DAILY DIGEST, 3/6: Yet another atmospheric river in the forecast; CA’s antiquated water rights system faces new scrutiny; Low fall-run chinook salmon stocks expected on Sacramento River; States struggle to find Colorado River cuts as Lake Mead shrinks; and more …

In California water news today …

California could get hit with new atmospheric river this week, and consequences could be concerning

“Northern California could be in for a new atomospheric river storm by the end of the week, potentially blasting the Bay Area with substantial rain, and the Sierra with even more heavy snow, but likely not as fierce as the wet storms that wreaked damage across the region at the start of the year, forecasters say.  Although still an early forecast, weather models show that an atmospheric river — a band of moisture that can travel thousands of miles — could flow into Northern California on Friday and Saturday, focused along the coast, including in the Bay Area, said Gerry Díaz, Chronicle meteorologist. “This will be a challenging forecast, because the only way that plays out is if the high pressure off the coast breaks down by Thursday of this week,” Díaz explained. “Think of the high-pressure like a big rock in a flowing stream. If you remove the rock from the stream, then plenty of water will make it downstream to California. If it stays put, then less water will make it here.” … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle (gift article).

Yet another atmospheric river takes aim at snow-weary California this week

“California has endured weeks of heavy rain and mountain snow, and it’s about to add another week as more storms loom over the next several days.  Of particular concern is a forecast for an atmospheric river that is eyeing Central and Southern California for the end of this week, promising a renewed round of several inches of lowland rain and feet of mountain snow to parts of the state that simply have too much of both right now. Flooding is also a growing concern for the region.  In the meantime, the weather pattern remains unsettled as a stubborn area of low pressure that brought more heavy snow to the mountains of the West over the weekend lingers off the Pacific Northwest coast. … ”  Read more from Fox Weather

Why California drought isn’t over yet

“California has been in the grips of a drought for the past ten years. But will that change following the influx of snow and rain that have pummeled the state over the winter.  At the end of February the state was hit by severe snowstorms, even in areas used to extremely dry conditions. A historic amount of rain also fell on the state between December 26 and January 19.  So is the drought over?  There is no doubt that the drought conditions in the state have significantly improved following the weather.  … ”  Continue reading at Newsweek.


‘A foundation of racism’: California’s antiquated water rights system faces new scrutiny

“It’s an arcane system of water law that dates back to the birth of California — an era when 49ers used sluice boxes and water cannons to scour gold from Sierra Nevada foothills and when the state government promoted the extermination of Native people to make way for white settlers.  Today, this antiquated system of water rights still governs the use of the state’s supplies, but it is now drawing scrutiny like never before.  In the face of global warming and worsening cycles of drought, a growing number of water experts, lawmakers, environmental groups and tribes say the time has finally come for change. Some are pushing for a variety of reforms, while others are calling for the outright dismantling of California’s contentious water rights system. … ”  Read more from the LA Times. | Read via Yahoo News.

Could feds and farmers join forces to put groundwater back in Central Valley aquifers?

“Jennifer Peters signed on to have her Madera ranch become the site of an experiment in replenishing groundwater in California’s Central Valley. Though this pilot program led by a subdivision of the United States Department of Agriculture is far from the first effort to address the depletion of groundwater stores, it offers farmers like Peters hope for the future of agriculture in the region. “If the generation that’s running the ranch now, my son, doesn’t buy into this and start improving the water quality, we’re all going to be in a world of hurt by the time the sixth generation wants to come up,” Peters said. “There’ll be no farming.” Peters is a fourth-generation farmer who operates Markarian Family LP with her father and son. They cultivate wine grapes and almonds, crops that require irrigation to grow in the Central Valley. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee.

Radio: CA Governor Newsom suspends environmental laws protecting salmon

“On this edition of Your Call’s Planet Series, we discuss an executive order by California Governor Gavin Newsom that curbs water flow from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the San Francisco Bay.  Environmentalists and tribal leaders say Newsom’s order will harm Chinook salmon and Delta smelt by sending more water to California farms.  Randy Fiorini, a Merced County farmer, told CalMatters that farmers are deprived of water to protect environmental resources. Now, he said, the governor is tipping the balance in the other direction.  Guest:  Alastair Bland, reporter at CalMatters, covering water-related policy and environmental issues.”  Listen at KALW.

‘There’s a lot of fear:’ Low fall-run chinook salmon stocks expected on Sacramento River

“It’s going to be a bad year for Sacramento River chinook salmon. That was the message from this year’s annual Salmon Information Meeting attended by state and federal fisheries scientists.  State and federal officials announced one of the lowest adult fall-run chinook salmon population estimates since 2008, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  The fall-run chinook is considered the predominant species of salmon in freshwater and ocean fisheries, the state said. This year, the state forecast 169,767 adults in the population.  Because of the low salmon numbers, there could be severe restrictions on commercial and recreational salmon fishing this year, said John McManus, president of the Golden State Salmon Association. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee.

