DAILY DIGEST, 3/16: California to get break from storms, but not for long; CDFW using winter storms to help increase survival of hatchery released chinook salmon; Water restrictions lifted for 7 million in Southern California, but region still urged to conserve; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • WEBINAR: DWR’s County Drought Resilience Planning Assistance from 1pm to 2:30pm.  DWR will provide financial and direct technical assistance to counties for developing their County Drought Resilience Plan to provide needed water shortage protection and emergency response for state small water systems and domestic wells per SB 552. This webinar will mark the launch and availability of these assistance opportunities.  Register in advance for this meeting: https://csus.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_JmwnnY8SR4OGjou9gD2ZBg
  • WORKSHOP:Delta Alternative Compliance Plan (Delta ACP) from 1:30pm to 3:00pm. The Central Delta Water Agency and the South Delta Water Agency are offering a virtual workshop to guide users on how to submit a report using the Delta ACP.  During the virtual workshop, there will be a presentation by the CDWA/SDWA and participants may ask questions and provide comments.  Click here for more information on the Delta ACP.  Zoom meeting link: https://waterboards.zoom.us/j/92826861523
  • MEETING: Delta Protection Commission meets at 5pm at Peter’s Steakhouse in Isleton. Agenda items include Executive Director Report, Delta as a Place Report, draft comment letter on Delta Conveyance Project draft EIR, and a draft survey of cultural resources in Delta Conveyance Project area.  The commission will also give special recognition of former chair Don Nottoli. Click here for the full agenda.

In California water news today …

California to get break from storms, but not for long

“An extraordinarily active winter season across California has been full of moisture-laden storms that have helped completely erase persistent drought conditions in some areas due to epic amounts of rain and astonishingly high snowfall totals.  The unrelenting storms have also had numerous negative consequences as well. That was evident this week when another atmospheric river generated extreme wind gusts in the San Francisco Bay Area, flooding rain in the Los Angeles basin and feet of heavy, wet snow across the highest elevations of the Sierra Nevada from Monday into Wednesday morning.  The state will get a needed reprieve from storms for a brief period of time, but AccuWeather meteorologists are calling for a return of stormy conditions by next week. … ”  Read more from AccuWeather.

The sog slog continues: Forecast calls for even more rain through March

“Californians shouldn’t put the rain gear away quite yet. March is expected to continue roaring like a lion beyond mid-month.  Models are pointing to another potential atmospheric river in the first half of next week, forecasters say, the 12th of California’s wet season. An upper-level low-pressure system in the Gulf of Alaska is expected to move over the West Coast, and there’s a 60% chance that a plume of atmospheric river moisture could affect the California coast, the National Weather Service said.  The six- to 10-day precipitation outlook issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Wednesday shows well above normal precipitation for most of the state, with a 70% chance that precipitation will be above normal in the central portion of California. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

NOAA Spring Outlook: California drought cut by half with more relief to come

“Significant flooding is ongoing in the western U.S., especially in California, following another series of strong Pacific storms that battered the region and piled on to an already historic snowpack. According to NOAA’s U.S. Spring Outlook, the abnormally wet winter will further improve drought across much of the western U.S. as the snowpack melts in the coming months. Winter precipitation, combined with recent storms, wiped out exceptional and extreme drought in California for the first time since 2020, and is expected to further improve drought conditions this spring.  NOAA’s U.S. Spring Outlook highlights temperature, precipitation, drought and flood predictions for April through June to help the nation prepare for potential weather and climate threats to lives and livelihoods. … ”  Continue reading at NOAA.

What California’s excessive snow, rain mean for state’s reservoirs

“A series of atmospheric river events with heavy rain and snow have caused California water regulators to open flood gates on water storage facilities, but the uncertainty of when Mother Nature’s faucet will shut off has experts weighing the advantages and disadvantages of letting the precious resource run free.  During average years, regulators say they work on keeping water levels high into the summer, but as mountains of heavy snow melt – literally – agencies are challenged with deciding how much water to store and what to allow to escape as part of flood control.  Some mountain passes are approaching record territory, with the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab reporting 668″ of fresh powder – a figure that is just shy of being the second-snowiest season on record – all while the state’s snowpack sits at a stage greater than 200 percent of average. … ”  Read more from Fox Weather.

Scientists: Largest US reservoirs moving in right direction

“Parts of California are under water, the Rocky Mountains are bracing for more snow, flood warnings are in place in Nevada, and water is being released from some Arizona reservoirs to make room for an expected bountiful spring runoff.  All the moisture has helped alleviate dry conditions in many parts of the western U.S. Even major reservoirs on the Colorado River are trending in the right direction.  But climate experts caution that the favorable drought maps represent only a blip on the radar as the long-term effects of a stubborn drought persist. … ”  Read more from ABC News.

