A wrap-up of posts published on Maven’s Notebook this week …
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In California water news this week …
California set to get needed break from storms. How long will it last?
“A much-needed break from the relentless train of storms from the Pacific is set to unfold across California, and AccuWeather meteorologists believe the pause in major rain and mountain snow events should last through the end of January. During much of late December and the first half of January, storms from the central Pacific continuously plowed into California while grabbing plumes of subtropical moisture along the way. The storms brought drought-easing rain and yards of snow to the mountains but also triggered deadly and damaging flooding and mudslides as snow shut down travel over the Sierra Nevada passes. While storms will continue to roll along across the northern Pacific in the coming weeks, a zone of high pressure will build at most levels of the atmosphere along the West Coast of the United States. … ” Read more from AccuWeather here: California set to get needed break from storms. How long will it last?
Relentless California atmospheric rivers drop 32 trillion gallons of water over 3 weeks
“It’s been three-plus weeks of nearly non-stop rain in California as a stubborn weather pattern sent wave after wave of tropically-infused atmospheric rivers, triggering widespread flooding, landslides and power outages across the state. … San Francisco reported measurable rain on 17 of the 23 days between Dec. 26 and Jan. 17, including 12 days that featured at least a half inch and four days with an inch or more. Los Angeles reported rain on 14 of those 23 dates. A dry Jan. 1 was the only day stopping Arcata from experiencing 25 consecutive days with measurable precipitation. Overall, the FOX Forecast Center calculated an estimated average of 11 inches of rain fell across the entire state through the prolonged period. That translates to roughly 32 trillion gallons of water in the state between the heavy lowland rains and feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and the Siskiyou Mountains that fell since Dec. 24. … ” Read more from Fox Weather here: Relentless California atmospheric rivers drop 32 trillion gallons of water over 3 weeks
California’s Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations are key to managing floods and water supplies
“As California experiences more extreme swings between wet and dry periods, it is critical for the State to deploy innovative forecasting and water management strategies to adapt to our changing climate. The Department of Water Resources along with federal and local water agencies, have developed a Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO) program to take advantage of scientific improvements in forecasting atmospheric rivers to better anticipate and manage large storm events while maximizing opportunities to increase water supply. Atmospheric rivers like those we’ve seen in January 2023 have a profound impact on water management in California. DWR, in coordination with Yuba Water Agency, UC San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are now working together on this critical public safety initiative at two locations: Lake Oroville and New Bullards Bar. ... ” Read more from DWR News here: California’s Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations are key to managing floods and water supplies
Press release: New analysis reveals recent storms would have yielded water for up to 2 million people, farms, and businesses if Sites Reservoir were operational today
“The Sites Project Authority today announced findings from a new analysis that projected Sites Reservoir could have diverted and captured 120,000 acre–feet of water in just two weeks if the reservoir had been operational from Jan. 3 through Jan. 15. Based on forecasted flows, the analysis shows that the reservoir would continue to capture water over the next few weeks as flows continue to run high. “This is exactly the type of scenario that Sites is being built for—short windows of extremely high flows. There is an untapped opportunity to capture and store a portion of the significant amount of flow from the Sacramento River that occurs during these rare but major storms without impacting the value of these high flows for our environment,” said Jerry Brown, Executive Director of the Sites Project Authority. ... ” Read more from Sites JPA here: New analysis reveals recent storms would have yielded water for up to 2 million people, farms, and businesses if Sites Reservoir were operational today
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.
For all their ferocity, California storms were not likely caused by global warming, experts say
“As California emerges from a two-week bout of deadly atmospheric rivers, a number of climate researchers say the recent storms appear to be typical of the intense, periodic rains the state has experienced throughout its history and not the result of global warming. Although scientists are still studying the size and severity of storms that killed 19 people and caused up to $1 billion in damage, initial assessments suggest the destruction had more to do with California’s historic drought-to-deluge cycles, mountainous topography and aging flood infrastructure than it did with climate-altering greenhouse gasses. Although the media and some officials were quick to link a series of powerful storms to climate change, researchers interviewed by The Times said they had yet to see evidence of that connection. Instead, the unexpected onslaught of rain and snow after three years of punishing drought appears akin to other major storms that have struck California every decade or more since experts began keeping records in the 1800s. … ” Read more from the LA Times here: For all their ferocity, California storms were not likely caused by global warming, experts say
‘Extreme’ drought erased from California for first time in years. Will it last?
