The new Martin Luther King memorial unveiled Friday on the Boston Common. Photo credit: SKANSKA

DAILY DIGEST, holiday weekend edition: Storm-battered California gets more wind, rain and snow; A drought turned to floods, but forecasters didn’t see it coming; Delta smelt limiting how much water can be captured for cities and farms; and more …

The above scultpure, “Embrace”, is a tribute to Martin Luther King that was unveiled on the Boston Common last Friday.
Read more from Architectural Digest here: A Striking New Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Captures the Feeling of Love

California storms …

Storm-battered California gets more wind, rain and snow

Storm-battered California got more wind, rain and snow on Saturday, raising flooding concerns, causing power outages and making travel dangerous.  Bands of rain with gusty winds started in the north and spread south, with more storms expected to follow into early next week, the National Weather Service said.  Flood warnings were issued for the region north of San Francisco Bay, including Marin, Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties.  To the south, warnings were posted for parts of counties including San Mateo and Santa Cruz, where the tiny community of Felton Grove along the San Lorenzo River was ordered evacuated. An evacuation order also was issued for residents of the Wilton area in semirural southeastern Sacramento County. Authorities cited the threat of flooding from the Cosumnes River. … ”  Read more from the Associated Press here: Storm-battered California gets more wind, rain and snow

Biden approves California disaster declaration as another atmospheric river storm prepares to pummel state

President Joe Biden approved a disaster declaration on Saturday for California as the state continues to deal with an onslaught of deadly atmospheric river storms that have pummeled the state with heavy rain, flooding and mudslides.  Storm after storm has been slamming into the Golden State since the end of December. And while the torrential rain has helped ease some of the drought conditions, so much rain has fallen that it has led to the flooding of rivers and streams across the state.  The death toll continues to climb, and at least 18 people have been killed due to the storms.  It will be a quieter day in terms of storm activity in California on Sunday, but rain will still be falling up and down the coast during the day. … ”  Read more from Fox News here: Biden approves California disaster declaration as another atmospheric river storm prepares to pummel state

EXPLORE MORE COVERAGE:

In California, a drought turned to floods. Forecasters didn’t see it coming.

Coming into this winter, California was mired in a three-year drought with forecasts offering little hope for relief anytime soon. Fast forward to today, and the state is waterlogged with as much as 10 to 20 inches of rain and up to 200 inches of snow in some locations in the past three weeks. The drought isn’t over, but parched farmland and declining reservoir levels have been supplanted by raging rivers and deadly flooding. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) issues seasonal forecasts of precipitation and temperature for one to 13 months in the future. The CPC’s initial outlook for this winter, issued on Oct. 20, favored below-normal precipitation in Southern California and did not lean toward either drier- or wetter-than-normal conditions in Northern California. However, after a series of intense moisture-laden storms known as atmospheric rivers, most of California has seen rainfall totals 200 to 600 percent above normal over the past month, with 24 trillion gallons of water having fallen on California since late December.  The stark contrast between the staggering amount of precipitation in recent weeks and the CPC’s seasonal precipitation outlook issued before the winter, which leaned toward below-normal precipitation for at least half of California, has water managers lamenting the reliability of seasonal forecasts. … ”  Continue reading at the Washington Post here (gift article): In California, a drought turned to floods. Forecasters didn’t see it coming.

Forecasts from 30,000 feet: Flying with the ‘hurricane hunters’ into California’s next storm

From 30,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, the latest atmospheric river barreling toward California was a ribbon of furrowed white some 100 miles wide, with lofty plumes tufted high along its spine. Aerial reconnaissance weather officer Jeremy DeHart wasn’t admiring the storm’s beauty. He was imagining fellow weather nerds at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego eagerly pouring over data he knew would seriously revamp their forecast. “The Scripps people are probably watching this and popping champagne,” he shouted over the deafening roar of four turboprop engines. “The model showed the worst weather of the storm would be here, but it’s actually at the back corner.”Collecting live storm data to refine imperfect computer-generated storm models is the mission of the U.S. Air Force Reserve 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, better known as the ‘hurricane hunters.’ … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Forecasts from 30,000 feet: Flying with the ‘hurricane hunters’ into California’s next storm

SEE ALSO8 Miles Over the Pacific, Getting Inside California’s Wild Weather, from the New York Times

EXPLAINER: Tackling threat of mudslides in soaked California

Relentless storms from a series of atmospheric rivers have saturated the steep mountains and bald hillsides scarred from wildfires along much of California’s long coastline, causing hundreds of landslides this month. So far the debris has mostly blocked roads and highways and has not harmed communities as in 2018 when mudslides roared through Montecito, killing 23 people and wiping out 130 homes. But more rain is in the forecast, increasing the threat.  Experts say California has learned important lessons from the Montecito tragedy, and has more tools to pinpoint the hot spots and more basins and nets are in place to capture the falling debris before it hits homes. The recent storms are putting those efforts to the test as climate change produces more severe weather. ... ”  Read more from US News & World Report here: EXPLAINER: Tackling threat of mudslides in soaked California

How fast-moving floods took a deadly toll on California’s capital: ‘No one expected it’

A section of land several yards from the Consumnes River is seen behind a Green Rd. residence in Wilton on a day when recent rain resulted in a noticeably high water level in Sacramento County. Photo taken January 9, 2023.
Andrew Innerarity / DWR

Over the past two weeks, a parade of powerful atmospheric rivers has brought both relief and ruin to California. While the rain is a welcome sight in the drought-plagued state, the violent storms landed in quick succession, causing flash floods, billions of dollars in damage, and killing at least 18 people. … Sacramento county has been one of the hardest hit. At least five people have died here, the highest toll anywhere in the state, including three who died in their cars on a flooded highway, and two unhoused people killed in the capital city, Sacramento, by falling trees.  Residents have had little time to dry between downpours that began in late December. By New Year’s Day, swaths of land in the rural area just south of the capital had disappeared into a vast sienna-tinged sea that swallowed stretches of road, pastures, and recently parched crops. … ”  Read more from The Guardian here: How fast-moving floods took a deadly toll on California’s capital: ‘No one expected it’

California cleans up from one storm as it prepares for another

Days after California was hit by “the most impressive storm in nearly 20 years,” the state – fully saturated in many places – is gearing up this weekend for yet another series of atmospheric river events, with flooding, hail, powerful wind gusts and even funnel clouds possible in spots.  Another round of heavy rain already is falling Saturday on the Golden State, where extreme drought fueled by the climate crisis has given way in recent weeks to massive flooding amid a catastrophic sequence of ultra-wet atmospheric rivers – long, narrow regions in the atmosphere that transport moisture thousands of miles. Recent storms have killed at least 18 people and left tens of thousands at a time without power. … ”  Read more from CNN here:  California cleans up from one storm as it prepares for another

Sinkholes set to swallow chunks of California after rain and flooding

California has been hit by heavy rain and flooding since the end of 2022, resulting in the formation of sinkholes in some locations, and with more wet weather ahead for the state, it’s possible more could open up.  Sinkholes are gaping holes that form when the ground below the land surface cannot support the material above. They can vary in size from a few feet to hundreds of feet across, and from a few feet to tens of feet deep.  Sinkholes typically form very slowly, to the extent that the change in the ground is barely noticeable. But sometimes the collapse of the ground can happen suddenly.   … ”  Read more from Newsweek here: Heavy rain and flooding can increase the likelihood of these sinkholes forming, as evidenced by the recent weather in California.