Is the Western drought finally ending? That depends on where you look

Dan McEvoy writes, “After three years of extreme drought, the Western U.S. is finally getting a break. Mountain ranges are covered in deep snow, and water reservoirs in many areas are filling up following a series of atmospheric rivers that brought record rain and snowfall to large parts of the region.  Many people are looking at the snow and water levels and asking: Is the drought finally over?  There is a lot of nuance to the answer. Where you are in the West and how you define “drought” make a difference. As a drought and water researcher at the Desert Research Institute’s Western Regional Climate Center, here’s what I’m seeing. The winter of 2023 has made a big dent in improving the drought and potentially eliminating the water shortage problems of the last few summers. … ”  Continue reading at The Conversation.

California deals with surging rivers, sliding rocks and flooded towns as storm passes

“Surging rivers. Sliding rocks. Flooded towns.  The 11th atmospheric river storm of the season left a trail of soggy misery in California as it broke decades-old rainfall records and breached levees this week.  In the Tulare County city of Porterville, residents on both sides of the Tule River were ordered to evacuate Wednesday morning as levels rose at Lake Success, sending water running over the spillway at Schafer Dam.  “Right now the dam is in good working order — there’s no threat to the structure of the dam — but we have significant water coming off of the spillway,” said Carrie Monteiro, a spokeswoman for the Tulare County Emergency Operations Center. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

CDFW using winter storms to help increase survival of hatchery released chinook salmon

“Anticipating good conditions for the survival of hatchery-produced Chinook salmon throughout the Sacramento River and tributaries, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will release both spring and fall-run Chinook during the historic rain and snowfall the state is experiencing. Several releases have already happened, and others are planned over the next few weeks to utilize good in-river habitat conditions for these young salmon.  On Feb. 23, with a series of late-winter storms building, CDFW staff released approximately 1.1 million fall-run Chinook salmon fry into the American River at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery in Sacramento County. These Chinook salmon are part of a pilot study testing new genetic based tagging techniques that if successful, will allow more flexibility in fish release strategies to take advantage of natural high flow events in the future. … ”  Read more from the Department of Fish & Wildlife.

Stunning viral video shows California farmers launching truck into levee to stop flooding

“A viral video that circulated among California farmers this week, showing two pricey pickup trucks sacrificed to plug a hole in a levee, reveals the drastic measures that some in the agricultural community are taking to protect fields from flooding.  The recent storms, amid a historically wet winter, have caused rivers and streams to rise and sometimes spill their banks, threatening farmland in many parts of the state, including the highly productive southern San Joaquin Valley. … In the video shared Tuesday on Twitter by sixth-generation farmer Cannon Michael, who runs Bowles Farming Co. in the Los Banos area, a man puts his Chevy Silverado in drive, quickly exits the pickup and allows the truck to run into water that has breached an earthen levee — an effort to halt the flooding of a pistachio orchard. Another truck is already in the breach, helping stem the flow of water into the field. … ”  Read the full story at the San Francisco Chronicle. | Read via MSN News. | View twitter video

Almond update: grower’s positive experience with groundwater recharge

“In working with the Turlock Irrigation District (TID), grower Eric Spycher’s groundwater recharge efforts are proving successful. He explained the process in a recent episode of the Almond Journey Podcast from the Almond Board of California. In the first year of the collaborative project, there were marked improvements to groundwater levels in local wells. Farming primarily in Delhi soils, Spycher said it made his operation a good fit for the project.  “We put out I believe it was 14 inches per acre. So, over an acre-foot on the parcel that we irrigated. It was a 40-acre parcel and I think we only did about 10 or 15 acres of it because of the time it took to get the water to spread out,” said Spycher. “That’s one irrigation. Typically, a flood irrigation for me would have been three to four inches of water in the past. So this ground was so dry, even with all the rain, that it took quite a while to get the water to move across it.” … ”  Read more from Ag Net West.

The winter of 2022-23 has been devastating for California’s strawberry industry.  After storms in December and January caused over $200 million in crop damage from wind, rain and floods, damage from recent flooding from the Pajaro and Salinas rivers in Monterey County has caused hundreds of millions of dollars more in losses, the California Strawberry Commission reports.  The latest disaster comes as farmers had borrowed money to prepare the fields and were weeks away from beginning to harvest, said Rick Tomlinson, the commission’s president. As soon as the cleanup is complete, farmers will begin the process of preparing the fields and starting over, he said. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press.

CDFA releases annual ag stats report

“The annual California Agricultural Statistics Review has been released and is available on the following webpage: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/Statistics/.   This publication provides comprehensive data and information on California’s diverse agricultural economy for the 2021 crop year, including agricultural exports and organic production.  In 2021, California’s farms, ranches and plant nurseries received $51.1 billion in cash receipts for their output. This represents a 3.6 percent increase compared to the previous year.  Over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in California. … ”  Continue reading at the Department for Food & Agriculture.

