DAILY DIGEST, 3/9: Atmospheric river takes aim at snow- and rain-logged California; La Nina, which worsens hurricanes and drought, is gone; Duarte, House panel dig in on Calif.’s woeful water policies; The toxic myth of the Gold Rush; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • WEBINAR: How will water – or lack therof – impact our economy in the 21st century? from 9am to 10am.  Join economic and water policy thought leaders for an enlightening discussion on how California’s historic drought and history of flood management play a role in our economy at large: government funding for infrastructure and commercial real estate development, competition for building materials/labor/financing, food supply and socioeconomic impacts, and more.  California has a complicated history of how it has managed both flooding and a lack of water. What policies support, or do not support, doing business in California?  Click here to register.
  • WEBINAR: Clean Water, Complicated Laws: Administrative Enforcement and Dispute Resolution from 10am to 10:30am.  Join BB&K’s leading water quality attorneys for a webinar series as presenters provide practical guidance on water quality issues, laws and regulations. Once a month, we will explore the major concerns wastewater, stormwater, and recycled water managers face, and dive into the many complicated issues that arise regarding water quality.  Click here to register.

California storms …

California at risk of life-threatening flooding from new atmospheric river

“A high-impact storm packed with moisture will drag warmer air behind it as it slams California late this week, and AccuWeather meteorologists warn that damaging and life-threatening flooding and mudslides could occur in the Golden State.  The heavy rain will threaten to wash away the snowpack on intermediate slopes rapidly and spread more snow over the highest elevations, in addition to helping wipe away persistent drought conditions. This storm system will follow a couple of recent colder storms that unloaded several more feet of snow over the Sierra Nevada from last Saturday through early Wednesday.  While a warmer storm compared to the recent onslaught from Old Man Winter may seem comforting to some people, the problems the storm will cause may far outweigh the benefits. … ”  Read more from AccuWeather.

Pineapple Express takes aim at snow- and rain-logged California

“A 2,000-mile-long atmospheric river has set its sights on California, which has already seen near-record snow and rainfall this winter. But this one is different than the series of storms that pummeled the state in January.  It’s warm.  San Francisco Bay Area meteorologist Daniel Swain on Tuesday described the coming storm as “a moderate to strong atmospheric river, with origins in the subtropics near Hawaii.” Forecasters say the opening wave will hit late Thursday along the Northern California coast and spread across the state Friday.  “This event will most likely be a ‘strong’ (but not ‘extreme’ or ‘exceptional’) event — comparable in magnitude (from an integrated water vapor transport perspective) with multiple events that occurred back in December and January in California,” Swain said. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service.

Atmospheric river comes for California as experts warn it ‘could get really ugly’

“A fresh atmospheric river is expected to bring more weather chaos to California even as the state is still digging itself out from massive amounts of snow that left mountain communities buried for weeks.  Northern and central California are set to receive most of the rain this weekend, which forecasters have warned could cause flash flooding as warm rain hits the state’s almost record snowpack. The state will see moderate to heavy rain, flooding, gusty winds and heavy snow in high elevations through the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.  “It could get really ugly,” David Rowe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told SFGate. “Probably most of the melt will be in the foothills. The snowpack is so deep in the higher elevations, even though we’re expecting a lot of rain it will probably soak right in at the higher elevations.” … ”  Read more from The Guardian.

Scientist explains how ‘rain-on-snow’ events can interact with California’s snowpack

“One of the challenges with forecasting this week’s heavy rain in Northern California is figuring out how that rain could affect the snowpack and how the snowpack could affect runoff conditions.  As of Wednesday, the snow water content in the Sierra is at 192% of the average for the date statewide. That number does not factor in water sitting in the low snow that has fallen over the past two weeks.  Understanding how Thursday and Friday’s rain interacts with the enormous snowpack can provide some insights into which communities are most at risk for flooding and who may wake up to incredibly heavy, water-logged snow piles on their properties. … ”  Read more from KCRA.


DWR to increase release of water into the spillway at Lake Oroville Dam

“The Department of Water Resource said it will release more water into the main spillway at Lake Oroville as early as Friday.  The DWR said it would increase outflows through the Hyatt Powerplant on Wednesday, as it anticipates ongoing wet weather, rising lake levels, and increased runoff inflows into the reservoirs.  The DWR said the specific date could depend on the size and timing of the next series of storms and flood control requirements the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sets. … ”  Read more from Action News Now.’