SEE ALSO: Why are the California storms causing sinkholes?, from the New York Times

In storm-related news this weekend …

A 2-inch fish is limiting how much water can be captured for cities and farms

A view of the Harvey O. Banks Pumping Plant motor floor, the first major plant designed and constructed within the California State Water Project. Photo by Norm Hughes / DWR

The most drenching storms in the past five years have soaked Northern California, sending billions of gallons of water pouring across the state after three years of severe drought.  But 94% of the water that has flowed since New Year’s Eve through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, a linchpin of California’s water system, has continued straight to the Pacific Ocean instead of being captured and stored in the state’s reservoirs.  Environmental regulations aimed at protecting a two-inch-long fish, the endangered Delta smelt, have required the massive state and federal pumps near Tracy to reduce pumping rates by nearly half of their full limit, sharply curbing the amount of water that can be saved for farms and cities to the south. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: California storms: A 2-inch fish is limiting how much water can be captured for cities and farms

California’s rain bounty slips into the ocean and drought-shocked Central Valley farmers want an explanation

California has seen heavy rainfall over the past few weeks, but nearly all the water collected in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta was dumped into the ocean, leaving farmers in the Central Valley with questions and concerns.  Farmers like Jason Giannelli, who say the rainfall they receive throughout the year is always helpful for growing crops like processing tomatoes, almonds, pistachios and more. However, one thing he says farmers are concerned about is water storage.  According to Giannelli, who is a fourth generation family farmer here in Kern, the pumps running from the delta to the aqueduct are only operating at about 20 percent capacity, with the majority of the water being flushed out into the ocean. “We are talking about a national security issue when you think about it, because Kern County alone is the number one [food] producing county in the country. … ”  Read more from Channel 23  here:  California’s rain bounty slips into the ocean and drought-shocked Central Valley farmers want an explanation

Lawmakers calling for better California water management

As California experiences several atmospheric rivers bringing substantial precipitation to the state, lawmakers are highlighting the need for better water management. The storm systems are providing much-needed support to the state’s existing water storage. However, a majority of runoff is being lost to the Pacific Ocean.  California’s simultaneous drought and flood emergencies are raising questions about the state’s overall approach to water supplies. Several lawmakers are encouraging a more appropriate response to the abundance of water California has been receiving. Six members of Congress sent a letter to President Joe Biden and California Governor Gavin Newsom seeking action in response to the recent storms. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here: Lawmakers calling for better California water management

Recent storms will help in the short term, but California’s drought is still far from over

The new year in California has gotten off to a very wet, rocky start.  Over the last two weeks, the state has experienced an unrelenting and deadly series of storms — or “bomb cyclones” — that have delivered an onslaught of flooding, landslides, fallen trees and power outages, inflicting an estimated billion dollars of damage, and causing at least 19 deaths.  And the barrage isn’t over, as yet another series of storms move in over the weekend.  But there is a silver lining to these so-called atmospheric rivers: They’ve delivered a much-needed resource that our perennially dehydrated state, ironically, needs much more of.  “These storms have not ended the drought,” said Molly White, water operations manager for the State Water Project.  Despite the jaw-dropping amount of rain — and in the mountains, snow —  that has fallen on the state in recent weeks, she said, “major reservoir storage remains below average, and conditions could turn dry again this winter, offsetting recent rain and snow.” … ”  Read more from KQED here: Recent storms will help in the short term, but California’s drought is still far from over

Nature’s gift to nature in early winter storms

The current wet spell, made up of a parade of atmospheric rivers, is a welcome change from the last three years of record dry and warm conditions. For very good reasons, the focus during these big, early winter storms is first and foremost on flood management and public safety. There is of course also great interest in the potential of these storms to relieve water shortages for communities and farms. What is not always appreciated is the role of these early winter storms in supporting the health of freshwater ecosystems.  For millennia, California’s biodiversity evolved strategies to take advantage of these infrequent, but critical high flow events. Benefits from recent storms are now being realized throughout the state, from temperate rainforests of the North Coast to semi-arid and arid rivers in the south.  As an example, here is a sample of some of the vital ecological processes that take place during winter wet periods in the Central Valley and San Francisco Estuary ... ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here: Nature’s gift to nature in early winter storms

California’s lost trees

In the last two weeks, at least 19 people have been killed by the powerful atmospheric-river storms walloping California in relentless waves. “We’ve had less people die in the last two years of major wildfires in California than have died since New Year’s Day related to this weather,” Governor Gavin Newsom said in Sacramento this week after being sworn in for a second term on the grounds of the capitol, where piles of shredded branches offered a survey of another looming disaster to come.  Century-old eucalyptuses and sequoias had been splintered and uprooted around the rotunda along with an estimated 1,000 downed trees in the city at large that split stately Victorian homes in half, snapped utility lines, and caused at least two deaths of unhoused residents when trees fell on their tents. Between the downpours — storms are forecasted to continue for at least eight more days — neighborhoods echoed with the sound of chainsaws, the smell of damp sawdust hanging in the air as Sacramento’s prized urban canopy toppled like so many bowling pins. … ” Read more from Curbed here: California’s lost trees

‘Weather whiplash’ as Californians manage back-to-back extremes

As Wallace Stegner, “the dean of Western writers,” once observed, California is like the rest of America, only more so. It’s a reference to the state’s character, but it could just as easily apply to its weather.“California is a land of extremes,” says Julie Kalansky, deputy director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. It stands out for having the greatest annual variation between wet and dry years in the continental U.S. Drought sets up conditions for intense wildfire, which sets up conditions for dangerous mudslides and flooding when heavy rain falls. Such cascading events make more extreme weather events possible, she says.  And yet, California is “very forward-thinking” as it transitions to greater preparedness for extreme weather and climate change, observes Dr. Kalansky. That’s no easy task considering the variety of weather challenges, the size and geographic variation of the state, and its 40 million residents – the largest state population in the country. “They have to plan for all these different extremes,” she says. “But it is very complex to be able to do that all at the same time.” ... ”  Read more from the Christian Science Monitor here: ‘Weather whiplash’ as Californians manage back-to-back extremes

Why West Coast weather will be chaotic in the future, according to a climate scientist

When I moved to San Francisco in 2013, the state of California was in a drought. As a transplant from the Midwest, I discovered that this manifested itself often at restaurants. Accustomed to water being excessively offered at a restaurant table, I remember waiters telling me that, because of the drought, they were only serving water upon request and in very small quantities. At that moment, I began to understand why Californians bring their own water bottles everywhere.  This week, water is not hard to come by in California. In fact, it’s overflowing in the streets around my house as I write this very sentence, flooding my neighbors’ houses and businesses. Earlier this week, my power went out because of flooding around electrical equipment; this scenario might have seemed unthinkable a decade ago. … ”  Read more from Salon Magazine here: Why West Coast weather will be chaotic in the future, according to a climate scientist

Why atmospheric rivers could become more frequent as world transitions out of La Nina

As critical areas of the Pacific Ocean warm and the world marches out of a La Niña towards neutral status, North America might be in store for changes in weather patterns not seen in several years.  A rare triple-dip La Niña has been in place since 2020 and was one of the main driving forces behind megadroughts, severe weather outbreaks and hurricanes.  Signs are pointing to a quickly approaching shift that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration believes will arrive during the spring. In fact, the Climate Prediction Center said there is an 82 percent chance that the El Niño-Southern Oscillation index will reach neutral status during either March, April or May, with a 50 percent chance that El Niño could become dominant by late summer or early fall. … ”  Read more from Fox Weather here: Why atmospheric rivers could become more frequent as world transitions out of La Nina

In other California water news this weekend …

State agencies fast-track groundwater recharge pilot project to capture flood waters for underground storage

An aerial view of agricultural fields covered with water in Butte County, California. Photo by Paul Hames / DWR

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is partnering with the State Water Resources Control Board to fast-track efforts to capture flood waters to recharge groundwater basins. Water captured during extreme wet periods such as the one California is now experiencing will be stored in groundwater basins for use during dry periods.  Governor Newsom’s “California Water Supply Strategy, Adapting to a Hotter, Drier Future” calls on DWR and the State Water Board to work with local agencies to significantly expand the State’s ability to capture water from winter storms and adapt to more extreme weather patterns caused by climate change. DWR and the board are working together to expedite the regulatory steps necessary to store significant rainfall and excess water underground, while still ensuring protections for the environment and other water users as required in State law.  The State’s efforts reached a milestone January 6 when the State Water Board approved a six-month permit that will enable multiple landowners to divert excess flows from Mariposa creek near the City of Merced to recharge a key groundwater basin. … ”  Read more from DWR here:  State agencies fast-track groundwater recharge pilot project to capture flood waters for underground storage

Board issues first fiveyear temporary groundwater recharge permit

Furthering state efforts to capture and preserve stormwater during high flow events, the State Water Resources Control Board issued its first fiveyear temporary groundwater storage permit this week, authorizing the OmochumneHartnell Water District to divert 2,444 acrefeet from the Cosumnes River in Sacramento County.  This permit follows on the heels of a 180day permit issued to the Merced Irrigation District and the Department of Water Resources last week, allowing them to divert up to 10,000 acrefeet from Mariposa Creek in Merced County to underground storage for irrigation. This is the first permit to result from the board’s collaboration with DWR under Governor Newsom’s Water Supply Strategy, which  calls on the agencies to conduct outreach and provide technical assistance to potential permittees while also expediting the regulatory steps necessary to store significant rainfall.  Already this year we have issued two permits, with another two approvals expected next week. With only three applications outstanding, I am proud of how efficient our process has become,” said Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the board. … ”  Read more from the State Water Board here: Board issues first fiveyear temporary groundwater recharge permit

State laws stymie flood flow storage but one San Joaquin Valley water district cut through the red tape. Can others follow?

