DAILY DIGEST, 3/14: New AR brings heavy snow, rain; Will Shasta Dam spill?; An epic snowpack may test water management in the San Joaquin Valley; The Hodge approach is the best solution to California’s water disputes; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • LEG HEARING: Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife beginning at 9:00am.  Among the bills to be heard:   A.B.No. 30 Atmospheric Rivers: Research, Mitigation, and Climate Forecasting Program.  Click here for more details.
  • LEG OVERSIGHT HEARING: Implementation of the 2021 Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan beginning at 9am.  Click here for more details and remote access instructions.
  • PUBLIC MEETING: 2021 Reinitiation of Consultation on the Long-Term Operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project from 1pm to 3pm.  Meeting link: Teams Meeting  Meeting ID: 262 767 956 444; Passcode: f74jJg  The meeting will be held virtually on Microsoft Teams. For meeting materials, including the link to the meeting, please see www.usbr.gov/mp/bdo.
  • PUBLIC HEARING: USFWS proposal to list the Bay-Delta longfin smelt as endangered from 5pm to 7:30pm.  On February 27, 2023, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reopened a 30-day public comment period on its October 2022 proposal to list the San Francisco Bay-Delta longfin smelt. The reopening allows the Service to hold a public hearing as requested by partners for new comments and information to be submitted on the proposed rule.  The virtual public hearing will take place March 14.  Registration is required to join the public hearing.Once registration is complete, participants will receive a confirmation email with instructions for joining the hearing via Zoom and by phone. Please register here: https://empsi.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_HN8s-EhsTsuJg1iqG8qjNQ

California storms …

New atmospheric river slamming California with heavy rain, mountain snow

“Californians were bracing for another potent storm system from the Pacific Ocean that AccuWeather meteorologists say will lead to widespread travel disruptions, aggravate ongoing flooding problems and add to the record amount of snow over the Sierra Nevada.  The dangerous storm will create a plume of moisture, called an atmospheric river, that will spray heavy rain like a giant firehose from north to south across the storm-weary state into Wednesday.  “This will be another significant atmospheric river event for California and will lead to major flooding problems in parts of the state,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark said. … ”  Read more from AccuWeather.

Waterlogged California battens down for more atmospheric rivers

“Another series of severe storms pushed many California counties to a state of emergency Monday, with experts warning areas are at high flood risk with more intense storms taking aim at the state.  State climatologist Michael Anderson said in a briefing Monday that another atmospheric river will kick off moderate to heavy rain on the north coast, to spread through the state into early Wednesday. He said to expect an intense, warm storm with heavy rainfall in a short period of time.  The National Weather Service Sacramento has issued a high wind warning from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday, with gusts of 45-55 miles per hour at some localized gusts clocking in at 60 mph.  Anderson said that some ranges like the Santa Barbara and San Bernardino mountains could see up to 10 inches of rain. But the magnitude, timing and placement of storms remain hard to predict, because “right now there isn’t a lot of agreement,” he said. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service.

CW3E Update: Strong Atmospheric River to Bring Additional Heavy Precipitation and Flooding to California

“Another atmospheric river (AR) will impact California this evening into Wednesday.   AR3 conditions (based on the Ralph et al. 2019 AR Scale) are forecast near Santa Cruz, CA, while AR2 conditions are forecast over much of the remainder of coastal California between Sonoma County and San Diego County.  Strong upslope moisture flux will support heavy precipitation over the Sierra Nevada, Central California Coast Ranges, and Transverse Ranges. … ”  Read more from the Center for Western Weather & Water Extremes.

More ‘atmospheric river’ storms to sweep across California after days of rain and floods

“Californians are bracing for the arrival of another “atmospheric river” storm on Monday after a weekend of heavy rainfall and flooding forced thousands to evacuate, washed out roads and knocked out power.  Rains are expected to ramp up on Monday night, and “impact increasingly sensitive portions of central California that were hit hard by the rainfall on Friday and early Saturday”, according to the national weather prediction center.  Among areas hardest hit over the weekend were riverfront communities in central California where numerous streams engorged by runoff of rain and melting snow from surrounding mountains were transformed into raging torrents.  As the latest storm moves in, “it’s not going to take a whole lot of precipitation to result in immediate runoff and rises on rivers and streams, and flooding in urban areas”, said UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain. … ”  Read more from The Guardian.


Another atmospheric river is coming, ranked 2 to 3 … but what does that scale mean?

” Another atmospheric river approaches this Tuesday. It is ranked on a scale of 2 to 3 … but what does that ranking mean and why do we have it?  And, as the climate crisis drives increasingly extreme weather, communicating just how extreme that weather actually is can also be challenging. From extreme heat to atmospheric rivers, weather hazard scales are no longer just for hurricanes and tornadoes.  After the last major drought came to an end in 2016, an intense February atmospheric river punched a hole in Oroville Dam , forcing more than 180,000 people downstream to evacuate. Then, in March 2017, melting snowpack and warm rains threatened to flood the Owens Valley .Those disasters prompted the development of the Atmospheric River Scale Forecast , which was developed by researchers at UC San Diego’s Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, in partnership with the National Weather Service and the U.S. Geological Service. It was released in 2019 . … ”  Read more from the LAist.

