DAILY DIGEST, 3/8: Atmospheric river gaining strength as it nears NorCal; Drought to deluge: Managing water for climate extremes; Western legislatures take on foreign land ownership; Pure Water Monterey officials fret grants could be lost; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • MEETING: State Water Resources Control Board at 9:30am. Agenda items a drought update; urban water conservation data; consideration of adoption of guidelines for the Expedited Drinking Water Grant Funding Program; and consideration of a resolution adopting the proposed prioritization of drinking water regulations development for Calendar Year 2023. Click here for the full agenda and remote access instructions.
  • GRACAST: Identifying and Avoiding Common Mistakes in Well Design from 12pm to 1pm. The process of well design has traditionally followed generally accepted practices, but some designs incorporate elements that can be less-than-optimal when the goals are to construct a well with maximum efficiency and life expectancy. The presentation will highlight some of the miscues associated with well construction projects including specification preparation, standards application, steel selection, gravel pack and screen slot design, well development, and well performance evaluation. The presentation objectives are to examine experiences with premature well failures and performance problems and to provide suggested remedies to improve well design techniques design going forward. Click here to register.

In California water news today …

Atmospheric river gaining strength as it nears Northern California

“Like a truly unwanted guest, an intensifying sub-tropical atmospheric river was now expected to arrive early, crashing into Northern California on Thursday afternoon.  The strength of the incoming storm front made Wednesday’s showers seem like just a minor annoyance for the morning rush hour.  “The atmospheric river looks like it will be knocking on the coastline with an earlier arrival,” the National Weather Service said. “Yesterday, the moisture plume showed an arrival Thursday in the late afternoon/evening hours, but latest guidance shows that it could start hitting the Central CA and NorCal coast Thursday morning to early afternoon.” … ”  Read more from CBS News.

Strong “Pineapple Express” atmospheric river to bring heavy rain, snowmelt, and a wide range of impacts to northern California

Dr. Daniel Swain writes, “The past 3 weeks have featured extraordinary, even historic snowfalls across an unusually broad swath of California. Suffice it to say: February 2023 was an extraordinary month for snow in California. And with a near-record snowpack in some places (though not others–notably including the northern Sierra) comes the reality that there’s a lot of water stored up in them thar hills. That water stored in the snowpack (known as snow water equivalent, or SWE) is going to melt eventually. And, based on the forecast, some of it (particularly at elevations below about 4,500 feet) might melt sooner rather than later. That always raises the specter of flooding at some later date–and, beyond the event that will likely unfold in the coming days, this very large snowpack will mostly remain intact until later in the spring (when it might pose the risk of more substantial and widespread snowmelt flooding later in the season). … ”  Read more from Weather West.

New atmospheric river to raise flood risk, drop more mountain snow in California

“A storm system with milder air that was brewing over the Pacific Ocean at the start of the week will impact California from Friday to Saturday and generate a high risk of flooding, including in areas accustomed to receiving heavy snow, AccuWeather meteorologists warn. This storm will follow an ongoing winter storm that was producing heavy snow across the Sierra Nevada and is forecast to keep affecting the region into Wednesday.  The high-impact storm could potentially unleash flooding rainfall, mudslides, feet of mountain snow, and very strong wind gusts between Thursday night and Saturday. … ”  Read more from AccuWeather.

Atmospheric river approaches California: Here’s a timeline of impacts

“Sudden downpours of rain and hail have become a bit of a nuisance across the Bay Area this week, with every day hosting its share of thunderstorms. Wednesday’s thunderstorm cells will chip away at the dry high-pressure system sitting just off the coast, setting us up for days of heavy rain.  The high-pressure system will fall apart by Thursday afternoon. And like water bursting through a failing dam, a torrent of atmospheric moisture will spill into Northern California. This river of atmospheric moisture will then be absorbed by a storm system between Thursday and Friday, expanding in size and intensity as it uses the moisture to fuel its rain, snow, winds and hail.  The stage is set for Thursday and Friday to be chock full of severe weather. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.


DWR to increase outflows from Lake Oroville

An aerial drone view at the main spillway showing Lake Oroville at a water elevation of 743 feet on January 25, 2022.  Kelly M. Grow / DWR

“Since Dec. 1 Lake Oroville’s storage has increased approximately 178 feet and gained 1.66 million acre-feet of water. While the Department of Water Resources (DWR) continues to monitor lake levels, DWR is also very closely monitoring weather forecasts and mountain snow levels. With ongoing wet weather and in anticipation of increased runoff inflows into the reservoir, DWR will increase outflows through the Hyatt Powerplant on Wednesday. The main spillway at Lake Oroville may also be used as early as Friday for additional water releases. The specific date will depend upon the size and timing of the next series of storms and flood control requirements set by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). … ”  Read more from DWR News.

California’s precipitation paradox

“California has two seemingly contradictory and potentially devastating problems:

  1. We have more water than we know what to do with — and more is on the way.
  2. We still don’t have nearly enough.

More atmospheric rivers are due to wash over us this weekend. These are the same kind of state-spanning bands of wet air responsible for dropping 32 trillion gallons of water on the state in January.  But in a bit of irony that Alanis Morissette might appreciate, the coming rain could actually complicate things in drought-plagued California by melting its snowpack too early. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters.