It seems like such a no brainer: Grab the floodwater inundating California right now and shove it into our dried up aquifers for later use.  But water plus California never equals simple.  Yes, farmers and water districts can, legally, grab water from the state’s overflowing rivers, park it on their land and it will recharge the groundwater.  But if those farmers and districts want to claim any kind of ownership over that water later, they can’t. Not without a permit. And permits are costly, time consuming and overly complicated, according to critics.  Farmers and districts in some areas are taking flood water independently in order to relieve problems for people downstream.  But there just isn’t a large-scale, systematic way for water agencies and farmers to absorb the current deluge and store it for future use, mostly because of regulatory hurdles, critics say. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: State laws stymie flood flow storage but one San Joaquin Valley water district cut through the red tape. Can others follow?

The key to California’s survival is hidden underground

Traditionally, engineers have treated stormwater as a nuisance, building out complex infrastructure like drains and canals to funnel the deluge to rivers or oceans before it has a chance to puddle. But in California and elsewhere, climate change is forcing a shift in that strategy. As the world warms, more water evaporates from land into the atmosphere, which itself can hold more water as it gets hotter. Storms in the Golden State will come less frequently, yet dump more water faster when they arrive. Stormwater drainage systems just can’t get the water away fast enough. … To prepare for this soggy future, engineers are turning to another plan for flood control, forcing water to seep underground into natural aquifers. Such a plan will simultaneously mitigate flooding and help the American West store more water despite a climate gone haywire. “We need to think a little bit more creatively about: How do we most effectively utilize basically these huge underground sponges that we can use to supply potable water?” says Katherine Kao Cushing, who studies sustainable water management at San José State University. … ”  Read more from WIRED here: The key to California’s survival is hidden underground

Sustainable Conservation: Three must-reads on California’s drought, floods, and our water future

Californians are accustomed to wet winters and the stress flooding brings along with this important replenishment cycle. Rain and snowpack totals are significant, but what does this all mean for our water future? Is it enough? How can we protect people when beneficial rain becomes a significant hazard?  As floods threaten swaths of California communities and more atmospheric rivers loom on the horizon, it’s natural to try and look on the bright side and wonder if the drought is finally over.  The short answer… No, and it’s complicated – but not all bad news! … These three blogs will help you learn how water moves in California, what we can do when it’s wet to prepare for inevitable dry times, and how we can work together to adapt to our uncertain climate future. … ”  Read more from Sustainable Conservation here:  Three must-reads on California’s drought, floods, and our water future

Harder holding town hall after Army Corps of Engineers refused to have in-person meetings on Delta Conveyance Project impacts

Photo by Kelly M. Grow/ DWR

Congressman Josh Harder — frustrated that the federal government refuses to conduct in-person public meetings on arguably the most controversial water project this century in California — is taking matters into his own hands.  Harder is staging an in-person town hall on what he calls “the Delta Tunnel water grab” on Wednesday, Jan. 18, at 6 p.m. It takes place in the San Joaquin Health Plan’s community room, 7751 S. Manthey Road, in French Camp.  The town hall will feature Harder as well as water experts from across San Joaquin County.  After opening remarks, members of the community will have the opportunity to make their voices heard as it relates to the Delta Tunnel project. Harder’s office will then pass that feedback on directly to the Army Corps of Engineers. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here: Harder holding town hall after Army Corps of Engineers refused to have in-person meetings on Delta Conveyance Project impacts

Assembly Republicans call on Newsom to make water a priority

California Assembly Republicans are calling on Governor Gavin Newsom to prioritize water storage, conveyance, and flood protection in the state budget. California has not built significant new water storage since the 1970s, despite its population nearly doubling during that time.  “Providing water is a core function of government, and it’s time to make that a priority,” said Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher (Yuba City). “We need Sites Reservoir, policy reforms and better water management so our residents and farmers don’t face even more water rationing during the next dry spell.”  “We need more water storage in California,” said Assemblymember Juan Alanis (R-Modesto). “That’s why on my first day in the legislature I proposed Assembly Constitutional Amendment 2 to put water storage goals into California’s Constitution and provide guaranteed funding for water infrastructure. It will bring California better flood control and more relief during periods of drought. It’s just common sense to get this done.” … ”  Read more from the OC Breeze here: Assembly Republicans call on Newsom to make water a priority

Rep. David Valadao reintroduces water storage bill in Congress

In a joint effort with the other 11 Californian Republican members of Congress, Congressman David Valadao (R-CA) introduced a new bill in Washington this week that would focus on on streamlining operations, expanding water storage infrastructure, and increasing accountability.  According to the bill, known as the Working to Advance Tangible and Effective Reforms (WATER) for California Act, water conveyance through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, consistent with the Endangered Species Act, would be promoted in the state, as would advancing key surface water infrastructure projects. This would require the Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP) to be operated consistent with the 2019 regulations, rather than with Biden administration changes that made it more difficult for farmers to get water. Stakeholders in the CVP and SWP would also receive all water they contract and pay for. … ”  Read more from the California Globe here: Rep. David Valadao reintroduces water storage bill in Congress

Can we continue to grow crops in the desert?

Julie Behneman has been working at her family farm in Valley Center, California for about 40 years. She prides herself on growing juicy citrus and lush avocados, and sells her produce and fresh juices every Sunday at the Santa Monica Farmers Market on Main Street.  She said the secret to growing juicy citrus is lots of water, but as climate change exacerbates the drought, water is becoming scarce and is threatening the future of farming in the American Southwest.  Many farmers including Benheman have said that they have been forced to increase the prices of their produce every year because of rising water costs. “We would try to conserve as much as we can, but the trees still need water to be juicy, for the fruit to be juicy. So for farmers, that’s difficult,” she said. … In the past few decades, many farms turned towards private wells to reduce their use of expensive government-supplied water. This practice has now exhausted groundwater supplies and aquifers, forcing farmers to turn back to government suppliers. Ashley Chavara, who works as a seller for GB Farms, said that customers have started to complain about the rising costs of produce. … ”  Read more from Annenberg Media here: Can we continue to grow crops in the desert?

How do chemicals from wildfires end up in water supplies?

“When we see smoke from a wildfire, most of us can deduce that it’s probably not very healthy to be breathing in. But it turns out it could be far worse than that — contaminants from wildfires can be found not only in the smoke, but they can also find their way into the local water supply.  Chemicals were first discovered in a local water supply in 2017 after the Tubbs Fire in Northern California. The next year, chemicals were again detected in the water supply after the Camp Fire in California, but this time to a much greater degree. Both of those fires were noted to be “high severity” fires, which may explain why these contaminated the supplies and others haven’t.  “It’s kind of complex because this type of contamination doesn’t happen every single time there’s a wildfire and the community experiences some kind of destruction,” said Yvonne Heaney of the California State Water Resource Control Board. … ”  Read more from Government Technology here: How do chemicals from wildfires end up in water supplies?

