A large flock of Snow Geese takes flight from a field next to Garmier Road near Tisdale Weir in Sutter County, California. Photo taken January 12, 2023. Kenneth James / California Department of Water Resources.

DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: Grayson wonders if restored floodplain prevented disaster; Weekend storm to give way to pattern change; Central Valley groundwater sinking faster than ever; Shrinking Colorado River hands Biden his first climate brawl; and more …

In California water news this weekend …

Grayson wonders if restored floodplain prevented disaster

When devastating floods swept California last month, the community of Grayson – a town of 1,300 people tucked between almond orchards and dairy farms where the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers converge – survived without major damage.  In the minds of some townspeople and experts, that was thanks partly to the 2,100 acres (850 hectares) of former farmland just across the San Joaquin that have been largely restored to a natural floodplain.  Advocates for floodplain restoration say it can help solve California’s dual dangers of flooding and drought, replenishing groundwater for future drought relief while protecting towns from the catastrophic flooding that scientists predict will come with climate change. Restoration also improves wildlife habitat. ... ”  Read more from Reuters here:  California town wonders if restored floodplain prevented disaster

Weekend storm to give way to pattern change in California

AccuWeather meteorologists are tracking one final storm that is expected to bring rain and heavy mountain snow to California in the short term before a change in the weather pattern brings drier weather with occasional bouts of Santa Ana winds next week.  The next weathermaker was approaching the coast of California on Saturday and is expected to unload a significant amount of snow in the Sierra Nevada Saturday night through Sunday, along with low-elevation rain. Compared to a storm at the end of this past week, this latest Pacific storm will pack more of a punch in terms of precipitation amounts. … Beyond Monday, AccuWeather meteorologists say the Pacific Northwest will become the focal point for rounds of rain and mountain snow into the middle of the week.  Far Northern California may get clipped by a storm early next week, but the overall theme across the Golden State will be for conditions to dry out.  … ”  Continue reading from AccuWeather here: Weekend storm to give way to pattern change in California

SEE ALSO: After a very active Dec-Jan, a (much) calmer start to Feb, from Dr. Daniel Swain at Weather West

California reservoir levels: Charts show water supply across the state

California has a vast network of local, state and federal reservoirs that store and supply water to cities and farms across the state. Water stored in the reservoirs typically makes up about 60% of the state’s total water supply. Rain and snowfall during the rainier months of the year between November and March are critical for the reservoirs and their ability to supply water during drier months. Following consecutive years of drought, many of the reservoirs remain thirsty. The Chronicle is tracking daily water storage levels at 48 of the state’s major water supply reservoirs compared with their historical averages (1991 to 2020). The storage level is shown as percentages of total storage capacity for each reservoir. The charts are updated daily at 8:00 a.m. to reflect the most recent data. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: California reservoir levels: Charts show water supply across the state

Storm runoff offers recharge for drought-ridden farmland

The series of storms that wreaked havoc on California for most of this month had both positive and negative impacts on the state. Property damage and loss of life were the most obvious of the negatives, while drought relief was at the top of the positive list.  Another positive? An innovative plan for potentially managing future floods.  State and local dignitaries gathered near Turlock last week at Gemperle Orchards on Faith Home Road to witness the implementation of a new project that not only redirects storm runoff across farmland, but recharges aquifers as that water soaks into the ground.  “This is a big deal,” said Christine Gemperle, who co-owns the 40-acre operation with her brother, Erich Gemperle. “This should be part of the master plan for solving California’s water woes. The state has to get creative … and this is creative.” … ”  Read more from Westside Connect here: Storm runoff offers recharge for drought-ridden farmland

Economic impacts of SGMA on dairies and beef cattle

Dairy Cares and the California Cattle Council commissioned ERA Economics to prepare an assessment of the economic impact of SGMA on dairies and beef cattle in the San Joaquin Valley. SGMA implementation is continuing across California. Sustainably managing water resources provides long-run benefits for our agricultural industries, but these come with more immediate adjustment costs. Our team at ERA Economics has been working with our agricultural industries to develop data and tools to understand SGMA implementation, how it will affect the industry, and help businesses proactively plan to minimize economic costs.  The most substantial adjustments to SGMA are expected in Critically Overdrafted Subbasins, many of which are in the San Joaquin Valley. GSAs in the San Joaquin Valley are working to implement projects and management actions to meet SGMA requirements. These projects and management actions affect water users in different parts of the state through higher water costs and reduced water supply. The effects of SGMA are highly local.  One of the key industries that will be affected through SGMA implementation is California’s $29 billion dairy and beef cattle industry. … ”  Continue reading from ERA Economics here: Economic impacts of SGMA on dairies and beef cattle

