DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: The West is blanketed in snow, but water problems aren’t over; Snowpack hits highest level this century for March; Fishermen’s groups call for immediate closure of salmon season; EPA mandates states report on cyber threats to water systems; and more …

In California water news this weekend …

The West just got blanketed in snow, but its water problems aren’t over

“Finally, the bounty arrived.  Hillsides, canyons and peaks in the West have seen blankets of snowfall in recent days and months, an answer to years of wishes and prayers in drought-stricken states.  In parts of the central Sierra Nevada, nearly 12 feet of snow fell in a week’s time. In Utah, the Brighton ski resort website put it succinctly: “Best. Season. Ever.” Even Southern California got in on the action, with rare blizzard warnings last week. The wet winter and the hearty snowpack will ease drought concerns in some of the hardest-hit areas of the West when summer comes. But many places, including the Colorado Basin, have racked up such dramatic deficits that a single season can’t forestall the dire water supply concerns. … ”  Continue reading at NBC News.

California was hit with 12 feet of snow. Is it enough to ease the drought?

“The amount of snow that has fallen on California is rivaling some of the most bountiful years on record. Just in the past two weeks, more than a dozen feet of snow fell in this area, pushing the snowpack in the Central and Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains to roughly twice the amount of a normal year. The whiteout shut down national parks and interstates, buried neighborhoods, collapsed roofs, stranded motorists, trapped residents and knocked out power to thousands in mountain communities throughout the state. For a parched populace coming out of three consecutive years of extreme drought — the flakes have also felt miraculous. “We could not be more fortunate to have had this kind of precipitation after three very punishing years,” Karla Nemeth, the director of California’s Department of Water Resources, told a briefing Friday after the latest snow survey in the state. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post.

You say California’s drought is over? Not so fast, water managers say

“If California Gov. Gavin Newsom was looking for a dramatic way to illustrate the region’s dire conditions in the early days of the state’s latest, historic drought, he found it in the dry, deeply cracked reservoir bed of Lake Mendocino.  It was there, almost two years ago, that Newsom stood where there should have been 40 feet of water and proclaimed a local drought emergency for Sonoma and Mendocino counties, sounding an early alarm that would be amplified and echoed as the western drought spread across the state and deepened over the ensuing months. … In the same way, the drought’s exit is a process, without a clear demarcation line or final pronouncement declaring the three-year drought over and done.  And despite lots of evidence to the contrary, local and state officials say we’re not there yet. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

As the West’s drought eases, this area remains in the worst on record — and it’s hitting farmers hard

Cate Casad started noticing the for-sale signs pop up over the last year on farms around Central Oregon, which has been mired in water shortages amid a yearslong megadrought. … But while Casad is determined to keep farming, neighboring farms have decided to cut their losses and sell land.  “It’s devastating,” Casad told CNN. “Each year since then, we’ve been cutting back more and more and more to the point in which last year was the worst year yet — and this year, we think will be very similar.”  As much-needed winter storms alleviate drought conditions in California and southern parts of Oregon, the deluge of snow and rain in the West largely missed Central Oregon, leaving Crook, Jefferson and Deschutes counties dry. And many of the farmers in this area don’t have priority rights to the water – putting their farms at heightened risk of failure. … ”  Read more from CNN.


California’s snowfall so far this winter rivals the state’s record-setting season, officials say

“After an incredible series of winter storms, California officials reported Friday the state’s snowpack is the largest in decades.  Snowpack in the California Sierra is 177% of normal for this time of year, officials at the Department of Water Resources said. Statewide, snowpack is averaging 190% compared to normal for the date — a significant boost after back-to-back storms.  Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is critical because it acts as a natural reservoir and accounts for 30% of California’s freshwater supply in an average year. The recent record-breaking, three-week deluge helped replenish some of the state’s reservoirs, but Shasta Lake — the largest in the state — remains below its historical average. … ”  Read more from CNN.

Huge storms leave California mountains buried in snow

“A winter’s worth of massive storms has left California’s Sierra Nevada mountains buried in snow, a welcome sign for the drought-stricken state.  According to the California Department of Water Resources’ third snow survey of the season, taken Friday, snow depth at Phillips Station near Lake Tahoe is at 116.5 inches — well above average. Statewide, the snowpack is 190% above average.  “We are either at or nearing record snowpack in California as a result of our snow survey today, with other storms on our horizon,” said Department of Water Resources director Karla Nemeth at a press conference conducted over Zoom. “We could not be more fortunate to have this kind of precipitation after three punishing years of drought or dry conditions.” … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service.