Why rain on snow in the California mountains worries scientists

“For much of the United States, storms with heavy rainfall can coincide with seasonal snow cover. When that happens, the resulting runoff of water can be much greater than what is produced from rain or snowmelt alone. The combination has resulted in some of the nation’s most destructive and costly floods, including the 1996 Midwest floods and the 2017 flood that damaged California’s Oroville Dam.  Contrary to common belief, rainfall itself has limited energy to melt snow. Rather, it is the warm temperatures, strong winds and high humidity, which can transport substantial energy in the form of latent and sensible heat, that predominantly drive snowmelt during rain-on-snow events.  Snowpack has air spaces that water can move through. As the rain falls, the water can travel relatively rapidly through the snowpack’s layers to reach the underlying soil. How streams respond to that runoff depends on how much water is already flowing and how saturated the soil is. … ”  Read more from The Conversation.

In other California water news today …

Will Shasta Dam open spillway gates as more rain, snowmelt raise Lake Shasta water level?

“It may be hard to believe after all the snow and rain that fell ― and keeps falling ― on the North State this winter, but Lake Shasta water levels are still lower than normal for this time of year.  That could change with more storms on the way this week. Predictions about the amount of water released through Shasta Dam later in the year, as snow melts, could also change.  So far in 2023, the North State has had a good soaking. … March rain levels are expected to surpass February’s totals as more warm storms roll over western Shasta County this week. Add to that snowmelt from last Thursday’s 5-hour snowstorm ― 5 inches of snow fell at the Sundial Bridge ― and you’ve the makings of a wet winter.  So, could it be that Shasta Dam will make history again? Will it open its gates at the top of the spillway to let water flow? … ”  Read more from the Redding Record Searchlight. | Read via Yahoo News.

An epic snowpack may test water management in the San Joaquin Valley

Dr. Jeff Mount writes, “Water policy wonks like us at PPIC spend an extraordinary amount of time analyzing information from the past, trying to understand the present, and modeling or speculating about the future. All this work goes toward identifying policy changes that might help California better manage its water. But for all our efforts, nothing improves our understanding of water like a “stress test,” whether that test is severe drought or extreme wet. And it is starting to look like we are going to get one of those stress tests this spring in the San Joaquin Valley.  As news outlets have been reporting for some time, there is an “epic” snowpack in the central and southern Sierra Nevada, rivaling or in some cases exceeding the record snowpacks of the 1982–83 El Niño water year. And while Californians have been laser focused on managing drought over the past decade, it’s now time to start thinking about what to do with too much water, at least in the San Joaquin River and Tulare Lake basins. … ”  Read more from the PPIC.

SEE ALSODoes 2023’s “cabin crusher” of a snowpack herald a return of California’s Tulare Lake?, from the Inkstain blog

Age, drought, rodents and neglect weaken California levees, heightening flood danger

“The levee breach that left an entire California town underwater this weekend is putting a spotlight on how the state’s vital flood control infrastructure is being weakened by age, drought, climate change, rodents and neglect — leaving scores of communities at risk.  On Friday night, the swollen Pajaro River burst through the worn-down levee, flooding the entire town of Pajaro and sending its roughly 3,000 residents into what officials are now estimating to be a multi-month-long exile. A second breach was reported on Monday.  For decades, the levee was ignored by the federal government — never rising to the status of a fix-worthy project — despite repeated pleas, breaches, floods and even two deaths.  “Yeah, the money wasn’t there because the prioritization wasn’t there,” said Mark Strudley, executive director of the Pajaro Regional Flood Management Agency. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

Damage from “severe breach” of Friant-Kern Canal construction at Deer Creek difficult to assess

“An unfinished section of the new Friant-Kern Canal suffered a “severe breach” at Deer Creek in Tulare County Friday night as the normally dry creek swelled with rain and snowmelt and overran its banks into the construction zone.  “This was worse than the one before,” said Johnny Amaral, Chief Operating Officer of the Friant Water Authority, at the authority’s executive committee meeting on Monday. “We haven’t gotten a handle on it yet but it’s tough to do anything out there right now with what we’re expecting tomorrow.”  He referred to another atmospheric river forecast to barrel into the state Monday night through Tuesday.  “The site is severely flooded,” he said of the Deer Creek construction area. “After the first breach, we had fortified it with what we thought was a good amount of rip rap but these flows have just taken over the whole area.” … ”  Read more from SJV Water.

How did two valley groundwater plans win recommendations for approval from the state?

“Most groundwater plans covering the San Joaquin Valley got a big, fat thumbs down from the state.  Plans by the Westlands Water District and Kings subbasin, which together cover most of the valley portion of Fresno County, got recommendations for approval from the Department of Water Resources.  Those areas face all the same problems as the Kern, Kaweah, Chowchilla, Tule, Tulare Lake (Kings County) and Delta-Mendota subbasins, whose plans were stamped “inadequate” earlier this month and sent to the State Water Resources Control Board for possible enforcement action.  Westlands and Kings have similar water quality issues, sinking land and plummeting water tables. And their initial plans, like those from all the other valley groundwater agencies, were kicked back last year with a list of deficiencies.  But their plans got gold stars this time around.  How’d they do it? … ”  Read more from SJV Water.