SEE ALSORain could prompt usage of main spillway at Oroville Dam, from KRCR

Isleton sewage on verge of overflowing into surrounding rivers

“The Isleton Wastewater Plant is on the brink of overflowing into surrounding rivers.  “If it keeps going it will breach into the river system,” said Isleton City Manager Chuck Bergson.  The city’s sewage system is currently made up of eight ponds. Some of the sewage pipes broke during the January storms, leaving the ponds to fill up faster than they can be treated.  “With the ponds, we can probably store about 40 million gallons, but we are at the limit,” Bergson told CBS 13.  The Sacramento River, Georgiana Slough, and Mokelumne River are all at risk of sewage seeping in. … ”  Read more from CBS News.

In other California water news today …

La Nina, which worsens hurricanes and drought, is gone

“After three nasty years, the La Nina weather phenomenon that increases Atlantic hurricane activity and worsens western drought is gone, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday.  That’s usually good news for the United States and other parts of the world, including drought-stricken northeast Africa, scientists said.  The globe is now in what’s considered a “neutral” condition and probably trending to an El Nino in late summer or fall, said climate scientist Michelle L’Heureux, head of NOAA’s El Nino/La Nina forecast office.  “It’s over,” said research scientist Azhar Ehsan, who heads Columbia University’s El Nino/La Nina forecasting. “Mother Nature thought to get rid of this one because it’s enough.” … ”  Read more from the Associated Press.

SEE ALSOMarch 2023 ENSO update: no more La Niña!, from the ENSO blog

State Water Board approved petition to capture flood flows, recharge groundwater

To capitalize on strong flows resulting from higher-than-average snowpack, the State Water Resources Control Board approved a petition by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to divert over 600,000 acre-feet of San Joaquin River flood waters for wildlife refuges, underground storage and recharge.  With this approval, the State Water Board has authorized nearly 790,000 acre-feet in diversions for groundwater recharge and other purposes since late December 2022 – the amount of water used by at least 1.5 million households in a single year.  “Coming off the heels of the three driest years in state history, California is taking decisive action to capture and store water for when dry conditions return,” said Governor Gavin Newsom.  Reclamation’s petition requested a change to its San Joaquin River water rights at Friant Dam to manage flood flows. The board’s approval allows for diversions from March 15 through July 30. Given the time it takes for water to reach the downstream point of diversion at Mendota Dam, the approval period will allow for floodwater capture following storms expected this weekend. … ”  Read more from the State Water Board.

Duarte, House panel dig in on Calif.’s woeful water policies

“The Central Valley’s dire water situation took center stage in the nation’s capital on Wednesday.  The Water, Wildlife and Fisheries Subcommittee of the House Committee on Natural Resources held a hearing on the necessity for multiple use of water resources, bringing California’s water storage system into the national spotlight.  The backstory: Recent years have brought sweeping changes for the Central Valley’s water supply. The Central Valley Project is subject to biological opinions (often referred to as BiOps), the most recent of which were issued in 2019 under President Donald Trump’s administration, which proponents say allowed for greater flexibility to pump more water south to Valley farms and southern California communities. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun,

Helping the San Joaquin Valley find new uses for fallowed farmland

“In Sarge Green’s 40-plus year career, he’s worn an astonishing number of hats. Now a water management specialist with California State University, Fresno, Sarge has worked on water quality issues at the regional water board, served as general manager of an irrigation district, and managed two resource conservation districts (RCDs). He’s also a director for the Tule Basin Land and Water Conservation Trust and the Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District. He’s been a long-time partner with the PPIC Water Policy Center in our San Joaquin Valley work as a trusted member of our research network.  Sarge remains deeply involved in efforts to help San Joaquin Valley farms and communities cope with the challenges of implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. We spoke with him about a pressing issue in the valley: how to manage farmland that will be transitioning out of intensive irrigation. … ”  Read more from the PPIC.

Video: Integrated Regional Water Management Program – Supporting Groundwater Recharge in Fresno County

“2022 marked the 20th anniversary of the Integrated Water Management (IRWM) Program. The program has awarded more than $1.7 billion throughout California which has been matched by $5.6 billion in local investments to help implement over 1,300 projects that foster climate resilience by mitigating drought impacts, improving water supply reliability, reducing flood and fire risk, increasing water storage, and improving water quality.  The IRWM program, which was established by AB 1672, the IRWM Planning Act, has been instrumental in strengthening collaboration between regional like Kings Basin Water Authority and Fresno Irrigation District to identify local water challenges and implement projects that help local communities.”  Watch video at DWR News.