“For the first time in almost three years, California is no longer in extreme drought. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released the latest Drought Monitor on Thursday morning. One county along the northern California coast, Del Norte, isn’t even classified as in drought. That is the first time since April 2021 that any part of the Golden State is not in a drought category. Becoming drought-free won’t come as a surprise to the county just north of an area that FOX Weather estimated picked up 65.41 inches of rain between Dec. 24 and the third week in January. … ” Continue reading from Fox Weather here: ‘Extreme’ drought erased from California for first time in years. Will it last?
5 ways California is storing water from winter storms
“California is taking urgent action to protect communities from climate-driven extremes in weather and expand the state’s capacity to capture storm runoff in wet years. “California isn’t waiting to act – we’re moving aggressively to modernize how we capture and store water to future-proof our state against more extreme cycles of wet and dry,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “We’re expediting projects across the state to maximize stormwater capture and storage above and below ground during times like these, reshaping our water systems for the 21st century and beyond.” Leveraging the more than $8.6 billion committed by Governor Newsom and the Legislature in the last two budget cycles to build water resilience, the state is taking aggressive action to prepare for the impacts of climate-driven extremes in weather on the state’s water supplies … ” Read more from the Office of the Governor here: 5 ways California is storing water from winter storms
State agencies fast-track groundwater recharge pilot project to capture flood waters for underground storage
“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
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?
A 2-inch fish is limiting how much water can be captured for cities and farms
“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
Environmental rules stoke anger as California lets precious stormwater wash out to sea
“Environmental rules designed to protect imperiled fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta have ignited anger among a group of bipartisan lawmakers, who say too much of California’s stormwater is being washed out to sea instead of being pumped to reservoirs and aqueducts. In a series of strongly worded letters, nearly a dozen legislators — many from drought-starved agriculture regions of the Central Valley —have implored state and federal officials to relax environmental pumping restrictions that are limiting the amount of water captured from the delta. “When Mother Nature blesses us with rain, we need to save the water, instead of dumping it into the ocean,” Assemblymember Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield) wrote in a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom. … ” Read more from the LA Times here: Environmental rules stoke anger as California lets precious stormwater wash out to sea
Column: Have no Prop. 1 water projects been built in California? No, but they are moving slowly
“California voters approved a ballyhooed $7.5-billion bond issue eight-plus years ago thinking the state would build dams and other vital water facilities. But it hasn’t built zilch. True or false? That’s the rap: The voters were taken. The state can’t get its act together. Republicans and agriculture interests in particular make that charge, but the complaint also is widespread throughout the state. There’s some truth in the allegation. But it’s basically a bum rap. No dams have been built, that’s true. But one will be and two will be expanded. And hundreds of other smaller projects have been completed. ... ” Continue reading at the Los Angeles Times here: Column: Have no Prop. 1 water projects been built in California? No, but they are moving slowly
Can we capture more water in the Delta?
“A massive amount of water is moving through the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta in the wake of recent storms, and calls have risen from all quarters to capture more of this bounty while it’s here. We spoke with PPIC Water Policy Center adjunct fellow Greg Gartrell to understand what’s preventing that—and to dispel the myth of “water wasted to the sea.” Q: Your recent policy brief said that California doesn’t do a good enough job of managing water supply in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta in wet years. Are we likely to see some of the effects that you highlighted this year? A: Yes. The brief focused on where we could have improved water management during California’s last three really wet years, which were 2011, 2017, and 2019. All three years had periods when the San Joaquin River was flooding, protections for salmon and steelhead were suspended, and the two water projects—Central Valley Project and State Water Project—could pump without restrictions. But the major reservoir south of the Delta—San Luis—was full, and there was simply no place to put the additional water. We could see that again this year, though a couple of things make that less likely. … ” Read more from the PPIC here: Can we capture more water in the Delta?