Valadao’s top priorities in 2023? Boosting Valley water supplies, U.S. energy production

“California’s water has long been a contested issue in the Central Valley, and high gas prices have led to a national discussion on energy. Rep. David Valadao (R–Hanford) is pushing Congress to address both fronts.  Valadao joined The Sun in an upcoming interview on Sunrise FM to discuss a pair of bills he has introduced that target California’s water situation and the nation’s energy production industry, a bill that will be part of the larger GOP platform.   The big picture: Valadao initially introduced the Working to Advance Tangible and Effective Reforms (WATER) for California Act last year and brought it back this year ahead of the Republican-controlled House.  … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun.

State Water Board reverses emergency order as feds cancel salmon season openers

Salmon trollers by Jennifer Gilden.

“Responding to pressure by fishing and environmental groups and the changing water conditions as a series of atmospheric rivers entered California, the State Water Resources Control Board on March 9  reversed its emergency order that waived Bay-Delta water quality standards.  The emergency order on February 21, 2023 approved a temporary urgency change petition (TUCP) to modify requirements included in the water right permits and license for the State Water Project and Central Valley Project for the period of February through March 2023.  But the damage has already been done to salmon and other fish during a year in which fishing for Chinook salmon will be closed along the coast from Cape Falcon, Oregon to the California/Mexico border. … ”  Read more from the Daily Kos.

Commercial salmon fishing closed in California for second time ever

“Commercial salmon fishing will be closed for the 2023 season off of all of California’s marine and inland waters as well as off of most of the Oregon coast for the second time in history and for the first time since 2008.  The decision, which will be finalized next month, was made due to low numbers of adult and 2-year-old jack salmon because of the lack of water available to them in Central Valley rivers, according to a press release from the Golden State Salmon Association, an advocacy coalition.  Upstream “dam operations favoring agriculture over salmon survival” have devastated salmon populations in Central Valley rivers, the release said. Hot water left over after dam releases for agriculture have killed incubating salmon eggs, and releases of water in the spring required to wash baby salmon out of the Central Valley have been diverted or withheld, the release said. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

SEE ALSOCalifornia cancels salmon fishing season as population dwindles due to drought: “It’s devastating”, from CBS News

Newsom to allow easier floodwater capture for groundwater recharge

“Governor Gavin Newsom is taking action to put the abundance of floodwater in California to better use through an executive order. In response to the substantial storm systems that have come through California, the order seeks to facilitate more groundwater recharge efforts. The order temporarily suspends regulatory barriers for collecting rain and snowmelt to help recharge groundwater basins. The order sets parameters for diverting water without permits and capturing it for groundwater storage.  “California is seeing extreme rain and snow, so we’re making it simple to redirect water to recharge groundwater basins,” Newsom said in a press release. “This order helps us take advantage of expected intense storms and increases state support for local stormwater capture efforts.” … ”  Read more from Ag Net West.

SEE ALSO:  , from the Western Farm Press

California lawmakers face daunting task in preparing for devastating earthquakes

“The “Big One” may be inevitable, but California lawmakers face a major undertaking in preparing for future earthquakes which cannot be predicted.  In a joint state Senate and Assembly hearing on preparing for catastrophic earthquakes, in light of the Turkey and Syria disasters, experts told state leaders that bigger plans to prepare for a disaster are needed beyond small programs.  Ryan Kersting, a practical engineer with the National Structural Engineers Association, said the state is at risk of seeing many collapsed and compromised old buildings due to many still being vulnerable. He said those vulnerable buildings must all be identified, and earthquake shelter areas must be updated. In particular, building codes must be updated, and he said while the Legislature came close in 2021 to starting that process, the bill stalled short of making it onto the governor’s desk. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service.

Climate is changing too quickly for the Sierra Nevada’s ‘zombie forests’

“Some of the tall, stately trees that have grown up in California’s Sierra Nevada are no longer compatible with the climate they live in, new research has shown.  Hotter, drier conditions driven by climate change in the mountain range have made certain regions once hospitable to conifers — such as sequoia, ponderosa pine and Douglas fir — an environmental mismatch for the cone-bearing trees.  “They were exactly where we expected them to be, kind of along the lower-elevation, warmer and drier edges of the conifer forests in the Sierras,” Avery Hill, who worked on the study as a graduate student at Stanford University, told NPR. … ”  Read more from NPR.

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In commentary today …

The Hodge approach is the best solution to California’s water disputes

Emma Lautanen writes, “California water law has significantly evolved since the state first constitutionalized the doctrine of riparian rights in 1928. Although the article X, section 2 principle of reasonable and beneficial use remains the backbone of California water law, the law has shifted away from priority rights and toward prioritizing efficiently exploiting water sources to their “fullest extent.” Priority rights are still an important factor courts consider in dispute resolution, but courts now increasingly recognize how the limited availability of California water sources forces the law to match the volume of a water right to its reasonable and beneficial use. The Hodge approach, which embraces situation-specific physical solutions to effectively allocate water rights, is the best general approach to resolving water law disputes because it embodies the evolution of California water law and provides flexibility in unique contexts. … ”  Continue reading from the SCOCA from Berkeley Law.