California snowpack hits highest level this century for March, could soon become biggest ever

“California water officials on Friday recorded the biggest accumulation of statewide snow this century for the start of March, a bounty that is likely to grow with coming storms – and further ease the state’s drought-time water shortages.  The official March snow survey, which is normally conducted on the first of the month but was postponed two days because of all the snow on the roads, tallied the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and southern Cascades at 190% of average.  At the landmark Phillips Station south of Lake Tahoe, one of the oldest and most central measuring sites where on Friday morning state officials convened for the press, the snowpack was 177% average. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.



California regulators reject San Joaquin Valley groundwater management plans

“California regulators have told local agencies in large portions of the San Joaquin Valley that their plans for combating overpumping of groundwater are inadequate, a step that clears the way for state intervention to curb chronic declines in water levels and prevent more wells from going dry.  The Department of Water Resources announced Thursday that officials have determined local groundwater plans are inadequate in areas of the San Joaquin Valley where heavy agricultural pumping has drawn down aquifer levels and left rural homeowners with dry taps.  The so-called groundwater sustainability plans are required under California’s 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which aims to address widespread problems of groundwater depletion in many areas by 2040. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

DWR makes initial SGMA determinations

Eight and a half years after the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, the California Department of Water Resources this week released its recommendations for the status of Groundwater Sustainability Plans in Critically Overdrafted Subbasins. Six of those subbasins were deemed to be adequate and six subbasins received letters that their plans are inadequate. The inadequate subbasins are Kern, Tule, Kaweah, Tulare Lake, Chowchilla and Delta-Mendota.  Primary jurisdiction for these basins now transfers over to the State Water Resources Control Board. It is a little unclear at this point what this means. There is no immediate change in what the GSAs need to do. … ”  Continue reading from the Milk Producers Council.


Facing dismal salmon population forecast, fishermen’s groups call for immediate closure of season, request disaster assistance

“Facing some of the worst salmon fishery numbers in California’s recorded history, a coalition of sport and commercial fishermen’s groups is calling on state regulators to immediately cancel the 2023 salmon season, which typically starts in May.  The request comes two days after the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s annual pre-season salmon informational meeting, where agency personnel delivered a dismal 2023 abundance forecast.  For example, the forecast for fall Chinook on the Klamath River is just 103,793 adults, the second-lowest figure since the current assessment method began more than 25 years ago.  Meanwhile, the projection for Sacramento River fall Chinook — estimated at 169,767 adults — is among the lowest forecasts in the past 15 years. Wildlife managers at Wednesday’s meeting also admitted to errors in their forecast models. … ”  Read more from the Lost Coast Outpost.

Fishing groups call to suspend California 2023 salmon season

“With more bad news forecast for California salmon, several fishing advocacy groups called Friday for the state to impose an immediate closure of the 2023 salmon season and seek federal assistance for a fishery disaster.  In a joint statement the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, the Golden Gate Fishermen’s Association, and the Northern California Guides and Sportsmen’s Association said Gov. Gavin Newsom with the state legislature and agencies must ask for “disaster assistance funding for affected ocean and inland commercial operators.”  The California Department of Fish and Wildlife held its annual pre-season briefing March 1 “and reported some of the worst fisheries numbers in the history of the state. These numbers follow years of drought, poor water management decisions by federal and state managers, occasional failure to meet hatchery egg mitigation goals, inaccurate season modeling, and the inability of fisheries managers to meet their own mandated escapement goals,” the fishing groups said. … ”  Read more from National Fisherman.

Feds still on the hook for endangering California coast salmon

“A Northern California man’s protest against the unlawful ‘taking’ of endangered salmon by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lives another day, as a judge ruled against allowing either a dismissal or a stay on the matter on Friday.  The defendants sought to either dismiss or stay the case that accused them of creating a hazardous habitat for Central California Coast steelhead, coho, and Chinook salmon, saying that the case should be deemed moot, considering recent action taken by the Army Corp to come into compliance with Endangered Species Act requirements.  The Coyote Valley Dam, an earthen dam built seventy years ago, is currently managed by the Army Corp and lies above the city of Ukiah. The dam now prevents large-scale flooding of the city. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service.


