more rainstorms bring new dangers to California as officials tally widespread damage

At least two more serious storms are headed toward California over the next few days, bringing more heavy rains and flash floods as communities tally the destruction from this week’s punishing atmospheric river.  The new systems will hit parts of Northern California already saturated by rain and hammered by destructive winds.  Coastal towns in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties were particularly hard hit by waves and flooding this week that damaged numerous homes and businesses and left beaches wrecked. … ”  Read more from Lookout Santa Cruz here: Two more rainstorms bring new dangers to California as officials tally widespread damage

Marina, 3 water agencies sue Coastal Commission

Elected officials in Marina have joined forces with three water agencies in a lawsuit against the California Coastal Commission over its tentative permitting in November of California American Water Co.’s desalination project.  The lawsuit, filed in Monterey County Superior Court, cites plaintiffs as the city of Marina, the Marina Coast Water District, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District and the Marina Coast Water District Groundwater Sustainability Agency.  The complaint alleges the desal project is a “sprawling, expensive and unnecessary” project that the Coastal Commission erroneously and conditionally permitted that would have far-reaching negative impacts on Marina and surrounding ecosystems. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Marina, 3 water agencies sue Coastal Commission

SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY

Storms bring river flows, frustration for San Joaquin Valley water managers

The string of wet storms streaming over California since the end of 2022 have brought the San Joaquin Valley both relief and frustration, depending on location.  In the Fresno area, flows out of Millerton Lake into the San Joaquin River have nearly tripled from 600 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 1,600 cfs.  In the coming days the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Millerton’s Friant Dam, expects releases to exceed 4,500 cfs.  That’s great for agricultural water districts that take Millerton water on the northern end of the Friant system. And it’s great for the San Joaquin River Restoration Program, which aims to bring back native spring Chinook salmon runs.  “These types of flows are not achievable by the restoration program currently,” said Don Portz, manager of the restoration program. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Storms bring river flows, frustration for San Joaquin Valley water managers

Cal Water: Tap water may appear discolored for some in Stockton

Some California Water Service (Cal Water) customers in Stockton may see discolored water coming from their faucets, the company announced Saturday. The agency that provides wholesale water to Cal Water in the Stockton area, the Stockton East Water District, is investigating a possible issue with its water supply source, according to a notice sent to customers by Cal Water. … ”  Read more from Channel 10 here: Cal Water: Tap water may appear discolored for some in Stockton

Despite obligation to consider putting water back into Kern River, water agency sold excess for $10 million

We’re all accustomed to the sight now – dirt, weeds and tire tracks where water should be flowing through the barren channel of the Kern River.  What would you say, though, if you knew your tax dollars had paid to put water in that empty riverbed – but instead that water was sold for profit? Sadly, that appears to be the case.  In 2000 California voters approved a $2 billion ballot initiative to fund an array of purposes involving water, from safe, clean drinking water to more reliable farm irrigation to the preservation of river habitat and the so-called view shed – natural beauty for us all to look at. The Kern County Water Agency got $23 million of that Proposition 13 bond money and spent a portion of it — about $3 million — to build six wells along the north side of the Kern River. Kern River Restoration Wells, they called them at the time. … ”  Read more from KGET here: Despite obligation to consider putting water back into Kern River, water agency sold excess for $10 million

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

LADWP working to capture rain water after SoCal storm

Storm water capture plays an important role in the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s overall plan to enhance local water supply, and this week’s rain put the plan to work.  On Friday, officials said only about 20% of the water from this week’s storm will be captured before it flows away.  “I see how much of an opportunity there is to capture that water,” said Art Castro, the manager of Watershed Management at LADWP.  Castro said the department is working with L.A. county and others make use of the water. … ”  Read more from KABC here: LADWP working to capture rain water after SoCal storm

Recent rain puts Santa Monica’s water infrastructure to work

As rain continues to hound Santa Monica for a second consecutive week, gallons of pollution-laden storm water runoff that once would have flown into the Santa Monica Bay are being diverted and captured for reuse by the City’s increasingly robust water infrastructure system.  Coming just several months after the opening of a state of the art Sustainable Water Infrastructure Project (SWIP), Water Resources Manager Sunny Wang said that storms like this highlight the ways in which the City’s investment in such projects pays off.  “The investment that we’ve made is great,” he said. “We’re ahead of a lot of other utilities to be able to capture the stormwater and utilize it, so it’s not only improving the water quality in Santa Monica Bay, we’re also increasing mobile supplies to be able to preserve that precious resource that was previously just sent to the Santa Monica Bay.” … ”  Read more from the Santa Monica Daily Press here: Recent rain puts Santa Monica’s water infrastructure to work

Opinion: Water in Los Angeles — it’s complicated. Readers discuss what to do with it

In Los Angeles, we pray for rain most of the year. But only for a manageable amount in the winter months. And never after a big wildfire, when downpours can dislodge weakened hillsides and produce dangerous debris flows.  In other words, our relationship with water is complicated. The fickle rivers that long ago served as our primary water sources are now the concrete-lined channels shunting much of the atmospheric river torrent safely into the ocean. But when the rain stops and doesn’t start again for months, we’ll miss that water.  And so the debate over what Los Angeles should do with stormwater rages on, as it has in the past and will continue as climate change takes hold. … ”  Continue reading at the LA Times here: Opinion: Water in Los Angeles — it’s complicated. Readers discuss what to do with it