New water management tools for an emerging ag landscape

“Water is one of the most basic elements of any type of agriculture production system, and this precious resource is under more stress than at any time in our history. From a changing climate and drought to regulation and increasing expectations for sustainability efforts, the development and adoption of technologies to use water more efficiently and effectively is paramount.  The new “Water, Technology, and Sustainability” digital report from the editors at Meister Media Worldwide, part of the 2023 Global Insight Series, dives deep into topics such as the California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, technologies to address drought, digital modeling for weather, and worldwide market views from companies on the front lines. … ”  Read more from Greenhouse Grower.

Western growers seek new ways to safeguard crops, secure stable water supply

“In recent weeks, the collective sigh of relief from growers in California has been palpable. While the West continues to experience unprecedented extreme weather events and patterns, above-normal rainfall in recent months provided cause to celebrate.  According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the recent deluge has helped satiate the dryness and drought conditions across much of the Golden State. Added to this, drought monitor statistics have recently confirmed that the Sierra Nevada and mountain foothills in central California are now free of drought and abnormal dryness for the first time since January 2020.  “The rain has improved California soil moisture and streamflow levels, while the snow has increased mountain snowpack to much above-normal levels. Most California reservoirs have refilled with water levels near or above average, but groundwater levels remain low and may take months to recover,” according to the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor. … ”  Read more from The Packer.

The toxic myth of the Gold Rush

Pile of tailings left to erode at the abandoned New Idria mine

“On Jan. 24, 1848, James W. Marshall discovered gold in Coloma, Calif. “Boys, by god, I believe I’ve found a gold mine,” he’s said to have exclaimed. What happened next is a story that’s been told countless times.  People from around the world descended on the Sierra Nevada range of California seeking their fortune. Solitary prospectors crouched by streams, shaking around gravel in a pan to extract a few nuggets of gold. Within less than a decade, they went home, and the Gold Rush was over. It’s a romantic story in a way. It’s also a myth. … ”  Read more from the Boston Globe.

Protect the West Act: $60B to reduce wildfire risk proposed

“U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Michael Bennet, D- Colo., and John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., have introduced the Protect the West Act to make a $60 billion investment in the nation’s forests to reduce wildfire risk, restore watersheds and protect communities. “Major investment is urgently needed to protect Western forests and watersheds from increasingly dangerous wildfires and droughts,” said Wyden. “The Protect the West Act will ensure Congress funds much needed fire mitigation and restoration efforts — so communities stay safe and so that future generations can continue to enjoy Oregon’s beautiful natural treasures.” … ”  Read more from the Daily Triplicate.

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In commentary today …

We have seen the future of water in California

Farmer, writer and educator, Paul H. Betancourt writes, “We have seen the future of water in California this winter and it does not look good.  After 200% rainfall and historic snowpack, what do we have? They keep saying we are not out of the drought. But when it starts raining like this, that is — by definition — the end of a drought. How much rainfall do they need? Actually, I probably shouldn’t ask that. I probably won’t like their answer.  There are no average rainfall years in California.  There are wet years and dry years. We are idiots because we do not catch the rainfall from the wet years and save it for the dry years.  Last fall, I read the journals of famous American geologist Josiah Whitney’s right-hand man, William H. Brewer, who walked up and down California in the early 1860s and documented what he saw. … ”  Read more from The Business Journal.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


Construction preparation on Klamath River dams underway, removal complete by 2024

“Construction to start the removal process of the Klamath River dams will start this month and all four dams are scheduled to be removed from the river by the end of 2024.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the $450 million dam removal project in November of 2022. It will be the largest dam removal project in American history.  The Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC), who took over ownership of the dams from Pacific Power, is leading the historic construction project. This month, construction preparation work is underway. Construction on the dams will begin this summer, starting with Copco 2. … ”  Read more from KDRV.

Cochran Creek Project restores critical habitat for Humboldt Bay’s salmon, steelhead & trout’

Nonprofit research and conservation organization California Trout (CalTrout) and partners announced today they have completed a project to restore critical estuary habitat for imperiled Coho salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout in Humboldt Bay’s watershed. CalTrout and partners widened the channel of Cochran Creek and planted native vegetation, re-creating the conditions of a natural river and floodplain at the mouth of the creek, which flows into the bay just north of Eureka. They also replaced an old tide gate with a new structure that allows more tidal water, and fish, to flow upstream. With new berms built along the new banks of the creek, the restoration provides better flood protection and better drainage for the surrounding farmland, owned by project partners John Gary and Heather Plaza, while expanding habitat and allowing the tidal creek to revert to its natural brackish state to benefit young salmon. The project may also reduce flood risk on the adjacent road. … ”  Read more from the Northcoast Environmental Center.