Judge lifts block on road construction along California’s last undammed river

“In a second go-around in a case affecting California’s last major undammed river, a federal judge on Friday lifted an injunction which prevented Caltrans from completing road improvements on two highways which, at many points, run directly alongside the wild Smith River.  U.S. District Judge James Donato lifted the nearly decadelong injunction after finding Caltrans’ revised plans for improvements on U.S. Route 199 and State Route 197 did not violate the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Plaintiffs Friends of Del Norte, an environmental group based in the state northwesternmost county, sued Caltrans claiming plans for improving the highways posed a threat to the salmon which inhabit the 25-mile river. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service.

Water crisis in West has prompted desperate ideas: Drain the Great Lakes, desalinate ocean water

“As western water woes continue, some experts and authorities say a national-level problem like this requires an innovative solution.  The U.S. has plenty of drinking water — it’s simply in the wrong place. That’s a seemingly fixable problem that has inspired a number of creative ideas.  Unfortunately, everything except conserving water has proven to be a longshot proposal riddled with logistical, legal or cost problems.  Meanwhile, massive amounts of fresh water are readily available to the East. Ocean water can be processed into drinking water. And even glaciers could be helpful sources of fresh water.  Here’s a few ideas, some old and some new, about how the West could get more drinking water — and why experts generally regard these as desperate longshots. … ”  Continue reading at USA Today.

Sierra Nevada Conservancy approves $27 million in Watershed Improvement Program grants

“At its March 2 quarterly meeting in Sacramento, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy Governing Board approved just over $27 million in Watershed Improvement Program grants to wildfire recovery and forest resilience, recreation, and land conservation projects. The funds were awarded to 18 different projects throughout California’s Sierra Nevada-Cascade region. “The Sierra Nevada Conservancy is proud of the 15 grants awarded to a remarkable group of wildfire-recovery and forest-resilience projects across California’s Sierra-Cascade. They are part of the state’s all-hands response to a wildfire crisis that has hit our region hard,” said Executive Officer Angela Avery. “We have moved quickly to fund work that will protect iconic species like the giant sequoia, help forests damaged in recent fires recover, and build resilience on treasured landscapes that many thousands of Californians call home and millions more rely on for water, recreation, and clean air.” … ”  Read more from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy.

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In people news this weekend …

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

State Water Board selects Jay Ziegler as the new Delta Watermaster

“The State Water Resources Control Board named Jay Ziegler, former external affairs and policy director for the California Office of The Nature Conservancy, as the new Delta Watermaster. He succeeds Michael George, who held the position for two four-year terms.  The Watermaster administers water rights within the legal boundaries of the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta and Suisun Marsh and advises the State Water Board and the Delta Stewardship Council on related water rights, water quality and water operations involving the watershed.  “Jay is uniquely qualified to provide crucial guidance and leadership on a multitude of challenges we are confronting in the Delta, which is the hub of California’s water infrastructure,” said E. Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the Water Board. “His experience will enable him to take a broad, holistic view at a time when conditions are evolving swiftly and dramatically due to the impacts of climate change.” … ”  Continue reading via Maven’s Notebook.

Laurel Firestone, 44, of Sacramento, has been reappointed to the State Water Resources Control Board

 … where she has served since 2019. Firestone was Co-Executive Director and an Attorney at the Community Water Center from 2006 to 2019. She was Director of the Rural Poverty Water Project at the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment from 2004 to 2006. Firestone is a board member at Communities for a New California, the Community Water Center Action Fund and the Tulare County Water Commission. She earned a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $170,464. Firestone is a Democrat.

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Podcasts …

WEST COAST WATER JUSTICE: Clean Water for California

In this episode, we interview Laurel Firestone, a member of the State Water Resources Control Board. We learn about the organization and its work to ensure that every person in the state has a right to clean, safe, and affordable drinking water.  We discuss how far we still have to go to meet California’s Human Right to Water.Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Laurel Firestone to the State Water Resources Control Board in February 2019. Prior to joining the Board, Laurel co-founded and co-directed, from 2006-2019, the Community Water Center, a statewide non-profit environmental justice organization based in California’s Central Valley and Central Coast. Her career has focused on building increased diversity, equity, and inclusivity into water decision-making. 