Sustainable Water Investment Summit takeaways: Water rights, scarcity and opportunities

“Last week, leaders from a range of industries convened for two days in Los Angeles for Brownstein and WestWater’s inaugural Sustainable Water Investment Summit.  The summit featured Antonio Villaraigosa, former mayor of Los Angeles and current infrastructure advisor for the state of California. Tasked by Gov. Gavin Newsom to collaborate across local, state and federal levels to identify priority projects to address California’s pressing infrastructure needs and serve as a liaison with federal leaders to maximize California’s access to federal funding across all regions of the state, Villaraigosa appears keenly aware of both the unprecedented challenges (including regulatory bottlenecks) that the state faces and unique opportunities presented by federal infrastructure funding. … ”  Read more from Brownstein via JD Supra.

Brownstein scores big win in case affecting all water users in California

“Although water reuse is a high priority for California, the considerations a city or other water supplier must contend with in navigating the development of new water supplies are both manifold and highly complex. A recent Brownstein win at California’s Second District Court of Appeal acknowledges the irrefutable importance of supplies like recycled water without sacrificing local autonomy or overburdening state agencies. The Second District Court of Appeal decision establishes that the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) has broad discretion to investigate, or not, allegations of waste or unreasonable use, likely stemming an influx of lawsuits seeking to force the SWRCB to investigate every user and use of water in California.  Brownstein prevailed on all three issues on appeal in a major case interpreting California’s reasonable use doctrine (Article X, section 2 of the California Constitution), which governs all uses of water resources in California. … ”  Continue reading at Brownstein.

The past, present, and future of USGS streamgages

A hydrographer in a wooden cable car lowers a current meter into the stream below.

“In the late 1800s, John Wesley Powell, second Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, had a vision for the Western United States. After exploring the West, Powell recognized that the availability of water was key to the settlement of the region.  Powell proposed to inventory all streams in the West to evaluate the potential for irrigation in the region. The essential first step in this process was to gage the flow of those streams.  A few cities in the Eastern United States had already begun using streamgages, as early as the 1870s, to collect data needed for the design of their water supply systems. Their methods generally involved constructing channels and dams to enable accurate gaging; however, these methods were not feasible in the West. In January 1889, the first USGS streamgage was established along the Rio Grande near Embudo, New Mexico. The Rio Grande at Embudo streamgage was developed to handle the unique challenges of the Rio Grande: shallow, fast-moving water and soft, mobile channel beds.  The equipment and techniques developed at the Embudo site became the foundation of USGS streamgaging methods. … ”  Continue reading at the USGS.

RELATED: NOW AVAILABLE: California Stream Gaging Prioritization Plan, from the State Water Board via Maven’s Notebook

Ski wax containing PFAS banned on Park City, Utah slopes

“Park City officials enacted a drinking water regulation that prohibits using or selling a certain kind of ski wax they believe is causing contamination of groundwater wells and an aquifer.  Fluoro ski wax, which is usually labeled with LF and HF on packaging, contains polyfluoroalkyl substances.  … Michelle DeHaan, Park City’s water quality and treatment manager, said the city’s drinking water is safe and meets all federal standards — she drinks water out of the tap all the time — but the city is proactively trying to eliminate any contamination of two subgroups of PFAS chemicals: PFOA and PFOS. … ”  Read more from KSL.

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In commentary today …

In California, the preservation of our state ecology is pitted against our water needs

Jun Park, a candidate for a master of social work at the University of Southern California, writes, “The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has emerged as the heart of our state’s vast water system, providing fresh water to two-thirds of the state’s population and six million acres of farmland. In January of 2023, Downtown Sacramento received 7.54 inches of rainfall, nearly doubling its 30-year average (3.86 inches). The record precipitation induced disastrous flooding, accelerating runoff to the Pacific Ocean. Despite having a comprehensive system of natural reserves and human ingenuity, conservationists estimated that nearly 95% of the received rainfall in California was diverted to the Pacific Ocean. The wanton runoff ignited bipartisan outrage, driving nearly a dozen legislators hailing from the drought-stricken Central Valley to call for an increase in the amount of water captured in the State Water Project’s aqueducts. Although the runoff can be interpreted as an egregious failure of bureaucracy, water pumping restrictions are informed by environmental regulations that preserve the Delta’s ecological integrity. … ”  Continue reading at the Sacramento Bee.