Central Valley groundwater sinking faster than ever

Aquifers in the Central Valley are being depleted at an ever-increasing rate according to a study recently published online by the prestigious Nature magazine. The research looked at two decades of data collected from on-the-ground measurements combined with remote sensing data gathered from satellite surveillance. … The stunning scientific paper documents an increasingly rapid rate at which groundwater has been lost over three drought periods during the 23-year megadrought currently afflicting the West and especially the San Joaquin Valley.  The region stretching from Redding to Bakersfield produces nearly 25% of the nation’s food. But the dramatic growth of permanent, water-thirsty orchards and vineyards is driving an increasingly precipitous decline in groundwater resources, especially during periods of drought. … ”  Read more from the Community Alliance here:  Central Valley groundwater sinking faster than ever

Nearly $40 million available to help California water managers, growers, and communities achieve groundwater sustainability through the Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program

Yesterday, California’s Department of Conservation opened a second application round for the state’s timely and in-demand Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program (MLRP).  Now through March 29th, Groundwater Sustainability Agencies and their local non-profit and public agency partners can apply for nearly $9 million block grants to plan for and implement projects that reduce regional groundwater demand and beneficially repurpose formerly irrigated farmland. Block grantees can use MLRP funding in part to provide payments to growers for voluntarily repurposing land to new uses that require less water and create benefits, such as habitat, community parks, restored floodplains, multibenefit recharge areas, dryland crops, managed rangeland, or low-impact solar. Direct funding is also available for federally recognized and non-federally recognized California Native American tribes that are working to reestablish tribal land uses, enact tribal cultural practices, acquire land or easements, and conduct other land repurposing projects. … ”  Read more from EDF’s On the Waterfront blog here: Nearly $40 million available to help California water managers, growers, and communities achieve groundwater sustainability through the Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program

Recent storms flood Friant-Kern Canal construction, but project flows forward

Despite some issues on the Friant-Kern Canal’s Middle Reach Capacity Correction project, the task is still set to hit its completion mark next year.  Recent rainfall and flooding caused some overflow at Deer Creek, which breached and washed away a temporary bypass berm, a strip of raised land often found along canals. This allowed water from the creek to divert across the Friant-Kern Canal, introducing water to the Deer Creek siphon area and unearthing a new canal section south of the creek. However, Friant Water Authority (FWA) has assured the project’s timeline is still on track to be completed by January 2024.  “Fortunately, there were no injuries nor any damage to the other structures, and the contractor is optimistic that repairs will not extend the overall schedule for completing the middle reach capacity correction project,” FWA stated via Waterline newsletter. ... ”  Continue reading from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: Recent storms flood canal construction, but project flows forward

Using robots to fight toxic algae

Harmful algae blooms in lakes are a major environmental problem, producing extremely dangerous toxins that can taint water supplies or harm other organic life— including people. Biologists can test water safety by collecting samples off the side of a boat, but getting relevant data is no small task, especially in lakes that cover hundreds of miles.  And while algae blooms can spring up anywhere, finding optimal sites to sample is like looking for a needle in a haystack.  As a result, biologists currently find algae concentrations through trial and error and struggle to anticipate new growth, prolonging the discovery of potentially harmful algae and wasting time and labor in the field.  Now, USC computer scientists and biologists have developed a way for autonomous robots to find prime sample spot locations for toxic algae, before a scientist even steps foot onsite. The team recently presented the paper, titled Informative Path Planning to Estimate Quantiles for Environmental Analysis, at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS.) … ”  Read more from USC Viterbi School of Engineering here: Using robots to fight toxic algae

Pacific Coast Indigenous nations see a glimmer of hope for the future of salmon

Along the Pacific Coast of Turtle Island, many Indigenous nations carry a deep spiritual connection with salmon they share territory with. Many call themselves the salmon people. But threats like habitat loss, climate change and human development from hydroelectric dams and fish farms have meant salmon are disappearing from the waters.  Indigenous nations say the loss of salmon has led to the loss of spirit, culture and overall health of their people. But as salmon continue to shimmer through the routes their ancestors once swam, the Pacific salmon people have a glimmer of hope.  That’s because efforts are underway from parts of British Columbia down to Northern California, where Indigenous people are working to rebuild habitats and remove human development so the salmon might be saved for future generations of people and fish alike.  “It’s not only about having the salmon, it’s about teaching the Indigenous values and what it means to be a tribal member,” said Thompson. … ”  Read more from CBC here: Pacific Coast Indigenous nations see a glimmer of hope for the future of salmon

Study shows dangerously high levels of toxins in fish from Northern California rivers

Some freshwater fish in Northern California are testing for dangerously high levels of toxic chemicals, according to a new study by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group.  The EWG says it is finding dangerous levels of PFAS and PFOS in fish that are found in rivers located across northern California.  A toxicologist from the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment joined KCRA’s morning show and recommends people follow fish consumption advisories for the Feather and San Joaquin rivers.  Dr. Wesley Smith also urged women of childbearing age and children to not eat any largemouth bass from the San Joaquin River.”  For more on this interview, watch the video from KCRA here: Study shows dangerously high levels of toxins in fish from Northern California rivers

Will all this rain mean lower water prices for Californians?