UCI PODCAST: Evaluating flood risk in California

Brett Sanders, UC Irvine professor of civil and environmental engineering, has been focusing his research efforts on understanding flood risk in Southern California, with a significant emphasis on the impact of climate change-caused sea level rise on coastal communities. Lately he has been examining flood risk to populations living further inland, in many cases affecting people of lower socioeconomic status. In this episode of the UCI Podcast, Professor Sanders talks about his research and its relevance in this season of substantial rain and snowfall in the U.S. West.

WATER TALK: Education & Empowering Elected Officials

A conversation with Leticia Gonzales (District 4 Supervisor, Madera County) and Victor Griego (Water Education for Latino Leaders) about representation in water governance, service through leadership, and action-oriented education for elected officials.

WHAT ABOUT WATER? WITH JAY FAMIGLIETTI: Will Sarni: Can we tech our way out of wicked water problems?

Can we really “tech” our way out of freshwater shortages, scarcity, and pollution? In our Season 4 finale, we’re asking the big question of the season – will new water technology be enough to solve wicked water problems? Will Sarni joins Jay for a look back at the bright ideas and inventions we’ve heard about this year, sharing his view on technology’s ability to solve problems around water quality and scarcity.  Jay and Will discuss what a “disruptor” like Uber could do for the water sector and what it will take to get the public sector to respond to innovation. And if you’ve ever wondered why piping water from a wet part of the country to areas hit by drought is a hot-button issue, you’ll want to stick around for our last ‘Ask Jay’ segment of the season.

RIPPLE EFFECT: Back to basics

Fraser McLoed Chief Products Officer for Civic Ledger walks us through his company’s return to basics by reformatting their block-chain technology to assist with water accounting. As always, Fraser provides a lively perspective on water use and management from a variety of perspectives and professions. A great discussion about the need for a solid grasp on water fundamentals in order to move towards more innovative market mechanisms for water management.

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In regional water news this weekend …


Incredible pictures of South Lake Tahoe as residents try to clear snow, roof ice dams before next storm

“South Lake Tahoe residents are calling this year’s snow the “real Sierra winter.”  “It’s been a long time since we had this big of a winter and this much snow,” said Laurie Scrib.  Scrib was finally able to get out of her neighborhood, thanks to neighbors with small plows and snow blowers. She made an attempt Wednesday but got stuck.  “A little freedom, a little stir crazy, get to the store, get gas,” she said. … ”  Read more from KCRA.

Nevada Irrigation District crews work to keep water system performing during winter storms

“In the aftermath of the recent winter storm, Nevada Irrigation District (NID) crews are working in the ice and snow to clear debris and snow from infrastructure that delivers water to District customers.  The crews have been braving extreme conditions to ensure water is not obstructed in canals, and to ensure the District’s delivery system and hydropower facilities are functioning. This includes removing debris and fallen trees, plowing to ensure access, and conducting constant inspections.  “Our crews are out there working hard to minimize disruptions to the NID system. Certainly, they aren’t performing the easiest of tasks under challenging conditions. NID Maintenance personnel take pride in their work, as well they should,” said Steve Prosser, Director of Maintenance. … ”  Read more from YubaNet.

Commentary: Results from upcoming U.S. Supreme Court petition could impact NID operations, water supply and customer costs

“As President of the Nevada Irrigation District’s (NID) Board of Directors, I am reaching out to inform you about a legal petition pending before the U.S. Supreme Court that could have severe impacts to NID and our community.  As background, in 1963 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a license for NID to start generating renewable hydroelectric energy through powerhouses at its major reservoirs. The Yuba-Bear Hydroelectric Project (Project) was, and is, vital to the District. The combined gross water storage capacity of the Project is about 208,000 acre-feet of water with an electric generation capacity of 79 megawatts, enough clean renewable energy to power more than 60,000 homes every year. It also contributes millions of dollars annually to offset NID’s cost of providing water thus keeping raw and treated water rates as low as possible.  Simply put, this Project is the heart and soul of NID and the community we serve. … ”  Read more from Nevada Irrigation District.


More snow on the way, are people in Paradise feeling snow fatigued?

“People have mixed reviews about the snow. Some told Action News Now they’re tired of shoveling all the snow off their roofs and driveways.  Others have said they’re just happy that all the snowfall is going to be turning into water in the coming months, and quenching the California drought.  Krystal Young was born and raised in paradise.  “I love the weather I love that it’s snowing. Paradise definitely needs it definitely with the rain with the drought. We could use a lot of rain, a lot of rain, so it nice to just see that it’s foggy right now but it’s also raining and we got a bunch of snow right over there,” she said. … ”  Read more from Action News Now.