California faces catastrophic flood dangers — and a need to invest billions in protection
“The storms that have been battering California offer a glimpse of the catastrophic floods that scientists warn will come in the future and that the state is unprepared to endure. Giant floods like those that inundated the Central Valley in 1861 and 1862 are part of California’s natural cycle, but the latest science shows that the coming megafloods, intensified by climate change, will be much bigger and more destructive than anything the state or the country has ever seen. A new state flood protection plan for the Central Valley presents a stark picture of the dangers. It says catastrophic flooding would threaten millions of Californians, putting many areas underwater and causing death and destruction on an unprecedented scale. The damage could total as much as $1 trillion. The plan, approved last month, calls for $25 billion to $30 billion in investments over the next 30 years in the Central Valley, and outlines recommendations that include strengthening levees and restoring natural floodplains along rivers. … ” Read more from the LA Times here: California faces catastrophic flood dangers — and a need to invest billions in protection | Read via Yahoo News
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
Valadao, GOPers demand answers into Biden’s teardown of Valley water boost
“California Republicans are pressing President Joe Biden’s administration for answers regarding its proposed teardown of a 2019 environmental document that shapes the flow of water throughout the Golden State and drove an increase in water supplies to Valley farms. Rep. David Valadao (R–Hanford) led the way in December by making the request to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. The backstory: In 2019, President Donal Trump’s administration issued new biological opinions governing the the management of California’s State Water Project and the Federally-run Central Valley Project. The previous biological opinions were issued in 2008 and 2009. ... ” Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Valadao, GOPers demand answers into Biden’s teardown of Valley water boost
San Joaquin County residents voice opposition to Delta Tunnel project
“When it comes to managing the boom and bust cycle of California’s water supply, Governor Gavin Newsom and the Department of Water Resources (DWR) have promoted a $16 billion project that would pump water from the delta down south. Opponents to the plan have called it a “water grab” meant to serve the interests of Los Angeles and other parts of southern California. “There’s a lot of people that live in Los Angeles, about 20 million of them. There’s a lot less who live here, and so it’s no surprise why we are overlooked on this issue time and time again,” said Rep. Josh Harder to a gathering of San Joaquin County constituents Wednesday in a town hall focusing on water. “They will drink us dry. They will turn us into a desert without putting a dent in their water use,” said one man in the crowd. … ” Read more from Channel 10 here: San Joaquin County residents voice opposition to Delta Tunnel project
Fallowing with a (re)purpose
“If you were brought up several decades ago, the traditional sustainability-conservation mantra ran something like: use it up. Wear it out. Make it do, or do without. The challenge was to find a secondary use for something like taking a small used grocery produce bag with you as a pickup package when you walked the dog or saving rubber bands and tin foil sheets for another project. It wasn’t just one-and-done — it was finding creative ways to extend the usable life of something. That concept of repurposing is being tested in three almond pilot areas in the San Joaquin Valley (Pixley Irrigation District Groundwater Sustainability Agency, Greater Kaweah GSA, Madera County GSA) where the lack of water supplies has, at least temporarily, removed acreage from production. … ” Read more from Farm Progress here: Fallowing with a (re)purpose
Dam removal puts California salmon in hot pursuit of cold water
“California salmon are now traversing a rocky stretch of river northeast of Sacramento for the first time in a century. Until a few months ago, an 8-foot concrete dam in Auburn Ravine stopped most of them from reaching miles of cool spawning habitat. NOAA Fisheries supported the planning and removal by partners of 8-foot Hemphill Dam. It had been installed in the early 1900s to divert water into the Hemphill Canal but lacked passage for native salmon and federally listed steelhead. “This is a true win for the native fish stocks in Auburn Ravine and the people who live in Placer County,” says Neal McIntosh, Natural Resources Management Specialist for NOAA Fisheries California Central Valley Office. “The Placer County Conservation Program has helped focus the community and partnering agencies by highlighting important projects like this one.” … ” Read more from NOAA here: Dam removal puts California salmon in hot pursuit of cold water
Eating one fish from U.S. lakes or rivers likened to drinking month’s worth of contaminated water