Drought to deluge: Managing water for climate extremes

“The year began with a soaking for California. Nine atmospheric rivers doused the state, leaving at least 20 lives lost, roads washed out, and communities underwater.  Though it may have felt that way, the quick swing from drought to deluge isn’t uncommon: California naturally pivots between extremes.  “I think people forget how ordinary rain can be in California,” says Ann Willis, an engineer and California regional director at the nonprofit American Rivers. “It wasn’t too long after that series of storms when scientists were saying that this wasn’t climate change, this was a regular year for California. We just haven’t seen it for so long that we forgot.”  But that doesn’t mean climate-amplified storms aren’t coming. This year’s heavy rain events aren’t even close to what’s expected in the future as climate change makes weather whiplash more severe. That’s why it’s important for California — and other states — to start planning now. … ”  Read more from The Revelator.

Despite storms, water challenges persist

“As still more storms dumped new snow onto California’s burgeoning snowpack, water managers, farmers and environmentalists gathered in Sacramento last week to discuss long-term challenges to secure a more certain water future.  The fresh snowfall contrasted with challenging water realities discussed at the 61st California Irrigation Institute Annual Conference. With a theme of “One Water: Partnering for Solutions,” the event focused on addressing impacts of climate change, including warming conditions and frequent droughts that severely diminish the snowpack and state water supplies.  The gathering emphasized solutions that some speakers said could be aided through partnerships among different water interests. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert.

Valley’s water managers celebrate winning key SGMA approval from Calif. regulators

“In light of last week’s decisions regarding the groundwater sustainability plans, groundwater managers in Fresno County are celebrating.  The backstory: The California Department of Water Resources announced its decisions for the groundwater sustainability plans for 10 basins in the Central Valley, giving the green light to the Kings Subbasin and Westside Subbasin, both of which are anchored in Fresno County.  Groundwater sustainability plans are required by 2014’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and govern how agencies in critically overdrafted areas achieve groundwater sustainability. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun.

SEE ALSO: State declares six aquifer plans as out of compliance, from Ag Alert

Threatened coho salmon at risk due to federal mismanagement, groups allege

“A few weeks ago, federally threatened coho salmon swam up the Klamath River, spawned and laid egg nests. But some of these nests, or redds, holding as many as 4,000 eggs, may never hatch, owing to reduced water levels in the river.  It’s the result of a severe water management bungling, say critics, by the Bureau of Reclamation, which controls how much water flows from Upper Klamath Lake into the river.  “My jaw is dropping right now at the way things are being managed,” said Michael Belchik, senior water policy analyst for the Yurok Tribe.  Tribal nations and commercial fishing groups argue the agency violated the Endangered Species Act when it reduced river flows in mid-March below a minimum level set in a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration biological opinion, a series of recommendations and requirements meant to help the salmon recover and ensure river management decisions don’t push the species to the brink of extinction. The bureau blamed years of drought in the Klamath Basin. … ”  Read more from KQED.

California salmon fishing may face restrictions after decline in fall-run chinook

“Recreational and commercial fishing for salmon will likely close or be severely restricted in California this year after state and federal biologists last week released data that shows fewer fish returned to the Sacramento and Klamath Rivers in 2022.  Michael O’Farrell, fish biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service, said the 2023 projection for Sacramento River fall-run chinook, the driver of West Coast ocean salmon fisheries, is estimated at 169,767 adults. It is one of the lowest forecasts since 2008 when the current assessment method began.  The Klamath River fall-run chinook forecast is 103,793 adults, which is the second lowest forecast since the assessment method began in 1997. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record.

CDFW announces $22.5 million to benefit salmon and support critical habitat projects statewide

“The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today announced the award of $22.5 million to 19 projects to support the restoration of critical habitat for salmon, climate resiliency, wildlife corridors and wetlands restoration.  “This initial round of awards represents a commitment to hit the ground running to support restoration and protection of our species, and I look forward to more announcements like this in the very near future,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “We must stand up as many new projects in a short period of time to make this critical habitat more resilient to the ever-changing climate.” … ”  Read more from the Department of Fish & Wildlife.

Plastic pollution is filtering up into the fish that we eat

“As an agrarian civilization, almost all of what humans eat is farmed — with the notable exception of seafood. Aside from some farmed fish, most seafood we consume is still caught in the wild. Yet while it might seem that there is something more pure and traditional about consuming “wild” food as opposed to farmed food, the seafood that we eat soaks in a sea contaminated by plastic — and it turns out that a lot of that pollution may be making its way into our bodies via seafood.  Indeed, when it comes to plastics, consumers of seafood may be eating so much of the pernicious pollution that they are regularly chowing down on the equivalents of soda bottles and credit cards. Yet you will never hear a literal “crunch,” and the reason for this is simple, unsettling and disgusting: The plastic in your seafood is “microplastic,” a term for any plastic particle that is less than 5 mm in length. … ”  Read more from Salon.