Travis reports no ‘petroleum’ sheen on Union Creek since December

“Travis Air Force Base officials reported the “petroleum” sheen that has appeared on Union Creek a number of times, usually after rain events, has not been seen since December.  That includes after the most recent storm, Capt. Jasmine Jacobs, with the base Public Affairs Office, said in an email response to the Daily Republic.  Jacobs led a site visit with the Daily Republic on Feb. 27. Leslie Pena, the civilian environmental element chief at Travis, was part of the tour.  This week the base confirmed for the first time that testing has shown that aviation fuel, motor oil, gasoline and diesel have been present, but the source of the leak is still under investigation. … ”  Read more from the Daily Republic.


Sonoma Water to seek approval for hike in wholesale water rates

“After enduring several years of severe drought and recently weeks of deluge, North Bay residents are now in for more water whiplash: a spike in wholesale rates that will raise monthly bills for hundreds of thousands of homes and business later this year.  Sonoma Water, the region’s main drinking water supplier, is set to seek approval for the rate hike next month. The increase would raise prices paid by local cities and other retail suppliers who serve more than 600,000 residents of Sonoma and northern Marin counties. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.


Marin Municipal Water District selects strategy for new water supplies

“After a year of study, the Marin Municipal Water District has selected a list of new water supply options to explore in its effort to bolster availability during droughts.  The district board voted unanimously this week to begin examining a variety of options, including increasing reservoir storage, importing more Russian River water, creating a regional groundwater bank in Sonoma County, building a brackish desalination plant on the Petaluma River, investments in conservation initiatives, expanding the district’s recycled water system and building new ways to convey water to local reservoirs.  “We are on the cusp of approving significant funds to invest in storage, supply, conservation to the tune that our community has never seen before,” district board member Jed Smith said before the vote on Tuesday. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal.

Regional water partners’ first aquifer recharge and groundwater test a success

“Water agencies in California’s Central Valley and East Bay took a major step forward in February on a joint pilot project to diversify water supplies, enhance drought resilience and restore a depleted aquifer through groundwater recharge.  For the first time, the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) extracted groundwater banked deep below farmland in San Joaquin County into the utility’s Mokelumne aqueducts, which convey surface water from Pardee Reservoir in the Sierra Nevada foothills to customers in the East Bay.  This extraction was a key step for DREAM – short for Demonstration Recharge, Extraction and Aquifer Management – a pilot project involving EBMUD, North San Joaquin Water Conservation District, San Joaquin County, and Eastern Water Alliance. The unique urban-agricultural partnership is designed to improve water supply reliability for both San Joaquin County farmers and EBMUD customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties while recharging the critically over-drafted Eastern San Joaquin County Groundwater Basin. … ”  Continue reading this press release from EBMUD.


San Lorenzo Valley Water District OKs contracts to fix aging water system

“The San Lorenzo Valley Water District Board of Directors recently approved construction contracts to a pair of local firms for projects the district says will shore up some of its infrastructure for the long haul.  The board agreed to a $6 million contract with Monterey Peninsula Engineering Inc. for an effort that will replace leaky water mains, fittings, valves and fire hydrants for its Lyon and Big Steel Pipeline along Highway 236. According to a release from the district, construction is scheduled to begin later this winter.  The second contract, awarded to Casey Construction for $600,000, will replace Redwood Park Pipeline water mains and improve service for residents along Country Club Drive and Woodland Drive in Ben Lomond. The projected is expected to break ground in the fall. … ”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Commentary: Even in wet year, water remains top of mind

Fred Keeley, the mayor of Santa Cruz, writes, “Santa Cruz is experiencing some of its coldest weather in decades, on top of its wettest weather in years. It’s hard to believe that just a year ago we were amid the driest winter months on record. Fueled by climate change, these “abnormal” seasons are now normal – drought punctuated by extreme storms.  While our communities are recovering from acute damage done during recent atmospheric rivers, the most chronic impact of climate change locally is on our water supplies – caused by weather extremes. For Santa Cruz, where 95% of our supply comes from the San Lorenzo River and north coast streams, we are particularly vulnerable to drought. This is why the city has taken aggressive actions to “drought proof” the community’s water supply. …”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Salinas Valley Basin Groundwater Basin Sustainability Agency announces new statewide tool to report dry residential wells

“The Salinas Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency, in coordination with the State Department of Water Resources, is spreading the word about an online dry well reporting system, focused on domestic wells, so that the agency can get a clearer picture of the status of residential wells and craft sustainability plans accordingly.  “These are data points we don’t have,” Donna Meyers, general manager for the Salinas Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency, said in a March 2 statement. “Monterey County is a black hole on this.”  The program comes after a decade of historic drought across California, and as the statement from SVBGSA notes, “Residential wells typically go dry before wells that serve agriculture or municipal users because the residential wells are shallower. … ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly.