“Eating one freshwater fish caught in a river or lake in the United States is the equivalent of drinking a month’s worth of water contaminated with toxic “forever chemicals,” new research said on Tuesday. The invisible chemicals, called PFAS, were first developed in the 1940s to resist water and heat and are now used in items such as non-stick pans, textiles, fire suppression foams and food packaging. But the indestructibility of PFAS, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, means the pollutants have built up over time in the air, soil, lakes, rivers, food, drinking water and even our bodies. … To find out PFAS contamination in locally caught fish, a team of researchers analyzed more than 500 samples from rivers and lakes across the United States between 2013 and 2015. … ” Continue reading at CBS News here: Eating one fish from U.S. lakes or rivers likened to drinking month’s worth of contaminated water
Tackling “forever chemicals” in the water supply
“Much has been made of two drinking water pollutants recently: PFAS and microplastics. We spoke with Jason Dadakis, executive director of water quality and technical resources with the Orange County Water District, to find out how worried we should be. Q: What are PFAS and microplastics, why are they in our water supply, and why should we care? A: “PFAS” is an acronym for a large family of manmade chemicals that all feature the carbon-fluorine bond, one of the strongest bonds in nature. They resist degradation in the environment, which is where they get their nickname “forever chemicals.” They’re used in firefighting foams, protective coatings and films, and consumer products like stain-resistant garments and carpets. They’re ubiquitous—they’re in things you touch, eat, and breathe. In fact, 99% of the population has detectable amounts of one or more of these substances in their blood. And they make their way into our water supplies and wastewater. … ” Read more from the PPIC here: Tackling “forever chemicals” in the water supply
Feds clear Ex-Interior Sec. Bernhardt in probe of Westlands ties
“For the fourth time in five years, Federal officials cleared former U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt of allegations of misconduct and impropriety levied by Capitol Hill Democrats during his time running the department. Bernhardt, appointed to the Cabinet post by former President Donald Trump following a short stint as Deputy Interior Secretary, was long a target of House Democrats due to his previous role as an advocate for Westlands Water District, the nation’s largest agricultural water district. Bernhardt’s prior role with Westlands prompted a bevy of investigation requests, largely originating from a trio of House Democrats – then-House Natural Resources Committee chair Raul Grijalva, Rep. Jared Huffman (a former advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council), and former Rep. TJ Cox. … ” Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Feds clear Ex-Interior Sec. Bernhardt in probe of Westlands ties
In commentary this week …
Rain finally came to California. We blew our chance to use it
Richard G. Luthy, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, writes, “After the driest three-year period on record in state history, Pacific storms, known as atmospheric rivers, just deluged California cities. But as much as we needed this water, a large fraction of it was lost by runoff to the ocean. This largely untapped resource that we can capture and use for water supply by reimagining how we deal with stormwater. This won’t be easy because we have more than 100 years of experience with treating urban runoff as flood control and property protection problems rather than a water supply opportunity. Reimagining how we use stormwater is important for California and relevant to other water-scarce places. … ” Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Rain finally came to California. We blew our chance to use it
California’s mega water wasters
Edward Ring, a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness and contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, writes, “It’s illegal to serve drinking water in a California restaurant unless the customer asks for it. Billboards sponsored by the state urge residents to put a bucket in their shower to capture water for their gardens. These symbolic pittances, along with escalating restrictions on water use by farmers and households that are anything but trivial, are the products of a deeply flawed mentality governing water policy in California. At the same time as government bureaucrats commit to ongoing water rationing, ferocious winter storms lash the state with hundreds of millions of acre-feet of precipitation. If this storm runoff were captured and stored, there would never be water scarcity again. But instead, it merely causes flooding and havoc, then runs into the vast Pacific Ocean. This is the story of California’s mega water wasters, one of the most delusional, self-righteous, destructive cults in the history of civilization. … ” Read more from American Greatness here: California’s mega water wasters
California’s floods another reminder of failed water management policies
Steven 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 doing a study on their ill effects (and a commissioner saying a ban on their import and manufacture is on the table). 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. … What does this have to do with today’s topic of water policy? One gets a sneaking suspicion that with any resource issue the environmental up-lifters are more interested in disrupting our lifestyles than solving actual environmental issues. The real climate threat comes from developing nations—not high-end gas stoves in suburban American households. … ” Read more from Reason here: California’s floods another reminder of failed water management policies
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
Water, water everywhere — but where is the science supporting its management in the Delta?