Why pausing water diversions to Los Angeles honors landmark Mono Lake deal

Martha Davis, a board member for the Mono Lake Committee and former assistant general manager for policy development at the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, writes, “In 1994, I stood at a crowded dais in Sacramento where the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, or DWP, joined the Mono Lake Committee and many others to support the State Water Board’s landmark decision to save Mono Lake.  For California, the historic announcement ended two decades of litigation over the DWP’s environmentally devastating diversion of water away from Mono Lake.  The 1994 decision was intended to benefit Mono Lake, an extraordinary ecosystem located east of Yosemite National Park. This million-year-old lake is one of the nation’s most important shorebird habitats, internationally recognized as an essential stop on the Pacific Flyway for millions of migratory birds. … Fast forward 29 years: Mono Lake was saved, right?  Unfortunately, no. … ”  Read the full commentary at Cal Matters.

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Today’s featured article …

DELTA INDEPENDENT SCIENCE BOARD reacts positively to the scientific basis report for the voluntary agreements

The Delta Independent Science Board (Delta ISB) met on Friday, March 3, to discuss their review of the Draft Scientific Basis Report Supplement for the Voluntary Agreements.  The draft report was developed by State Water Board staff in collaboration with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Water Resources.  The draft report summarizes the science behind the Voluntary Agreements, which are proposed as an alternative pathway to update and implement the Bay-Delta Plan.  The Voluntary Agreements include varying amounts of increased flows and habitat restoration to improve spawning and rearing capacity for juvenile salmonids and other native fishes on the Sacramento River and its tributaries.

Continue reading this article.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


After the dams: Restoring the Klamath River will take billions of native seeds

“On the north shore of Iron Gate reservoir, Frank Henry, Jr. jams a heavy metal pole into the ground and twists. Once a hole is excavated, he grabs a stick from a five-gallon bucket. Water drips from the small tangle of roots at one end. The stick is Klamath plum; it will eventually grow into a shrubby tree that forms dense thickets and produces mauve-colored fruits.  Henry pats native soil—moist, fluffy, and sticky with clay—around the plum plant, then moves on to the next one. “I’m digging maybe a 12–13-inch hole with the rock bar,” he says. “These little ones that are kind of cluttered together are the ones I’m putting in right now.” … ”  Read more from  Jefferson Public Radio.

Atmospheric river brings flood watch to far Northern California

“Far Northern California counties are facing heavy rain and gusty wind, today through Wednesday morning. The heaviest rain will occur on Tuesday night. The flood watch includes Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, Trinity and Shasta counties, among others. The region faces the potential for mudslides and road closures. A flood warning has already been issued for the Eel River at Fernbridge, where flooding could affect local highways and farmland. … ”  Read more from Jefferson Public Radio.

Eel River expected to pass flood stage, livestock owners advised to protect animals in low-lying areas

“A flood warning has been issued for the Eel River Valley from late tonight into early Wednesday afternoon and a special action statement has been issued that advises taking steps to protect livestock in low-lying areas, according to the Eureka office of the National Weather Service.  The California Nevada River Forecast Center is predicting the Eel River at Fernbridge will hit the 20-foot flood stage at approximately 6 a.m. Tuesday and continue rising until around midnight, hitting a peak of 23.1 feet.  Impact areas including Fernbridge, Scotia, Bridgeville, Fort Seward and Miranda. … ”  Read more from the North Coast Journal.

SEE ALSO: FLOOD WATCH: Excessive Runoff Fills Creeks and Streams; Eel River Forecast to Overrun Its Banks at Fernbridge, from the Lost Coast Outpost


‘Whole hell of a lot of water up there’: This map shows the Sierra snowpack’s record levels

“The Southern Sierra snowpack is now the biggest on record, at a whopping 247% of average for April 1, according to charts from the California Department of Water Resources.  “There is a whole hell of a lot of water up there right now, stored in the snowpack,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA and the Nature Conservancy, during an online presentation on Monday.  All this snow is a boon for California’s multiyear drought. And because the snowpack is so cold and deep, it should remain largely intact even in the face of another warm atmospheric river on tap this week. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.


“It’s unpredictable”: Cosumnes River forecast may reach two feet above flood level Tuesday

“All eyes are on the Cosumnes River levels as it is forecast to hit two feet above flood stage Tuesday.  The levee that protects the community of Wilton is all repaired after the January storms, but if the Cosumnes rises above flood stage, there is no levee protection.  Bryan Hanson is keeping close track of the levels on his cell phone.  “It’s updated hourly,” Hanson said. “I know it’s got to get into the purple to essentially reach me.”  Hanson has lived in Wilton for decades.  He is ready to go, if and when evacuations are ordered. … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento.


Next Sonoma County atmospheric river to bring 60 mph gusts, possible thunderstorms

“Possible thunderstorms coupled with strong winds on Tuesday and early Wednesday could trigger multiple weather hazards, including mudslides, in the North Bay, according to the National Weather Service.  Residents are encouraged to secure outside items, monitor the weather and have a plan in place in case the storm, which is one of the strongest to hit the region this winter, causes evacuations or power failures, said Warren Blier, a meteorologist with the weather service’s Monterey office.  Widespread rains were expected to begin about midnight Tuesday after a day of scattered lighter showers.  Steadily increasing winds will peak about 3 a.m. at 20 to 35 mph with gusts around 45 mph in the Sonoma County valleys, said National Weather Service meteorologist Patrick Ayd. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

SEE ALSO: Updates: Atmospheric river brings rain, wind to Sonoma County, from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.