January storms propelled California from a state of water scarcity to one of water optimism.  The drought outlook in much of the state has improved thanks to continued and steady precipitation, and with more than two months left in the wet season, snowfall in the Central Sierra mountains of California has already reached 100% of the average for an entire year.  So with water being more readily available than previously anticipated, does that mean consumers should expect to see a cheaper water bill? Representatives for California’s largest water utility say, probably not.  Kevin McCusker is the manager of community affairs at California Water Service, aka Cal Water. He says the price of water itself is only a fraction of the equation when determining how much consumers pay for their water. … ”  Read more from KRON here: Will all this rain mean lower water prices for Californians?

Building a foundation for water utility data sharing

From its founding, one of the core goals of the California Data Collaborative (CaDC) has been to promote the effective sharing of data among water agencies. This blog will attempt to describe the current state of data sharing for water utilities, as well as a vision and strategy to make this process easier and more transparent.  Right now, if you work at a local water supply agency and are asked to share data, it is likely for one of the following three situations ... ”  Read more from the California Data Collaborative here: Building a foundation for water utility data sharing

And lastly …  Construction mistake causes Hughson home, church to flood in cement

Officials at the Church of Christ in Hughson are left dealing with a more than $60,000 cleanup bill and a slurry cement mess after a city sewer construction project went awry and sent cement into a home and church building. “It’s crazy, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Sheila Parnell, the church’s Children’s Education Director. “You show pictures to people and they’re like, ‘what?'” According to city documents a city contractor, United Paving Maintenance, was hired to fill an old sewer pipe with cement slurry near the intersection of Tully Road and Santa Fe Avenue.  Parnell says that on Dec. 6, construction work began, but crews never switched the church’s property to a new sewer line before installing the slurry. … “All the concrete was coming out of their plumbing, out of their toilets, their bathtubs, their sinks,” said Parnell. “My family has been in construction for a couple of generations, never have they ever seen anything like this.” … ”  Read more and check out the video here: Construction mistake causes Hughson home, church to flood in cement

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In commentary this weekend …

Editorial: California leaders may regret tough stand in water talks

The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board writes, “The failure of California and six other Western states to meet a Jan. 31 deadline for deciding how to divvy up the dwindling water supplied by the Colorado River clears the way for one of the biggest fights over natural resources in U.S. history — and already the Golden State is being cast as the villain in some national coverage for being the sole holdout to a deal agreed to by Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah. …  [California says] that because of federal laws and court rules interpreting them, California has “senior water rights” that must be honored in the allocation of the river’s supplies. … But will these rights thwart an emergency intervention by the U.S. Interior Department that could cite a 1963 Supreme Court decision saying the agency can step in if there are shortages? That’s a gamble California might not want to take. If the Biden administration has to weigh in, it seems more likely to pick the six states over one. Siding with swing state voters in Las Vegas and Phoenix over farmers in safely blue California would seem political to some — and the humane thing to do by others. … ”  Continue reading at the San Diego Union-Tribune here: Editorial: California leaders may regret tough stand in water talks

Resistance is futile – agriculture is key to fixing lower Colorado River water shortages

Jay Lund and Josué Medellin-Azuara write, “The lower Colorado River has been out of balance for about 40 years, using more water than has been available. As their reservoirs empty, the three lower basin states, federal government, and water users are getting around to addressing this problem.  The Colorado River reservoir system has immense storage capacity, about 4 times the river’s average annual historical inflow. These Colorado River reservoirs (Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam and Lake Powell behind Glen Canyon Dam) have filled only once since their completion in 1963, in 1983. Lower basin water demands have grown and a warming climate has reduced river flows and increased evaporation in the last century (Figures 1 and 2). The reservoirs seem unlikely to refill anytime soon with this growing imbalance. This long-term depletion of the basin’s surface reservoirs is paralleled by widespread overpumping of the region’s groundwater (Castle et al. 2014). … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here: Resistance is futile – agriculture is key to fixing lower Colorado River water shortages

How do we save water: Stop growing alfalfa in Imperial County

Gerald McKenna, a retired civil engineer who serves as secretary-treasurer on the Board of Directors of  the Desert Water Agency, writes, “If California is really short of water, why are we shipping it to Asia?  We can do one simple thing and our water supply crisis will be over. We can stop growing alfalfa.  The top water-using activity in California is growing alfalfa — a protein-rich type of hay. An alfalfa farmer can crop alfalfa 10 or even 12 times a year and sell it for $260 per ton. These are not the hardworking family farmers of yesteryear. They are giant agribusiness corporations pulling in $1.8 billion from selling 7 million tons of alfalfa every year in California, according to a University of California, Davis study by Daniel Geisseler and William R. Horwath. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here: How do we save water: Stop growing alfalfa in Imperial County

Editorial: Are California school kids drinking water tainted with lead? We don’t know, and that’s the problem

The LA Times editorial board writes, “Children attending older California schools are in danger of exposure to lead-tainted water because drinking fountains and faucets have not been tested for unsafe levels of the toxic metal. Lead exposure is particularly dangerous for young kids, whose bodies are developing.  Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) is trying to fix that with a bill that would require the water fountains and faucets at public and private schools built before 2010 be tested every five years and cleaned up if tainted with lead. The legislation, sponsored by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, is a sensible solution to a problem that has been vexing environmental health advocates for years. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Editorial: Are California school kids drinking water tainted with lead? We don’t know, and that’s the problem

