High water levels at the Lake Mendocino. Coyote Dam has started high-flow water releases from Lake Mendocino near Ukiah, California, from the Coyote Dam. The high flow releases from Coyote Dam at Lake Mendocino are the first time since declaring the drought in 2021. Photo taken January 16, 2023 by Kenneth James / DWR

DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: Snowpack is robust, but experts worry hot, dry weather coming; No Delta smelt found in fall fish survey; Water district roiled by bitter infighting, criminal charges against GM; Constituents want McCarthy to do more on water; and more …

In California water news this weekend …

The West’s snow boom could ease the water crisis. But experts worry more hot, dry weather is coming

A parade of storms has given the West some relief from its historic drought, replenishing the soil, filling reservoirs and increasing much-needed snowpack. But whether it will be enough to help lift the West out of its multi-year water crisis, experts say, depends on temperatures in the coming months. …  Across Western states, snowpack has reached more than 200% of normal levels in some places, with record-high amounts in the central Sierra Nevada. What’s already fallen there in the first couple of months of winter is what the region usually sees all the way through April 1.  But nearly 60% of the West is still in some level of drought. And as the rain and snow subsided earlier this week, experts now worry how long that white gold will last as conditions get hotter and drier. … ”  Read more from CNN here: The West’s snow boom could ease the water crisis. But experts worry more hot, dry weather is coming

30 feet of snow? That much has fallen in some places in California as snow blankets huge swaths of state.

The atmospheric rivers that battered California with heavy flooding in January also left behind staggering snow accumulations.  NASA satellite images show far more snow on the state’s mountains this winter compared to last.  And in an environment where every drops of water matters, that unusually deep snowpack is a rare bit of good news, especially for farmers. While every snowstorm is different, there’s about an 1 inch of water contained in a foot of snow.  Water users all across west are carefully watching snowfall-measuring sites so they can plan for the coming summer. Here’s what to know … ”  Continue reading from USA Today here: 30 feet of snow? That much has fallen in some places in California as snow blankets huge swaths of state.

Before and after: See the impact of California storms from space

After at least nine atmospheric rivers in a little more than three weeks dumped more than 30 trillion gallons of water on California, the state’s landscape of deep valleys, tall mountains and rugged coastlines has been visibly altered. Those changes, which extend well out into the Pacific Ocean, can be vividly seen from space now that the storm clouds have cleared.Satellite imagery from before and after the atmospheric rivers, which are narrow bands of extreme moisture that produce heavy rain and snow, tell the story of a state that has seen devastating flood damage, rising reservoirs, and billions of gallons of water lost to the ocean after a three-year drought. … ”  Read more and view pictures from the Washington Post (gift article): Before and after: See the impact of California storms from space

California’s vineyards were thirsty. Historic rains were ‘a dream come true.’

RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY, Calif. — This region’s vintners have been turning very little water into very good wine year after year during an unrelenting drought. So when recent rainstorms wreaked chaos across California, growers in the heart of the state’s iconic wine country did not grumble about the dangerous and disruptive weather. Instead, they welcomed the downpours like a godsend. The record rainfall, brought on by a series of atmospheric rivers, may not be enough to officially end the state’s long dry spell. But it has filled depleted reservoirs, deposited many feet of snow atop California’s mountains and pulled the driest parts of the state out of “extreme drought” conditions. And it has quenched some very thirsty vines. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post here: California’s vineyards were thirsty. Historic rains were ‘a dream come true.’

Storm flooding compounds misery for California farms and workers

Throughout California, farms that have struggled to cope with years of severe drought have now been dealt additional misery by a series of deadly atmospheric rivers that have devastated operations, even while helping to fill dwindling reservoirs. In many cases, the losses are being felt most sharply by the thousands of farmworkers who have suddenly found themselves unemployed or working fewer hours in dangerous conditions while also dealing with damage to their own homes and vehicles.  The flooding is just the latest in a continuing series of environmental crises that have affected farmworkers in recent years, including laboring in extreme heat, inhaling harmful wildfire smoke or losing work due to drought. Last year, approximately 12,000 agricultural jobs were lost when California’s irrigated farmland shrank by 752,000 acres, or nearly 10%.  “We have compounding and cascading disasters from extreme storms, flooding, wildfires, heat waves and drought that are all impacting farmworkers,” said Michael Méndez, assistant professor of environmental planning and policy at UC Irvine. “This is just a part of the larger history of disproportionate impacts that this population is experiencing.” ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Storm flooding compounds misery for California farms and workers

California oysters are in short supply. Here’s why the rain is to blame

““You can say that we’re the only farmers who don’t like rain,” said Neal Maloney, owner of Morro Bay Oyster Co., a Central California harvester that produces around 1 million Pacific Gold oysters per year.  Since the tail end of last year, when the first in a parade of storms slammed into California, Maloney and many of the state’s other oyster farmers have been unable to harvest the mollusks, temporarily closing some operations and taking California oysters off some menus.  Although the storms brought much-needed rain to the state, helping to refill reservoirs and soaking drought-stricken regions, the water runoff into places such as Morro and Tomales bays prompted oyster harvesters to pause operations for bacterial testing. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here: California oysters are in short supply. Here’s why the rain is to blame

‘The bad gets worse’: Why California storms could get more intense — and dangerous

Storms have dumped historic amounts of rain and snow on California over the past month. But in the not-so-distant future, winter storms in the Western U.S. could get bigger and more intense as greenhouse gas emissions warm the planet, a new study reported Thursday in Nature Climate Change.  Human-induced climate change made these storms pack extra punch. The storm in early January that was propelled over the Bay Area by a bomb cyclone poured about 5% more rain due to warming, according to climate scientist Michael Wehner of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.  “Five percent doesn’t sound like a lot, except it’s five percent of a big number,” Wehner said, describing the estimate as a conservative one.“When you have these big events, you’re pushing your systems to their limits — maybe exceeding their limits.” … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: ‘The bad gets worse’: Why California storms could get more intense — and dangerous