Dennis D. Murphy writes, “Much of the California public suffering from yet another round of flooding would be astonished to know that the water-export pumps in the south Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta serving agricultural and urban water users in the southern half of the state were operating at less than half of their capacity. State Water Project pumps that can operate at levels up to 8,500 cfs, had been reduced to just 2,000 cfs at the start of January, less than a quarter of their capacity. During the first week of this new year more than 200,000 acre-feet of water a day was flowing into the Delta and then out to San Francisco Bay. Last week that outflow had increased to over 300,000 acre-feet per day. For context, 300,000 acre-feet is about a third of the capacity of Folsom Lake. As California struggles to recover from three years of intensive drought and as water users in the San Joaquin Valley desperately yearn to restore groundwater supplies, this ongoing management of the state’s increasingly scarce water resources is mystifying. … ” Read more from the Center for California Water Resources Policy and Management here: Water, water everywhere — but where is the science supporting its management in the Delta?
How do you fight a drought when it’s flooding?
Opinion columnist Farhad Manjoo writes, “California is built upon the great gamble of irrigation. Left alone, much of the land in the Western United States would be inhospitable to teeming cities. But we’re Americans — we couldn’t let the desert stand in our way. More than a century ago, the United States Bureau of Land Reclamation began taming the water in the West. It’s been a remarkably successful project. In California, where I live, irrigation has turned largely barren regions into some the country’s most fertile farmland and most prosperous metropolises. We’ve built “the most ambitious desert civilization the world has seen,” Marc Reisner put it in “Cadillac Desert,” his 1986 history of Western irrigation. I’ve been thinking a lot about “Cadillac Desert” in the past few weeks, as the rains fell and fell and kept falling over California, much of which, despite the pouring heavens, seems likely to remain in the grip of a severe drought. … ” Continue reading at the New York Times here: How do you fight a drought when it’s flooding?
Location, location, location: It’s driving four new dam projects on valley’s edge
Dennis Wyatt, editor of the Manteca Bulletin, writes, “paradox / par a doks/ noun Something (such as a situation) that is made up of two opposite things and that seems impossible but is actually true or possible. The Golden State is in the midst of recovering from a flood emergency while in the middle of a drought emergency. It’s the definition of a true paradox, California-style. We act surprised. We pin it on manmade climate change, the boogeyman — or is that bogeyperson — of the 21st century. And we do so at our collective risk. … Virtually every model being offered up for climate change impacts in California comes to the same conclusion. There are years ahead of us with below normal precipitation, drought. And that includes periods that could go dozens of years with little relief. There are also periods ahead of us just like we have just experienced. The go-to solution is creating more storage. ... ” Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here: Location, location, location: It’s driving four new dam projects on valley’s edge
Dan Walters: Storms tell California to upgrade its plumbing
Dan Walters writes, “The rain and snow storms that have pummeled California for weeks have taken nearly two dozen lives and caused billions of dollars in damages to public and private property. The flip side, however, is that they dropped immense amounts of water on a state that has suffered through severe drought for several years. At one point this month, an astonishing 160,000 cubic feet of water – 1.2 million gallons – was flowing through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta every second. That’s enough water to fill a reservoir the size of Folsom Lake, about 1 million acre-feet, in three days and doesn’t count water falling on other regions, such as Southern California. Whether the storms have ended the drought, however, depends on California’s ability to capture enough water to fill its badly depleted reservoirs and at least begin to recharge underground aquifers that have been terribly overdrafted by desperate farmers. … ” Read more from Cal Matters here: Dan Walters: Storms tell California to upgrade its plumbing
How California can prepare for future floods before a megastorm hits