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In people news this weekend …

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

Contra Costa Supervisor Diane Burgis joins the Delta Stewardship Council

The Delta Stewardship Council is pleased to welcome Contra Costa Supervisor and Delta Protection Commission Chair Diane Burgis to the Council. Of the Council’s seven members, four are appointed by the Governor, one each by the Senate and Assembly, and the seventh member is the chair of the Delta Protection Commission.  “Supervisor Burgis’ appreciation for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta’s unique values and characteristics, coupled with her deep understanding of the complex issues facing the region, make her an amazing asset to the Council and staff,” says Chair Virginia Madueño. “[Former Supervisor Don Nottoli’s] seat is undoubtedly in good hands with Diane.” … ”  Read more from the Delta Stewardship Council here: Contra Costa Supervisor Diane Burgis joins the Delta Stewardship Council

Honoring Sandra Meraz

From the Community Water Center: “Our hearts are heavy to share that long-time AGUA member and community water leader Sandra Meraz passed away last weekend. Sandra was a founding member of the AGUA Coalition representing the community of Alpaugh in Tulare County. She was a key partner in passing the Human Right to Water in California and served as the first low-income woman of color on the Central Valley Regional Water Board. Her impact on the movement for water justice in California can be seen throughout the years. She was a mentor to many of our staff, and she will be dearly missed.”

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Podcasts …

WE GROW CALIFORNIA: Westlands Water District – Facts not fiction

Westlands Water District is the largest agricultural water district in the country. We were fortunate enough to spend some time with Jose Gutierrez, their newly announced Interim General Manager. Jose provides a great overview of Westlands water supply portfolio, water rights, and the agency in general. Jose discusses Westland’s water supply challenges over the last several years, the impact those reduced supplies has had on their farmers, and on their communities.

FIFTH & MISSION (SF CHRONICLE): Can Santa Cruz Turn Back the Tide?

Intense storms like the ones that just rolled through California, combined with rising sea levels, are endangering scenic shoreline areas like West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, where large chunks of bluffs fell into the sea earlier this month. On this episode of the Fifth & Mission podcast, reporter Kurtis Alexander tells host Cecilia Lei that coastal communities are having to deal with problems like this years before they thought they’d have to.

THE TIMES PODCAST: Colorado River in crisis: The Imperial Valley

California’s Imperial Valley has some of the lowest rainfall in the state, yet uses the largest allotment of Colorado River water. Why is such an arid part of the state an agricultural powerhouse?Today, we look into how the region secured its rights.  Host: Gustavo Arellano  Guests: L.A. Times water reporter Ian James 

VOICES OF THE VALLEY: Belinda Clarke and the many ways science can help growers

Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-techE, joins Dennis Donohue and Candace Wilson on this week’s Voices of the Valley to share her knowledge about the many ways science works with growers to adapt and respond to environmental and political changes. Clarke describes the work that Agri-techE does as creating “an innovation ecosystem for agtech bringing together growers and farmers, technology developers and researchers.” Donohue, Wilson and Clarke touch on the different industries that are coming to the table to offer agricultural tools from space tech to biology. But tech solutions are nothing without the proper mindset. “Innovation is not just about in-field technology, it’s around processes, it’s around mindset. Innovation is around just doing things differently,” Clarke shares. The move toward adoption of available and developing resources will be a process, but Clarke and Agri-techE are making the space to provide education and opportunity to the agricultural industry both for England and abroad.


Managing the health of a watershed has historically been attempted by predicting the results of possible manager behavior with computer models. The strategy was; if a good result was calculated, the approach would be tried in the field. This has produced mixed results. Are there better approaches to managing a watershed? 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

WHAT ABOUT WATER? WITH JAY FAMIGLIETTI: An AI fix for aging water systems with Seyi Fabode

On this episode of What About Water? an entrepreneur in Austin, Texas turns his dishwasher sensor into a tech startup that’s feeding water utilities snapshots of their water quality in real time. Jay sits down with Seyi Fabode, the CEO and co-founder of Varuna, to discuss how his company’s cloud-based software is helping cities keep track of their drinking water quality by the minute, allowing them to respond to spills, contamination, and fluctuations before it’s too late. Jay and Seyi dream up a new tech idea together and trace Seyi’s entrepreneurial roots from his childhood in Nigeria to his post-grad in the UK. They discuss the $100,000 investment from the Google for Startups Black Founder Fund that opened new doors for Varuna, and what needs to change to get more black-owned businesses like Seyi’s off the ground.