Water expert: How to evaluate water risk factors

Farmers in the West are facing increased water-related risks as the demand for water increases and the supply is variable or decreasing, according to water expert Darren Fillmore.  Fillmore is the agricultural water resource director at WestWater Research, a Boise-based economic consulting firm specializing in water market research, pricing and trading. Competition for reliable water supplies is intensifying, pushing up prices, said Fillmore, while prices for less reliable supplies are dropping.  Farmers often need to know the value of a water right, whether they are buying or selling land or temporarily transferring water. One factor that influences water’s value is its risk level. At a session during the Land Investment Expo in Des Moines this week, Fillmore shared tips with farmers on how to evaluate water risk. … ”  Read more from the Capital Press here: Water expert: How to evaluate water risk factors

LAO Report: The 2023-24 Budget: Overview of the Governor’s Budget

On January 10, 2023, Governor Newsom presented his proposed state budget to the Legislature. In this report, we provide a brief summary of the proposed budget based on our initial review. In the coming weeks, we will analyze the plan in more detail and release several additional budget analyses.”  Read the report here: The 2023-24 Budget: Overview of the Governor’s Budget

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In commentary this weekend …

Amid onslaught of storms, California must get serious about more pumping, water storage

Dave Puglia, President of Western Growers Association, writes, “California has once again been caught flat-footed in the aftermath of another round of infrequent yet inevitable wet weather, grounded by inflexible interpretation of the 2019 biological opinions and the persistent, puzzling reluctance to construct new water supply infrastructure in the state. The consequences will be to resign our people, farms and environment to ongoing drought once the existing precipitation runs out.  Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) is right to join his Republican colleagues and other state representatives in calling for common-sense operation of the Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP) pumps. When strong bipartisan voices are in unison, state and federal regulators would be well served to listen up. … ”  Continue reading this guest commentary at Maven’s Notebook here: Amid onslaught of storms, California must get serious about more pumping, water storage

Harvesting the deluge is an opportunity for Californians

Edward Ring, co-founder of the California Policy Center, writes, “It doesn’t take a hydrologist to know Californians are getting an unusual amount of rain. Totals in the San Francisco Bay Area are an astonishing 600% of normal for this time of year. In almost every watershed throughout the state, total rainfall is well above normal, and in the Sierras, the all important snowpack is now sitting at exactly 200% of normal.  With this quantity of water already delivered from the sky, with so much more on the way, one might think that drought restrictions could be lifted. But not so fast. Despite predicting for years that Californians were going to need to rely less on a diminishing snowpack and more on harvesting water from storm runoff, the state has done little to take advantage of the new normal. When the rain stops and the snow melts prematurely, Californians will likely face another year of drought restrictions. … ”  Read more from the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin here: Harvesting the deluge is an opportunity for Californians

Climate whiplash – California flooding during drought

Doug Obegi, Director of California River Restoration for NRDC, writes, “Over the past several weeks, a series of storms have lashed California, causing widespread damage across the state, including significant flooding of homes, landslides, sinkholes and road closures, downed trees, and sadly, loss of life.  More than a billion dollars of storm damage is estimated to have occurred already, with more storms heading our way.  At the same time, the storms have also dumped much needed snow and rain, coming on the heels of the driest three year period in California’s modern history.  The state’s snowpack is now more than 200% of average for this date and over 100% of the April 1 average.  While this year is off to a good start in terms of water supply, sadly it’s too early to declare that the drought is over. … ” Read more from the NRDC here:  Climate whiplash – California flooding during drought

Storms highlight need for more effective water storage

Dean Florez, former member of the California State Senate and a member of the California Air Resources Board, writes, “Since Jan. 1, as the Sacramento, American and San Joaquin rivers raged with the blessing of multiple drought-mitigating atmospheric rivers, those who are reliant on the California State Water Project and the Central Valley Project as their primary source of water have watched with hopeful anticipation as more than 2 million acre-feet of precious water entered the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. This anticipation, enhanced by the recent suffering of the previous three years of extreme drought, has been replaced with questions as to why the state’s water projects are not maximizing exports from the delta to move this water to storage in the Central Valley and Southern California for future use. Once again, the ability to export water to storage is restricted due to regulation. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here:  Storms highlight need for more effective water storage

Editorial: Steinbeck, rainstorms and California’s water challenges

The San Jose Mercury News and the East Bay Times editorial boards write, ““During the dry years, the people forgot about the rich years, and when the wet years returned, they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way.”  Sadly, nothing much has changed in California and the Salinas Valley since 1952, when John Steinbeck wrote those words for the opening chapters of his novel, “East of Eden.”  As a result, the atmospheric rivers drenching the state have been a decidedly mixed blessing.  The rainfall means for the first time in more than two years, the majority of California is no longer in a severe drought. The Sierra snowpack is at 226% of average for this time of year, the largest we’ve seen in more than two decades. Reservoirs are filling at a rapid rate. If the rains continue, it might be possible for Gov. Gavin Newsom to lift the state’s voluntary water restrictions and even consider declaring an end to the drought. That’s the good news. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Editorial: Steinbeck, rainstorms and California’s water challenges

Clueless in California: The real reasons we are having more & bigger disasters

Dennis Wyatt, editor of the Manteca Bulletin, writes, “A group of golfers plunked down $100 apiece to play a round last Thursday.  They did so at the Shore Course at Monterey  Peninsula Country Club.  As the name implies, the 18-hole course is along the Pacific Ocean shoreline of the rugged, wind-swept Monterey Peninsula.  When the peninsula hosts the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am — it is set for Jan. 30 through Feb. 5 this year — winds can play havoc.  Now imagine playing it during a time that the National Weather Service has predicted extremely high winds and heavy downpour connected with a series of storms making up the term du jour for old school “Pineapple Express” — atmospheric rivers.  The Internet was treated this week to a video posting of golfers fleeing for their lives when the storm system whipped up a 45-foot wave that came crashing down on the 14th hole.  The smartphone — apparently “smart” applies to the device and not the user — footage caught golfers running for their lives. … ”  Continue reading at the Turlock Journal here: Clueless in California: The real reasons we are having more & bigger disasters

In drought or flood, enviros hope to make us miserable

Steve Greenhut, Western region director for the R Street Institute, writes, “The latest environmentalist fad is to ban gas stoves, with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission now considering a ban on their import and manufacture. The agency’s rationale is that such stoves degrade indoor air quality. The pushback has been severe given that any self-respecting cook would rather heat up a frozen dinner in the microwave than pan-fry dinner on an electric burner. … Likewise, some targeted investments could solve the state’s water issues – by bolstering our water-storage capabilities, building desalination facilities, recycling water, improving groundwater recharge basins, promoting water trading. California now faces a budget deficit, but last year we had a $97.5-billion surplus. A small portion could have fixed the problem for decades.Instead, many California environmentalists prefer water rationing – with the goal of forcing us to use much less water even though we’ve vastly reduced our per-capita water usage. … ”  Read mroe from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune here:  In drought or flood, enviros hope to make us miserable

The West needs water markets

David Boaz with the CATO institute writes, “Despite California’s immediate deluge, the ongoing water problem in much of the West is drought — reduced rainfall, increasing use of water, dry rivers, mandated cuts. In all the stories I keep reading and hearing about the water crisis in the Colorado River basin and elsewhere, two words are absent: markets and prices. Instead the stories are all about conservation planning and allocations by a central authority — central planning for a vital resource. These Arizona farmers have already lost 60 percent of their “access” to water and will soon lose “every last drop.”  This article mentions scarcity. Economists know a lot about scarcity. In fact, we might say that economics is about scarcity. The economic theorist Lionel Robbins wrote, “Economics is the science which studies human behavior as a relationship between given ends and scarce means which have alternative uses.” So why aren’t water planners in the West drawing on economic insights? … ”  Read more from the CATO Institute here: The West needs water markets

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In people news this weekend …

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

In one of the snowiest places in the west, a scientist hunts for clues to the Sierra snowpack’s future

“Growing up in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, Andrew Schwartz never missed an opportunity to play in – or study – a Colorado snowstorm. During major blizzards, he would traipse out into the icy wind and heavy drifts of snow pretending to be a scientist researching in Antarctica.  Decades later, still armed with an obsession for extreme weather, Schwartz has landed in one of the snowiest places in the West, leading a research lab whose mission is to give California water managers instant information on the depth and quality of snow draping the slopes of the Sierra Nevada. … ”  Read more from Western Water here:  In one of the snowiest places in the west, a scientist hunts for clues to the Sierra snowpack’s future

Erik Porse named director of California Institute for Water Resources

Erik Porse joined the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources on Jan. 11 as director of the California Institute for Water Resources.  Porse has built an outstanding career in water as a research engineer with the Office of Water Programs at California State University, Sacramento and an assistant adjunct professor with UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. His research focuses on urban and water resources management. He specializes in bringing together interdisciplinary teams to investigate complex environmental management questions.  Porse earned a Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering (water resources) from UC Davis and a master’s degree in public policy (science and technology) from George Mason University. His professional experience includes international work and teaching in Mexico, Europe, Japan and East Africa. He has authored over 50 reports and peer-reviewed articles. … ”  Read more from the UCANR here: Erik Porse named director of California Institute for Water Resources