DeSantis, Newsom, and the algae apocalypse

Edward Ring, a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness, writes, “It would not be surprising if the final candidates for president in November 2024 were Joe Biden and Donald Trump. But if a younger generation of candidates prevails in their respective primaries, an equally unsurprising outcome would be Gavin Newsom pitted against Ron DeSantis.  While purists on both sides may find the California Democrat and the Florida Republican to be far from perfect embodiments of their ideals, a contest between these two governors would nonetheless be a contest between two very different visions for the future of America insofar as they govern two big states that diverge on almost every policy of consequence.  The prevailing perception of a hypothetical race between Newsom and DeSantis focuses on cultural issues, with both of them claiming their state is a beacon of freedom. But a comparison of equal consequence could be based on their response to environmental challenges. … ”  Read more from American Greatness.

Amid solar energy rush, let’s protect our farmlands

Mike Wade, Executive Director of the California Farm Water Coalition, writes, “Excellent soils and a Mediterranean climate make California one of the most productive agricultural centers in the world, allowing our state to produce two-thirds of the nation’s fruits and nuts, and one-third of its vegetables. Not making the best use of this unique agricultural resource would be a big mistake.  Yet, the U.S Department of Agriculture says California lost 1 million acres of irrigated farmland between 1997 and 2017. After years of failures to build new state water storage infrastructure, another 1.2 million acres were fallowed in 2020 and 2021 alone due to drought and water shortages, according to the University of California, Merced.  For generations, much of the lost farmland has been attributed to urban or suburban development, a reality that will continue as the state’s population keeps growing. Now there is a significant new threat to farmlands: California’s desire to build a massive amount of new solar facilities. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert.

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Today’s featured article …

DELTA STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL: Integrating social sciences in the Delta

Aerial view of the historic district of Locke, California, added to the National Historical Places Registry in 1970. Paul Hames / DWR

Integrating the social sciences into environmental science and management in the Delta can contribute to a better understanding of the people who live, work, and recreate in and around the estuary, how the region impacts their health and well-being, and how their behaviors influence environmental issues.  At the February meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, the Council’s Social Science Integration Team gave a presentation on their ongoing efforts to increase interdisciplinary science into the work at the Council and the Delta Science Program.  Then, Dr. Mark Lubell, director of the Center of Environmental Policy and Behavior, followed with a presentation on their ongoing research into the Delta science enterprise and some of the results of the Delta science stakeholders survey.  Lastly, for the Delta Lead Scientist report, Dr. Laurel Larsen spotlighted an article summarizing a recent symposium on eDNA and the Delta.

Click here to read this article.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


Klamath Basin farmers still asking for water despite record snowfall

“Klamath County has seen massive amounts of rain and snow over the past few months, and it’s been the winter many farmers and other people who live and grow in the Klamath Basin have been praying for over the past few years.  In some areas, the snowpack is at 130% of what would be expected. But, there may be a limit on how much those who depend on it can benefit, at least in the short term. … More heavy rain is expected soon, but the rain and snow don’t directly go to Klamath Basin farmers. They’re still subject to the water allotments given by the Bureau of Reclamation, and the bureau is saying they’re not sure how much will be available. … ”  Read more from KTVL.


Active weather returns to Tahoe this weekend; Another big snow dump on way

“The short period of dry and cool weather wraps up Friday at lake Tahoe with the active pattern returning this weekend and possibly another big snow dump is lining up for early next week.  A couple of fast-moving systems will bring a chance of snow showers this weekend with light accumulations possible over mountain passes, according to the National Weather Service in Reno.  The first from Friday into Saturday morning will bring light showers and slick conditions to Sierra roads. The second wave will bring light-to-moderate snowfall Saturday night into Sunday, including a couple of inches at lake level and Truckee and 4 to 8 inches along the Sierra crest. … ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

As California braces for more rain and snow, the window to visit Tahoe is small

“California earned a blue sky respite Wednesday following another atmospheric river that showered the state and heavily impacted the Sierra Nevada, adding to the snowiest year to date in Lake Tahoe.  The weather forecast for tomorrow calls for a continued break in storms, but another atmospheric river is expected to hit the Bay Area next week. The National Weather Service predicts a weekend system to hit the Tahoe region as early as Saturday afternoon, which could spell trouble for travelers looking to return home from the mountains this weekend. The agency advises travelers to plan for “widespread precipitation early next week with heavy mountain snow.” … ”  Read more from SF Gate.

South Tahoe PUD experiences challenges during rain on snow event

“Rain on snow events bring unique challenges to wastewater operations at Lake Tahoe. As streets and meadows flood, stormwater seeps through manholes and into the sewer system. This inundates wastewater pump stations and the wastewater treatment plant, increasing the risk of sewer spills.  During this week’s atmospheric river, South Tahoe Public Utility District worked every day around the clock to address challenges and ensure reliable water and wastewater services.  On Friday night, an avalanche on the south end of Fallen Leaf Lake destroyed the district’s back-up generator building that supplies power to wastewater pump stations. … ”  Continue reading at the Tahoe Daily Tribune.