WATER LOOP: The PFAS puzzle: Lessons on science

This episode is part of a series The PFAS Puzzle: Lessons From A Contaminated Cape Fear. The forever chemicals were dumped in the North Carolina river for nearly 40 years before being discovered. The series explores how a community responds when it is the epicenter of PFAS pollution. This episode is about the science.Dr. Detlef Knappe of North Carolina State University is one of the leading scientists who found PFAS in the river and has conducted continued research on its presence. In this episode, Detlef discusses discovering the chemicals, identifying sources of the pollution, and sharing information with government regulators and utilities. He explains how PFAS levels have been lowered, shares the lessons he learned about research, and offers advice for communities with concerns about the chemicals.

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In regional water news this weekend …


‘Nevertheless, We Persist’: Photo gallery gives voice to Klamath Basin farmers during water crisis

Hannah Whitley came to the Klamath Basin in September 2021, immersing herself in the region’s complex and seemingly intractable water crisis.  A doctoral candidate in rural sociology at Pennsylvania State University, Whitley wanted to spend one full year embedded in the community leading up to the Bureau of Reclamation’s annual water allocation for farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Project.  … Along the way, Whitley was encouraged to lead another effort compiling photos from local farmers and their families to tell their story visually. Known as a “PhotoVoice” project, the images capture scenes of life in the basin through the eyes of those working on the land. … ”  Read more from the Capital Press here: ‘Nevertheless, We Persist’: Photo gallery gives voice to Klamath Basin farmers during water crisis


Four-foot waves on Lake Tahoe and 100 mph gusts expected this weekend

Severe winter storm warnings have been issued for the Greater Lake Tahoe Area, Northwestern Sierra Nevada and Lassen National Volcanic Park for Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.  The storm warnings will begin at 4 p.m. for Lassen and the Northern Sierra and at 7 p.m. for the Lake Tahoe Area.  The Lake Tahoe Area is expected to see four to 16 inches of accumulated snowfall and between 15 to 17 inches above 7,000 feet. … ”  Read more from Fox 40 here: Four-foot waves on Lake Tahoe and 100 mph gusts expected this weekend


Chico sued over approval of housing in wildfire-prone area

Environmental groups sued the Northern California city of Chico on Friday over its approval of a plan to build thousands of new homes without properly assessing wildfire risks.  A coalition of environmental groups claims the approval of the Valley’s Edge development, which designates a large piece of land outside the city for building nearly 2,800 homes, violates the California Environmental Quality Act. … Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and Aqualliance say in their lawsuit filed in Butte County Superior Court that the City Council and city staff did not adequately analyze ongoing wildfire conditions and evacuation routes before approving the project 6-1 on Jan. 3. … The groups say the city also failed to complete an adequate study on how the groundwater supply will be affected by this project, which sits in an area where hundreds of domestic wells were reported dry last year. ... ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: Northern California city sued over approval of housing in wildfire-prone area

Is Sacramento tap water safe to drink? Generally, yes. Here’s when you should question it

Sacramento tap water sometimes runs cloudy, and can have an “earthy” taste and smell on hot summer days. Having a water filter handy usually helps. The water that comes from your kitchen sink is generally safe to drink, according to officials, and it exceeds the standards the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets. When should you question your water’s quality? What are the standards? Water quality is regulated in the United States, but just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s safe, according to Environmental Working Group, an activism organization. In California, a 2022 report showed the state was slow to help roughly 1 million residents with tainted drinking water. The Bee spoke with Tom Young, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Davis and the city of Sacramento’s utilities department about water regulation standards in California and Sacramento. … ” Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Is Sacramento tap water safe to drink? Generally, yes. Here’s when you should question it


San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy water system is almost full for the first time in years

In another sign that California’s drought is easing, San Francisco captured more than a year’s worth of water in just one month’s time.  The tremendous inflow to city reservoirs during the recent storms, mostly in and around Yosemite National Park, has lifted San Francisco’s total water storage to near capacity. The water system, which includes the landmark Hetchy Hetchy Reservoir, is expected to fill this winter, for the first time since 2019, with nearly 1.5 million acre-feet of water. That’s enough to supply the city’s service area for perhaps seven years.  “It’s promising, but too early to let our guard down,” said Joseph Sweiss, spokesman for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the city’s water purveyor, in an email to The Chronicle. “Remember, much of the state is still in a drought and so the prudence is warranted.” … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy water system is almost full for the first time in years

Mill Valley housing developer sues county, city over drain pipe

A developer who wants to build an apartment complex in Mill Valley is suing the city and the county over a drainage pipe he says is thwarting his project.  William Love plans to construct eight or nine apartments on a narrow, 6,884-square-foot parcel between Lomita Drive and the Mill Valley-Sausalito Pathway, according to city documents. The project would include underground parking spaces below the housing.  Love, a Marin County resident, bought the property in November 2021 but had been working on the project for several years prior. After he acquired the parcel, he discovered two problems compromising the project, the lawsuit says.  One discovery was a 48-inch-wide pipe running the length of the property about 2 feet underground. Love learned the county flood control district installed the pipe years ago to convey surface water from city streets, the lawsuit says.  Love alleges the county has no right to have a pipe there. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Mill Valley housing developer sues county, city over drain pipe