In other California water news this weekend …

‘Critically endangered’ Delta smelt fish not caught in Sacramento since 2017

“Scale-covered delta smelt fish were abundant in regions like the San Joaquin River and the Sacramento River throughout the 1970s and 1980s — but this is no longer the case. The small fish was deemed “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2012, and the population has decreased ever since. A recent survey from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife noted the agency failed to catch any delta smelt in 2022 despite 61 sampling days between September and December.  Even the 12,942 marked adult delta smelt they released into the Sacramento River near Rio Vista in November failed to turn up in any sampling the agency ran on the region in December. … ”  Read more from Channel 10 here:  ‘Critically endangered’ Delta smelt fish not caught in Sacramento since 2017

SEE ALSO: Zero Delta Smelt caught in 2022 CDFW fall midwater trawl survey as Delta Tunnel moves forward, from the Daily Kos

Blog: Delta pumping up 400% since January 9; Water Blueprint submits letter to state leaders

Geoff Vanden Heuvel with the Milk Producers Council writes, “Some good news to report this week on the water front. Exports scheduled today from the state pumps are 9,500 cubic feet per second (cfs), a dramatic increase from the 1,900 cfs pumped on January 9. The rise in Delta pumping comes after regulators met the “first flush” rule, which is mandated by the federal biological opinions and requires two weeks of reduced pumping after the start of the first winter storms. While not pumping at full capacity, this rate will help move a significant amount of water south of the Delta into San Luis Reservoir for use later in the season.  Yesterday, the Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley (MPC is a huge supporter and I sit on the Board of Directors) sent a letter to Governor Newsom, Natural Resources Agency Secretary Crowfoot and Department of Water Resources Director Nemeth regarding projects to better manage California water resources. … ”  Continue reading at the Milk Producers Council here: Blog: Delta pumping up 400% since January 9; Water Blueprint submits letter to state leaders

Unlocking ‘nature’s storm drains’ to harness floods and combat California’s drought

As weeks of rain that brought relief from California’s historic drought give way to what may be weeks of dry weather, some scientists think a solution to saving precious water may lie in canals buried deep within the Central Valley — formed after the last Ice Age.  Climate change has brought intensifying swings between extreme drought and extreme floods to the Golden State, which new research suggests has limited options to use floods to recharge increasingly depleted underground aquifers. One option is to set aside vast tracts of land to channel floodwaters, and another is to find land that can quickly pass large amounts of water into rapidly drying aquifers.  The Central Valley faces dire risk of flooding when atmospheric rivers hit cities and rivers restricted by levees. It is also the region most dependent on groundwater for human survival given its status as the world’s breadbasket — groundwater that has been badly depleted in recent years. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: Unlocking ‘nature’s storm drains’ to harness floods and combat California’s drought

Water district roiled by bitter infighting and criminal charges against general manager

For years, the Central Basin Municipal Water District was seen as a poster child for government dysfunction: State auditors slammed the agency for questionable contracting practices, poor leadership and violating the law. Competing lawsuits accused officials of corruption and harassment, while the district’s bond rating plummeted.  Then in 2020, as some California lawmakers sought to dissolve the district’s board of directors and place it in receivership, the Commerce-based water wholesaler hired a self-described “turnaround specialist” to reform the district, which serves almost 2 million residents in southeast Los Angeles. The troubled district was finally entering a new age, some hoped.  But those hopes have now faded as the district finds itself in yet another major scandal. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Water district roiled by bitter infighting and criminal charges against general manager | Read via the Union Bulletin

Harder wades into water issues as new District 9 representative

He’s only been on the job in his new digs for about a couple weeks, but Rep. Josh Harder, D-Stockton, said the northern region of San Joaquin County is not as different at Stanislaus County as some might think. “I’ve always represented San Joaquin County, it’s just that it was the south county,” he said. “This is still a district that is Stanislaus and San Joaquin, it’s just a different proportion, and it shifted north.”  Harder, who previously the U.S. Congress’ District 10 representative, said the issues and concerns of his former constituents are the same as those voiced by residents in Stockton and Lodi, the most pressing of those being water, healthcare costs and economic development. … ”  Read more from the Lodi News-Sentinel here: Harder wades into water issues as new District 9 representative

DWR launches interagency task force as part of advance planning for drought conditions

While California’s drought outlook is improving, the State is continuing to proactively prepare for a return to dry conditions amid climate-driven extremes in weather. Today, Department of Water Resources (DWR) is officially launching a standing Drought Resilience Interagency and Partners (DRIP) Collaborative, which will include members of the public. Community members and water users are encouraged to apply.  Initiated by Senate Bill 552, the DRIP Collaborative will foster partnerships between local governments, experts, community representatives and state agencies to address drought planning, emergency response, and ongoing management. Members will help ensure support for community needs and anticipate and mitigate drought impacts, especially for small water supplier and rural communities who are often more vulnerable to droughts. … ”  Read more from DWR here: DWR launches interagency task force as part of advance planning for drought conditions

As the state’s budget work gets underway, recent weather puts spotlight on water infrastructure

As work gets underway on the state budget, the recent weather events in California — which left more than a dozen people dead and caused tens of thousands to evacuate their homes — have put a spotlight on the state of water infrastructure.  In the new budget proposal he recently announced, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed $202 million to go toward flood protection. The investments will be divided between urban flood risk reduction, delta levees and Central Valley flood protection, according to the plan.  “The state’s proposed 2023 budget recognizes the need for critical investments in our water infrastructure, with new funding proposed for flood risk reduction and protection, as well as several other important water management strategies,” said Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton. “As California’s policymakers, my fellow representatives and I must constantly readdress infrastructure limitations in our state.” ... ”  Read more from the OC Register here: As the state’s budget work gets underway, recent weather puts spotlight on water infrastructure