Cuyama Valley groundwater plan approved. What does this mean for Big Carrot?

“The embattled Cuyama Valley groundwater basin now has a state-approved plan that aims to create a sustainable source of water mainly through groundwater pumping reductions. On Thursday, the California Department of Water Resources approved the groundwater sustainability plan drafted by the Cuyama Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency, a joint powers agency comprised of Kern, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties as well as the Cuyama Community Services District and Cuyama Basin Water District. The plan was required under the California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act because the Cuyama basin is considered critically overdrafted. … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

Almost all of Santa Barbara County out of drought conditions

“It’s been a weird year for weather and water in Santa Barbara County, especially for the regions that were recently dusted with snow. But it’s only become more unbelievable: Data released by the U.S. Drought Monitor Thursday indicates that all populated areas of the county are now out of the drought.  The county’s metaphorical water glass was already looking half full, having experienced the eighth wettest January on record in the past 129 years, and the eighth wettest year to date, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System. Statewide, California’s snowpack is reaching record-breaking levels, and precipitation this year has been at 135 percent of the state’s historical average. … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent.

Lake Cachuma spills for first time in 12 years. It’s now at 99.7% of capacity

“Water was spilling over Bradbury Dam at Lake Cachuma on Wednesday, for the first time in a dozen years. The flow down the spillway is the most obvious sign of the huge transformation that has taken place at a reservoir that two months ago was less than a third full. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the lake and dam, said in a tweet that the water releases into the Santa Ynez River were being done “to allow for incoming flows.”  Two of the dam’s four gates were opened to let water out of the lake, which is within inches of being full. … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

Montecito Water District ready to switch to stage 1 drought

“This week Montecito Water District’s Board of Directors passed Ordinance 98, updating water use restrictions to be consistent with current water supply conditions. However, the change won’t take effect until existing State emergency drought regulations terminate which is currently scheduled to happen on May 24, 2023.  In late December 2022 and continuing through February 2023, several atmospheric rivers brought record setting rainfall and snowpack across the State, including in Santa Barbara County. These storms filled local reservoirs, including Jameson Lake and the Cachuma Project, and significantly improved the conditions of State Water Project supplies. … ”  Read more from Edhat.

Ventura County seeks $20-plus million to drill and rehab wells, extend recycled water line

“Ventura County officials are seeking more than $23 million from the state to help drill and rehab wells to protect local groundwater supplies.  The money would pay for projects in Ventura County Waterworks Districts 1 and 19, which provide water to Moorpark and Somis. Both communities rely heavily on imported Northern California water delivered by the State Water Project but also have a smaller amount of groundwater available.  The local source doesn’t rely “on the whims of the hydrologic cycle of the Sierra Nevada,” said Joseph Pope, the county’s water and sanitation director. But many of the wells are old and expensive to maintain. Some need repairs, and others need to be replaced. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star.


Eastern San Joaquin groundwater plan gets a thumbs up

“The California Department of Water Resources has recommended the approval of the Eastern San Joaquin Water Authority Groundwater Sustainability Plan. San Joaquin County officials said the recommendation is a significant step toward ensuring the region will have enough groundwater by 2040.  “DWR’s acceptance of our groundwater sustainability plan is a tribute to the hard work and historic collaboration among 16 diverse Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) that joined together to build consensus around realistic and common-sense solutions with the unified goal of sustainability,” San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors Chairman Robert Rickman said in a Friday media statement. … ”  Read more from the Lodi Sentinel.

Fresno, Valley likely to lose ‘drought’ label by April. Does that mean it’s really over?