Monsanto sued again as Contra Costa County and 17 cities seek damages over legacy of toxic PCBs

Contra Costa County and 17 of its cities are suing Monsanto Co. to force it to clean up pollution from a chemical coolant the former agriculture giant produced for decades that seeped into the bay waters and led state officials to advise against eating striped bass and other types of fish.  The lawsuit accuses Monsanto — now synonymous with environmental hazards thanks to litigation stretching back to the 1980s — of producing toxic chemicals that are harmful to human health and the environment.  At issue are polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which Monsanto began using more than 50 years ago in a “breathtakingly wide range of commercial, household, and industrial products,” according to the lawsuit. The company produced 99% of all PCBs used in the U.S. until the chemicals were banned in 1976. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Monsanto sued again as Contra Costa County and 17 cities seek damages over legacy of toxic PCBs


Major flood control projects for Pajaro River planned as Monterey County dodges disaster

Evacuations along the Pajaro River in Monterey County last month were necessary because flooding occurred at a lower threshold than official projections suggested.  That was the message delivered to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors this week by the county’s Water Resources Agency and the Pajaro Regional Flood Management Agency, which is a joint powers agency that will take over maintenance of flood control facilities on the river later this fiscal year.  That agency plans to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a major upgrade of the levee system in the coming years.  “Thresholds for monitoring and flood stage for the Pajaro River do not reflect current conditions within the channel and should be reevaluated by the [California Nevada] River Forecast Center,” said Mark Foxworthy, an engineer with the county Water Resources Agency. … ”  Read more from MSN News here: Major flood control projects for Pajaro River planned as Monterey County dodges disaster

Supervisors rescind newly approved Paso basin planting ordinance

Nearly two months after its initial approval, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted to rescind the Paso Basin Land Use Management Area Planting Ordinance during a special meeting held on Sunday, Jan. 29.  The ordinance, passed in December 2022, came as an update to the original ordinance adopted in 2015. The new ordinance would limit farmers to 25 acre-feet per year (AFY) for the next 22 years and allow new irrigated crops to be planted. However, the ordinance came with several regulations unrelated to water itself, including regulations on dust control.  Any farmer or rancher in the Paso Basin who rotates to a different irrigated crop each year/season will be subject to the new ordinance. But, any same crop and acreage that has been in production within six years preceding March 1, 2023, would be exempted. … ”  Read more from the Paso Robles Daily Press here: Supervisors rescind newly approved Paso basin planting ordinance

Appeal of Cuyama Valley cannabis project dropped but may end up in supervisors’ lap

The importance of water to Cuyama Valley was the focal point of an appeal filed over a land use permit for a 6-acre cannabis cultivation project, which the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission denied after the two sides agreed to a compromise. “There’s nothing more important in that valley than the availability of water,” noted Commissioner C. Michael Cooney, whose 1st District encompasses Cuyama Valley. “That valley would dry up in an instant if no water was available.” Although other issues raised in the appeal were left unresolved, Marc Chytilo, attorney for the appellants, agreed to drop the appeal if applicant Cuyama Greens LLC would agree to change the project description to include providing a 1:1 groundwater offset prior to starting cultivation and for the life of the project. ... ”  Read more from the Santa Maria Times here: Appeal of Cuyama Valley cannabis project dropped but may end up in supervisors’ lap

Recent storms fuel Santa Barbara’s hydroelectric plant

Thanks to recent rain, Gibraltar Reservoir, a key City water source upstream of Cachuma Reservoir, filled to capacity and began spilling water over the spillway on January 5; the first time in three years.  In addition to playing an important part in the City’s diverse water supply portfolio, Gibraltar when full also enables the City to operate it’s Hydroelectric Plant, which produces 100% carbon-free renewable energy. When the Hydroelectric Plant is running at full capacity, it can produce enough electricity to completely offset 100% of the Cater Water Treatment Plant’s total electrical usage with clean, carbon-free electricity. ... ”  Read more from Edhat here: Recent storms fuel Santa Barbara’s hydroelectric plant

Lake Cachuma edges toward spilling as state water allocations also increase

Water was lapping near the top of Bradbury Dam this week, as runoff from big storms earlier this month continued to flow into Lake Cachuma, the reservoir on the Santa Ynez River that provides water for much of Santa Barbara County.  The lake was at 99.4% of capacity, and about 4 inches below spill level as of Friday morning, according to the county Flood Control District.  Over the last week or two, some water has been released from the lake through an outlet at the base of the dam, a precursor to an actual spill, according to Matthew Young, manager of the county Water Agency.  Daily releases recently have been in the neighborhood of 230 acre-feet, and have boosted the river’s flow downstream by about 115 cubic feet per second, Young told Noozhawk. … ”  Read more from Noozhawk here: Lake Cachuma edges toward spilling as state water allocations also increase