Water is life! Exploring modern water management from ridgetop to river mouth in the Sacramento Valley

Bryce Lundberg writes, “It is a great honor to serve as the Chairman of the Northern California Water Association and to work with all of you to cultivate a shared vision in the region for a vibrant way of life–which is all dependent upon our precious water resources. We gather to share our common heritage in the Sacramento Valley, to explore what is exceptional about this region and its special attributes, and to focus on the importance of water resources to everything we do in Northern California. The Sacramento Valley is sourcing our sustainable future through responsible management of the essential resource that millions of birds, hundreds of thousands of fish, thousands of farms and millions of people all rely on–water.  Today, we will explore modern water management from ridgetop to river mouth and how our water is life—the farms and ranches, the cities and rural communities, the fish, waterfowl, and wildlife. Northern California’s water is the lifeblood for our families, our communities and the fish and wildlife that grace this region and our special way of life. … ”  Read more from the Northern California Water Association.

Anderson-Cottonwood Irrigation District remains in good shape, even after canal floods

“From zero water, to too much water: the Anderson-Cottonwood Irrigation District (ACID) saw their canal flood on Tuesday from the heavy rainfall.  Of course, the ACID canal was mostly dried up last year, so these conditions are a complete 180 from what residents had been dealing with. Plenty of ACID customers are frustrated flooding occurred, with some blaming the district for putting them in a unusual position by selling their limited water supply in 2022, leaving the canal unprepared for such an influx of water.  KRCR’s Sam Chimenti spoke with ACID’s General Manager on Wednesday and he clarified some of the frustrations people have. … ”  Read more from KRCR.

USGS teams brave turbulent flood waters across Sacramento region; what they do and why it matters

“When it comes to public safety, getting information out accurately and quickly can make all the difference, especially during weather that could be dangerous. It’s something that scientists with the United States Geological Survey understand all too well.  The USGS is one of the agencies currently out in areas, such as the San Joaquin River, that are most impacted by recent floods. Many properties along a stretch of Hills Ferry Road in the Newman area of Stanislaus County were overtaken and surrounded by floods.  It was there that some USGS teams were hard at work, responding to the floods just as they have throughout the region and the state for the last few months. … ”  Read more from KCRA.

Sacramento to start critical flood control work this week. Here’s when and where

“The Sacramento Department of Utilities is starting critical infrastructure work throughout the city’s flood control systems, according to a news release Tuesday. The project will begin Wednesday on Sea Forest Way, a road neighboring the Morrison and Strawberry creeks. … ”  Continue reading at the Sacramento Bee.

Wastewater ponds in Isleton have spilled into nearby rivers. Is the water quality at risk?

“Isleton, located along the Delta in the southernmost part of Sacramento County, is a city of about roughly 800 people and is surrounded by bodies of water. And on Wednesday, city officials said wastewater ponds have spilled into those nearby waterways.  Those waterways include the Mokelumne, San Joaquin, and Sacramento rivers.  City Manager Chuck Bergson said Isleton has nine ponds that can hold about 60 million gallons of wastewater in total, but recent heavy rainfalls, as well as pipes damaged during the January storms, have filled up all of the ponds to the point where about 2 to 3 million gallons of wastewater have overflowed. … ”  Read more from KCRA.

Isleton sewage overflows into surrounding rivers: are you at risk?

“Sewage from the City of Isleton’s Wastewater Plant has spilled into the surrounding Mokelumne, San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers. The city confirmed with CBS13 that the overflow happened on March 10 — just two days after our initial report.  “It is horrifying,” said Mary Costello, who has lived in Isleton for nearly 10 years. “We cannot have that environmentally.”   This past weekend’s rain was the tipping point. It spilled the primary treated sewage into surrounding areas. Typically, the sewage would need to go through two additional steps: percolation and evaporation.   “The rainwater we have gotten, there has been so much,” said David Pierson who lives in Isleton. “Everything is soaked and drenched.” … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento.


Santa Rosa ends emergency drought declaration following winter storms

“Santa Rosa has ended its emergency drought declaration as winter rains bolstered local reservoir levels and revived streams, replenishing water stores depleted by California’s more than three-year drought.  The move means city-ordered water conservation measures in place since 2021, such as limiting when residents can water their lawn, will be rolled back.  While the end of the local emergency marks an improved drought outlook for the near future, Santa Rosa Water officials warned residents should still be mindful of how they use water to protect the city’s long-term supply.  “It was getting very concerning as you can imagine coming into the winter,” Peter Martin, deputy director of water resources, told the City Council during a presentation Tuesday. “We lucked out.” … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

Editorial: So much water. Why aren’t we trying to save it?