“An abundance of rain and snow in Fresno, the central San Joaquin Valley and the nearby Sierra Nevada range has the Central Valley poised to escape a drought designation by April. The latest version of the U.S. Drought Monitor, released Thursday by the National Integrated Drought Information System, includes an outlook that indicates Fresno County and neighboring Kings, Madera, Merced and Tulare counties are likely to have the drought label removed over the next month. But it may take months — if not longer — for a depleted underground water table on the Valley floor to recover from dry conditions that have persisted for three years, the analysis suggests. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee.


Mojave Water Agency lauds state’s water-delivery efforts

“In the first quarter of the year, Mojave Water Agency officials have been busy giving a nod to water-delivery efforts by the state, receiving an award and preparing to offer a workshop on gardening in a water-conscious environment.  For more than 60 years, the water agency has been charged with ensuring the continued availability of water to the residents and land within its 4,900-square-mile service area.  Despite recent rain and snow storms, Southern California, and the agency’s service area in particular, remain precariously dry. That’s why MWA fully supports Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to temporarily modify required water releases from reservoirs to the State Water Project and Central Valley Project facilities. … ”  Read more from the Victorville Daily Press.


San Diego County’s drought level falls to lowest point in 2 years

“The heavy winter rains have lowered San Diego County’s drought ranking to the lowest level in nearly two years, and more precipitation might be coming in mid-March.  The U.S. Drought Monitor now lists the region as being “abnormally dry.” The county had been in a “moderate drought” since May 2021. Prior to that, greater San Diego experienced about 18 months of no drought conditions. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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Along the Colorado River …

Imperial Irrigation District responds to Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial on Colorado River

Henry Martinez, general manager of the Imperial Irrigation District, writes, “The Review-Journal’s Feb. 15 editorial promoting federal intervention to solve the Colorado River crisis contains many inaccuracies.  Let’s start with the inference that a six-state proposal is an actual “accord,” lacking only California’s acquiescence. It is not. A “consensus” solution based primarily on reducing the entitlements of water users not involved in the discussions, or in concurrence with the final proposal and namely the most senior water right priority tribes, lower Colorado River agricultural water users, California contractors and Mexico is not consensus or an implementable solution to the crisis.  The editorial also suggests that using water in California to grow food or certain crops — the very reason for the creation of the federal Bureau of Reclamation — is not a beneficial use of that water but fails to acknowledge these same crops are grown throughout the rest of the basin, including Nevada. … ”  Continue reading at the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Water dreams dashed: Scottsdale, Maricopa County gridlocked over Rio Verde Foothills’ water crisis

“Just when a solution was on the horizon, it looks like the residents of Rio Verde Foothills will have to keep waiting for water. Scottsdale recently came forward with a proposal to resupply the unincorporated community with water after cutting residents off at the beginning of the year. Maricopa County rejected the proposal on Friday, calling it “impractical, inefficient, and overly burdensome.”  “Cutting off water is absolutely atrocious and is a black mark in the history of Arizona,” said county supervisor Thomas Galvin of District 2, which includes Rio Verde Foothills. “What we’re all sick of is publicity stunts from David Ortega, false information from Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega, and his inability to help these folks find a source of water.” … ”  Read more from Channel 12.

Here’s what the Legislature did to help arid Utah better manage its water

“Utah closed out 2022 with water issues across the state.  The Great Salt Lake had shrunk to its lowest elevation in recorded history. Aquifers in the central part of the state were overdrawn. And in the Colorado River Basin, two of the nation’s largest reservoirs — including Lake Powell — sat precariously low, with tension among the states that rely on them beginning to ramp up.  That left Utah lawmakers with a lot of conundrums to solve this session. And even though this winter brought epic snowpack across the West, it will take many good water years to pull the region out of its crippling megadrought.  Here are some of the major water-related bills still floating their way through the final few days of the Legislature’s General Session. … ”  Continue reading at the Salt Lake Tribune.

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In national water news this weekend …

EPA mandates states report on cyber threats to water systems

“The Biden administration on Friday said it would require states to report on cybersecurity threats in their audits of public water systems, a day after it released a broader plan to protect critical infrastructure against cyberattacks.  The Environmental Protection Agency said public water systems are increasingly at risk from cyberattacks that amount to a threat to public health.  “Cyberattacks against critical infrastructure facilities, including drinking water systems, are increasing, and public water systems are vulnerable,” said EPA Assistant Administrator Radhika Fox. “Cyberattacks have the potential to contaminate drinking water.” … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service.

SEE ALSO: EPA Takes Action to Improve Cybersecurity Resilience for Public Water Systems, press release from the EPA

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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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