Bay Area Storm: New atmospheric river touches down, flood advisories issued for North Bay and Peninsula

“The latest atmospheric river storm reached the Bay Area early Tuesday morning in yet another weather event expected to send moderate rainfall and heavy winds to the region, putting it on alert for flooding and wind damage.  National Weather Service forecasts predicted between one-quarter and one-half of an inch of rain for San Jose on Tuesday with wind gusts reaching as high as 38 miles per hour. Rainfall predictions were slightly higher in San Francisco, Oakland and Walnut Creek, with anywhere between one-half and three-quarters of an inch expected to hit Tuesday. Winds were expected to be significantly higher, however, with gusts nearing 50 mph in Oakland and San Francisco and 60 mph in Walnut Creek. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News.

SEE ALSO: Flood map: More flooding forecast for Bay Area, Central California rivers. See the risk near you, from the San Jose Mercury News

New weather radar for public safety response part of Bay Area radar system, led by Sonoma, to be installed on Mount Barnabe

“Extreme weather systems, such as atmospheric rivers, have hit California with increasing frequency in recent years. The average damage from floods caused by atmospheric rivers in California is now over $1 billion per year. Marin County has experienced its share of these intense storms and the damages are both costly and disruptive. In times of emergency, accurate and timely forecasts are critical for cost-effective risk-based decisions regarding public safety response measures, infrastructure operations, and essential resource allocation.  The Marin County Department of Public Works (DPW) is collaborating with local, state and federal agencies, with Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) as the project manager, on weather radar installations at key locations across the greater San Francisco Bay Area. The result will be a regional weather prediction system that uses enhanced weather radar to track atmospheric rivers. … ”  Read more from the Post News Group.


Atmospheric river strikes California Central Coast: Timing, impact and what to know

“After an atmospheric river caused widespread flooding, leading to many residents having to evacuate their homes or be rescued from floodwaters, our meteorologists are tracking another atmospheric river. KSBW 8 meteorologists are tracking an atmospheric river pointed right at Southern Baja California. In addition to that, there is a dense area of tropical moisture. “These join forces and take aim right at our area,” KSBW 8 meteorologist Jonathan Bass said. “That is going to have a significant impact on us. This is going to be a significant wind and rain event.” … ”  Read more from KSBW.

‘Probable inundation’: Salinas River communities brace for flooding, crop losses

“Monterey County residents are bracing for yet another onslaught of floodwater as an incoming storm threatens to overflow the Salinas River, imperiling the lives of farmworkers and crops and triggering evacuations.  “Projections now include a probable inundation of roadways between the Monterey Peninsula and the rest of the county,” officials said hours before an atmospheric river was forecast to hit the agricultural region. More than 10,000 people there remained under evacuation orders and warnings as of Tuesday.  The news comes only days after a levee breach on the nearby Pajaro River triggered massive flooding and prompted dozens of water rescues. The breach left much of Pajaro — a town of about 1,700 people, mostly farmworkers — under several feet of water. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

Pajaro/Sunny Mesa water system customers remain under “do not drink” order indefinitely.

“In the wake of flooding caused by a breach of the Pajaro River levee around midnight between March 10 and 11, the Pajaro/Sunny Mesa water systems were put on a “do not drink” order on March 11, just before 1pm.  That means even boiling the water, filtering it or otherwise treating it will not necessarily make it safe. That’s not because the water is known to be unsafe—it hasn’t been tested yet—it’s just that it might be.  Judy Varela with Pajaro/Sunny Mesa says that three wells have been impacted by the flooding, and it’s not known if any of the floodwaters have seeped down the well shafts and into the groundwater supply, and it’s also not yet known what contaminants, if any, are in those floodwaters. … ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly.

To cultivate modern sustainability, a California wine region is turning to very old methods

“Ask any of the wine grape growers planting own-rooted stock why they’re farming these massively risky grapevines and they’ll all tell you the same thing: They just want to make really great wine. But there’s another benefit to the gamble, too—unlike most American wine grapes, which are overwhelmingly grown on grafted rootstock, own-rooted vines are especially drought-tolerant, produce a more predictable crop and use significantly fewer resources.  There’s a huge downside to using own-rooted vines, though. If they get attacked by phylloxera, the entire crop will die. It won’t be a loss of just one season’s grapes—the entire vineyard itself will be totally destroyed. … But Santa Ynez Valley, a winemaking region on California’s Central Coast, is uniquely suited to keep phylloxera at bay. … ”  Read more from Modern Farmer.

Winter storms filled Santa Barbara County reservoirs, but groundwater and flooding challenges remain

“Last month the Central Coast was hit with heavy rainfall, filling Santa Barbara County’s reservoirs and nearly overflowing its creeks. This week, local officials assessed the impacts.  Walter Rubalcava is the Deputy Director of Public Works. He said the January winter storm produced about 120% of the normal rainfall in Santa Barbara County for the entire year.  During a presentation to the Montecito Planning Commission, he pointed to a picture of Lake Cachuma, one of the county’s reservoirs. … ”  Read more from KCBX.