Expert: Drought not quite over

In the wake of record-breaking rain and snow this winter, experts have cautioned that despite the deluge, California remains in a drought. … of course, the recent storms have done plenty to help the situation, refilling reservoirs and recharging groundwater supplies.  Last month, Turlock Irrigation District said that it will be able to provide farmers their full allotment of 48″ for irrigation, meaning that they have exited “operational” drought stage.  Several of the state’s reservoirs are at or above historical averages for this time of year, according to the California Department of Water Resources.   As of Feb. 2, Don Pedro Reservoir contained more than 1.44 million acre feet of water, with a capacity just over 2 million acre feet. That’s higher than its historical average and, at about 75 percent of capacity and above its historical average. ... ”  Read more from the Turlock Journal here: Expert: Drought not quite over

Water meter shows problem with Gustine well

The Gustine City Council approved a $67,000 expense to bring one of the City’s water wells back online after it was discovered it was not pumping to full capacity.  Public Works Director Jesus Chavez Jr. told the Council at the Jan. 17 meeting that it was critical to get the well up in running before water usage rises toward the end of spring and into summer.  Well #6 is located on the east side of Saputo Dairy Foods and serves all the city’s residents and businesses. It came to City Staff’s attention when it was noted that the water meter was only reading zero to five gallons per minute. … ”  Read more from Westside Connect here: Water meter shows problem with Gustine well

Water delivered to Friant community as boil water advisory continues

Communities near Millerton Lake remain under a boil water advisory issued nearly two weeks ago.  To help ease the burden on people in the area, the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission handed out cases of water.  “This is all just due to the recent storm events,” said Diego Noriega, Fresno County Water Works District 18. “With the water that we have coming out of the dam, coming down the mountains. It’s just been really hard for our treatment facility to treat the water.” ... ”  Read more from KFSN here: Water delivered to Friant community as boil water advisory continues

Army Corps prepares fill plan for Isabella Lake as construction wraps up

An aerial view of the Isabella Dam Safety Modification Project in Lake Isabella, California, Sept. 14, 2022.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District is preparing to request a deviation from the operating restriction at the Isabella Dam in Lake Isabella, California, to implement a plan to fill the lake up to its pre-construction volume of 568,000 acre-feet, or gross pool, when sufficient precipitation and snowpack occur.  The lake has been restricted to 361,000 acre-feet since dam safety issues were identified in 2006. Since the dam’s construction in 1953, USACE has limited the lake’s volume to 170,000 acre-feet in the winter (Nov. 1 to Jan. 31) for both flood conservation space and to accommodate runoff from the Sierra Nevada snowpack in the spring.  “Our goal is to have the Fill Plan and Deviation Request approved by USACE leadership before April 1, 2023,” said Mike Ruthford, a Lead Engineer with the South Pacific Division Dam Safety Production Center. “This would allow us to proceed with reservoir filling and project monitoring above the operating restriction and potentially up to gross pool depending on snowpack volume.” … ”  Read more from the Army Corps of Engineers here: Army Corps prepares fill plan for Isabella Lake as construction wraps up


H2OC: How water works in Orange County

The story of water in Orange County is really a tale of two counties. More than three quarters of the county’s 3.1 million residents live in north and central O.C. This region, which includes parts of Newport Coast and Irvine as well as everything from there to the county’s northern border, sits atop a series of aquifers known as the Orange County Groundwater Basin.  The vast underground resource was formed millions of years ago, as mountains eroded and sediments filled the deep valley. One of the largest such basins in Southern California, it contains about half a million acre-feet (169 billion gallons) of usable water and covers 270 square miles. Think of it as a huge subterranean bank safeguarding one of the region’s most precious resources. … ”  Read more from the Orange Coast here: H2OC: How water works in Orange County


Ocean water-quality advisories fade away after recent heavy rains, but pollution threat doesn’t

San Diego County has lifted most water-quality advisories for local beaches days after the latest rains as local organizations try to address the impact of storms and pollution on ocean water.  As of Feb. 3, the only advisory remaining in La Jolla following the Jan. 30 storm is at the Children’s Pool, which has been under a “chronic advisory” since September 1997. Earlier in the week, the entire San Diego coast was under advisory.  An advisory means beach users should avoid contact with the water because bacteria levels exceed state health standards, according to the county Department of Environmental Health and Quality. … ”  Read more from the La Jolla Light here: Ocean water-quality advisories fade away after recent heavy rains, but pollution threat doesn’t

Studying the silt: Getting ready for the restoration of the Buena Vista Lagoon

The sounds of drilling echoed across the Buena Vista Lagoon from a small barge anchored in the weir basin Wednesday morning.  On the barge a geotechnical crew was wrapping up a month-long study of the sediments, depth and topography of San Diego County’s only fresh-water lagoon, part of the preparations for its long-planned restoration.  Located at the Oceanside-Carlsbad border, the coastal lagoon is the only one in the county not open to the Pacific Ocean. That is the result of a weir or low dam installed in the 1940s and replaced multiple times to prevent the lagoon’s surface from rising and falling with the tides. ... ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here: Studying the silt: Getting ready for the restoration of the Buena Vista Lagoon