The Sonoma Valley Sun writes, “But not enough to store? After multiple years of drought serious enough for local agencies to impose water conservation measures, major use restrictions, tiered pricing, and fines, we’re surprised there hasn’t been a proposal to create additional water storage. Here we are in the midst of heavy rains, weeks of runoff, surging creeks, and even flooding, while all that beautiful, fresh rainwater simply makes its way into San Francisco Bay.  We wonder why no new major water storage tanks have been built locally, no water storage requirements placed on new home construction, and no financial incentives provided to existing homeowners and businesses to collect and store rainwater? As it is, downspouts are sending huge amounts of water into street gutters, where it makes its way into storm drains that feed the creeks. … ”  Read more from the Sonoma Valley Sun.


Yet another atmospheric river forecast to hit Bay Area next week

“A break from storm weather has finally arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area. The region is expected to see dry conditions Wednesday and Thursday with mostly clear skies, but the dry spell likely won’t last long. Light rain is in the forecast Friday through the weekend as a weak system passes over the region, and weather models are showing that yet another atmospheric river will likely sweep the region early next week.  An atmospheric river that blew through the San Francisco Bay Area on Tuesday brought rainfall totals that were on the lower end of what was forecast, but the storm was still hugely impactful as the rain caused flooding due to soils already saturated from an unusually wet winter. Roadways in the North Bay and Santa Cruz Mountains were inundated with water. … ”  Read more from SF Gate.

Plans to build a massive, floating pool on the San Francisco Bay get legislative boost

“The Bay Area is one step closer to getting its first public floating pool, though challenges remain for the waterfront development just south of the Bay Bridge.  Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, proposed legislation Wednesday authorizing construction of a heated, Olympic-sized pool that would float on the San Francisco Bay, surrounded by retail space, offices and housing.  Because the site of the proposed project — Piers 30-32 — is owned by the state, a developer can’t build there without special legislative approval. But even if Wiener’s Senate Bill 273 bill passes, the project still must get a green light from the city, the state and several other agencies.  Wiener described the proposed project as a “powerful vision for the waterfront.” … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News.


In the deluged mountains of Santa Cruz, residents cope with compounding disasters

” … Numerous atmospheric rivers, columns of vapor that can release heavy downpours when they make landfall, descended on the state from late December through mid-January.  On the Central California coast, Santa Cruz businesses flooded and piers collapsed. Trees toppled over. Landslides spilled over roads in the mountains.   The rains took out Harmon Gulch Road on Jan. 9, according to residents, when a culvert gave out under the road connecting Uccellini-Kuby and her neighbors to the outside world, isolating some residents and keeping others from returning to their homes, about 20 miles from the iconic Santa Cruz boardwalk on the coast.  In 2020, some of those same residents were evacuated during the CZU Lightning Complex, a large wildfire that burned nearly 1,500 structures and stopped a few miles from the houses on Harmon Gulch. When the rains hit this part of the state, the county was still processing more than 200 permits to rebuild homes that had burned.  In certain California communities, residents are coping with recurring disasters that at times arrive before recovery from the last one is complete. … ”  Read the full story at Inside Climate News.

Santa Cruz: Emergency repairs to critical water pipeline underway

“The City of Santa Cruz announced emergency repairs to the Newell Creek Pipeline on Wednesday.  The Newell Creek Pipeline is the sole connection between Loch Lomond Reservoir and the Graham Hill Water Treatment Plant. Storm damage caused the city to shut down the pipeline on Tuesday.  Loch Lomond is the only drinking water reservoir for Santa Cruz, and the Newell Creek Pipeline is the only link between that reservoir and the water treatment plant. The reservoir serves around 98,000 customers and processes 6 to 8 million gallons of water each day. … ”  Read more from KSBY.

Central Coast floodwaters recede, but uncertainty for farming communities grows

“Uncertainty is growing among the people who live and work in the Central Coast communities that were overwhelmed by floodwaters.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of farmworkers are both homeless and without a job because of the flooding.  Evacuees needing help stopped by Westview Presbyterian Church in Watsonville Wednesday.  “I have been looking for some help with clothes for my kids,” Jessica Cervantes of Pajaro said.  Both she and her husband are farmworkers. She doesn’t know what they’ll now do for money.  “We have cars, we have to pay insurance, we have to pay for where we are staying, for food,” she said. “It is hard.” … ”  Continue reading at NBC Bay Area.

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.

City of Grover Beach rolling back water restrictions after heavy rain season

“With all that water from storms in recent months, things are looking much better for the Central Coast.  Both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties are officially out of the drought based on last week’s numbers released by the U.S. Drought Monitor.  As a result, one city is rolling back its water restrictions.  The city of Grover Beach announced that it is scaling back from a Stage 3 Water Shortage Declaration in effect since Sept. 2022. It included a 20% water reduction requirement with possible penalties, but that is no longer the case. … ”  Read more from KSBY.