SEE ALSONew Disease ‘Plasticosis’ Caused by Plastics Discovered in Seabirds, from One Green Planet

California Court of Appeal holds reasonable use finding not required for wastewater discharge permits

“The Second District of the California Court of Appeal released on Monday its opinion for the case of Los Angeles Waterkeeper v. State Water Resources Control Board, deciding the question of whether the State and Regional Water Boards have a duty to review the reasonableness of wastewater discharge permits prior to their approval. The trial court initially ruled that the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) did have a duty to review these permits to determine whether the amount of wastewater being discharged was reasonable before issuance of the permit. Conversely, the trial court held that the Regional Water Quality Control Board, Los Angeles (Regional Water Board) did not have such a duty, reasoning that the assessment of whether the permitted use is reasonable occurs at the state level whereas the Regional Water Board is limited to assessing water quality. On appeal, however, the Second District reversed the trial court’s judgment as to the State Water Board, concluding that they did not have a duty to assess the reasonableness of the discharges. Neither court held that CEQA review was triggered by the issuance of the permits since wastewater permits are exempted from CEQA review in the Water Code. … ”  Read more from Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud, & Romo.

SEE ALSO: California Court of Appeal Holds that State Water Board Is Not Required to Investigate Whether Permitted Wastewater Discharges Amounts to Waste and Unreasonable Use, from Somach Simmons & Dunn

Newsom’s climate budget would slash funds that protect coast

“Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget would cut funding for coastal resilience projects almost in half, eliminating more than half a billion dollars of state funds this year that would help protect the coast against rising seas and climate change.  The cuts are part of Newsom’s proposed $6 billion in reductions to California’s climate change programs in response to a projected $22.5 billion statewide deficit.  California’s coastal resilience programs provide funding for local governments to prepare coastal plans and pay for projects that protect beaches, homes and infrastructure at risk from rising seas. Greenhouse gases are responsible for warming the planet, which melts ice and causes sea levels to rise. Newsom’s proposal would budget $734 million for coastal resilience, a cut of 43% or $561 million compared to 2021 and 2022, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters.

Western legislatures take on foreign land ownership

“The Chinese surveillance balloon seen over Montana in January riled up state legislatures and got them asking the question: How much control should foreign countries have over U.S. land and natural resources?  Senate Republicans in Texas answered, “None whatsoever,” advancing a bill that would prohibit Chinese, Russian and Iranian citizens from owning not just land, but even a home, under the pretext of national security. “This bill may prove even more significant in light of a Chinese spy balloon that traversed across the continental United States,” said Sen. Lois Kolkorst, the bill’s author.  When bills single out individuals by their nationality, they draw startling parallels to the xenophobic Alien Land laws of the 20th century. They also raise concerns about their own legality and ethics.  Texas is not the only state looking to curtail foreign land ownership in the U.S., however. Five states across the West — and 24 across the country — have proposed laws that aim to restrict various forms of land, property and natural resource ownership by foreign citizens and companies. … ”  Read more from High Country News.

Extreme wildfires make their own weather

“The wrong kind of weather can turn a manageable wildfire into an uncontrollable blaze. In California, Santa Ana winds notoriously fan flames with streams of hot, dry air, and Europe’s 2022 summer of record-breaking heat was also a summer of record-breaking fires. But it isn’t just weather that influences fires—fires can influence weather, too.  New research has suggested that smoke from particularly large blazes can change local weather, making fires even worse. This could be bad news for fire-prone regions experiencing more frequent fires due to climate change. But the study, published in Science, also hinted that building fire-weather interactions into weather forecasts could help direct firefighting resources to where they’ll be most effective.  “Wildfires are not just a consequence of climate change or global warming,” said study coauthor and atmospheric scientist Xin Huang of Nanjing University in China. “They’re also an active participant.” … ”  Read more from EOS.

The Brown Act in 2023: Top five facts public agencies should know

“On February 28, 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a Proclamation declaring the end of the COVID-19 State of Emergency. With this action, flexibility regarding the ability of public agencies to conduct remote meetings has been reduced significantly, but not completely. Assembly Bill (AB) 2449, which became operative January 1, 2023, allows members of a public agency’s legislative body to participate remotely under limited circumstances. Here is what you need to know. … ”  Read more from Somach Simmons & Dunn.

Return to top

In commentary today …

Working water is not wasted water. How healthy, flowing rivers benefit people and the environment

Ann Willis, California Regional Director for American Rivers, writes, “It’s a familiar scenario: Rising rivers are pinched off from the flood plains that could have spread, slowed and stored the sudden abundance of water. Floodwaters break through levees and leave destruction and heartbreaking loss in their wake. Renewed frustration and fury enter the public dialogue about “wasted” water.  I could be describing the recent events in California, where footage of fast-moving rivers carrying floodwaters out into the Pacific Ocean baffled some who have been preoccupied (and rightfully so) with drought and dire predictions about the fate of California’s water supply. But it’s also the story of the Mississippi River in the aftermath of the 1849 flood of New Orleans. And the 1927 flood in New Orleans. And California’s Central Valley floods of 1964, 1982, 1995, 1997, 2017 and, of course, this past month. Over the past 150 years of river management, floods have been framed as “wasted water,” falsely pitting the environment against the economy, ignoring the self-inflicted consequences of rivers constrained by levees and overlooking the opportunities healthy rivers provide to support people and ecosystems. … ”  Continue reading at the SF Chronicle.