Unprecedented levels of high-severity fire burn in Sierra Nevada forests

High-severity wildfire is increasing in Sierra Nevada and Southern Cascade forests and has been burning at unprecedented rates compared to the years before Euro-American settlement, according to a study from the Safford Lab at the University of California, Davis, and its collaborators. Those rates have especially shot up over the past decade.  For the study, published in the journal Ecosphere, scientists analyzed fire severity data from the U.S. Forest Service and Google Earth Engine, across seven major forest types.  They found that in low- and middle-elevation forest types, the average annual area that burned at low-to-moderate severity has decreased from more than 90% before 1850 to 60-70% today.  At the same time, the area burned annually at high severity has nearly quintupled, rising from less than 10% to 43% today. (High-severity burns are those where more than 95% of aboveground tree biomass is killed by fire.)  Lead author and UC Davis project scientist John N. Williams said this ratio is severely out of balance. … ”  Read more from UC Davis here: Unprecedented levels of high-severity fire burn in Sierra Nevada forests

Return to top

In commentary this weekend …

Instead of fighting the woke war, SJ Valley congressmen need to fight the water war

Dennis Wyatt, editor of the Manteca Bulletin, writes, “In another time — or is that another dimension — Kevin McCarthy and Josh Harder would be strange bedfellows.  McCarthy  holds the most powerful position in the Congressional chamber that has the most control over the nation’s purse strings.  The Speaker of the House’s roots — and political base that counts in terms of him getting elected to office — are in Bakersfield and the 20th Congressional district in the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley. … McCarthy’s ascension to the speakership in an era where Democrats and Republicans alike are engaged in trench warfare over cultural values and wokeness in itself would have made his trying to cobble together a federal strategy to help California cyclical water issues daunting enough.  McCarthy, however is water-lite in terms of his advocacy for water endeavors dealing with storage, flood control or environmental concerns. … ” Instead of fighting the woke war, SJ Valley congressmen need to fight the water war

Column: Why the era of big water projects passed into history

Columnist Pete Golis writes, “After the three driest years in the recorded history of California, torrential rains were bound to spur a clamor for new water projects. People want to know: Why is all this water being allowed to escape to the ocean?  Demands for new water projects have been loudest in the Central Valley, where hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland have been left fallow because years of drought led to depleted reservoirs, widespread water curtailments and groundwater overdrafts.  Wishing for a new water project and building one is not the same, of course. There are reasons the era of major dam projects has come and gone. … ”  Read the full column at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: Column: Why the era of big water projects passed into history

Former Secretary of Interior cleared of ethics violations

Don Wright with Water Wrights writes, “I received a heads up from an old friend Cole Rojewski concerning a report about former Department of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. Rojewski is a partner & cofounder of the RBW Group. He is also former Director of the Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs, Department of the Interior and Chief of Staff for Congressman David Valadao. … “I wanted to flag a DOI OIG report that came out today, and I have attached a copy for your convenience. The Department of the Interior Office of Inspector General released a report – “Allegations of Ethics Violations by Former U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Were Not Substantiated.” … Rojewski shared with me, “I am completely unsurprised to read today’s OIG’s findings that are an exoneration from baseless allegations hurled at former Secretary David Bernhardt. Bernhardt’s conduct while at Interior was a model of ethical compliance. Bernhardt is one of the most law-abiding, ethically-sound people I know, and these continued reports show he has always followed the letter of the law. … ”  Read more from Water Wrights here: Former Secretary of Interior cleared of ethics violations

Editorial:  Mother Nature sent a memo to California’s leaders: Flood control must be a priority

The Fresno Bee and Merced Sun-Star editorial boards write, “California is starting to dry out after its weeks-long deluge caused by atmospheric rivers, and nowhere in the San Joaquin Valley is that needed more than Merced County. The Merced River runs north of the city bearing the name Merced. And yet an estimated 1,600 people were displaced due to flooding of not the river, but Bear Creek, the main waterway coursing through the city. About 26 businesses were also shut down when the creek overflowed its banks and water rolled into the establishments. Farther east, outside of Merced, a different creek caused problems for the community of Planada. Miles Creek overflowed into the town, and left neighborhoods underwater. About 5,000 residents at one point were told to evacuate. ... ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Editorial:  Mother Nature sent a memo to California’s leaders: Flood control must be a priority

Return to top

In people news this weekend …

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

Felicia Marcus: “Water is at the center of climate adaptation and where so many solutions lie”

The United States is facing various pressing water challenges, including drought, rising sea levels, ageing water infrastructure and polluted waterways. We speak to Felicia Marcus, William C. Landreth Fellow, Stanford University Water in the West Program, Founding Member, Water Policy Group, about some of these questions. Founding member of the Water Policy Group and the William C. Landreth Visiting Fellow at Stanford’s University’s Water in the West Program, Felicia Marcus has worked in most areas of the water sector, having turned her volunteer work into a successful and buzzing career. Serving in positions in government, the non-profit and private sector, she shares with SWM her vast experience and views on various pressing water issues, including the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Clean Water Act, climate mitigation, and the provision of clean water in disadvantaged communities, a topic particularly close to her heart. … ”  Read more from Smart Water Magazine here: Felicia Marcus: “Water is at the center of climate adaptation and where so many solutions lie”

Phyllis Faber, noted Marin environmentalist, dies at 95

Phyllis Faber, a prominent conservationist and the co-founder of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, died at her home in Mill Valley on Jan. 15. She was 95.  Mrs. Faber co-founded the land trust in 1980 and served as a regional official for the California Coastal Commission. She was a member of the California Native Plant Society and editor of the organization’s journal.  Mrs. Faber’s son, Charlie Faber, 62, of Nevada City, said her impact and vision for Marin County will “go on in perpetuity.”  “She was an amazing woman who lived her life to the fullest,” he said. “She had a drive of going out and changing things she felt passionate about, the natural environment and protecting it.” … “  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here:  Phyllis Faber, noted Marin environmentalist, dies at 95