Gerald Meral, director of the California Water Program at the Natural Heritage Institute, former deputy director of the California Department of Water Resources, and deputy secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency writes, “Californians have suddenly turned their attention from drought to flooding. The future likelihood of a series of huge atmospheric rivers in California, a so-called ARk storm scenario, seems to be a certainty. … These megastorms occur about once every 150 years. Climate change will intensify them. Flood control reservoirs already line the Sierra Nevada foothills, including Shasta, Oroville, Folsom, New Melones and others. … But Sierra Nevada and similar Southern California flood control reservoirs like Prado and Seven Oaks cannot store enough floodwater to sufficiently reduce the effects of atmospheric river megastorms. The reservoirs will fill, but continuous flood flows will pass through as if the reservoirs were not there. ... ” Read more from Cal Matters here: How California can prepare for future floods before a megastorm hits
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
California’s anti-racist water plan
Thomas Buckley, former Mayor of Lake Elsinore and a former newspaper reporter, writes, “As of this coming Wednesday, water will no longer be racist because that’s when the California State Water Resources Control Board will discuss its 2023-2025 Racial Equity Action Plan. On the 18th, the Board will discuss – but will not vote to disapprove nor approve as the Action Plan is a “living document” and they passed a resolution calling for it to be created in November of 2021, it seems – the plan as presented. The epitome of bureaucratic diversity-speak, the plan lays out a number of tasks for itself, its nine regional sub-boards, and the water industry in general in order to best eliminate systemic racism in water delivery and to address the numerous putative past problems. To wit, this grounding construct for the plan: “Racial equity is a Water Boards’ priority. We are working toward a future where race no longer predicts a person’s access to water or the quality of water resources they receive, where race does not predict professional outcomes for our employees, and where we consistently consider racial equity impacts before we make decisions.” … ” Read more from the California Globe here: California’s anti-racist water plan
Op-ed: Some regenerative farms are weathering California’s unprecedented rainfall
Ryan Peterson, an instructor for Climate Farm School at Terra.do and a regenerative agriculture advocate, writes, “As California experiences a historic succession of winter storms, most of us will see extensive reporting on power outages, flooding, and mudslides. But amidst the destruction, there is a story of resilience and preparedness that will get less attention. A small but growing contingent of farmers is poised to not only rebound from the deluge of water, but to benefit from it. These farmers have a valuable lesson to share: ecologically-minded, regenerative organic agriculture that prioritizes soil health is critical to our future. … ” Read more from Civil Eats here: Op-ed: Some regenerative farms are weathering California’s unprecedented rainfall
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
In regional water news this week …
EPA proposes cleanup plan for Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine Superfund site
“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 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, 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 Lake County News here: EPA proposes cleanup plan for Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine Superfund site
Making room for more: For the first time in nearly four years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began a series of high-flow releases from Lake Mendocino
“For the first time in nearly four years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began a series of high-flow releases Monday from the Coyote Valley Dam at Lake Mendocino near Ukiah. Officials said the releases will reduce reservoir levels that had “significantly increased … well into the flood control pool at Lake Mendocino for the first time since 2020” due to the series of moisture-laden atmospheric rivers that drenched the North Bay region at an almost daily pace for more than three weeks — since Dec. 26. The high-flow release, officials said, will get rid of the excess water so the reservoir can accommodate additional rainfall this season. … ” Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: Making room for more: For the first time in nearly four years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began a series of high-flow releases from Lake Mendocino
New maps reveal Bay Area flood threat from below