Editorial:  Listen to fishermen: Skip salmon season

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat editorial board writes, “When people call for action that goes against their own short-term interests, something bigger must be at stake. The public should pay attention.  So it is with three associations of West Coast fishermen that have called for a shutdown of this year’s California salmon fishing season. Members of all three associations know that a closure will cost them dearly, but they understand that this year’s pain is the best chance for long-term survival.  The call for a closure comes as the Pacific Fishery Management Council begins its meeting in Seattle to recommend seasonal limits for ocean fisheries. The council’s recommendation, due in April, will go to the National Marine Fisheries Service. Meanwhile. the California Fish and Game Commission will set limits for inland fisheries in May. All of those agencies should heed the fishermen’s request. … ”  Continue reading at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

Tampering with water rights could increase costs in California

John Seiler writes, “As I’ve mentioned before, “In California, whisky is for drinking and water is for fighting,” according to a quote attributed to Mark Twain.  Your water costs soon could be going up even more. That’s because the state is looking to “fix” the current complicated system. Here’s the title of the Los Angeles Times’ “unbiased” news story on March 6: “‘A foundation of racism’: California’s antiquated water rights system faces new scrutiny.”  For the L.A. Times, is everything “racism”? Even a water system that provides potable water at a reasonable price to almost 40 million Californians and the state’s vast farm system? Apparently. … ”  Read more from the Epoch Times (free registration may be required).

Return to top

In regional water news and commentary today …


Burned fish hatchery still producing trout

“The Klamath Fish Hatchery is still operating and producing legal and trophy-size rainbow trout even though its main building was totally destroyed in the September 2020 Chiloquin 242 Fire. The hatchery, located along Crooked Creek off Highway 62 south of Fort Klamath, is still producing about a million fish annually, mostly rainbow trout, along with smaller numbers of brown trout and chinook salmon, according to hatchery manager Greg Lipsiea and Scott Patterson, fish propagation manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Lipsiea said the blaze destroyed the 225- by 75-foot office complex — “The heart of the hatchery” — that also housed the main mechanical shop and that the hatchery’s power, water and sewer systems were compromised. He and Patterson said they hope construction of a new building can begin later this year and that the hatchery will reopen to public visits in 2024. … ”  Read more from the Herald & News.


Atmospheric river to bring heavy rainfall, raises flooding concerns

“An atmospheric river system projected to hit late Thursday into Friday has raised concerns about the potential for flooding. The Nevada Irrigation District (NID) warns that its lower division dams will be spilling, as is typical during winter storms, and the local rivers will have high, dangerous flows. Upper division reservoirs may begin spilling in the next week, which will compound the issues at lower elevations.  Meteorologists and forecasters are indicating the risk of flooding is increased as warm rain hits the Sierra Nevada’s immense snowpack. The deep snow can absorb some of the rain, but much will melt, increasing the potential of flooding downstream. … ”  Read more from the Nevada Irrigation District.

It’s the snowiest season to date in Lake Tahoe, Sierra Snow Lab confirms

“It’s officially the snowiest year to date in Lake Tahoe.  Following a nearly two-week series of storms that dropped more than 15 feet of snow in parts of the Sierra Nevada, the official numbers are in. Lake Tahoe has received more snowfall as of March 6 than in any other season — or at least any season since 1971-72, the earliest year for which the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab on Donner Summit has daily measurements. As of March 6, the Snow Lab has measured 530 inches, or just over 48 feet, of snow since Oct. 1. … ”  Read more from SF Gate.

Yuba Water unveils plans and priorities for future flood risk reduction work

“Today, the Yuba Water Agency Board of Directors received an in-depth presentation on the agency’s recently-completed Flood Risk Management Plan, which outlines and prioritizes future flood risk reduction projects and efforts.  ”This plan is about being more proactive in how we tackle flood risk challenges,” said Ryan McNally, Yuba Water’s director of water resources and flood risk reduction. “In the past, the significant flood events we’ve faced have shaped our plans, reactively. We want to be more intentional moving forward.” … ”  Read more from Yuba Water.

Yuba Water Agency to begin releasing water from New Bullards Bar ahead of upcoming storms

“In anticipation of the upcoming storms, Yuba Water Agency will begin releasing water from New Bullards Bar Dam and Reservoir on Wednesday, Mar. 8 to ensure the reservoir has enough room to store flows and snowmelt expected in the coming days.  Starting at 9 a.m., Yuba Water will begin making releases using the dam’s spillway. The agency expects to slowly ramp up releases until reaching approximately 4,000 cubic feet per second.  Additional releases may be necessary as the forecast becomes more clearly defined. … ”  Read more from Yuba Net.