SEE ALSO: Remembering Phyllis Faber: 1928-2023, from Bay Nature

MWDOC mourns the passing of General Manager Rob Hunter

With heavy hearts and great sadness, the Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC) shares the difficult news of the passing of our beloved General Manager, Rob Hunter, who had been fighting a brave and courageous battle with cancer. Simple words cannot describe the impact Rob’s unwavering leadership has had on the lives of our staff and board, the water world, and our Orange County community.  For nearly a decade, Rob was devoted to his role as MWDOC’s General Manager, tirelessly working to move the agency forward with every interaction and thoughtful decision. We offer our deepest condolences to his wife, Sarah, his children, and grandchildren, who supported him every step of the way.   Consistent with his role as the appointed designee in the absence of the General Manager, Assistant General Manager Harvey De La Torre will be performing the duties of the General Manager until further notice. We will do our best to support the continued business and activities of the district while respecting the time and space needed to grieve and honor Rob and his legacy. 

Return to top

Podcasts …

ECONEWS REPORT: The Central Valley Project and its North Coast Connections

On this week’s EcoNews Report, we travel to California’s Central Valley to explore the elaborate plumbing that connects North Coast rivers to the Central Valley and the impact of this massive diversion system has on local fish populations.  In December, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland reversed a Trump-era decision that got Central Valley irrigrators off the hook for habitat restoration costs. Chris Shutes of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association lay out the sordid history of the Central Valley Project.”  Listen at the Lost Coast Outpost here:  ECONEWS REPORT: The Central Valley Project and its North Coast Connections


WATER IS A MANY SPLENDOR’ED THING: Delta Public Safety 

When thinking about the California Delta, we think of water supply, flood control, economic sustainability of agriculture and public safety. But with each of these needs, it is important to arrive at a balanced approach when managing California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  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 TIMES PODCAST: Colorado River in Crisis, Part 3: The Dam

The main way the American West harvests the Colorado River for its water use is by dams that create reservoirs, which are quickly drying up because of climate change. Can knocking some dams down help?Today, in our continuing series on the Colorado River, we go to Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell to talk to some people who think so.Host: “The Times” senior producer Denise GuerraGuests: L.A. Times water reporter Ian James.


BLOOMBERG LAW PARTS PER BILLION: States scramble on water rights pact as deadline nears

As a multidecade megadrought continues in the West, the Colorado River Basin is drying up. Today we’ll talk about what that means for the millions of people who depend on that water. And we’ll look at what states and regulators are doing to ensure that communities get the water they need to survive. Seven western states are frantically working to reach an agreement on how to divvy up the available water ahead of a Feb. 1 deadline—at which point the federal government has suggested it would impose its own rules to fix the problem. That’s the topic of discussion on today’s Parts Per Billion, our weekly environmental podcast.


WHAT ABOUT WATER? WITH JAY FAMIGLIETTI: Chemical cocktails: What’s in our groundwater? with John Cherry

If it’s not stuck in glaciers or polar ice, 99 per cent of the world’s freshwater is groundwater. Water underground supplies nearly half of the world’s drinking water. But what happens when dangerous chemicals and waste – polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), oil, gasoline and road salts – percolate down into that supply? On this episode of What About Water? Jay sits down with the father of contaminant hydrogeology, Dr. John Cherry, to talk about the water under our feet, and how we can better monitor it.  To find out what’s actually being done to stop industry polluters from dispersing PFAS chemicals into our waterways, producer Erin Stephens speaks with Marc Yaggi, CEO of the global nonprofit Waterkeeper Alliance.


RIPPLE EFFECT: Raingrid Circular Stormwater Systems

Kevin Mercer of Raingrid talks us through the use of rain barrels as distributed stormwater infrastructure avoiding the need for expensive water treatment services. This is a great free ranging discussion about real solutions to stormwater treatment, More importantly, we discuss the broader water energy nexus and rethinking our approach to water and water systems. A fun time was had by all.

Return to top

In regional water news this weekend …

NORTH COAST

State holds first listening session on effort to save Clear Lake hitch

California hasn’t lost a species in 50 years, but that could soon change if efforts to save the Clear Lake hitch fail.  The population of the hitch, a large minnow native to Clear Lake and its tributaries, is crashing, local tribes are asking state and federal agencies for immediate intervention and on Thursday the state held a virtual meeting with Lake County residents and officials to discuss the emergency.  The hitch’s troubles began decades ago. Once reported to number in the millions, over the last decade, the hitch population has plummeted.  In 2014, as the situation was accelerating, the hitch was listed as a threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act. However, the federal government hasn’t followed suit so far. … ”  Read more from the Lake County News here:  State holds first listening session on effort to save Clear Lake hitch

SACRAMENTO VALLEY

Trees were a California city’s salvation. Now they’re a grave threat.

The power had just gone out in Eben Burgoon’s Sacramento home earlier this month when, all of a sudden, he heard three thuds. He opened his door, expecting to find a fallen tree branch, only to discover that a massive redwood had crashed down on his home, breaking over his roof and smashing his neighbor’s car.  Burgoon, his wife, Jessica, and the neighbor — whose bedroom wall was sheared off — were uninjured. But the damage done by the 100-foot redwood was “catastrophic,” he said. The tree removal service that hauled it away estimated it was planted 106 years ago, when Burgoon’s house was built, and probably weighed 65,000 pounds.  “It was a beautiful tree, it really was,” he added, “but I kind of have a difficult feeling about it right now.” … ”  Read more from the Washington Post here: Trees were a California city’s salvation. Now they’re a grave threat.