“As Bay Area residents kayaked through flooded streets and bailed out buildings during California’s recent storms, they faced not only bursting creeks and pouring rain but also rising groundwater. “During a big storm, there’s just water everywhere,” says Ellen Plane, an environmental scientist at the San Francisco Estuary Institute. “We have it from basically all directions.” With climate change, water from below is poised to get worse. As sea levels rise, so will Bay Area water tables. A new mapping project aims to give planners the data they need to act. The Shallow Groundwater Response to Sea-Level Rise report, released this week from Pathways Climate Institute and San Francisco Estuary Institute, provides current groundwater maps and comprehensive projections for Alameda, Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties. It models scenarios from one foot to nine feet of sea level rise. … ” Read more from Knee Deep Times here: New maps reveal Bay Area flood threat from below
Monterey: Collaboration prevents ag wastewater from overflowing during storm
“Foresight the city of Salinas and Monterey One Water shared years ago likely staved off a discharge of wastewater from roughly a dozen agricultural processing facilities during the height of the Salinas River flooding.Last weekend floodwater overtopped a pond at the city’s Industrial Wastewater Treatment facility that is tasked with cleaning water discharged from agricultural processing. To prevent an environmental disaster by releasing untreated wastewater into the flooding river, the city took two actions. First, it shut down the processors and second, it began to divert wastewater into Monterey One Water’s system that pumps it out to its Marina plant that cleans the water. Six years ago that would not have been feasible. … ” Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Collaboration prevents ag wastewater from overflowing during storm
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
Los Angeles County collects 33 billion gallons of rainwater in recent storms
“Good news has surfaced in Los Angeles County’s ongoing battle with water scarcity. The Los Angeles County Public Works Department announced Monday that more than 33 billion gallons of stormwater have been captured in the early months of the California winter storm season. It will be used as drinking water and is enough to supply 816,000 people with enough water for an entire year, according to Los Angeles County Public Works Director Mark Pestrella. “This is great news for the county and the region,” Pestrella said in a news release. “We’re working with our water partners to increase the region’s capacity to capture, clean and conserve stormwater runoff, while investing with equity in communities through the Safe Clean Water Program.” ... ” Read more from KTLA here: Los Angeles County collects 33 billion gallons of rainwater in recent storms | Read similar story from the Long Beach Press Telegram
Recent flooding leaves Southern California beaches, wetlands littered with trash
“The recent series of winter storms that dumped heavy rainfall across the region left a trail of damage in their wake, and now floods have pushed large amounts of trash into the ocean and onto Southern California beaches. Public works crews in Seal Beach used heavy machinery to pull massive piles of trash and debris off the beach after it ran into the ocean from nearby flood channels and then washed ashore. Some of the trash that flows into the ocean is caught up in flood channels in cities that are miles away from the beach. While Orange County officials say that littering is part of the problem, carelessness by those not meaning to litter is another. … ” Read more from KTLA here: Recent flooding leaves Southern California beaches, wetlands littered with trash
Water managers across drought-stricken West agree on one thing: ‘This is going to be painful’
“Water authorities in the Western U.S. don’t have a crystal ball, but rapidly receding reservoirs uncovering sunken boats and other debris lost in their depths decades ago give a clear view of the hard choices ahead. If western states do not agree on a plan to safeguard the Colorado River — the source of the region’s vitality — there won’t be enough water for anyone. Water managers, researchers, agricultural producers and others from across the drought-stricken river basin met in Las Vegas last month for the Colorado River Water Users Association annual convention to face hard truths about the state of the river and historically-low levels of its biggest reservoirs. Two decades of drought and poor planning have caused the river’s biggest reservoirs — Lakes Mead and Powell — to drop to their lowest collective volume since they were filled. “Time is not on our side. Hydrology is not on our side. That’s the frightening reality,” said Rebecca Mitchell, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. … ” Read more from the Arizona Mirror here: Water managers across drought-stricken West agree on one thing: ‘This is going to be painful’