Lake Tahoe has really flipped (ok, fully mixed)

“On February 27 or 28, Lake Tahoe flipped or, more correctly, it fully mixed vertically from top to bottom. Full mixing is an annual event in shallower lakes, however for Tahoe and its 1,640-foot depth, it is a less common occurrence. Lake Tahoe last mixed during the 2018-19 winter.  How do we know it flipped? TERC researchers are on the lake every week sampling the water quality, the phytoplankton, and the overall health. Researchers also maintain instruments in the lake, which take measurements every few minutes.  Typically mixing starts in the fall, with the surface layer of the lake cooling and gradually mixing deeper. Most years, the mixing does not extend beyond 1,000 feet. … ”  Read more from YubaNet.

‘Never seen this much snow’: Tuolumne County declares emergency as residents worry about roof collapses, flooding

“People who live and work above the snow line in Tuolumne County have serious concerns about all the snow dumped on their roofs, driveways and roads in recent weeks, and their worries are now compounded by an approaching Pineapple Express storm system that could unleash 7.5 inches of rain and trigger massive snowmelt.  Sheriff Bill Pooley said on Tuesday that his office has responded to at least three collapsed roof calls in recent weeks, and search-and-rescue volunteers have been called out more than 20 times in the past seven days. … ”  Continue reading at the Union Democrat.


Fairfield: Progress continues in groundwater cleanup from downtown dry cleaner contamination

“The state Regional Water Quality Control Board on Wednesday will receive an update on a 2017 mitigation case involving what were three downtown cleaners.  The businesses at the time were One Hour Cleaner, which was located at 710 Madison St., Fairfield Cleaners, 625 Jackson St., which is now home to the Republican Party headquarters, and Gillespie Cleaners at 622-630 Jackson St., the state reported.  One other business that was not responsible for any contamination, but was affected, is Fairfield Safe & Lock, which is still doing business at 811 Missouri St. “Since our last update significant progress has been made toward implementing the Remedial Action Plan,” the March 2 Executive Officer’s Report states. … ”  Read more from the Daily Republic.


Bay Area, Sierra foothills on flood alert as atmospheric river looms

“The warm Pacific storm headed toward California this week is expected to unleash heavy rain and melted snow, and with that, more of the flooding that has made this winter one of the most harrowing on record.Rivers and creeks in Sonoma County, along the central coast and in the Sierra foothills could spill their banks as soon as Friday, according to the California Nevada River Forecast Center.   Meanwhile, the entire Bay Area has been placed under a flood watch, starting Thursday afternoon and ending Saturday, because of the potential for pooling water in low-lying areas, including roads and neighborhoods.  While the flooding is not expected to be nearly as bad as the widespread high water that submerged communities across the state in early January, the new threat only adds to the storm fatigue that many Californians are feeling and compounds problems for those still reeling from damage earlier this year. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle. | Read via MSN News.

Santa Venetia flood berm project faces huge funding gap

“Many questions remain regarding how a rapidly deteriorating flood wall shielding 115 homes in San Rafael can be replaced, most notably how the project will be paid for.  Marin County supervisors voted Tuesday to approve a contract extension with CSW Stuber-Stroeh Engineering, which is working to complete a design for the Santa Venetia floodwall replacement. The recommended design would be constructed of composite sheet pile and is estimated to cost $14.3 million.  That estimate doesn’t include an additional $4 million that the county’s Department of Public Works has budgeted for acquiring right of way agreements with the 111 property owners who border the wall, or an additional $500,000 in projected environmental remediation costs. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal.

‘Don’t fence me in;’ pressure on national park service to put elk first at Point Reyes

“Point Reyes National Seashore. A small slice of the Bay Area where natural systems proceed unmolested. Or perhaps not. According to environmental campaigners, nature takes a back seat to ranching at the park.  The park service disagrees, saying it’s following precedence, law and best practices to balance nature with more than a century of dairy farming.  For more, KRCB News spoke with Jack Gescheidt, a consultant working for the group ‘In Defense of Animals’ Tule Elk campaign. … ”  Read more from Northern California Public Media.

Contra Costa County officials prepare for flooding from latest atmospheric river

“As another atmospheric river prepares to douse the Bay Area this week, Contra Costa County officials are preparing for the flooding and damages the storm may bring.  The rain is supposed to move into the area by Thursday and continue on through the rest of the week. County officials said they have been clearing storm drains, catch basins, roadside ditches, monitoring and maintaining flood control channels and stocking sandbag stations in preparation for the storm, and are encouraging residents to do the same. … ”  Read more from KRON.

Zone 7 publishes annual report noting several key accomplishments

“The Zone 7 Water Agency recently released its 2021-22 annual report, which highlights completed construction projects, water conservation participation, and various flood and fire mitigation efforts including the use of goats.  The agency, which supplies water to all of northeastern Alameda County as well as the Dougherty Valley and sells wholesale treated water to local retailers, publishes the report in order to provide information about its operations, updates on drought conditions and overall water quality improvements. … ”  Read more from the Livermore Independent.