See drone video comparing Folsom Lake levels in Jan. 2023 to a low point in 2021

On Jan. 18, 2023, Folsom Lake held 125% of its normal amount of water for this time of year. Its surface was at 421 feet – 51 feet higher that a low point observed by drone Oct. 20, 2021. The lake, which also protects against flooding, is 55% full.”

BAY AREA

Stinson Beach storm damage expected to worsen as sea rises

For residents of Stinson Beach, the sight of ocean waves running up their streets, carving away tons of sand, flooding homes and even washing a house or two into the sea every decade or two has been an accepted tradeoff for a beachside lifestyle.  The storms that pummeled the community this month, causing millions of dollars in damages to homes, were similar to others that longtime residents like Celeste Laprade experienced in the early 2000s, the late 1990s and a particularly destructive storm in 1983. Major flooding events date back to 1940, 1956 and 1978.  “We all chose to live on the beach and we realize that that can happen,” said Laprade, secretary of the Stinson Beach Historical Society. “We all understand that living out here has its dangers.” ... ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Stinson Beach storm damage expected to worsen as sea rises

Marin’s heightened flood risks illustrated in new study

As Marin communities look to bolster shoreline defenses against the rising ocean, a new study has made clear another threat sitting a few feet beneath the earth’s surface that could worsen flooding impacts in spite of these fortifications.  Published this month, the report details areas in Marin and three other Bay Area counties that have shallow groundwater, which could rise closer to the surface as denser ocean water presses further inland and enters the groundwater table.  Through time, this groundwater could begin to damage the foundations of homes, underground electrical and sewage lines, expose contaminants and worsen flooding during storms.  “There is still a lot more work to be done to develop strategies to deal with both the type of flooding that is direct inundation from the bay as well as water coming up from below,” said Ellen Plane, an environmental scientist with the San Francisco Estuary Institute and one of the lead authors of the report. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Marin’s heightened flood risks illustrated in new study

Commentary: Program helps county ranchers, farmers to store, conserve water

Scott Dunbar, MALT’s stewardship program manager for sustainable agriculture, writes, “These past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time on ranches and farms across Marin County. Without a doubt, water is on everyone’s mind, but not exactly in the way most of us might be thinking.  With the recent extreme storm events, our community has been inundated with flooding, persistent power outages and even loss of life. As the Marin Agricultural Land Trust’s stewardship program manager for sustainable agriculture, I can say that, while ranchers and farmers are also concerned about these same impacts, they are also always thinking about the other side of the water equation. They are focused on the long-term drought outlook and the need to build resilience for future climate variability.  Farmers and ranchers are on the front line; experiencing extreme, dynamic weather from historic drought to atmospheric river storms. Now is the time to double down on investments in long-term solutions and lay the foundation for building resilience for climate variability. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Marin Voice: Program helps county ranchers, farmers to store, conserve water

CENTRAL COAST

Water projects try to capture more rain in Santa Cruz County

Santa Cruz has received more than 30 inches of rain since October — which already exceeds the city’s average annual rain, according to the National Weather Service.  Unofficial data from one Santa Cruz weather station showed Dec. 29 to Jan. 18 as the wettest three weeks the area has seen since record keeping began in 1893, said National Weather Service meteorologist Dalton Beringer.  The City of Santa Cruz’s water mainly comes from streams, creeks and other surface sources. The city’s water storage primarily has been limited to Loch Lomond Reservoir, which is full. The rest of the county is largely reliant on underground basins, which are slow to refill — even during wet years.   Water agency leaders in the city and county of Santa Cruz have been trying to find better ways to capture, store and share water. … ”  Read more from Santa Cruz Local here:  Water projects try to capture more rain in Santa Cruz County

King Tides give researchers a glimpse of the future at Elkhorn Slough

Elkhorn Slough provides in Moss Landing provides one of the places on the Central Coast to explore King Tides.  California Department of Fish and Wildlife guides provide walking tours of the estuary when the unusually high tides occur giving people a chance to see the area inundated.  “There is something about seeing these incredibly high tides and seeing things like trails and habitats just get swallowed up by the ocean that people are fascinated by,” said outreach coordinator Ariel Hunter. Hunter led the walk on Saturday when high tide was forecasted to reach seven feet, usually, high tide reaches five feet at the slough. … ”  Read more from KSBY here: King Tides give researchers a glimpse of the future at Elkhorn Slough

While Chualar’s wastewater treatment plant is out of commission, Soledad is treating its wastewater.

During the recent winter storms, Monterey County’s wastewater treatment plant in the unincorporated South County community of Chualar was under water as the Salinas River flooded, and sewage was released into the river, according to a memo prepared by Soledad’s interim city manager J. Edward Tewes for Soledad City Council.  Since Tuesday, Jan. 17, trucks have transported wastewater—about 60,000 gallons per day—from Chualar to Soledad for processing in that city’s wastewater treatment plant. On Jan. 18, Soledad City Council unanimously approved emergency mutual aid between Soledad and Chualar, and the city will continue to treat Chualar’s wastewater for up to 60 days.  When Chualar’s facility flooded, the Central Coast Regional Water Board and Monterey County Water Resources Agency requested emergency aid and Tewes authorized it for a 60-day period. … ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly here: While Chualar’s wastewater treatment plant is out of commission, Soledad is treating its wastewater.

Santa Barbara County: Luck has nothing to do with flood control!