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Along the Colorado River …

Shrinking Colorado River hands Biden his first climate brawl

A fracas among the seven states along the drought-stricken Colorado River is forcing the first major reckoning for the Biden administration over who should bear the pain of adapting to a changing climate.  At issue is whether it’s fair to use century-old rules, created during an era of relative abundance, to ration water from the rapidly shriveling river now that the West is on the precipice of climate disaster. With California and its six neighbors locked in a dispute over two competing approaches to divvying up the cuts in water deliveries, whatever the administration decides will almost certainly end up in court. … ”  Read more from Politico here: Shrinking Colorado River hands Biden his first climate brawl

Column: The water wars of the west have begun

Columnist Vince Bzdek writes, “Mark down January, 2023, as the month the Water Wars of the West began in earnest.  Four incidents this month point to intensifying skirmishing ahead as the fight is joined over the dwindling amount of water carried by The Colorado River. The West’s most important waterway has reached a crisis point because of a 23-year megadrought, earning the designation of most endangered river in America.  Our reporters hear that the state Attorney General’s Office is lawyering up for a possible onslaught of litigation over who has rights to what water across seven Western states in the Colorado River Basin. … ”  Read more from the Denver Gazette here: The water wars of the west have begun

California bypasses consensus, goes its own way on plan for Colorado River water cuts

While six states came up with a consensus plan earlier this week regarding cutting water use from a dwindling supply of the Colorado River, a lone wolf — California — came up with its own.  The Bureau of Reclamation, as part of its Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, asked states to come up with a consensus plan to save 2 to 4 million acre-feet.  The bureau manages lake levels at the nation’s two largest reservoirs fed by the Colorado River so Glen Canyon Dam — Lake Powell in northern Arizona — and Hoover Dam, which creates Lake Mead in southern Nevada, can continue to produce hydroelectric power and ensure water deliveries to 40 million people and provide irrigation water to a $5 billion farming industry.  Although there are plenty of negotiations ongoing, this issue has some folks getting chippy about who is going to cut water allocations, how much and when. ... ,”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: California bypasses consensus, goes its own way on plan for Colorado River water cuts

In deep-red corner of Arizona, threat of losing water starts to outweigh fear of regulation

Driving along county roads that are little more than dirt paths, Tim Walsh remarked that the expansive valley below the Long Mountain range used to be no more than tumbleweeds and scraggly cactuses.  Now, it’s pistachio trees as far as the eye can see.  Over the past decade, the vast desert area around the 33,000-person city of Kingman has been transformed into an agricultural enclave. Green alfalfa fields were first planted below the mountains, then eventually replaced with thirsty pistachio trees.  But as those farms grow, county and city officials fear the groundwater – their only source of water – is not capable of supporting farms of this size, especially amid the Southwest’s multi-year drought.  “I’ve always been quick to say, well, the best practice of farming in the high desert is not farming,” Kingman city manager Ron Foggin told CNN. “That’s what we face – the water woes of California. Some would say the water wars.” … ”  Read more from CNN here: In deep-red corner of Arizona, threat of losing water starts to outweigh fear of regulation

What happens when an affluent Arizona suburb’s main water supply is cut off?

The Rio Verde Foothills look like any other slice of desert suburbia, a smattering of roughly 2,000 stucco homes in a cactus-studded neighborhood just outside of Scottsdale, Arizona, one of Phoenix’s booming satellite cities. An affluent community with a median home price of $825,000, it offered homebuyers cheap land, good schools and mountain views — but not, as many residents recently discovered, a stable water supply. … Susanna Eden, the assistant director of the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center, has been studying water resources in Arizona and the Southwest for over 30 years. She sees the situation in the Rio Verde Foothills as a textbook case on the perils of Arizona’s “wildcat” housing developments, which sidestep the state’s groundwater laws to construct homes without a fixed water supply, as well as the far-reaching implications of the worsening drought on the Colorado River. HCN spoke with Eden recently about the Rio Verde Foothills and what it means for Arizona and the fantasy of infinite growth in the desert. … ”  Read more from High Country News here: What happens when an affluent Arizona suburb’s main water supply is cut off?

Dry Southwest eyes Mississippi River water once again — but it would cost trillions

Waves of torrential rainfall drenched California into the new year. Snowpacks in the Sierra Nevada have swelled to more than 200% their normal size, and snowfall across the rest of the Colorado River Basin is trending above average, too.  While the much-needed water has improved conditions in the parched West, experts warn against claiming victory. About 60% of the region remains in some form of drought, continuing a decades-long spiral into water scarcity.  “The drought is so critical that this recent rainfall is a little like finding a $20 bill when you’ve lost your job and you’re being evicted from your house,” said Rhett Larson, an Arizona State University professor of water law. … ”  Read more from the Reno Gazette Journal here: Dry Southwest eyes Mississippi River water once again — but it would cost trillions

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About the Daily Digest: The Daily Digest is a collection of selected news articles, commentaries and editorials appearing in the mainstream press. Items are generally selected to follow the focus of the Notebook blog. The Daily Digest is published every weekday with a weekend edition posting on Sundays.
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