Atmospheric river storm to bring rain, wind to Monterey County

“California’s rollercoaster of winter weather is rearing forward with another twist, as an atmospheric river event approaches Northern California and the Central Coast later this week.  A break from the cold pattern that dominated much of February, the approaching system will bring warmer, wetter conditions to the region starting Thursday – piling more moisture onto an already storm-wrought state. Locally, forecasters are anticipating 1.5-2.5 inches in valleys and as much as 4-7 inches across coastal ranges.  According to Roger Gass, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Monterey, Thursday’s system will start with light rain in the late morning followed by more intense showers in the evening, continuing overnight into early Friday. Alongside coming rain, in a one-two atmospheric river punch, strong winds will couple with showers. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald.

Pure Water Monterey officials fret grants could be lost

“A set of four grants that would pay for more than half of a $70 million expansion of the Pure Water Monterey water project are feared in jeopardy because California American Water Co. is refusing to sign a formal agreement to purchase water from the project.  The heads of the two public agencies involved in the projects are expressing concerns that without a signed document, called a water purchase agreement, agencies making the grants will balk, fearing the project won’t move forward without one.  The water purchase agreement is essentially a formal contract spelling out the terms underlying Cal Am’s purchase of water that is produced by the expansion project. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald.

Cal Am is conspicuously absent as Pure Water Monterey celebrates a milestone.

“Sara Rubin here, looking at a glass of water on my desk and appreciating all of the technology and infrastructure and people behind the scenes who worked to bring me that water. Specifically, I am thinking about Pure Water Monterey, a high-tech water recycling system at Monterey One Water in Marina, that uses a four-step process to treat wastewater—the same stuff that goes out the drains of our showers and gets flushed down our toilets. The four-step process includes ozone pre-treatment, membrane filtration, reverse osmosis and oxidation with UV light and hydrogen peroxide. Like I said—to all of you working to build this stuff and get me my glass of water, thank you.   After that process, the treated water is then injected underground into the Seaside Basin. On Saturday, March 4, the system reached 10,000 acre-feet reinjected, a milestone. … ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly.


In spite of recent rain, California’s Central Valley water wells are drying up

“In spite of substantial recent rain and snowfall throughout the state, a deepening, long-term ground water table crisis exists throughout California’s Central Valley. A new report from Food & Water Watch tracks the growing trend of home water wells drying up amid the rampant expansion of thirsty nut crops like almonds and pistachios. The report features a detailed, interactive map of each dry well report filed with the Cal. Dept. of Water Resources between Jan. 2021 to Nov. 2022. There were nearly 2,400 reports made in the 22-month period, likely a significant undercount given that the data relies on self-reporting to the state.  The report, titled “Fighting for the Human Right to Water in Tombstone Territory, California,” also features firsthand accounts from Tombstone Territory, an unincorporated community near Fresno where residents have watched as water from their wells sputtered and then disappeared completely. … ”  Read more from Food & Water Watch.

How much rain is expected during this week’s big storm in the central San Joaquin Valley?

“The entire central San Joaquin Valley will be under a flood watch due to the upcoming storm that’s expected to arrive Thursday, according to the National Weather Service in Hanford. The atmospheric river storm is forecast to strongly hit the eastern side of Fresno County, with as much as 8 inches expected to pour down on the foothills and close to 6 feet of snow in elevations higher than 9,000 feet. Here’s a breakdown of the amount of rain expected in the region through Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. … ”  Continue reading at the Fresno Bee.

Manteca: Replacing water guzzling turf

“Manteca’s water use fell 24.7 percent in February in year-to-year comparisons.  And while the large drop in water use was primarily the result of a series of  heavy February storms, there are signs that more people — especially with outdoor watering that accounts for roughly half the city’s  water use — are starting to comply with more stringent water rules.  One way of complying is reflected in efforts such as that by the private Spreckels Park landscape maintenance district to replace water-guzzling turf wherever they can with more drought resistance landscaping.  Crews last week completed replacing grass in front of the two monument signs fronting Moffat Boulevard with more drought resistant plantings.  Turf or lawns are the biggest consumer of water in Manteca. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin.

Modesto’s watershed set to get even more rain and snow. Are we approaching records?

“Yet another sizable storm is lining up, with perhaps 2 inches of rain in Modesto and 80 inches of snow in its watershed through the weekend.  The National Weather Service is forecasting up to 0.1 inches of rain in the city from a smaller system Wednesday, and 1 to 2 inches of snow high in the Sierra Nevada.  Thursday through Sunday could bring 1 to 2 inches of Modesto rain and 60 to 80 inches of snow. As much as 7.5 inches of rain could fall in Sonora, in the foothill portion of the watershed.  The central Sierra snowpack is at 197% of the historical average for March 7, the California Department of Water Resources said. That is about the same pace as the record set in 1983, which ended up at 230% thanks to storms in April and May. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee. | Read via AOL News.