18-foot waves pummel piers, chunk out sand and flood parking lots along Southern California coast

Big waves – some topping 18 feet in Los Angeles County – wreaked havoc on Friday, Jan. 6, as high tides and a winter swell continued to work over the Southern California coastline leading to beach erosion, pier closures, crumbled asphalt parking lots and boats torn from their docks.  In the South Bay, piers at three west-facing beaches remained closed Friday as waves more than 15 feet tall pummeled the structures.  Additionally, the high surf and tide surge swamped a block jetty at Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro, flooding and closing the nearby parking lot. Mounds of sand buried a bike path that runs from Torrance Beach to Avenue H in Redondo Beach and sea water flooded into a parking lot and public bathroom facility. … ”  Read more from the OC Register here: 18-foot waves pummel piers, chunk out sand and flood parking lots along Southern California coast

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Along the Colorado River …

Great Salt Lake on track to disappear in five years, scientists warn

Without dramatic cuts to water consumption, Utah’s Great Salt Lake is on track to disappear within five years, a dire new report warns, imperiling ecosystems and exposing millions of people to toxic dust from the drying lake bed.  The report, led by researchers at Brigham Young University and published this week, found that unsustainable water use has shrunk the lake to just 37 percent of its former volume. The West’s ongoing megadrought — a crisis made worse by climate change — has accelerated its decline to rates far faster than scientists had predicted. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post here: Great Salt Lake on track to disappear in five years, scientists warn

How can cities across the American West reuse and recycle water to combat drought?

We all use the bathroom, clean our clothes, wash our dishes, take showers or baths, why not collect that water and reuse it? It’s already happening around the world and it’s a technology that’s proven to work.  Water providers can collect what’s called grey water from sinks, bathtubs, showers and laundry machines or even sewage, called blackwater, and treat it for reuse. Fort Collins began allowing grey water systems to be installed in the new buildings this summer and that water can be used to flush toilets or for below-ground irrigation.  Mayor Jeni Arndt said using that water twice, whenever possible, is the responsible thing to do. She acknowledged that the approach might only save a few gallons per home each day but everything counts, plus the approach is a good way to encourage residents to think more sustainably about their water use. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: How can cities across the American West reuse and recycle water to combat drought?

Can cloud seeding bring more water to the drying Colorado River Basin?

Water experts across the American West often note that alongside the massive lakes and reservoirs humans have built, the region’s greatest way of storing water is its snowpack.  So why not make it snow when and where we can?  That’s the idea behind the decades-old technology of cloud seeding.  Cloud seeders are already working across the American West and there’s no need for them to stop their work, experts say, but the method isn’t a substantive solution to the water shortage in the Colorado River basin.  “It’s so darned hard to quantify the impact,” Estevan López, the Upper Colorado River Compact Commissioner for New Mexico, said. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Can cloud seeding bring more water to the drying Colorado River Basin?

Biden signs water bills benefiting 3 tribes in Arizona

A Native American tribe that has one of the largest and most secure rights to Colorado River water now has approval to lease some of it in Arizona, a state that’s been hardest hit by cuts to its water supply and is on a perpetual search for more.  President Joe Biden signed legislation Thursday giving leasing authority to the Colorado River Indian Tribes, whose reservation tracks its namesake on the Arizona-California border. Biden also approved a water rights settlement for the Hualapai Tribe and authorized additional funding to complete water projects for the White Mountain Apache Tribe.  The Colorado River Indian Tribes passed a resolution in 2020 to seek the federal legislation to help bolster the tribe’s economy and improve housing, health care and education on the reservation. Revenue from water leases also will help fund a nursing home, substance abuse treatment and improve an irrigation system, tribal leaders have said. … ”  Read more from the Federal News Network here: Biden signs water bills benefiting 3 tribes in Arizona

Dead Pool Diaries: Jack Schmidt on the hydrologic dance of operating Glen Canyon Dam at extremely low levels

John Fleck writes, “An exchange on Twitter about the definition of “dead pool” sent me back to Jack Schmidt et al’s extremely useful (and now extremely relevant) 2016 analysis of what would be required to empty Lake Powell and move all the water down to Lake Mead.  It’s the thing that disabused me of my simplistic notion that you could operate an empty Glen Canyon Dam as if there wasn’t any dam there at all, just passing the “natural” hydrograph on downstream.  Here’s Schmidt et al ... ”  Read more from the Inkstain blog here: Dead Pool Diaries: Jack Schmidt on the hydrologic dance of operating Glen Canyon Dam at extremely low levels

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Also on Maven’s Notebook this weekend …

NOTICE: Draft guidelines for expedited drinking water grant funding program

NOTICE of 180-Day Temporary Permit Application T033344 / Permit Order 21435 – Merced County

NOTICE: State Water Board Racial Equity Action Plan – Final Draft Available Online

SAN JOAQUIN RIVER RESTORATION: Restoration Flows cease, Flood Flows begin

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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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