Tracy residents call on county officials to help stop ongoing floods

“Paul Alday received help from neighbors on Monday morning as he worked to clean up mud from his driveway and pump water from outside his home.  He is one of more than a dozen residents along Chrisman Road in the Tracy area of San Joaquin County who are struggling with flooding caused by ongoing rainfall.  Alday and his neighbors believe the water may have overflowed from the nearby Corral Hollow Creek, which experienced flooding and road closures from storms in late December and January.  “A couple of our neighbors went down there yesterday, and they said there’s big old huge trees, tree limbs, and it’s just stopping the water, so it backs up there and that’s where it’s overflowing,” Alday said. … ”  Read more from KCRA.

‘I’ve never seen this in my life’ | San Joaquin River rising to historic levels in Patterson

“Just feet from his pink Victorian home he built 45 years ago, 80-year-old Raymond Washburn is keeping a close eye on the swollen San Joaquin River.   “It’s coming up every night, probably eight or 10 inches,” said Washburn, motioning to the river that butts up to his back property. He says he has seen the river as high as it is now only two other times, however the retired mechanic/machinist and Vietnam veteran isn’t too worried at the moment. … ”  Read more from Channel 10.

USACE closely monitors releases at Schafer Dam and Tule River Spillway

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District is closely monitoring Schafer Dam and Lake Success in connection with the ongoing severe weather event.  With Lake Success already exceeding its gross pool capacity of 84,095 acre-feet and more rain on the way, releases from both the Schafer Dam outlet works and the Tule River Spillway are expected to increase over the next 48 hours.  The current combined release through the outlet works and spillway is approximately 6,000 cubic feet of water per second as of Monday evening and is expected to increase to 10,000 cfs by Wednesday even as rain continues to feed into waterways. Forecasted rain and increasing water releases may cause localized flooding downstream of Schafer Dam. Schafer Dam is not currently at risk of being damaged or overtopping as, even at capacity, lake levels are well below the top of dam. However, USACE teams are now monitoring the dam and spillway around the clock, and are coordinating with state and local partners to update release projections multiple times per day. … ”  Read more from the Army Corps.

Yosemite National Park extends park closure as another atmospheric river storm slams California

“Yosemite National Park officials said it will remain closed through at least Thursday as relentless atmospheric river storms have dumped feet of snow across California, and another storm is on the way.  The national park has been closed since the end of February when storms battered the region and dumped more than 15 feet of snow, overpowering crews that have been working tirelessly to remove snow and keep the park open for visitors.  “Yosemite will remain closed through Thursday, March 16 – possibly longer,” park officials said in a tweet. “A partial reopening on March 17 is a best-case scenario.” … ”  Read more from Fox Weather.

Latest atmospheric river could slam Tulare County this week

“Tulare County residents are bracing for the latest in an unrelenting wave of strong storms as forecasters warned of another atmospheric river expected to bring an additional round of flooding rainfall, high-elevation snow, and strong winds this week.  More than half of California ― including Tulare County — was under a flood watch or a winter storm warning Sunday as one atmospheric river receded and another approached.  Tulare County is under a flood watch until Wednesday morning.  Multiple swift water rescues were underway this weekend as rivers and streams flooded across the Central Valley. … ”  Read more from the Visalia Times-Delta.

Kern River once again flowing through Bakersfield after weekend rain

“While some communities in Kern are still grappling with the effects of the storm, last week’s rain showers brought back an attraction the city has not seen in years.  Most of the flood water flowing through Kernville went into Lake Isabella. Water officials are releasing some water into the river through the canyon, however the water moving through town came from the Friant Kern canal and the California Aqueduct.  Officials are working to distribute water coming down from the north into ground water banking projects around Kern. … ”  Read more from KGET.

Bakersfield upgrades with drought-tolerant ‘xeriscaping’ to conserve water

“Following all the rain, the most recent California Drought Monitor shows that only parts of Kern County are still in severe drought. However, the City of Bakersfield is staying in conservation mode.  City officials have determined that Bakersfield will maintain the Stage 2 water use restrictions that were adopted in December 2021. That policy is expected to remain in place until December 2023 unless the California State Water Resources Control Board requires the city to alter the policy sooner.  In keeping with the city’s water conservation efforts, a new type of urban landscaping is being implemented in roadway medians around Bakersfield. If you’ve driven down Rosedale Highway recently, you may have even noticed the change. … ”  Read more from Channel 23.

Tehachapi: Water district board to hear latest on operating plan, imported water at March 15 meeting

“Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District is preparing to import water and serve customers as storms continue to pound California. Just months ago, the district was in extreme drought. The latest map released by the U.S. Drought Monitor on Thursday, March 7, showed that western Kern County is out of the drought while the Tehachapi area remains “abnormally dry.” Storms brought rain last week and what has been termed an “atmospheric river” is expected to continue this week. The additional rain may move the rest of the county out of drought. The latest storms also may trigger an increased allocation of water from the State Water Project. … ”  Read more from the Tehachapi News.