Water to be released from Friant Dam to make room for incoming rain

“Water releases will begin at the end of this week from Friant Dam to make way for more rain on the way.  The Bureau of Reclamation plans to release about 2,0000 cubic feet per second of water on Friday from the Friant Dam to the San Joaquin River for flood control.  On Tuesday, standing at Millerton Lake, you could see all the snow in the Sierra.  Bureau of Reclamation Area Manager, Michael Jackson, said that water needs places to go to prevent flooding on the Valley floor. … ”  Read more from KFSN.

Fresno County braces for storm conditions ‘that we’ve never experienced before’

“Emergency coordinators in Fresno County have issued evacuation warnings for foothill and mountain communities in advance of a storm that is expected to drop as much as six to eight inches of rain over the coming week. The atmospheric river storm, expected to arrive Thursday, will be warmer than previous systems that over recent weeks that have had snowfall measured in feet in the Sierra Nevada, including to elevations as low as 3,000 feet on the east side of Fresno County. Much, if not all, of that lower-elevation snow is likely to be melted away by the rainfall, creating the potential for flooded or washed-out roads in the mountains and possible flooding in communities on the floor of the San Joaquin Valley that are already prone to problems. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee. | Read via MSN News.

Yosemite National Park braces for flooding ahead of atmospheric river storm

“The earliest possible date for Yosemite National Park to reopen to the public is Monday, March 13. But, park crews aren’t just plowing snow – they’re bracing for the next storm system.  Yosemite shut down Feb. 25 because of blizzard after blizzard. And now, there’s an atmospheric river on the way.  “There’s nowhere for visitors to park right now. When I went into Yosemite Valley yesterday, it’s crazy,” park spokesperson Nancy Phillipe said. “There’s nowhere to park, the snow levels are so high. We are doing damage assessments. We are digging out fire hydrants and propane tanks.” … ”  Read more from KABC 7.

SEE ALSO ‘Just not safe’: Yosemite National Park extends closure ahead of atmospheric river, from SF Gate

Safe to say, the drought is over!

“The series of unrelenting storms that swept through California in recent months have reversed drought conditions and filling up local reservoirs.  According to a map supplied by the U.S. Drought Monitor, the eastern half of Stanislaus County is out of the drought while the west half is classified as “abnormally dry.” Last summer the Valley was classified as being in Extreme Drought.  Don Pedro Reservoir on the Tuolumne River that flows past Ceres and Modesto is at elevation 789.67 feet as of yesterday, just 40 feet shy of being filled to the brim. The lake was estimated to contain 1,562,843 acre-feet of water and is considered full at 2,030,000 acre-feet. … ”  Read more from the Ceres Courier.

City of Oakdale reassures water is safe after an alert was sent to wrong community

“A city in Stanislaus County has found itself in a misunderstanding more than halfway across the country.  Residents living in Oakdale received a notification of a water outage. Turns out, the message should have only been delivered to people living in a Louisiana community.  “I think that’s pretty silly,” Scott Boyer said. “I think our water is just fine.”  It blindsided the city of Oakdale. Residents began reaching out to the city after people shared an alert online.  Last Friday, a mayor declared a state of emergency for a water outage. But it was meant for the city of Oakdale in Louisiana where the Louisiana National Guard delivered water to the community. … ”  Read more from CBS News.

Evacuation warning issued for part of Tulare County as storm approaches

“The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office has issued an evacuation warning for Ponderosa as an atmospheric river approaches California.  The warning includes all homes, businesses, and structures in the community and all roadways, Forest Service Roads, access ways attached to Mountain 107 north of Mountain Road 50, and south of Highway 190.  The atmospheric river is expected to bring warmer rain to the Sierra Nevada, creating the possibility of rapid snowmelt.  A major flooding threat looms as water levels rise in creeks, rivers, and streams. … ”  Read more from KFSN.


Mono Basin snowfall records broken again… and again …

“In the Mono Basin, the 2022–2023 season made snowfall history in January—and February—and is poised to set new records again as March snowstorms pile more snow on top of an already-record snowpack. Highway 395 has been closed due to several avalanches north of Lee Vining along the west shore of Mono Lake, which also damaged power poles and rock-retaining fences.  Snow started accumulating in November. Warmer December storms reduced the snow depth in Lee Vining to only an inch at the end of December—but then the colder record-breaking snowstorms arrived. 91.8 inches of snow fell in January, mostly during the first part of the month and set a new all-time record for snowfall in any single month. The previous record was 68.4 inches of snowfall set in January 2008. Snow depth on the ground peaked at 51 inches on January 16th, only an inch away from the all-time record (weather records start in 1950) set at the Mono Inn on February 24, 1969. … ”  Read more from the Mono Lake Committee.


Round 3: More winter weather to hit L.A. as atmospheric river flows through California

“While the annual moment coming this Sunday when we spring our clocks forward is a harbinger of the turning of the season, winter weather isn’t quite done with Los Angeles and the rest of California just yet.  AccuWeather reported Tuesday that a new atmospheric river of precipitation will flow through the state from Friday to Saturday, with most of the winter weather landing on northern and central California and L.A. expected to receive more rain.  “Most of the rain this time is going to be on the light to moderate side. The winds aren’t going to be too terribly strong, but we are going to see periods of gusty winds, especially on Wednesday,” KTLA 5 News Meteorologist Vera Jimenez forecasts. … ”  Read more from LA Magazine.