Weaverville, Hayfork brace for more snow ahead of another atmospheric river

“Hayfork and Weaverville residents are bracing more snow and stormy weather to come to Trinity County this week, which could require travelers to chain up once again if road conditions warrant it.  KRCR checked in with both areas ahead of the storm Wednesday, learning from locals that the tried and true battle plan would be bunker down and wait it out but according to one local business named Sullivans’s Estate & Auction, owner Travis Sullivan is happy to see more snow come to the area. … ”  Read more from KRCR.

Atmospheric river brings hazardous wet weather to Mendocino County Thursday through Friday

“After weeks of heavy snow, rain and hazardous conditions, Mendocino County isn’t out of the clear as another storm brings heavy rain, wind, and flooding to the area by way of an atmospheric river. Starting Thursday, the entire county can expect treacherous road conditions and more power outages in areas already exhausted by winter weather woes.  One piece of good news is that this atmospheric river will not be as impactful as the storms that drenched the region in late December and early January. However, a second atmospheric river will arrive in Northern California Monday, Mar. 13 and Tuesday, Mar. 14 bringing more rain and possible flooding. … ”  Read more from the Mendocino Beacon.


4 feet of snow, heavy rain, flooding all possible at Tahoe with incoming atmospheric river event

“Snowfall will wind down on Wednesday and a warm atmospheric river packing heavy moisture will hit the Lake Tahoe Basin Thursday bringing feet of high elevation snow, an abundance of rain, possible flooding and more travel disruptions.  Forecasters are having a difficult time pinpointing snow levels with the incoming multi-day storm, but on Wednesday they are expecting 3 to 6 inches of snow for the East Shore of Tahoe and 6 to 12 inches along the Sierra crest generally north of U.S. Highway 50 and west of State Route 89 through early afternoon. Winds could also gust up to 75 mph along the Sierra crest. … ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

9 staggering photos of Tahoe inundated with snow

“Near-record breaking snow has fallen on Tahoe so far this winter, with homeowners and visitors alike awed and at times overwhelmed by the elements. The Central Sierra Snow Lab near Donner Pass measured 48.33 feet of snow for the year on March 6, surpassing 2017—the last memorable high-snow year—by 0.56 feet.  Though Tahoe residents are prepared and equipped for snow, the current deluge is nearly surreal.  Here are nine photos of Tahoe, sourced from residents living in the area. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Standard.

California storms have done wonders for Lake Tahoe’s famous clarity

“Weeks of frigid air temperatures in the Sierra have caused Lake Tahoe’s water to “mix” for the first time since 2019, as cold water at the surface sinks to the lake’s 1,600-foot depths, bringing clearer water up.  That means that the historically crystal-clear lake, which has grown murkier over the past several decades, is the clearest it has been in four years. The lake’s clarity, which is a sign of its overall health and typically drops to 60 or 70 feet deep, now goes down to 115 feet.  … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Water released from New Bullards Bar Dam and Reservoir ahead of more storms

“To prepare for this week’s storms, Yuba Water Agency began releasing water from the new Bullards Dam and Reservoir Wednesday.  The agency began releasing water from one gate at the spillway at 9 a.m.  As the morning progressed the second and third gates were opened.”  Watch video from KCRA.


Warm California storm could bring flooding to areas along Sacramento River, Interstate 5

“A warm storm bringing heavy rain and melting snow could cause Sacramento Valley waterways to flood this week.  The National Weather Service issued a flood watch Thursday afternoon through Sunday morning for low-lying and urban areas, from Shasta Lake in the north to Stockton in the south.  Flooding and rock and mud slides could block traffic on parts of Interstate 5, Highway 99 and other Northern California roads, according to the California Department of Transportation.  “The entire Sacramento River is expected to rise at least into early next week.” said meteorologist Scott Rowe at the weather service’s Sacramento branch. The Sacramento River will likely reach just below the flood stage this weekend, but that could change quickly and water levels rise if most of the rain expected comes all at once. … ”  Read more from the Redding Record Searchlight.