A deeper dive into thiamine deficiency

“Thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency complex (TDC) has become a widespread affliction in fisheries around the world. During the 2022 annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society, a special symposium on TDC included presentations from researchers describing findings addressing the root causes of thiamine deficiency. TDC is not isolated to California’s Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) it also occurs in lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) in the Great Lakes, and Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in Europe and in the northeastern United States, among other important fisheries. However, this symposium was not the first time scientists came together to understand TDC, as Dr. Dale Honeyfield – professor emeritus at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) – spoke about meetings sponsored by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission during the mid-1990s. Decades of research continued to link mortality during early salmon life stages to low thiamine levels, yet important questions remained. … ”  Continue reading at FishBio.

Editorial: Do we still need to conserve water in NorCal? Of course, we do

Ariel Roblin, president and general manager of KCRA, writes, “Over the last couple of months, California has been gifted with a tremendous amount of rain and snow. It’s great to see — especially after an extremely dry and hot 2022. All the rain and snow we’re getting is leading people to ask questions like, “Does this mean I don’t have to conserve water? Or, Are we out of the woods yet?”  Here’s the thing, we have to stop asking these questions. The answer is no — it’s really not ever a good idea to waste water in California even if you think there is enough to do so. … ”  Continue reading at KCRA.

California again rejects groundwater protection plans as inadequate

“Farmers in California’s San Joaquin Valley didn’t stop over-pumping groundwater when doing so contaminated local water supplies with arsenic, and they didn’t stop when the valley’s floor began sinking underneath them, by a foot per year in some places. State officials have long hoped to stop them with regulations—and last week, they decided that several local regulatory plans weren’t strong enough.  On Thursday, California’s Department of Water Resources rejected a half dozen local groundwater plans from some of the valley’s most productive agricultural regions. The agency said the plans failed to sufficiently address overpumping, land subsidence and drinking water safety. … ”  Read more from the Food & Environment Reporting Network.

California’s agriculture industry leans toward big tech as farming expenses soar

“For Northern California farmers, everything from water to fertilizer to labor has gotten significantly more expensive over the last several years.  “Operation costs have gone up, labor costs have gone up, everything has gone up but commodity prices to the growers have not,” said Devin Bower, who owns an organic almond and pistachio farm.  Bower, like many other farmers, said adapting to challenges is just part of life as a grower. But that adaptability gets squeezed by things like water restrictions and nationwide inflation.  For those farms that can afford the up-front investment, smart technology can help save cash in the field. … ”  Read more from KCRA.

Pesticides 101: The good, the bad and the ugly

“Pesticides have been used, in one way or another, for thousands of years to protect crops against invasive species, fungi and other “pests.”  While there are organic options, chemical pesticides are commonly used, with industrial agriculture relying heavily on it for their crops. However, as many studies and literature over the decades have shown, using these chemicals comes at enormous costs to the environment, wildlife and human health.  But before we get into all the details and solutions, here are some facts. … ”  Read more from EcoWatch.

Microplastics are everywhere, including in our bodies. Here’s what we know — and don’t know — about the impacts

“Microplastics are everywhere.  In our water, our food, even the air we breathe.The tiny fragments, fibers and films, less than 5 millimeters long, are often made of what’s known as “forever chemicals,” which can take thousands of years to break down.   They’ve been found in human organs — even placentas — as well as plants and animals.  And their effect on human health is still largely unknown, according to Matt Simon, a science journalist at Wired and author of the book A Poison Like No Other: How Microplastics Corrupted Our Planet and Our Bodies.  In an interview last fall with KQED Forum host Mina Kim, Simon explained how microplastics literally rain down on us, much like acid rain once did before strict regulations were put in place to limit sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants. … ”  Read more from KQED.

Past wildfires still melting California’s mountain snowpack long after flames doused, study finds

“Summer wildfires are reaching higher into the California mountains in recent years, and a new study finds the charred forests are having a dire effect on winter snowpacks long after the flames have been doused.  NOAA researchers found that the loss of tree canopy is leading to snow melting at much greater rates than average and wiping out snowpacks – a crucial ingredient to the region’s water supply – sooner than usual.  Of particular interest that sparked the research were two weeks-long dry periods in California’s mountains during the winters of 2012-2013 and 2020-2021. The latter winter came on the heels of two of the worst fire seasons in state history which featured a 10-fold increase in wildfires over the previous 20 years’ average. … ”  Read more from Fox Weather.