Andy Caldwell, the executive director of COLAB and host of The Andy Caldwell Radio Show, writes, “Five years to the day of the 2018 debris flow, Montecito was spared from another disaster, similar to the one that caused the death of 23 people along with untold destruction and misery.  But luck had nothing to do with it, for the Santa Barbara County Flood Control district built the recently completed Randall Road Debris Basin, which held back 50,000 cubic yards of material that would have otherwise barreled down the hill. Moreover, the county will continuously empty all the debris basins lest disaster strikes again in the next big storm.  Whereas, this is all good news, the rest of the county is not so “lucky.” Guadalupe and many agricultural fields took a pounding in the recent storm because there is no levee or debris basin protecting these areas. Moreover, we are dangerously close to the circumstances in 1969 when the Lompoc Valley, including Vandenberg Air Force Base, was devastated by a flood. … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara News-Press here: Luck has nothing to do with flood control!

Sewage spill due to storm damage closes multiple Ventura County beaches

Two sewer lines damaged by recent rainstorms have been repaired, but not before leaking around 14 million gallons of sewage into the Ventura River and surrounding beaches causing ongoing closures.  The Ojai Valley Sanitary District was able to complete temporary repairs to two damaged sewer lines and stop the associated leaks on Jan. 12.  Ocean water samples have been taken to determine the extent of the impact and if area beaches meet state standards for reopening. … ”  Read more from KEYT here: Sewage spill due to storm damage closes multiple Ventura County beaches

SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY

Harder: SJ County is at greater risk of catastrophic flood worse than Katrina

Congressman Josh Harder on Wednesday vowed to work to stop the Delta Tunnel, secure needed flood protection, and to push for more water storage to address future droughts.  Harder’s remarks at a town hall meeting attended by more than 150 people in French Camp underscores the fact San Joaquín County — that is almost entirely within his district — is ground zero for flooding, drought, and water grab issues given the largest bulk of the Delta is within the county.  The town hall was initially organized by Harder after the Army Corps of Engineers refused to conduct in-person hearings on the environmental document for the tunnel project. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here: Harder: SJ County is at greater risk of catastrophic flood worse than Katrina

‘A game-changer’: San Joaquin Valley farmers help replenish groundwater by flooding their fields

For farmers throughout California, dealing with drought is one of many stressors.  San Joaquin County almond farmer Christine Gemperle says it’s something she thinks about every single day.  “I guess I’ve had anxiety over it, sometimes despair,” Gemperle said.  She and her brother Eric have been farming two almond orchards for the past 25 years.  One of those orchards in Ceres spans 40 acres and includes its own flood irrigation system. Gemperle said she was inspired to put that system to use a couple of weeks ago when storm after storm finally filled up a neighboring canal. “When I saw the water going by in the canal I thought, that’s going to the river,” Gemperle said. … ”  Read more from KCRA here: ‘A game-changer’: San Joaquin Valley farmers help replenish groundwater by flooding their fields

Manteca has options to harness recycled water

What Manteca sends down its drains and toilets one day could flow through water taps in Mountain House.  That is one option of how Manteca could repurpose upwards  of 10,500 acre feet of recycled wastewater it generates in a typical year.  It is one of 10 alternatives explored in the reclaimed water facilities master plan  being presented to the Manteca City Council when they meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St. ... ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here: Manteca has options to harness recycled water

Faucets in McCarthy’s district are running dry after years of drought. Constituents want him to do more

“… Newly elected House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has represented Tooleville for the past decade – though the small town is just outside his newly redrawn congressional district. The Republican lawmaker has long represented Kern and Tulare counties, and his redrawn seat adds portions of Fresno County.  Throughout his tenure, this region of California has spent more time than any other part of the country in exceptional drought – the US Drought Monitor’s most severe category – a drought scientists say has been made more intense by human-caused climate change. Recent rainfall has put a dent in the region’s surface drought, though experts have told CNN it will do little to solve the ongoing groundwater shortage.  Multiple people CNN spoke to for this story said McCarthy and his office don’t often engage on this issue in the district, especially compared with neighboring members of Congress. And they wish he would do more with his power in Washington – especially now that he holds the speaker’s gavel. … ”  Read more from CNN here: Faucets in McCarthy’s district are running dry after years of drought. Constituents want him to do more

SEE ALSO Video: Rep. Kevin McCarthy on California’s water supply, from Yahoo News

Tehachapi: District board members at impasse over water priority ordinance

Water and politics are complicated. That might be why an attempt to pass a water priority ordinance at the Jan. 18 meeting of the Board of Directors of Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District resulted in a stalemate. Board President Robert Schultz and Director Joseph Sasia voted to pass an ordinance that would keep priorities pretty much the same as they have been in prior years.  Vice President Jonathan Hall and Director Rick Zanutto voted against passing the ordinance. And because it currently has only four members, the 2-2 vote meant that the board is back to square one. … ” Read more from Tehachapi News here: Tehachapi: District board members at impasse over water priority ordinance

Tehachapi: Flood control systems ‘worked flawlessly’ during storms

Flood control systems owned by Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District “worked flawlessly” during recent storms, General Manager Tom Neisler reported at the Jan. 18 meeting of the district’s Board of Directors. Downtown Tehachapi and other areas used to flood during heavy rains, largely with water flowing from Antelope and Blackburn canyons in the mountains south of the city. Flooding was particularly extensive in 1945 and 1983. The water district and others including the Tehachapi Resource Conservation District, city of Tehachapi, Kern County Water Agency and the USDA Soil Conservation Service (now known as the Natural Resources Conservation Service) all cooperated and in 1983 congressional funding was obtained for a flood control project. … ”  Read more from the Tehachacpi News here: Tehachapi: Flood control systems ‘worked flawlessly’ during storms

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Kamala Harris stresses need for diversified water policy on Southern California visit

Vice President Kamala Harris called for a more diversified approach to water management on a visit to Southern California Friday as extreme weather patterns necessitate changes to handle both unprecedented drought and deluges.  Harris visited the Tujunga Spreading Grounds in Sun Valley, one of more than a dozen spreading basins in LA County that capture storm water for future use.  “We must have the ability to diversify our approach,” Harris said. “We must understand that the issues present in the climate crisis are varied.”  The White House has secured more than $12 billion for western water infrastructure in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act. This funding will help build diversified water projects like the Tujunga Spreading Grounds in communities across the West, increasing drought resilience and protecting water resources. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: Kamala Harris stresses need for diversified water policy on Southern California visit