Celebrating Groundwater Awareness Week: Sustainable groundwater management in the Sacramento Valley

“Groundwater awareness week is a time to reflect on the important role that groundwater serves in the Sacramento Valley and the concerted efforts underway to carefully manage groundwater resources for communities and farms while keeping an eye toward longer-term regional sustainability of our water resources. We were pleased to join the California Department of Water Resources and many others this week to celebrate groundwater awareness week in California.  The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) provides important opportunities for local agencies to manage water resources in a sustainable manner. The experience in 2014-15 and 2020-22 with dry years and scarcity (lack of surface water supplies) has brought groundwater management into focus, with additional wells, increased water demands, and water quality issues throughout the Valley. Now that local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) submitted Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs), the NCWA Groundwater Management Task Force, in coordination with GSAs and their consultants throughout the region and the Department of Water Resources, have developed a Pathway for the Future: Sustainable Groundwater Management in the Sacramento Valley. … ”  Read more from the Northern California Water Association.

Weather provides mixed bag for Butte County agriculture

“Winter storms this year have created hope for many Californians suffering from years of drought but for agriculture, it’s more complicated.  More water means crops will be well provided for, but additional weather trends create new hazards for orchards, especially during this year’s almond bloom which requires some consistency in temperature and sunlight.  Colleen Cecil, executive director for the Butte County Farm Bureau, said almonds have likely been impacted the most by the weather events, especially since the trees are still in bloom.  “We’ve had some kind of moisture and cold temperatures this year during the entire almond bloom at this point,” Cecil said. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record.

Crews bracing for more possible Cosumnes River levee problems as another weather system moves in

“Authorities who oversee 34 miles of levee in the Wilton area are looking at a record-setting year for rainfall.  They’re also nearing record-setting amounts for levee repairs – and reeling with the thought of even more.  At the Reclamation District 800 meeting on Wednesday, board members and first responders were ramping up to be ready for another round of storms.  “We’re looking to have two to three engines manned and staffed, ready to go for any similarities to what happened [in January],” said Capt. Fabian Morales with Wilton Fire. … ”  Read more from CBS News.

SEE ALSOCosumnes communities on guard as new atmospheric river takes aim on Sacramento region, from the Sacramento Bee

Galt: Groundwater group gives progress report at workshops, says funding is next step

“The organization tasked with ensuring sustainable groundwater use in the local region recently held a pair of workshops in Herald and Wilton to update the community on its progress. Officials highlighted projects in the planning stages and spoke about next steps.  At the Herald workshop, on Feb. 22, representatives of CGA and members of its board, along with members of other agencies, were present to talk with residents and answer questions.  Stephen Julian, watershed coordinator for the Cosumnes Groundwater Authority (CGA), said the main accomplishment of the past year is a $4.4 million grant application to the state that proposes multiple initiatives, including voluntary conservation methods for farmers, improved monitoring to fill in data on the region’s water supply, and programs to recharge the Cosumnes Subbasin. … ”  Read more from the Galt Herald.


Emergency crews bracing for incoming storm bringing heavy rains and wind to Sonoma County

“Emergency crews around Sonoma County are bracing for the return of heavy rain and wind to a sodden region that is still recovering from a string of atmospheric rivers in January and more recent rain and even snow.  It’s still hard to tell how severe the impacts will be from a new system, which is predicted to barrel in Thursday afternoon and deliver up to six inches of rain in the wettest areas, according to the National Weather Service.  Emergency personnel expect surface and stream flooding, at a minimum, with road closures, downed trees and power outages in typical areas.  “We’ve had rain pretty much every day,” with few breaks between, said Sonoma County Fire District Chief Mark Heine. “There’s no more room in the ground to absorb any more water.” … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.


Commentary: How storms will impact San Jose residents’ water bills

Andy Gere, president and COO of San Jose Water, writes, “The recent series of storms that swept through the region wrought havoc in many ways, but they did improve water levels in California. Without minimizing widespread storm damage and attending hardship, it is nice to see the hills green again and hope the rainy trend continues.  It’s also a great relief to note that statewide Sierra snowpack was registering at nearly 200% of normal levels at the beginning of February, and that preliminary reservoir gauge readings published for the Santa Clara Valley Water District’s 10 local reservoirs at the same time showed five of those reservoirs at or above 80% capacity.  And as reported in The Mercury News on Jan. 12: “For the first time in more than two years, the majority of California is in moderate drought, not severe drought.” … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News.

Berkeley researchers present plan for freshwater conservation

“The 30×30 initiative is a global effort to set aside 30% of land and sea area for conservation by 2030, a move scientists hope will reverse biodiversity loss and mitigate the effects of climate change. Now adopted by state and national governments around the world, 30×30 creates an unprecedented opportunity to advance global conservation.  When it comes to the water side of 30×30, most programs focus primarily on conservation of oceans, but a new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley argues that freshwater ecosystems must not be neglected. Published today in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, the paper urges policy makers to explicitly include freshwater ecosystems like rivers, lakes, and wetlands in 30×30 plans, and outlines how their conservation will be critical to achieving the initiative’s broader goals.  … ”  Read more from UC Berkeley.