Return to top

Whoops …

An astute reader pointed out to me that in yesterday’s Daily Digest, I reposted a commentary, Results from upcoming U.S. Supreme Court petition could impact NID operations, water supply and customer costs, which was originally published on February 8.  I did include it when it was originally posted in February.  I endeavor not to repost things I have already posted, but these days, with the Daily Digest having 40+ stories, I’ll admit it’s easy to make mistakes.  And surely, it’s not the only time I have inadvertently reposted an article I have posted before.

The reader pointed out that there was a rebuttal to that commentary from Chris Shutes at the CSPA, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, which I posted on Feb 22, so in the interest of being even-handed, it is here: There’s less to NID’s Supreme Court Appeal than meets the eye.

In regional water news and commentary today …


North Bay to experience rainy, unsettled weather patterns through mid-March

“North Bay residents will be seeing more rain throughout the coming week, with a possible stronger system set to sweep in after the scattered showers end, according to the National Weather Service.  Unpredictable, short showers will characterize the next few days across Sonoma County, David King, a meteorologist with the weather service’s Monterey office, said Sunday.  “Plenty of people will have a little pop-up shower with light rain directly over them. Then, all of a sudden it is clearing and there might be a little bit of sunshine,” he said. “Then in an hour or so again, the next thing comes over.” … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.


Atmospheric River heading to Lake Tahoe and the Sierra, snow and rain possible

“We haven’t had much time to breathe between storms around Lake Tahoe this winter, and this week won’t be much different except this coming week’s snow accumulations will be minor compared to the most recent storms.  Expect periods of snow showers through Wednesday. Snow accumulations will be minor in comparison, but are still capable of travel difficulties.  Those dreaming of dry weather might be really let down by the long-term forecast, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) in Reno. They say the models for the week are showing a high probability of a warm, Atmospheric River hitting the Sierra by Thursday. … ”  Read more from South Tahoe Now.

Tahoe snowstorm forces ski resorts to close Sunday

“At least three ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe area are closed Sunday because of the heavy snow and dangerous driving conditions caused by a winter storm that struck Northern California this weekend.  As of 7:45 a.m. Sunday, operators at Heavenly Ski Resort, Homewood Mountain Resort and Sugar Bowl Resort said they decided to close out of caution and for the safety of their guests and employees. The winter storm created hazardous conditions in the Sierra Nevada on Saturday, forcing the closure of several highways, including Interstate 80 over Donner Summit. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.


What might happen if a wet spring follows the Modesto watershed’s plentiful winter?

“Stanislaus County had its wettest year on record in 1983, thanks to spring storms that kept piling onto the impressive winter total. Forty years later, another winter has brought plenty of rain to the county, and snow to its Sierra Nevada watershed. Could history repeat itself this spring? Maybe. California tends to have most of its storms from November through March. But they can happen in April and May, too, as 1983 showed. The extra runoff that year bolstered reservoirs and aquifers but did not cause widespread flooding. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee.

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. … ”  Read more from the County of San Joaquin.


Scattered showers briefly return to Southern California ahead of a cool, dry week

“As storm systems continue to sweep across Northern California, the Southland will be getting a bit of a reprieve. The gray skies Sunday will bring a light rain, less than one-tenth of an inch, and the week ahead will be mostly dry and slightly warmer.  Calling it a “nuisance rain,” Mike Wofford, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard, sees showers diminishing by afternoon. Snow levels — less than an inch in the mountains — are expected to drop to 4,000 feet.  “We’re getting the fringes of a storm system centered to the north,” Wofford said. But “that should be the end of it.” … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

Hiding in plain sight: newly described freshwater fishes from the Los Angeles area and elsewhere in California

“Lulu Miller in her wonderful 2020 book, Why Fish Don’t Exist, describes how fish exist to us humans only if they have been assigned proper names. The Santa Ana Speckled Dace is a local case in point. This small fish has been living in southern California streams for about a million years, yet has been largely ignored because it was assumed to be just another population of the Speckled Dace. This dace has been regarded as the most widely distributed ‘true’ freshwater fish species in western North America, found in streams and lakes from Canada to Mexico and California. Speckled Dace from throughout this vast range all look alike – blunted-snouted minnows with a tiny mouth and eyes, a nearly cylindrical body, wide caudal peduncle, and active behavior. … This blog is an announcement that the Santa Ana Speckled Dace exists … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog.

Pacific Marine Mammal Center breaks ground on expansion project, eager to contribute to water conservation

“Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach has broken ground on a $14-million expansion project that will enhance the center’s educational and patient treatment capabilities while making it a leader in water conservation.  The project, which is being referred to as “The Next Wave” expansion, will include a water reclamation system that organization officials say will allow the center to recycle up to 90% of the water it uses.  As the second largest water user in Laguna Beach, the gains in that area are expected to be significant. Once installed, the system could allow the center to save 15,000 gallons of water per day and approximately 5 million gallons of water annually. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

A chunk of Rancho Palos Verdes is sliding into the sea. Can the city stop it?