Jay Famiglietti brings decades of water expertise as Arizona State University launches water initiative

With more than 30 years of experience researching, writing and speaking about water, Jay Famiglietti’s passion about the subject is anything but fluid.   From providing expert water commentary on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” to hosting an award-winning freshwater science podcast, Famiglietti has found many avenues to raise awareness about water security. Starting in January, Famiglietti brings this expertise and recognition to Arizona State University as a Global Futures Professor with the School of Sustainability.  In his role prior to joining ASU, Famiglietti served as the executive director of the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan and as the senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Now, Famiglietti will use his expertise to assist ASU in developing the new Arizona Water Innovation Initiative, established through a $40 million investment from the state of Arizona. … ”  Read more from Arizona State University here: Jay Famiglietti brings decades of water expertise as Arizona State University launches water initiative

Metropolitan installs new board chair, welcomes three new directors

Adán Ortega, Jr. took the helm today of Metropolitan Water District’s Board of Directors as the 20th chair and first Latino to lead the board in the district’s 95-year history.  In addition to his installation, Ortega welcomed three new directors who took their seats to represent the Calleguas, Central Basin and Eastern municipal water districts on the 38-member board.  Ortega, who has represented the city of San Fernando on the board since March 2021, took his oath of office in a boardroom filled with family, elected officials, community leaders, mentors and friends.  “Metropolitan has the ultimate responsibility for Southern California – to secure the one resource needed more than anything else to sustain our lives and communities,” Ortega said. “Together with my colleagues and our communities, I’m ready to continue our work addressing how we will meet the needs of future generations in the face of climate change, while ensuring the safety, well-being and dignity of the workforce that helps ensure there is always water coming out of our taps.” … ”  Read more from Business Wire here: Metropolitan installs new board chair, welcomes three new directors

Distinguished alum and Valley Water District CEO Rick Callender

Whether in times of drought or flood, Rick Callender’s work is vital to the people of Santa Clara County.  As CEO of Valley Water District, Callender (Industrial Technology, ’94) oversees an integrated water resources system that includes the supply of clean and safe water, flood protection, and environmental stewardship of waterways for Santa Clara County’s nearly 2 million residents. Having worked in other roles within Valley Water District since 1997—including as deputy officer in the Office of Government Relations and chief of external affairs—Callender became the first African American to serve as CEO in the organization’s 90-year history in July 2020. Additionally, since fall 2020, he has served as president of the California-Hawaii chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  … This year, Callender will be honored with Chico State’s Distinguished Alumni Service Award. ... ”  Read more from Chico State here: Distinguished alum and Valley Water District CEO Rick Callender

IID’s JB Hamby elected to lead California’s Colorado River Board

Imperial Irrigation District Vice President and Division 2 Director JB Hamby will serve as Chairman of the Colorado River Board of California following his unanimous election during Wednesday’s meeting held in Ontario, California.  Hamby has served on the Colorado River Board since April of 2021 and is IID’s fourth member to serve as its chairman.  As chairman, Hamby serves ex-officio as the Colorado River Commissioner for the State of California. The commissioner is responsible for conferring with representatives of the seven Colorado River basin states and United States on the use of Colorado River water and safeguarding the rights and interests of the state, its agencies, and citizens, pursuant to the federal Boulder Canyon Project Act and the California Water Code. … ”  Read more from the Imperial Irrigation District here: IID’s JB Hamby elected to lead California’s Colorado River Board

SDCWA’s Director Jim Madaffer elected Vice Chair of the Colorado River Board of California

San Diego County Water Authority Board Member Jim Madaffer has been elected vice chair of the Colorado River Board of California (CRB), which represents California in river management discussions with other Basin states, federal agencies, tribes, and Mexico.  Madaffer, the Water Authority’s CRB representative since 2019, will serve a four-year term as vice chair following his election on January 11 during the CRB meeting in Ontario.  “I look forward to working with Chair Hamby and the rest of the Colorado River Board to both protect California’s water supplies during these challenging times and to work collaboratively to keep the river flowing for all users,” said Madaffer, a former chair of the Water Authority Board. “It is essential that California agencies unite to uphold the Law of the River as we seek solutions with the widest possible benefits.” ... ”  Read more from the San Diego County Water Authority here: SDCWA’s Director Jim Madaffer elected Vice Chair of the Colorado River Board of California

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Podcasts …

CALIFORNIA SUN: Erica Gies tells us what water wants

Erica Gies returns to the California Sun podcast to talk about the water crisis we face today…one of too much water in all the wrong places. Flash flooding and storms in one part of the state, massive droughts in others, climate change, and a growing concrete-built environment, have all impacted our plans for water control. Gies explores other options in her recent op-ed in the New York Times and in this podcast. She suggests the use of unique geologic features called paleo valleys, which could be a way for California to find a sustainable solution to an ongoing water crisis.

WATER IS A MANY SPLENDOR’ED THING: Batten Down the Hatches – Levee Protection

Making decisions on how to maximize the benefits of the California levees into the future is a function of engineering and economics. Cost for these projects is nine digits long. We are talking about one to four billion dollars. But there is a far greater price if the levees are not improved. 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


THE ECONEWS REPORT: Climate Change Supercharging Winter Storms

Global warming increases the amount of moisture in the atmosphere, supercharging winter storms like the slate of atmospheric rivers that have smashed the West Coast. More moisture also means increased risk of flooding, as we have tragically experienced this year. More moisture might sound good in recent drought years but it’s more complicated than that. A warming planet also increases the risk of summer droughts, despite increased winter moisture. Climate scientist Michael Furniss joins Gang Green to talk through how climate impacts weather.  Listen at the Lost Coast Outpost here: THE ECONEWS REPORT: Climate Change Supercharging Winter Storms


THE DAILY: The California floods

For weeks, a string of major storms have hit California, causing extreme flooding. While it might seem as if rain should have a silver lining for a state stuck in a historic drought, the reality is far more complicated.Today, how California’s water management in the past has made today’s flooding worse and why it represents a missed opportunity for the future of the state’s water crisis.Guest: Christopher Flavelle, a climate reporter for The New York Times.Background reading: In the wake of recent storms, California is facing questions about whether its approach to handling crippling storms is suited to 21st-century climate threats. 

Sunday read …

California Environmental Flows Framework: The Ways Good Science Gets Watered Down

By Paul Stanton Kibel

In the field of natural resources policy, there is a longstanding tendency for good science to get compromised and diluted when it comes to final agency actions and policies. In the water policy arena, this tendency has been particularly prevalent when it comes to agencymandated instream flow standards, which often depart from agency determinations of what instream flow is needed to maintain healthy fisheries and ecosystems.

In late 2021, the California Water Quality Monitoring Council approved the California Environmental Flows Framework (“CEFF”). The CEFF makes a distinction between “ecological flow criteria” and “environmental flow recommendations” and anticipates that CEFF “environmental flow recommendations” may depart from CEFF “ecological flow criteria” to accommodate consumptive uses of water.

This article evaluates the extent to which the CEFF methodology may both support and hinder efforts to ensure there is instream flow to support healthy fisheries and ecosystems.

Click here to read the article.