Judge rules against Monterey Peninsula Water Management District in lawsuit about surcharge

“In the coming months, or coming years, Cal Am ratepayers could see a surcharge on their water bills disappear. Or, maybe not.  On March 3, Monterey County Judge Carrie Panetta ruled that the continued collection of the surcharge—which is collected by California American Water and then paid to the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District—violated the sunset clause in an ordinance MPWMD approved in 2012 to create that charge. Collectively, it costs Cal Am ratepayers about $3.4 million annually.  The reason that charge might not go away soon is that on March 20, MPWMD’s board will be meeting in closed session to decide, among other things, whether or not to appeal the ruling. If they do appeal, it could take a couple of years or more before the appeal is decided. … ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly.

San Luis Obispo County braces for another atmospheric river

“It’s been two months since SLO County was battered by a deluge of rain that broke levees, eroded river embankments, and downed trees. As repairs from the Jan. 9 and 10 floods continue, local officials brace for another 2 to 4 inches of rain expected from March 9 through 11.  According to the National Weather Service, SLO city is expected to receive 3.33 inches of rain, Atascadero 2.21 inches, Paso Robles 1.47, and Cambria is expected to get 4.  Cities and community services districts are prepping for what could be a repeat of January’s storms by coordinating storm preparation efforts with the SLO County Office of Emergency Services. According to Rachel Monte Dion, SLO County emergency services coordinator, officials are concerned about the ground being saturated with water from this winter’s storms, leaving not many places for the water to go. … ”  Read more from New Times SLO.

State approves Paso Robles basin plan

“After more than three years of review, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced that it plans to approve the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin sustainability plan—an important milestone that keeps the North County aquifer under local management.  “It’s a clear green light,” said Blaine Reely, the groundwater sustainability director for San Luis Obispo County. “We now know we can maintain local control and get a whole lot more aggressive in achieving a pathway toward sustainability.”  SLO County and other local agencies, including the city of Paso Robles, submitted the 20-year sustainability plan in late 2019 to comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. … ”  Read more from New Times SLO.

Rain expected all day Friday as warm storm arrives in Ventura County

“A warm storm will douse Ventura County at the end of the week, according to forecasts by the National Weather Service.  The storm is part of a larger system known as an atmospheric river that is set to bombard northern California. Although San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties are expected to receive multiple inches of rainfall, Ventura County totals will average roughly an inch. The rain is expected to arrive late Thursday night and taper off by Saturday morning.  “Pretty much all day Friday we’ll have rain,” said Mike Wofford, a meteorologist with the weather service’s Oxnard office. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star.


Storm could “push the limits” of San Joaquin Valley’s flood response systems

“If the coming storm hits as predicted starting late Thursday, San Joaquin Valley flooding hot spots – and some new ones thanks to subsidence – could be swamped.  It’s not because reservoirs above the valley floor are full.  The culprits are likely to be much the smaller and typically dry “uncontrolled streams” threaded throughout the foothills.  The “biggest and most immediate uneasiness” are foothill creeks, the Kings River Water Association wrote in an alert put out on Tuesday about anticipated flooding. … ”  Read more from SJV Water.

Evacuation warnings issued for upcoming severe storm

“As California prepares to be battered by another wave of intense storms over the coming weeks, evacuation warnings are in effect in the Central Valley.  Fresno and Tulare Counties issued preemptive evacuation warnings this week for many foothill communities along the Sierra Nevada mountains.  Driving the news: Fresno County issued an evacuation warning for around 17,000 people that live in the foothills and mountains. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun.

SEE ALSO:  Concern grows in Sierra, Valley as atmospheric river moves into central California, from KVPR

Flooding concerns for Kings River as storm approaches

“Communities along the Kings River are on high alert after Tulare County issued an evacuation Wednesday warning ahead of the next storm due to flooding concerns.  “We’re moving into territory that we haven’t seen on the Kings river for a long long time,” said Randy Mcfarland, a consultant with the King’s River Water Association (KRWA).  Water experts are looking to avoid a repeat of the 2017 flood of the Kings River that flooded nearby homes and the Kings River Golf and Country club.  Chris Vanbeurden, a homeowner whose home took on several inches of water back in 2017, says he has learned since the last time. … ”  Read more from your Central Valley.