Santa Barbara County rainfall more than 200% of average to date

“The rain brought into Santa Barbara County by an atmospheric river Tuesday turned out to be less that forecast, but it still totaled between about 1.4 and 2 inches in most areas, although there were some notable exceptions. Damage was also less as a result, with only minor localized mud flows, flooded streets and a couple of downed trees reported as of Wednesday morning. But the precipitation was enough to push the countywide total to more than 200% of average, according to the Santa Barbara County Flood Control District. With reservoirs nearly brimming and inflows leveling off, water agencies were reportedly reducing their downstream releases. … ”  Read more from the Lompoc Record.


Stockton survives latest atmospheric river, flood risk still uncertain

“Stockton was spared the worst of Tuesday’s storm and will spend the next few days mostly dry and in the 60s before another potentially major storm next week.  The National Weather Service’s rain gauge at the Stockton Airport gathered just over a quarter inch of rain from Tuesday’s storm. While local rainfall remained light, the weather service said wind gusts in Stockton were reaching 45 mph midday Tuesday.  Winds were predicted to hit 60-plus mph.  No road closures or major storm damage from Tuesday’s storm was reported from the city of Stockton. San Joaquin County reported isolated road closures from localized flooding, but not to the severity of the impacts the area saw from January’s series of storms. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record.

River stage and Stockton’s flood risk

Artie Valencia, Community Organizer & Government Liaison, Restore the Delta, writes, “To understand flood risks from the recent Atmospheric River storms, Restore the Delta is analyzing River Stages in Feet and SWE (snow water equivalent) levels recorded from the latest storms. The ongoing monitoring of River stages in the San Joaquin River at Brandt Bridge is being done by the California Department of Water Resources, while surface water elevations are tracked by UCLA Climate Scientist Daniel Swain. … The recent “warm” atmospheric river storm increased net watershed SWE substantially due in part to snow occurring still at high elevations, while snowpack at lower elevations absorbed rainwater. There SWE in the Southern/Central Sierra watersheds is record-breaking right now. This snow will melt in late March and into April/May. California has never experienced a snowpack melt this large in our warmer climate. It will be new territory for everyone involved. … ”  Read the full post at Restore the Delta.

Flood Control official: San Joaquin River flooding could cause billions in damage, hundreds of deaths in next 50 years

“Flooding on the nearly 300-mile-long arterial San Joaquin River could cause $1.5 billion in damages and at least 160 deaths per heavy storm in the next 50 years, according to a presentation by Chris Elias, executive director of the San Joaquin Area Flood Control Agency.   Elias made the presentation to the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors during their Tuesday meeting as another atmospheric river storm brought heavy rain and damaging winds to California. The cities of Stockton, Manteca and Lathrop have the lowest level of flood protection when compared to other major river cities in the U.S., Elias said in his presentation. … ”  Read more from Channel 10.

Madera Irrigation District will provide water to its landowners at no charge

“The Madera Irrigation District (MID or District) Board of Directors has made the decision to provide water free of charge to its landowners. At a meeting held on March 15, 2023, the rate was set to $0 per acre foot effective immediately. This rate will be reviewed and adjusted as conditions change.  Use and recharge of surface water are paramount to the District’s groundwater sustainability. For the District to avoid future groundwater restrictions, pumping restrictions, allocations, high fees or taxes, and other adverse requirements, the District, including its landowners, must utilize as much water as possible during these time periods. … ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News.

Bear Creek remains below flood stage after storm brings heavy rains to Merced area

“After a storm brought heavy rains to Merced County and the surrounding areas on Tuesday, forecasters expect drier weather through the rest of the week, according to the National Weather Service. Some parts of the county recorded up to 1.3 inches of rain over the past 48 hours after heavy rains moved through the area Tuesday afternoon, according to meteorologist Jim Brusda at the National Weather Service San Joaquin Valley office in Hanford. Brusda said areas east of Highway 99 recorded about 1 to 1.3 inches of rain while areas west of Highway 99 recorded about one-half to 1 inch of rain over the past 48 hours. Brusda said one area east of Merced recorded about 1.87 inches of rain over the past 48 hours. … ”  Read more from the Merced Sun-Star.

Southern Sierra has biggest snowpack ever, runoff under control for now

“The southern Sierra now has the largest snowpack in recorded history (as measured by snow water equivalent). Not just for March 15, but at any time.  As of Wednesday, the snowpack is 271% of normal and 260% of April 1 average.The Kings River Water Association confirms that is likely true for the upper Kings watershed as well. Amply supplied by multiple warm atmospheric river storms, as of now all creeks and rivers are heading for the Tulare Lake Basin propelled by gravity. Flows are evident from Deer Creek to the Tule River and from the Kaweah — all with more volume than can be handled in the eastern part of the Valley. That includes flows from the Kaweah River says Mark Larsen, who heads up the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District. ”These storms have been huge events,” and water from the Kaweah has been heading to the lakebed “for some time now”. … ”  Read more from the Hanford Sentinel.