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In regional water news this weekend …

NORTH COAST

The ‘messy’ creek restoration that will help bring back salmon on the Klamath River

It’s not every day that you see a full-sized conifer, stripped of its limbs but with base and roots intact, fall from the sky.  But over the course of two days in 2020, pilots from Columbia Helicopters shuttled over 120 such trees to the upper reaches of Horse Creek and let them crash to the woods below.  Horse Creek is a tributary that feeds into the Klamath River about 150 miles from the Pacific Ocean. The log moving was about as exciting as creek restoration gets. As the helicopter descended, a member of the ground crew stood in the creek flashing a strobe, stepping out of the way just before prop wash set off a cyclone of dead leaves and bent alder trees backwards. As soon as the chopper dropped its heavy load, it was off to fetch another log.  “You had about a minute before the next one arrived,” recalls Toz Soto, fisheries biologist for the Karuk Tribe. “But at $8,000 to $10,000 an hour, every second counts.” … ”  Continue reading at Jefferson Public Radio here: The ‘messy’ creek restoration that will help bring back salmon on the Klamath River

EPA proposes cleanup plan for Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine Superfund site in Lake County

By Marcia Wright – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8667532

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its preferred cleanup plan for the Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine Superfund site and is inviting the public to review and comment on the plan. The plan proposes cleaning up significant portions of the site in Clearlake Oaks, Calif., specifically the mine area, the sovereign territory of the Elem Indian Colony Tribe, and contaminated soils in the residential area to the southwest of the site.  “This proposed plan is the first step needed to reduce mercury levels in Clear Lake and address contaminated soil. These efforts will enhance public health and environmental safeguards, and advance environmental justice in the area,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “EPA is committed to continuing to work with the Elem Indian Colony, the greater Clear Lake community and the Tribal nations as we develop a plan to clean up the Sulphur Bank site. We look forward to hearing the community’s feedback on our proposed plan.” … ”  Read more from the EPA here: EPA proposes cleanup plan for Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine Superfund site in Lake County

MOUNTAIN COUNTIES

Tahoe resorts receive 2 feet of snow, to have delayed openings; More snow on way

Snow fell through the day on Saturday at Lake Tahoe with area resorts reporting more than 2 feet of powder Sunday morning with possibly more on the way.  The National Weather Service in Reno has a winter storm warning in effect through 10 a.m. Tuesday for the Truckee-Tahoe region. The updated warning is calling for 8 to 18 inches of snow at lake level and 1 to 3 feet above 7,000 feet.  Heavenly Mountain Resort received about 16 inches of snow and said it will have a delayed opening and is advising guests to wait at home until the resort opens.  “We will likely have a delayed opening today,” Heavenly tweeted. “Please wait at home for our lifts to open and do not arrive early to hang out. There is plenty of snow to be had, take it slow, and safe.” … ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune here: Tahoe resorts receive 2 feet of snow, to have delayed openings; More snow on way

Above the rim: Ongoing winter storms lead to rapid rise for Lake Tahoe

California has been getting pounded with consistent winter storms for the past several weeks. With plenty more precipitation on the way, Lake Tahoe’s ski resorts aren’t the only spot in the basin reaping the benefits of the rapid snowfall.  Only 30 days ago, Lake Tahoe’s lake level was at 6,222.56 feet. About a month later, the lake is now at 6,224.02 feet, and still quickly rising. This rapid rise in lake level is credited to the ongoing winter storms, bringing Tahoe above its natural rim.  According to the U.S. Water Master’s Office, Lake Tahoe rang in the new year strong, receiving a 0.43-foot rise on Jan. 1 alone, ranking seventh overall in record for single-day lake level rise. When analyzing Tahoe’s low point just 30 days ago and comparing to current conditions, the influx of water is substantial. … ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune here: Above the rim: Ongoing winter storms lead to rapid rise for Lake Tahoe

SACRAMENTO VALLEY

Red Bluff: EPA proposes settlement to protect Sacramento River endangered species

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a proposed enforcement action related to violations of the Clean Water Act on the Sacramento River in Red Bluff, Calif. EPA is proposing an administrative settlement with Justin Jenson, the owner of a residential property in Red Bluff, for his failure to obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before conducting work in approximately 90 linear feet of the Sacramento River. This work by Jenson was found to have the potential to harm critical habitat for several endangered or threatened fish species.  “This action demonstrates EPA’s commitment to ensure that development in waterways happens with proper permitting, to protect fish, wildlife and the environment,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman.The Clean Water Act requires landowners and developers to obtain a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers before making alterations to waterbodies like the Sacramento River that are considered “waters of the United States.” ... ”  Read more from the EPA here: EPA proposes settlement to protect Sacramento River endangered species

Debris in Folsom Reservoir from runoff, flooding could impact Roseville water taste, odor

The rain isn’t over for Northern California as another series of atmospheric river storms kicks off another wet weekend.  While the rain is helpful for California’s drought, other impacts may not be as beneficial. In Roseville, water distribution crews found low water clarity and extra organics in Folsom Reservoir due to excess water runoff and flooding, according to Roseville’s Environmental Utilities spokesperson, Maurice Chaney.   The recent rain from the storms results in materials such as leaves and tree debris being swept into the water, so crews need to use more chemicals to account for the additional natural material. … ”  Read more from Channel 10 here: Debris in Folsom Reservoir from runoff, flooding could impact Roseville water taste, odor

NAPA/SONOMA

With more rain in store for North Coast, dam managers weigh releases from Lake Mendocino

Deadly storms that have landed repeated blows on the North Coast over the past two weeks are forecast to hit again over the weekend and into next week, raising a persistent threat of creek and river flooding, mudslides and falling trees.  The Russian River is projected to climb back toward flood stage in Guerneville on Thursday and Sunday, though predictions eased Wednesday, suggesting a slightly lower risk than was indicated at the start of the day.  The raised river level still means fast-flowing creeks will be likely to back up as they reach confluences, potentially causing the kind of flooding that this week spread into Guerneville from Fife Creek. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: With more rain in store for North Coast, dam managers weigh releases from Lake Mendocino

Press release: Army Corps announces high-flow release at Coyote Valley Dam (Lake Mendocino)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers San Francisco District (USACE) will begin a series of high-flow releases from Coyote Valley Dam at Lake Mendocino starting mid-day on Monday, Jan. 16, in response to reservoir levels and improving downstream conditions on the Russian River. No increased releases will occur at Warm Springs Dam at Lake Sonoma during this time.  Recent storms have significantly increased reservoir levels well into the flood control pool at Lake Mendocino for the first time since 2020. These storms have also sustained levels at, or close to, flood stage in communities along the Russian River. The river is now forecast to appreciably recede below flood stage. The high-flow release on Monday is intended to restore conditions capable of accommodating additional rainfall this season. … ”  Read more from the Army Corps of Engineers via Maven’s Notebook here: Press release: Army Corps announces high-flow release at Coyote Valley Dam (Lake Mendocino)

BAY AREA

S.F. has seen 20 inches of rain fall since Oct. 1 — one of wettest water years on record

San Francisco hadn’t experienced more than 20 inches of rain in a single water year for over four decades, but the streak has finally ended.  Since October 1, 20.13 inches of rain have dropped in the city, according to the National Weather Service, making it the seventh wettest water year on record — and there’s many more months to go. The last time the city topped 20 inches was back in 1973, when 20.54 inches of rainfall was recorded. The most rainfall in San Francisco in a single water year was in 1890, at 26.66 inches. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: S.F. has seen 20 inches of rain fall since Oct. 1 — one of wettest water years on record

Marin water officials: Too soon to relax about drought

As Marin County residents have seen local reservoirs refilled, roads flooded and creeks transformed into torrents of water from repeated storms, a reasonable question has arisen: Is the drought over?  In terms of Marin’s water supply, the answer from local water agencies and state water experts is yes — but residents should not get too comfortable.  “It’s usually over when you think you have enough water,” said Jay Lund of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis. “If you are a farmer that relies on rain to provide enough water for your crops, then the drought is over when it rains. If you’re a reservoir operator, the drought is over when your reservoir is full and you’re having to spill water, which is probably the situation Marin is in right now.” ... ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Marin water officials: Too soon to relax about drought

Clean Water Act reinvigorated but future environmental challenges still ahead in Bay Area, state

Environmental groups say the creeks and streams swollen by our recent storms are a perfect example of a system the Federal Clean Water Act was designed to protect, an interlaced web of sometimes seasonal waterways that flow into San Francisco Bay.  Teams from the San Francisco Estuary Institute, and other groups like San Francisco Baykeeper, keep a close watch on pollutants that ultimately reach our wider ecosystem.  “And that’s why it’s so important to be able to control those things at the source and that’s what the Clean Water Act does for those waters that are protected. If you can stop those pollutants from where they start before they wash into the Bay. As you can get rid of them, you can have a clean and thriving Bay ecosystem. Once they get into the bay, it’s real hard to then clean it out later,” said Eric Buescher, managing attorney for Baykeeper. … ”  Read more from KGO here: Clean Water Act reinvigorated but future environmental challenges still ahead in Bay Area, state

Storms in the Bay Area have unleashed millions of gallons of untreated sewage water