Commentary: All that snow and water, and what to do with it

Betsy Gosling, a retired Kern County employee, a mother and grandmother, writes, “The mountains are beautiful. The most snow in several years. So, the question is, what’s going to happen to all that water when the snow melts? Is it going to run into our dams, like Lake Isabella, Lake Success, Millerton, Bass, Hume, Huntington, Shaver. etc. to save that water for our future use? Or is it going to flood a lot of homes and property and then run into the ocean? Water reservoirs and dams haven’t been built in Central California, especially in the southern part, in many years. It’s being reported that at this point we’re not in a drought, but if this snowmelt isn’t saved, we’ll probably be right back there very soon. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian.


Another atmospheric river is heading for California. Here’s what SoCal can expect

“Forecasters are growing increasingly concerned about the potential for flooding and structural damage as another atmospheric river storm is slated to hit California this week and drop warm rain atop the state’s near-record snowpack.  The brunt of the warm storm is expected to hit Northern and Central California late Thursday and into Friday, but Southern California will feel some effects as well.  “Friday is pretty much the main day — that’s going to be a washout,” said Mike Wofford, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. “That could pose some issues at higher elevations where they’ve got a lot of snow and they’ve got rain falling on top of that.” … ”  Read more from the LA Times. | Read via AOL News.

SEE ALSOAtmospheric river targets California: When will the rain stop in SoCal, from KTLA


Wet weather on the way will be put to good use at the San Diego airport

“Thousands of gallons of stormwater runoff was captured by the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority last year. Now, all that water from recent storms and wet weather on the way is being reused for sustainability efforts, instead of running off into the San Diego Bay.  According to the San Diego International Airport, 800,000 gallons of storm water in 2022 was captured and reused for a bigger and better purpose. To give an idea of how much was collected, it’s enough to fill more than an Olympic-sized swimming pool.  The water is being repurposed to heat and cool buildings at the San Diego International Airport. These efforts reduced the amount of potable water used for indoor temperature control. … ”  Read more from Channel 5.

How San Diego climate action works and what it might cost

“San Diego has a dozen years to cut almost 11 million metric tons of annual greenhouse gas emissions from its economy to meet climate goals set by Mayor Todd Gloria last year.  That’s like removing 2.2 million gas-powered cars from the road.  Jumpstarting those emissions cuts will cost the city $30 million per year through 2028, according to a new cost analysis produced by the city’s consultant, the Energy Policy Initiatives Center at University of San Diego Law School. And then, it’ll be up to the City Council to prioritize that spending. … ”  Read more from the Voice of San Diego.

Researchers find link between sewage from Mexico and bacteria in the air in California

“Researchers from the University of California San Diego last week released findings from a study showing how some bacteria in the air comes from raw sewage flowing into California from Mexico.  They uncovered that the bacteria becomes airborne when sewage hits the ocean as it gets churned by the surf.  “The big takeaway from that study is that contaminants from the sewage are getting into the air,” said Greg Sandstron, a UCSD researcher.  Sandstron and others are now collecting air samples daily as they try to determine whether viruses, not just bacteria from the sewage, are also getting into the air people breathe. … ”  Read more from KTLA.

Millions of gallons of sewage are spewing into San Diego waters

“Sewage from Tijuana has overwhelmed the international treatment plant in San Diego — which is now discharging 30 million gallons a day of partially treated wastewater into the Pacific Ocean.  Officials announced the situation on Wednesday after five primary treatment tanks became clogged with sewage, garbage and sediment at the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant just north of the U.S.-Mexico border.  “With the primary tanks out of commission that means we’re not skimming the solids off the top,” said Morgan Rogers, the San Diego area operations manager for the U.S. section of the International Boundary and Water Commission. “That means there’s going to be more solids when it leaves.” … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union Tribune. | Read via the LA Times.

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Along the Colorado River …

Was California consulted in recent Colorado River negotiations?

“States that use water from the Colorado River are caught in a standoff about how to share shrinking supplies, and their statements about recent negotiations send mixed messages. California officials say they were not consulted as other states in the region drew up a letter to the federal government with what they called a “consensus-based” set of recommendations for water conservation. Leaders in states that drafted the letter disagree with that characterization.  The reality of what happened during negotiations may lie somewhere in between, as comments from state leaders hint at possible differences between their definitions of what counts as “consultation.” … ”  Read more from KUNC.