“A drive along the ocean on the Palos Verdes Peninsula is Southern California at its finest. Sunlight dances on the water. Coves are pristine, unsullied by development. Catalina Island appears so near you can almost spot the bison.  Look a bit closer, though, and you’ll see signs of a disaster waiting to happen.  An above-ground sewage pipe snakes along the road. The pavement on Palos Verdes Drive South is rutted and warped, jutting up and down like an asphalt roller coaster. The hills are strewn with houses on makeshift foundations, perched on haphazard stilts and shipping containers.  The problem: A dormant landslide complex that shaped the south side of the Palos Verdes Peninsula for hundreds of thousands of years was reactivated 67 years ago, and it’s threatening to destroy homes and infrastructure. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.


Imperial Beach mayor will represent San Diego coast in state commission

“Paloma Aguirre will represent San Diego County on the California Coastal Commission with a focus on equitable access to the coast.  The Imperial Beach mayor will serve the remainder of former Commissioner Steve Padilla’s term, which expires May 2025. Padilla, a former Chula Vista council member, is now serving in the Legislature.  “I am honored to have been appointed to the commission, particularly as our state’s coast faces the impacts related to climate change,” she said in a statement. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Return to top

Along the Colorado River …

States struggle to find Colorado River cuts as Lake Mead shrinks

Shipwreck Cove, Lake Mead, June 2022. Photo by James Marvin Phelps.

“Getting states to agree to use less water is hard. Doing so in a matter of months is near impossible. … There are two proposals from the basin states on the table that offer different paths for how to meet the target.  The two proposals arrive at a similar number of potential new cuts to water use across the basin, but draw a clear line in the sand between California’s desire to protect its senior water rights, much of which are tied up in the agriculture sector, and the desire of the other six states to have California, Nevada and Arizona share the cuts more equitably.   Rhett Larson, a water law professor from Arizona State University, said that the dueling proposals show the other states are willing to collaborate with Arizona as a way to stand toe-to-toe with California, the largest water user on the river at 4.4 million acre-feet of water annually and arguably the most politically and economically powerful of the basin states, as well.  But there is a reason California felt confident enough to stand on its own proposal. … ”  Read more from the Las Vegas Review Journal.


Todd Fitchette with the Western Farm Press writes, “This winter will be one for the record-books in California. It looks like the winter I spent playing on 40-feet of snow in Mammoth Lakes in the mid-1990s will be topped by this year’s epic snowfall. So where will all that water go when it melts?  Living in Bishop at the time, we had flooding in August as the runoff came off the mountains and made it to the Owens River – or as some might call it: the Los Angeles AqueductHere’s my thought on this. Follow along. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press.

Arizona: Queen Creek maintains 100-year water supply through groundwater, helps sustain future of Colorado River System

“The Town of Queen Creek continues to have a 100-year water supply through groundwater, according to a recent press release from Constance Halonen-Wilson, communications and marketing manager for the town.  “The town is primarily using treated effluent to recharge the aquifer – we are working with developers to expand our treated effluent program and in the process of expanding our recharge facilities,” the release stated.  In addition, by 2026, the town will have an additional 15,000 acre feet of water supplies to offset groundwater pumping. Queen Creek’s allocation of the Colorado River (established in the 1980s) is a very small portion of what the town is using to recharge the aquifer. … ”  Read more from the Queen Creek Sun Times.

Could a new Mexican desal proposal run into old problems?

“Israeli firm IDE Technologies’ proposal to build a US$5.5bn desalination plant in Puerto Peñasco in northern Mexico’s Sonora state and then sell the water to Arizona is not a new idea and was previously rejected due to several problems.  In December, IDE presented Arizona’s Water Infrastructure Finance Authority (WIFA) with a proposal to supply treated 1Bm3/y (billion cubic meters per year) of seawater from the Sea of Cortez through a 328km system of pumps and pipes.  WIFA was reported to have been analyzing the initiative, but no further updates have been announced.  … ”  Read more from BN Americas.

Return to top

More news and commentary in the weekend edition …

In California water news this weekend …

  • The West just got blanketed in snow, but its water problems aren’t over
  • California’s snowfall so far this winter rivals the state’s record-setting season, officials say
  • California regulators reject San Joaquin Valley groundwater management plans
  • Facing dismal salmon population forecast, fishermen’s groups call for immediate closure of season, request disaster assistance
  • Judge lifts block on road construction along California’s last undammed river
  • Water crisis in West has prompted desperate ideas: Drain the Great Lakes, desalinate ocean water
  • Cuyama Valley groundwater plan approved. What does this mean for Big Carrot?
  • Eastern San Joaquin groundwater plan gets a thumbs up
  • EPA mandates states report on cyber threats to water systems
  • And more …

Click here for the weekend digest.

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