California is being hit by a punishing parade of storms. Raw sewage has gushed through neighborhoods, flooded roadways, poured into San Francisco Bay. Officials urge residents not to swim in the bay or even jump in puddles. Lesley McClurg from member station KQED explains the toxic disaster has revealed deficiencies in an aging sewer system.  The rain that fell in recent weeks was like a fire hose blasting debris through neighborhoods along roadways and out to the bay. … ”  Read more from KUNC here: Storms in the Bay Area have unleashed millions of gallons of untreated sewage water

This map shows Bay Area sewage spills from the recent storms

Millions of gallons of sewage have overflowed into Bay Area streets and water bodies since the first atmospheric river made landfall on New Year’s Eve, inundating local wastewater systems not built to withstand intense storm after storm.  Preliminary reports of just how much sewage spilled — and where these spills occurred — are coming in from around the Bay Area. The Chronicle has mapped the data. While incomplete, readers can begin to get a sense of whether spills occurred in their neighborhood. Past spills may or may not indicate a chronic problem in a neighborhood or region, that could recur in another bout of heavy rain. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: This map shows Bay Area sewage spills from the recent storms

Popular Brannan Island park, campground now fully reopened, spruces up for visitors

Nine months after closing and then reopening months later only on weekends, one of the most affordable Bay Area freshwater recreation, boating and camping areas has fully reopened and awaits visitors itching to get outdoors after many days of pounding rainstorms.  Located just north of Antioch and south of Rio Vista, Brannan Island State Recreation Area is part of a maze of waterways and marshes in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta long popular for boating, fishing, swimming and camping.  And though its picnic tables and campsites surrounded by mighty oaks and towering eucalyptus trees sit empty now, Clint Elsholz, state Diablo Range District acting superintendent, knows that the park will soon be filling up.  “(Since the pandemic), parks have seen a big spike in attendance,” said Elsholz, who oversees the 336-acre site. “People want to be outdoors, so I expect the campgrounds to be very popular over the summer.” ... ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Popular Brannan Island park, campground now fully reopened, spruces up for visitors

Residents call for lagoon dredging in San Mateo

San Mateo Marina Lagoon residents are calling for a renewed push to dredge the lagoon to reduce flooding during storms, citing the recent rains as reasons to devote city funds. Rick Sakuda is a member of the Marina Lagoon Action Committee, a neighborhood association representing homeowners, residents and businesses around Marina Lagoon. He said by email that the resident’s primary concern is for the city to approve funding to dredge the lagoon to reduce flooding. The lagoon is a remnant of a tidal slough that was dredged to help protect the city from flooding. Sakuda noted when the water rises above the level of the city storm drain system, the water in the lagoon hinders the efficient flow of stormwater from the network of creeks and tributaries as well as Highway 101. … ”  Continue reading from the San Mateo Daily Journal here: Residents call for lagoon dredging in San Mateo

San Carlos starts game-planning for future storms

As winter storms continue to push through the Bay Area, San Carlos officials are lauding a cross-department and multi-jurisdictional approach for staving off some of the worst potential effects of a historical downpour while also game-planning for future catastrophes. “We have a lot of unsung heroes here in SC who have worked over the holidays. While many of us were enjoying family time, they were working at all hours,” Councilmember Sara McDowell said during Monday’s City Council meeting. Since New Year’s Eve, city staff from the Parks and Recreation department, the City Manager’s Office and other parts of City Hall have been supporting Public Works staff in responding to the crash of rain brought to the Bay by an atmospheric river. … ”  Read more from the Daily Journal here: San Carlos starts game-planning for future storms

Flooding from storm destroys family-owned farm, home in Gilroy

A family that was left homeless with their livelihood ruined is trying to figure out their next move nearly a week after floodwaters overwhelmed the property they lease on Monterey Road right off Highway 101 in Gilroy.  The home was one of the first to be submerged during the storm on January 9th.  Mud, water and debris were pretty much everywhere. The flood knocked over furniture and tossed just about everything several yards.   Maria Morales said she had just left to get gas with her kids.  “She’s really sad to see her house like this,” said Maria Morales through interpreter Alicia Juarez. “All of her clothing, their belongings, their furniture. They walked away without anything.” … ”  Read mroe from CBS News here: Flooding from storm destroys family-owned farm, home in Gilroy

CENTRAL COAST

Santa Cruz County orders evacuations as rivers rise

After weeks of massive storms dumping on the Central Coast, Santa Cruz County residents from the mountains to the coast face some of the region’s most severe flood risks this weekend.  Soquel Creek rose rapidly Saturday morning, triggering evacuations for residents there. Further north in the Santa Cruz Mountains, residents around Felton Grove also were evacuated as the San Lorenzo River quickly approached 21.8 feet — major flood stage. “Don’t let your guard down!” the Santa Cruz County Office of Response, Recovery & Resilience tweeted in English and Spanish. “More rain is on the way!” ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Santa Cruz County orders evacuations as rivers rise

Flooded three times in two weeks, California town is fed up

Using a plastic broom, Camilla Shaffer scrapes at the thick layer of mud caking her yard — it’s the third time in two weeks that her house has been flooded thanks to the string of storms that have hit California in rapid succession.  It was only a few days ago that she cleaned up her porch from the last storm, and now she has to start all over again. Upstairs her belongings are safe but the furniture of her art studio on the ground floor is ruined.  In Felton, a town of 4,500 people tucked away in mountains and sequoia trees on the coast south of San Francisco, folks thought they knew the San Lorenzo River. It had burst its banks a few times in the past decade.  But this time was different, with locals saying they had never seen the waterway flood so wildly or so often. … ” Read more from MSN News here: Flooded three times in two weeks, California town is fed up

Monterey County issues tap water warning for San Ardo residents

Monterey County is advising residents of San Ardo against drinking tap water due to damage to their water system.  The water system has been impacted by flooding and contamination has been found in the water. … ”  Read more from KSBY here: Monterey County issues tap water warning for San Ardo residents

Cal Am launches campaign for elected officials to intervene with regulators

California American Water Co. is mounting a lobbying effort to have elected officials along the Monterey Peninsula contact a state regulator to support Cal Am’s claim that it needs more money from ratepayers for pipes, pumps and other infrastructure for an expanded water recycling project.  The California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC, recently approved a contract – called a water purchase agreement — for Cal Am to buy water from the Pure Water Monterey expansion project when it comes online in a couple of years. In the process, the utility regulator set what it deemed appropriate amounts the company could recoup for the costs it will incur from building out the distribution system from the expansion project. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Cal Am launches campaign for elected officials to intervene with regulators

Cachuma fills and flood gates to open

In the wake of this year’s string of winter storms, Lake Cachuma is brimming and Santa Barbara County water officials are breathing a momentary sigh of relief that things are looking up for local water supplies. For the first time in 12 years, Cachuma is nearing full capacity, and a release is planned to avoid a spill over Bradbury Dam.  “The last time Cachuma spilled, many of my staff did not yet work for the city, making this impending spill both significant and memorable,” said Joshua Haggmark, water manager for the City of Santa Barbara’s Public Works Division.  As of Friday evening, Lake Cachuma was at nearly 87 percent capacity, having risen by more than 50 percent since this year’s round of storms began. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees the lake’s operations and maintenance, is expected to open the dam’s gates for eight days and release 2,000 cubic feet of water per second beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday morning. … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent here: Cachuma fills and flood gates to open

Latest storm soaks Santa Barbara county with more rain on tap starting late Sunday

Another storm soaked Santa Barbara County on Saturday, dropping between 0.75 and 2 inches of rain on most areas and causing more troubles in local communities.   Forecasters had called for moderate to heavy rain from Saturday’s storm.  “I think we’re more or less on target,” Mike Wofford from the National Weather Service office in Oxnard said.  The highly anticipated release of water from Cachuma Dam had not started on Saturday, according to Matt Young from the Santa Barbara County Water Agency. … ”  Read more from Noozhawk here: Latest storm soaks Santa Barbara county with more rain on tap starting late Sunday

Evacuation order lifted at La Conchita, but officials warn area is still vulnerable to landslides