LADWP makes progress on repairs to storm-damaged Los Angeles Aqueduct, plans for next rain event

“A crew of 60 LADWP personnel worked around the clock over the weekend making repairs to the seven damaged panels in a lined, uncovered concrete section of the Los Angeles Aqueduct (LAA) north of the Haiwee Complex, two miles south of the town of Olancha.  LADWP is working diligently to ensure repairs will hold through the next storm system and the start of runoff, which begins April 1.  LADWP was able to divert 100% of the flow in this area by opening the Cottonwood Spill Gate and the Alabama Spill Gate, preventing any potential water damage to the town of Olancha or to U.S. HWY 395.  Due to intense rainfall throughout Owens Valley, extremely high water flows are occurring in creeks, canals, and roadways. There is severe damage to publicly accessible roads, highways, and bridges as well as LADWP infrastructure such as canals, diversion structures, and Los Angeles Aqueduct structures. … ”  Continue reading from LADWP.


Former City Manager, Current Metropolitan Water District Board Member Cynthia Kurtz briefs city committee Tuesday on water supply rebound

“Southern California’s water supply situation has improved dramatically after a series of storms brought heavy rain and snow to the state’s watershed. Former Pasadena City Manager Cynthia Kurtz, in her role as a board member of the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), will present an update on the water supply turnaround to Pasadena City Council’s Municipal Services Committee on Tuesday.  Kurtz will review how the region has rebounded from a severe drought that reduced water allocations from the State Water Project (SWP) to only 5 percent of the contract amount for 2020, 2021 and 2022. The SWP is a system of reservoirs, aqueducts and pumping plants that delivers water from northern California to urban and agricultural areas in the south. … ”  Read more from Pasadena Now.

EPA looking to shut down 2 cesspools at L.A. County mobile home park

“The United States Environmental Protection Agency has filed a complaint against the operator of a mobile home park in Acton, alleging that the park is using two large unlawful cesspools to collect untreated raw sewage.  The complaint identifies Eric Hauck as the operator of Cactus Creek Mobile Home Park in Acton. He’s also identified as a trustee of Acton Holding Trust.  The EPA alleges that Hauck has two illegal cesspools on the property, despite large capacity cesspools being banned by the environmental agency more than 15 years ago. … ”  Read more from KTLA.


Relay race: How ‘zanjeros’ get Colorado River water to California farms

“In the right light, Jeff Dollente seems to make the sun rise. Standing over a canal, he cranks a wheel as the sun ascends and the sky yawns off the dark.  Mr. Dollente doesn’t deliver the morning, but in southeastern California’s Imperial Valley, his job is just as big. He delivers Colorado River water – a vital resource at risk to farms that feed the rest of the United States.  He’s a “zanjero,” Spanish for ditch rider, for the Imperial Irrigation District, the area’s public-water and energy agency. California is entitled to the largest share of Colorado River water among seven basin states, and within that, the agency has the single largest entitlement, almost all of which goes to agriculture. Upping the ante: The river is the Imperial Irrigation District’s only water source. … ”  Read more from the Christian Science Monitor.


Carlsbad Aquafarms gets grant for living shoreline project

“The Carlsbad Aquafarm has been allocated a $230,000 grant to install and monitor native oyster reefs and eelgrass meadows along the shore of Agua Hedionda Lagoon near the strawberry fields, the Carlsbad desalination plant and the Encina power plant.  Oysters and mussels have been grown commercially in the outer lagoon since the 1950s, when San Diego Gas & Electric Co. dredged it to make it deeper and provide a constant source of seawater to cool the power plant. Now the original power plant has been replaced by a more efficient one without seawater cooling, and Poseidon Water dredges the lagoon to keep water flowing to its desalination plant. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

San Diego County Water Authority hosts Colorado River Board of California

“The San Diego County Water Authority will host water leaders from throughout Southern California March 15 for the monthly meeting of the Colorado River Board of California. On March 14, before the formal meeting, CRB board members will tour projects in the region that promote water resiliency.  The CRB will consider the complex water supply issues facing the Southwest U.S. during its meeting. San Diego Congressman Scott Peters is also scheduled to address the CRB. … ”  Read more from the Water News Network.

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Along the Colorado River …

Senator Kelly discusses crucial plan to ensure water access in California and Arizona

Colorado River by Stephen Landry

“Arizona Senator Mark Kelly on Monday rejected the notion that the Colorado River and water reserves in the American Southwest were going to run dry, saying that multiple plans are coming together to try and reduce the usage of water in the region while adding that the U.S. will have to ensure water levels stay high in Lake Mead so that California and Arizona are able to continue to have access to water.  Kelly, speaking to KTAR News 92.3 FM, says that the country will have to continue to keep water levels high enough at Lake Mead to ensure water is released from the Hoover Dam, a crucial part of the system that distributes water to Southwestern states and Mexico. … ”  Read more from Newsbreak.

Paid not to farm? Expanded Colorado River program divides farm community

“With water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead at record lows, federal officials are ready to spend tens of millions of dollars to get farmers and other water users to conserve in 2023 and keep the reservoirs from falling farther.  A rebooted System Conservation Pilot Program (SCPP) in the river’s Upper Basin states – Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico – took funding applications this winter in preparation for the upcoming growing season.  But the program, which pays farmers not to farm on some of their fields and leave some of their irrigation water in streams, has left some growers conflicted about their role in balancing the region’s water supplies and demands. … ”  Read more from Cronkite News.

Persistent drought and overdevelopment cause record low water levels for tens of millions

“Despite a rainy and snowy winter out west, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the reservoirs that provide water for 40 million Americans, are at record low levels due to the ongoing megadrought. Arizona is set to lose over 20% of its Colorado River water allotment this year alone. As Stephanie Sy reports, that’s leaving communities across the state scrambling to find alternatives. … ”  Read more or listen at PBS Newshour.