Yuma, Ariz. may be well known for its unforgiving summer heat, but did you know that 90% of North America’s leafy greens and vegetables available from November through April of each year comes from here?  Yuma’s climate, its rich soil birthed from sediments deposited by the Colorado River for millennia, and over 300 cloudless days per year coalesce to create one of the best places in the world to grow such a diverse mix of crops.  In a video produced by the Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association, Yuma Center for Excellence in Desert Agriculture, and the Yuma County Ag Water Coalition, we hear stories about the key role irrigation water plays in America’s ability to provide countless servings of vegetables across North America each winter. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press.

Arizona Legislature fails to take up groundwater and other conservation issues

“In January, water policy analysts hoped that the Legislature would take action on Arizona’s shrinking groundwater supplies.  But it appears that lawmakers will back burner the issue once more.  Groundwater in most of rural Arizona is largely unregulated.  In some counties, large feedlots or farms have taken advantage of the lack of oversight and sunk deep wells. … ”  Read more from KJZZ.

Navajo Nation is taking on three states and the federal government for the right to Colorado River water

“The Supreme Court is extremely strict about what can be brought into its chambers during oral arguments. In addition to obvious items like guns and knives, visitors must leave just about every other personal item outside when they enter. Cameras, cell phones, laptops, and the like are left outside—even if you’re a reporter. No snacks or drinks can be brought in. Not even water. On March 20, however, the entire Colorado River will be looming over the justices when they hear oral arguments in Arizona v. Navajo Nation. The case, which dwells at the intersection of Native treaty rights and water rights, will mark the court’s latest foray into the byzantine rules and regulations that govern limited supplies of water in one of the driest parts of the country. For the Navajo Nation, the court’s decision on its nineteenth-century treaty rights could have serious consequences for its future. … ”  Read more from The New Republic.

Rockies’ snowy winter may not mean enough runoff to replenish the Colorado River

“Recent data show a snowy start to 2023 for the Colorado River basin, with heavy winter precipitation in the Rocky Mountains projected to boost spring spring runoff into Lake Powell to 117% of an average year’s flows. But scientists say that while this winter’s snow may provide a temporary boost to major reservoirs, it will not provide enough water to fix the Southwest’s long-term supply-demand imbalance, as the beleaguered river continues to grapple with climate change and steady demand. Snow in Colorado is an important factor in determining the amount of water that will flow into the Colorado River system each year. About two-thirds of annual flow starts as snow high in the mountains of Colorado. Across the state, snow totals are almost all above average, with most zones at 120 to 140% of normal for this time of year. … ”  Read more from the Arizona Daily Star.

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In national water news today …

Sharp cold blasts punctuate one of the warmest, wettest U.S. winters on record

“The meteorological winter of 2022-23 (December-February) was the 17th-warmest and 21st-wettest in 128 years of recordkeeping for the contiguous United States, according to the seasonal wrap-up released by NOAA March 8. The warmth was concentrated in the southeast half of the nation, while colder-than-average conditions predominated from the Rockies westward.  Heavy rains and snows along a recurrent frontal zone from California to New England led to a dank, cloudy midwinter in many areas. The moisture also went a long way toward alleviating a multiyear drought that’s been plaguing much of the country ever since an unusual three-year La Niña event (now finally waning) arrived in 2020. … ”  Read more from Yale Climate Connections.

Federal judge denies attempt by 3M to evade accountability for PFAS contamination

“A federal district judge rejected 3M’s summary judgment arguments that the company should be treated as a government contractor and given immunity from being held liable for damages caused by PFAS produced by the company. The Court explained that the Defendants, “as manufacturers of C8-based [PFAS] products at issue in this litigation, had significantly greater knowledge than the government about the properties and risks associated with their products and knowingly withheld highly material information from the government.” The Court went on to say that there were “numerous instances in which 3M knowingly withheld highly material information about defects and risks associated with its AFFF product” and provided examples of this. … ”  Read more from Water Finance & Management.

There are 21,000 pieces of plastic in the ocean for each person on Earth

“Humans have filled the world’s oceans with more than 170 trillion pieces of plastic, dramatically more than previously estimated, according to a major study released Wednesday.  The trillions of plastic particles — a “plastic smog,” in the words of the researchers — weigh roughly 2.4 million metric tons and are doubling about every six years, according to the study conducted by a team of international researchers led by Marcus Eriksen of the 5 Gyres Institute, based in Santa Monica, Calif. That is more than 21,000 pieces of plastic for each of the Earth’s 8 billion residents. Most pieces are very small.  The study, which was published in the PLOS One journal, draws on nearly 12,000 samples collected across 40 years of research in all the world’s major ocean basins. Starting in 2004, researchers observed a major rise in the material, which they say coincided with an explosion in plastics production. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post. | Read similar story at WIRED.

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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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