Kamala Harris visits L.A. stormwater project in wake of record-setting rains

Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday joined state and local leaders at a Los Angeles County site recently upgraded to increase groundwater retention, where they touted ongoing efforts to improve drought resiliency across California and neighboring states.  Harris’ visit came on the heels of a series of storms that battered the state for weeks, causing fatalities, flooding and extensive damage — but also provided record-setting precipitation needed in the water-starved West.  Harris said the climate whiplash — from years of severe drought to pummeling rain — was indicative of the climate crisis, requiring better preparation for such weather extremes. And with much of that recent stormwater already flowing into the Pacific, the situation has renewed calls to change how the state collects and stores rainwater. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Kamala Harris visits L.A. stormwater project in wake of record-setting rains

SEE ALSO:

Editorial: L.A. doesn’t need a water czar to solve its water woes. It’s already on it

The LA Times editorial board writes, “The recent onslaught of storms and the backdrop of relentless drought might make Los Angeles residents wish we had an old-school water czar to tap distant rivers. We don’t have a Mulholland-like water czar to ram through projects to contain stormwater, recycle wastewater and desalinate ocean water — nor would that be workable. What we have is Los Angeles County’s Safe Clean Water Program and its chain of scoring committees, watershed steering committees, oversight committees, advocacy committees, consultants and, of course, politicians.And despite what seems like a bureaucratic process, the program is doing its job, and doing it well. … ”  Read the full commentary at the LA Times here: Editorial: L.A. doesn’t need a water czar to solve its water woes. It’s already on it

Littlerock Dam maintenance pact approved by PWD Board

The Palmdale Water District Board of Directors, on Jan. 9, approved a contract with Oakland-based AECOM for a work plan to address maintenance and repairs to Littlerock Dam. The District has two dams, Littlerock and Harold (near Lake Palmdale), which are inspected, yearly, by the state Division of Safety of Dams. Following these inspections, the District is provided with repair requirements and recommendations. The Division has requested the District provide a work plan for addressing leakage and other issues with the dam, according to the staff report. … ”  Read more from the Antelope Valley-Press here: Littlerock Dam maintenance pact approved by PWD Board

King tides to bring extremely high sea levels, but is flooding again a concern?

A second round of king tides land this weekend, with high tides nearing 7 feet. The National Weather Service has issued warnings for low-lying areas along Orange and Los Angeles counties through Monday morning.  “The morning high tides could result in minor tidal overflow, bringing some ponding of sea water to vulnerable areas, including parking lots at low-lying beach areas,” a coastal hazard advisory says.  The good news is the surf will be small, unlike a week ago when high tide and big surf combined to cause damage along the coast.  Significant damage to roads or structures is not expected, National Weather Service officials said. ... ”  Read more from the OC Register here: King tides to bring extremely high sea levels, but is flooding again a concern?

IMPERIAL/COACHELLA VALLEYS

‘Water Education for Latino Leaders’ tour Salton Sea and sit down with its Authority Executive Director

The ‘Water Education for Latino Leaders’ had the opportunity to tour the Salton Sea Saturday morning.  The group also known as ‘WELL’ is made up of about twenty Latino elected officials from across California.  City council, school board, and water district members throughout California came together. They each had the opportunity to sit down and speak with the Salton Sea Authority Executive Director, G. Patrick O’Dowd.  They learned more about the Salton Sea’s impact to the region, and how it affects the quality of life of those who live nearby. … ”  Read more from KESQ here: ‘Water Education for Latino Leaders’ tour Salton Sea and sit down with its Authority Executive Director

SAN DIEGO

Flowers and drought: What recent drenching means for San Diego

Flowers are blooming in the desert. Flooding and sewage spills have largely receded. Dams continue to collect runoff. But the drought is still far from over.  San Diego recently weathered a month-long series of storms that also blanketed much of the West with badly needed snow. Still, the possibility of state-mandated water restrictions loom over the region this year, especially if dry conditions return to the Sierra Nevada.  Residents and local officials in San Diego are now taking stock of the situation as the deluges appear to be giving way to sunnier skies. While urban areas are still riddled with potholes and beach closures, rains have revived parched natural landscapes. ... ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here: Flowers and drought: What recent drenching means for San Diego

King Tides engulf Mission Bay marsh, flood parts of San Diego

We all know about high tides, they happen twice a day, but King Tides happen only twice a year.  These roughly seven-foot tides change our coastline in a way that needs to be captured. Areas that we know and love are completely underwater. The Kendall-Frost Marsh is one spot where you can really see the difference. These are drastic changes for us, and more so for birds.  “A lot of the birds that normally would be in the marsh come around the edges, and birders can see them,” said Nigella Hillgarth, a bird conservationist.  Plenty of bird conservationists came out to get a better look. … ”  Read more from Channel 10 here: King Tides engulf Mission Bay marsh, flood parts of San Diego

Return to top

Along the Colorado River …

Column: Why more water could make fixing the Colorado River even more difficult

Opinion columnist Joanna Allhands writes, “Record snowfall has come to Arizona.  It hasn’t even melted yet, and already there’s an extra 100,000 acre-feet of water in Salt River Project’s reservoirs since Jan. 1.  Meanwhile, snowpack across the Colorado River basin is well above normal, and while it’s still too early to know how runoff will shape up, some researchers have begun to raise their expectations for a better year.  So, we can ease up, right?  Maybe we won’t need to stop using nearly as much water this year, as predicted, to keep Lake Mead and Lake Powell on life support?  That’s exactly what some folks are now saying. And that presents an unexpected challenge. ... ”  Read more from the Arizona Daily Republic here: Column: Why more water could make fixing the Colorado River even more difficult