After one of the heaviest storms in more than a decade, authorities lifted an evacuation order for La Conchita earlier this week — allowing residents to return home to the seaside hamlet north of Ventura but warning the hillside remained vulnerable.  The community of around 300 sits below an unstable hillside, one that gave way in 1995 and again in 2005 when a landslide killed 10 and buried homes with no warning.  Authorities have declared it a geological hazard zone. Public safety departments say they have no surefire way to predict if or when the hillside could fail because of the complex nature of the hazards.  “We do everything in our power to try to determine potential risk up there,” said Patrick Maynard, director of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services. “But there’s really no way of knowing when something is going to happen.” … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star here: Evacuation order lifted at La Conchita, but officials warn area is still vulnerable to landslides

Camarillo desalter goes on line

It took nearly three decades from concept to completion, but Camarillo’s $66-million North Pleasant Valley Groundwater Desalter is now delivering high-quality water to city customers.  The facility at Las Posas and Somis roads is the most expensive public works project in city history.  “The commitment and persistence of so many individuals and agencies has taken this remarkable project from a con- ceptual idea to the reality that it is today,” City Manager Greg Ramirez said in a statement. “What a monumental achievement for Camarillo.” … ”  Read more from the Camarillo Acorn here: Camarillo desalter goes on line

SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY

Blog: San Joaquin Valley water update

Water was the dominate theme this week in California. After three very dry years, the winter of 2023 is starting to look wet. Everyone is grateful for that despite the great inconveniences and costs that accompany sloppy corrals, tired cows and milkers, and occasionally flooded roads, driveways and power outages. The most frustrating news of the week was reading about massive flows of water running through the Delta and hearing that Delta pumps that are used to fill the two main aqueducts, the California Aqueduct and the Delta Mendota Canal, were being throttled back because of fish regulations. As this article by the SJV Sun explains, over 100,000 cfs of water was moving through the Delta this week and 95% of it was flowing to the ocean. The reason more wasn’t being captured and put into the aqueduct system is the frustrating part. … ”  Read more from the Milk Producer’s Council here: Blog: San Joaquin Valley water update

Bear Creek still below flood stage in Merced amid efforts to strengthen levees

Although forecasters initially predicted Bear Creek would rise above flood stage by Saturday night, fortunately that did not happen. As of Sunday morning, the Bear Creek gauge at McKee Road measured a depth just under 17 feet. When the creek rises above 23 feet, it’s considered above flood stage. Will the creek stay below flood stage? Jim Bagnall, forecaster with the National Weather Service in Hanford, said it’s expected to increase to 19 feet by 3 p..m. tomorrow, but that’s still under the flood stage threshold. … ”  Read more from the Merced Sun-Star here: Bear Creek still below flood stage in Merced amid efforts to strengthen levees

Relentless rains replenish local reservoirs

Water managers in the Kaweah and Kings River watersheds are pumped up over the volume of rain in the Sierras over the past few weeks.  While many communities across the state are focusing understandably on flood damage from the parade of atmospheric river storms that have drenched California, it’s the potential relief from years of drought resulting in a huge hardship for the local economy here that have gotten the attention of Mark Larsen in the Kaweah River aquifer and Steve Haugen who oversees the Kings River aquifer.  “We’re pretty excited,” Larsen, who is GM at the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District, said. “Instead of fighting over water we don’t have, we are able to focus on managing a good volume of water we do have.” ... ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: Relentless rains replenish local reservoirs

Rain plunges Tulare County into state of emergency

As extreme weather passes throughout the state, Tulare County declares a state of emergency to note the seriousness of the matter. Only two weeks into the new year, the Central Valley already has seen about 30-50% of its annual average rainfall, according to meteorologist Brian Ochs with the National Weather Service (NWS). As of Jan. 13, the NWS has recorded 3.98 inches of rain at their co-op in Visalia, which is well over the monthly average of .91 inches. With that amount of rain, heavy winds, tornado warnings, evacuation notices and damages, the county declared a state of emergency on Tuesday Jan. 10. The day before, Kaweah River reported the most water intake in the past 16 years.  … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: Rain plunges Tulare County into state of emergency

A river appears in the Kern River bed

There was water snaking through the Kern River bed through Bakersfield on Friday.  The City of Bakersfield was moving water it was obligated to release down the river for power plants through the riverbed and into Truxtun Lakes, the lake at the Park at Riverwalk and Aera Park, according to Daniel Maldonado, a city water resources planner.  City flows were about 70 cubic feet per second, but Maldonado said that could vary day by day.  Those flows could be augmented in the near future by water from the Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: A river appears in the Kern River bed

Isabella Lake could be filled to capacity this spring for first time in more than 15 years

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Isabella Dam team is asking for clearance from Corps safety officials in Sacramento to dramatically raise the water level in Isabella Lake. After more than a decade and a half of following strict limits on how much water may be stored in the 70-year-old reservoir, the Isabella team believes the time has come, weather permitting, to fill the lake to capacity this spring. And so far, weather doesn’t appear to be a limiting factor. “Our Isabella team is currently drafting a deviation request for approval by the Sacramento District Dam Safety Officer, which will allow us to temporarily raise the reservoir above the Operating Restriction to Gross Pool in order to accomplish our initial fill,” Project Manager Evan Nelson said in an email. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here: Isabella Lake could be filled to capacity this spring for first time in more than 15 years

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

First of back-to-back storms starts in Southern California

Rain fell steadily across Southern California starting Saturday, Jan. 14, as the first of two quick-succession storms began less than a week after an intense storm pounded the region.  Total rainfall for the Los Angeles metro area, including downtown LA and Long Beach, had already surpassed an inch as of the late afternoon, according to NWS meteorologist David Gombert.  Similar totals were seen in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys, where Porter Ranch took the lead at around an inch and a quarter of rain; Calabasas and Woodland Hills barely hovered over an inch, Gombert added.  Still, Gombert maintained that Saturday’s storm was playing out in a “typical” way.  “Overall, it’s nothing compared to what we saw last week,” he said.  There were some problems on the roads, however. ... ”  Read more from the San Bernardino Sun here: First of back-to-back storms starts in Southern California

Capturing stormwater: I-Team examines how much we are losing

Recent storms have dumped a much higher-than-normal amount of rain across Southern California, and that is helping our drought situation.  Some experts tell the NBC4 I-Team that more should be done to collect that water and store it for dryer times.  The NBC4 Weather team reports Los Angeles County alone has received some 4 to 10 inches of rain since the beginning of the year.  But a lot of this is flowing away, into the ocean, and not being captured.  “We can get 5 to 10 billion gallons of runoff from this type of storm. we’re capturing a fraction,” Bruce Reznik, Executive Director, Los Angeles Waterkeeper, told the I-Team. … ”  Read more from NBC LA here: Capturing stormwater: I-Team examines how much we are losing 

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Along the Colorado River …

Audio: ‘It’s coming for everybody’: Central Arizona farmers’ access to Colorado River dries up completely

On Jan. 1, farmers in Pinal County, Arizona, lost the last remaining access they had to Colorado River water. A severe drought in the Western United States has put an immense strain on the river, which millions of people rely on.  People like Jace Miller knew the cuts were coming. His family has farmed a rural stretch of desert between Phoenix and Tucson for generations. But the family business took a turn last January when Miller lost 60% of rhe river water needed to irrigate his hay crops.  And then, on the first day of 2023, hundreds of farmers just like him in Pinal County lost every last drop. … ”  Read more from WBUR here: Audio: ‘It’s coming for everybody’: Central Arizona farmers’ access to Colorado River dries up completely

Dead Pool Diaries: Climate change, the doctrine of prior appropriation, and the Colorado River crisis

Writing in 2018 in the Seattle Journal of Environmental Law, Kait Schilling argued that the doctrine of prior appropriation – the notion that those who first put water to use hold priority over those who came later – was no longer compatible with a climate-changed world. … The two sides of the argument: 1 – equity requires sharing the pain across all water users – seniors (mostly farms but also Native American communities) and juniors (mostly cities), and 2- to respond to climate change-induced shortages, we need to cut off juniors, or make them compensate seniors for the water they need.  This debate is the narrow eye of the needle we’re trying to pass through right now in the rapid-fire negotiations underway to deal with this Colorado River crisis. ... ”  Continue reading at the Inkstain blog here: Dead Pool Diaries: Climate change, the doctrine of prior appropriation, and the Colorado River crisis

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Also on Maven’s Notebook this weekend …

REMINDER: DWR SB552 Drought Planning: Draft for Public Comments: County Drought Plan Guidance for Domestic Wells and State Small Water Systems

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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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