Biggest water users could face restrictions, SNWA says

“A proposal that would give Southern Nevada water managers the ability to limit residential water use would only affect the top 20 percent of users in the Las Vegas Valley, representatives from the Southern Nevada Water Authority told state lawmakers Monday.  Assembly Bill 220 would give the Southern Nevada Water Authority the ability to limit residential water use in single-family homes to about 163,000 gallons annually during times when the federal government has declared a water shortage along the drought-stricken Colorado River, which supplies 90 percent of Southern Nevada’s water.  The bill would also set up a program to eventually convert thousands of homes with septic systems into the region’s municipal sewer system and ensure that more water can be recycled and sent back to Lake Mead rather than being lost into the ground. … ”  Read more from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

SEE ALSONevada lawmakers could grant water authority power to limit Las Vegas residents’ water usage, from CBS News

A ‘private dispute’ may forever change Arizona water law, experts say

“A Nestlé plant in the Valley has an issue: it wants to produce a lot of “high-quality” creamer. But it might not have enough water to do so. The company’s solution could allow factories to drain Arizona’s groundwater and could threaten the quality of city tap water, according to water experts. The massive food and drink producer announced last year it would be building a nearly $700 million plant in Glendale, but has since run into issues with its water provider EPCOR. The amount of wastewater Nestlé projected to need turned out to be too much for the Canada-based utility. … ”  Read more from Channel 12.

Colorado’s healthy snowpack promises to offer some relief for strained water supplies

“The Western Slope snowpack has piled up to its normal peak weeks ahead of usual, and with more snow in the forecast, the healthy supply promises some relief to receding Colorado reservoirs, experts say.  Rivers in western Colorado help feed the Colorado River Basin, which provides water to 40 million people across the West. The basin is experiencing its worst drought in 1,200 years — by some estimates, it would take three average snow years with zero consumption to get reservoirs in the basin back to normal. This year, the snow is deep in the mountains that serve as headwaters for the Colorado River with some areas even reporting historically high snowpack levels. … ”  Read more from the Colorado Sun.

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In national water news today …

Biden administration to restrict cancer-causing ‘forever chemicals’

“For the first time, the federal government will require utilities to remove from drinking water two toxic chemicals found in everything from waterproof clothing to dental floss and even toilet paper, the Environmental Protection Agency announced on Tuesday.  Michael S. Regan, the administrator of the E.P.A., said the government intends to require near-zero levels of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds, part of a class of chemicals known as known as PFAS. Exposure to the chemicals has been linked to cancer, liver damage, fertility and thyroid problems, asthma and other health effects.  “This is very significant,” Mr. Regan said in an interview. “This is the first time in U.S. history that we’ve set enforceable limits for PFAS pollution.” … ”  Read more from the New York Times.

SEE ALSO: Biden-Harris Administration Proposes First-Ever National Standard to Protect Communities from PFAS in Drinking Water, from the EPA

Water disasters on both ends of the spectrum – dry and wet – are getting more intense as planet warms, study finds

“From lengthy droughts to severe flooding, the intensity of water-related disasters around the world has increased over the last two decades as global temperatures climbed to record levels, according to new research.  The study from NASA scientists published Monday in the journal Nature Water found that increasingly frequent, widespread and intense droughts and floods were linked more strongly to higher global temperatures than to naturally changing weather patterns, like El Niño and La Niña. This suggests these intense events will increase as the climate crisis accelerates, the study says.  The study comes as California is slammed with its 11th atmospheric river so far this season – storms that have brought torrential rainfall and crushing snow to a region that for the past several years has been mired in extreme drought. These storms have caused significant flooding, mudslides, collapsed bridges and unusable roads. … ”  Read more from CNN.

Giant seaweed blob twice the width of the US takes aim at Florida

“Marine scientists are tracking a 5,000-mile-wide seaweed bloom that is so large, it can be seen from space.  These sargassum blooms are nothing new, but scientists say this one could be the largest in history. At last check, it was heading toward Florida’s Gulf coast.  The thick mat of algae drifts between the Atlantic coast of Africa and the Gulf of Mexico, providing habitat for marine life and absorbing carbon dioxide, but it can also wreak havoc when when it gets closer to shore. It blocks light from reaching coral and negatively impacts air and water quality as it decomposes. … ”  Read more from AOL News.

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And lastly …

Burning Man fights the feds to save its new home in the old West

“Standing a two-hour drive north of Reno and hundreds of miles from anywhere else, Gerlach is an Old West ranching and mining outpost with a dozen or so streets and a hundred or so residents. It’s known for its remote desert wilderness, hot springs, dark skies and historic position on some of the emigrant trails that moved covered wagons through the Black Rock Desert on the way to California.  Oh, and Gerlach is the gateway to Burning Man.  When 80,000 Burners overrun the tiny town on the way to the weeklong Labor Day gathering in the playa 15 miles north, Gerlachians curse the traffic and the commotion. But locals admit that over its 30 years of summer residencies, the Burning Man Project—now a major property owner and employer in the town—has proven to be a pretty good neighbor, and, importantly, an economic lifeline for one of America’s endangered small towns. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Standard (cool pictures!).

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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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