Former Interior secretary says farms must give up water again

As governor in 1980, Bruce Babbitt prodded southern and central Arizona farmers into accepting the first limits ever imposed on their groundwater pumping. …. Now a former U.S. Interior secretary, Babbitt says a different group of farmers — those working along the Colorado River — must eventually accept the idea that some will have to sell out to cities to insure there’s enough water left for urban growth to continue.  It’s a highly controversial idea, one that rural riverfront communities have mostly staved off. But Babbitt says the need to buy and retire farms’ river water rights is now “the elephant in the room,” one that must be confronted even as “nobody talks about it.” ... ”  Read more from the Arizona Daily Star here: Former Interior secretary says farms must give up water again

Arizona commentary: New users should pay for new water

Mark Johnson, a retired water resource professional and president of the Tortolita Alliance, writes, “The water world is finally starting to realize that the Colorado River is over-allocated, and less water will be available due to aridification. It appears a mandatory Colorado River water cut is imminent. If there is a permanent Colorado River water delivery cut, many water suppliers will have to find alternative supplies (New Water). However, there are limited surface water and groundwater options. The only other possible supply-side option is desalinated sea water. Demand management through additional water conservation and/or limiting growth is also a means to create New Water and should always be considered if practical and acceptable. … ”  Read more from the Tucson Daily Star here: Arizona commentary: New users should pay for new water

State lawmaker proposes water solution for Rio Verde Foothills to Scottsdale officials

There’s a rush to find a solution for hundreds of families in a community northeast of the Valley three weeks after their water supply was turned off. Scottsdale cut off the Rio Verde Foothills after warning them for years that this change was coming so the city could conserve water.  On Friday, Representative David Cook introduced a short-term plan to Scottsdale officials to bring water to the Rio Verde Foothills without using a drop of Scottsdale’s supply. “There is water, we just have to be able to augment it and sit down and have adult conversations,” said Rep. Cook. One of those adult conversations includes his new proposal: using water from the Gila River Indian Community, paying Scottsdale to run it through their infrastructure to the people who need it in Rio Verde Foothills. “We need to get these written agreements in place, then that way we can lean forward to the long-term solution which is getting someone to service that area and as Scottsdale said they wanted ‘get out of the water business’,” said Rep. Cook. … ”  Read more from Arizona Family here: State lawmaker proposes water solution for Rio Verde Foothills to Scottsdale officials

One small step for Native American water rights

In early January, the unthinkable happened for hundreds of households in the Rio Verde suburb of Phoenix: Their water was cut off. Families in the cactus-pocked desert foothills were forced to skip showers, use paper plates, and haul laundry elsewhere. The nearby city of Scottsdale had supplied water deliveries to the community for years, but officials there decided they had to conserve more water to serve their own residents.  Amid historic western water shortages and a 20-year drought, for years some have expressed interest in helping meet demand for water where there is not enough to go around: Native American tribes. The reality, however, is that outdated federal law prevents many tribes from leasing their water off reservation. … ”  Read more from Reason here: One small step for Native American water rights

What happens if Lake Powell becomes a ‘dead pool’?

A drought that has gripped the Southwest is creeping the nation’s two largest reservoirs toward a dead pool, which would have catastrophic consequences for water users in the Colorado River’s lower basin.  Falling water levels at Lake Mead and Lake Powell have been concerning for several years. Both reservoirs have troublingly low water levels at 1,054.79 and 3,524.22 feet above sea level, respectively.  As the drought continues and global warming evaporates water supplying the reservoirs, each reservoir isn’t far from dead pool, which is when the water level is too low to flow downstream or power the turbines that provide hydroelectric power. … ”  Read more from Newsweek here: What happens if Lake Powell becomes a ‘dead pool’?

Return to top

In national water news this weekend …

WOTUS lawsuit challenges ‘vague and unpredictable standards’

A legal challenge to the new Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule has been filed by a coalition of agricultural and other business organizations. The WOTUS lawsuit has been filed in the Federal District Court in the Southern District of Texas. A total of 18 organizations filed the complaint aimed at blocking the rule that was published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on December 30.  “The new rule is vague and creates uncertainty for America’s farmers, even if they’re miles from the nearest navigable water,” said American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Zippy Duvall. “We believe a judge will recognize these regulations exceed the scope of the Clean Water Act, and direct EPA to develop rules that enable farmers to protect natural resources while ensuring they can continue stocking America’s pantries.” … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here: WOTUS lawsuit challenges ‘vague and unpredictable standards’

If America’s megadrought continues, the impact will be catastrophic

The western half of the United States is currently experiencing a long-running megadrought that is putting a significant strain on water resources across the region, and experts say that another decade or two of dryness could have “catastrophic effects” on the country.  The latest data from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that 65 percent of the continental U.S. is experiencing some form of drought or abnormally dry conditions. Some of the hardest-hit states include Utah, Oregon, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma, which all contain regions that are undergoing “extreme drought” conditions.  “This region is experiencing an exceptional drought condition, with a severity that we have not seen in the past 1,200 years,” Rick Relyea, director of the Darrin Fresh Water Institute at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, told Newsweek. … ”  Read more from Newsweek here: If America’s megadrought continues, the impact will be catastrophic

Return to top

Also on Maven’s Notebook this weekend …

WORKSHOP: Integrated Water Flow Model (IWFM) Ver 2015 Training

NOTICE of Opportunity to Comment and Public Hearing Concerning Proposed Exemption Resolution for Upper Feather River Watershed Irrigated Pasture in the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program

NOTICE: Update to Resources Related to the Water Unavailability Methodology for the Delta Watershed

Return to top

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.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email