Crews continue to dig out Southern California residents left stranded for days by heavy snow

“Efforts to dig out residents of Southern California’s San Bernardino County continued Monday after back-to-back storms dropped over 8 feet of snow in some locations, trapping residents in their homes.  While the mountains portion of the county is no stranger to snowfall, crews could not keep up with the intensity and duration of the recent snowstorm. Walls of snow blocked roads and buried homes, requiring the California National Guard, firefighters and other emergency workers to band together to dig out residents through the weekend.  Hundreds of personnel, including firefighters, contractors, CalTrans employees and deputies attended a daily briefing Monday morning before traveling to San Bernardino County mountain communities to assist residents, and the transportation division was en route to help transport residents who wanted to leave the mountain. … ”  Read more from AccuWeather.


San Diego officials look to redevelop Mission Bay

“Mission Bay’s northeastern corner is drilling down on their final plans for a major redevelopment.  The plan lays out roughly a large wetlands restoration project, a small golf course and low cost camping.  The redevelopment area site takes over where the De Anza cove mobile home site used to be along with what remains of Campland.  Stakeholders are still lobbying for tweaks, and will have until April 20 to lodge their comments. … ”  Read more from Channel 5.

Return to top

Along the Colorado River …

Snowpack update: Water stored for Colorado River at 134% of normal with a month to go

“Snow scientists identify April 6 as the typical date to best evaluate the snowpack levels for the runoff to the Colorado River each year.  This year, with a month to go, things are looking good. And it’s about a lot more than just how deep the snow is right now.  The snowpack — snow water equivalent (SWE) — is currently at 134% of normal in the Upper Colorado River Basin according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. … ”  Read more from KLAS.

‘The highest snowpack we’ve had in 30 years’: Winter storms benefit AZ water systems

“Salt River Project said this winter has been the best for the Verde and Salt River water systems in the last three decades.  Arizona has seen high snowfall and rain all winter, causing SRP’s reservoirs to fill to capacity.  “We were up on the watershed last week to measure some of that snow, and many of the areas were four feet,” SRP hydrologist Stephen Flora said. “And that was before last week’s storm.”  SRP has begun letting water out of Granite Creek Dam to ensure the reservoirs don’t get too full. Last week, 12News took an aerial tour of SRP’s system, which was already near capacity. … ”  Read more from Channel 12.

Commentary:  SRP is releasing precious stored water. But it’s not going to waste

Opinion columnist Joanna Allhands writes, “Salt River Project has begun releasing some water from its Verde River reservoirs to make room for melting snowpack.  For now, SRP is releasing this water slowly, buying time for cities and farmers to use it.  Which, though some folks consider a waste, is actually good news.  We’re going to have full reservoirs. And the releases should temporarily reduce our reliance on other sources, such as the imperiled Colorado River, for tap water or irrigation.  They also should help recharge the aquifer as they amble downstream – a much-needed boost for the groundwater on which many of us will increasingly rely. … ”  Read more from the Arizona Republic.

Phoenix residents are rejecting traditional lawns to save water, and the results are more attractive and cheaper than grass

“Few homes in Phoenix and its surrounding communities have the thick grass and carefully manicured shrubs and trees of lawns found in other parts of the US.  Desert residents are uniquely poised to recognize the environmental harms associated with conventional lawns and lean into more climate-friendly landscaping. Within the past decade, Phoenicians have become a catalyst for the growing anti-lawn movement. … ”  Read more from the Business Insider.

Feds suspend measures that were meant to boost water levels at drought-stricken Lake Powell

“Starting Tuesday, the US Bureau of Reclamation will suspend extra water releases from Utah’s Flaming Gorge reservoir – emergency measures that had served to help stabilize the plummeting water levels downstream at Lake Powell, the nation’s second largest reservoir.  Federal officials began releasing extra water from Flaming Gorge in 2021 to boost Lake Powell’s level and buy its surrounding communities more time to plan for the likelihood the reservoir will eventually drop too low for the Glen Canyon Dam to generate hydropower.  Lake Powell in late February sank to its lowest water level since the reservoir was filled in the 1960s, and since 2000 has dropped more than 150 feet. … ”  Read more from CNN.

Return to top

In national water news today …

Algal blooms have boomed worldwide

“Algal blooms are growing bigger and more frequent worldwide as ocean temperatures rise and circulation patterns change.  Climate change is likely one cause of the alterations, which favor the growth of phytoplankton, according to a new study published in Nature. Whether it’s good or bad is a murky question. Algae are an important food source for many marine animals, and large blooms can sometimes be a benefit for ocean ecosystems and fisheries.  But some algal blooms also release toxins into the water and poison the environment. And when blooms die off and begin to decompose, they can reduce the oxygen concentrations in the water, harming the ecosystem. … ”  Read more from E&E News.

Return to top

NASA SWE Report …


Return to top

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOTICE: All Curtailments in the Delta Watershed Remain Temporarily Suspended

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