After homes flood in Tulare County, decision to pave over creek for new houses draws blame

“After the rain stopped Wednesday afternoon, the prevailing sounds in northwest Woodlake were those of rushing water and gas generators.  On the town’s edge in Tulare County, northeast of Visalia, dozens of houses had flooded repeatedly since early Friday as more storms slammed California.  A new development was cut off from existing homes by a river of brown water a foot deep and 10 feet wide, coursing around signs reading “Sold” and “Ready to Move In!” before hitting a main street and being channeled to a natural creek bed.  Keylan Liles, who has lived in a house on West Cajon Avenue for decades, said he’d “never seen anything like this.”  “Then they built that,” he said, pointing to the new development across the street, which he said replaced orchards and Antelope Creek with ribbons of asphalt. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

Tulare County: Agricultural concerns float throughout the county

“As there is more rain in the forecast in the coming days, the Tulare County Office of Emergency Services encourages anyone who has experienced damages to report them, including damaged farmland. Tulare County needs to collect as much information about the flood damage as possible, so they are asking residents to evaluate impacts to their property as soon as the damage is clearly evident. Having the full assessment will allow the county to receive the federal help they will need to help with clean up. According to Tulare County Farm Bureau executive director, Tricia Stever-Blattler, those involved in agriculture should be on the lookout for an additional survey.  … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette.

Residents of Pond, CA contend with flood damage, lack of safe water

“The town of Pond, California, just north of Wasco, continues to deal with the damage and loss of services caused by flooding, including not having access to safe water for basic needs like cooking and bathing. Right now, residents are just trying to salvage what they can.  Pond resident Bilquees Ubadi’s home has already been damaged by flooding.  “We have been reaching out to a few officials. We’re hoping that the fire department – we’re hoping that the county gets involved,” said Ubadi. “It should have been stopped, honestly. The first time shouldn’t have happened.” … ”  Read more from Channel 23.


Water flowing through LA Aqueduct following completion of repairs to storm-damaged channel

“As of today, LADWP crews have completed repairing an uncovered concrete section of the Los Angeles Aqueduct (LAA) that was damaged during the major winter storm that hit the Eastern Sierra last week, returning the aqueduct to service. Completion of repairs has allowed crews to stop diverting water through the Alabama and Cottonwood Spill gates that was temporarily required during repairs.  The breach, which occurred late Friday, March 10, north of the Haiwee Complex approximately two miles south of the town of Olancha, was the first of its kind and took the expertise of about 75 LADWP personnel to make repairs. Their work included removing spoils, backfilling and placing shotcrete as a means to protect the channel against erosion. … ”  Read more from LADWP.

Ridgecrest: Groundwater Authority begins reckoning with wells running dry

“The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority has begun taking action to mitigate the harm resulting from the IWV groundwater basin’s water levels that are dropping, and have been dropping for decades.  Up to now, IWVGA has largely been an agency of theory and planning. Collecting data to form the best possible theories about what’s happening in the IWV groundwater basin and putting together plans to maintain a sustainable supply of water for communities in IWV.  At the IWVGA board meeting on March 8, that began to change. The IWVGA board dealt with issues that are not theory or planning. They discussed two cases where dropping groundwater levels may have impacted wells, and took action on how to mitigate the harm. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent.


Water restrictions lifted for 7 million in Southern California, but region still urged to conserve

“Mandatory water restrictions are being lifted for nearly 7 million people across Southern California following winter storms that have boosted reservoirs and eased a severe shortage that emerged during the state’s driest three-year period on record.  The board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California decided to end the emergency conservation mandate for agencies in portions of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties that depend on supplies from the State Water Project. Officials said the change reflects improvements in the available supplies, but they urged residents and businesses to continue conserving to help address what is still a water deficit, and to prepare for expected cuts in supplies from the Colorado River’s depleted reservoirs. … ”  Read more from the LA Times. | Read via AOL News.

Storms end Southern California water restrictions for 7M

“California’s 11th atmospheric river left the storm-soaked state with a bang Wednesday, bringing flooded roadways, landslides and toppled trees to the southern part of the state as well as drought-busting rainfall that meant the end of water restrictions for nearly 7 million people.  Even as residents struggled to clean up before the next round of winter arrives in the coming days — with some 27,000 people still under evacuation orders statewide Wednesday — the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s decision brought relief amid the state’s historic drought.  The district supplies water for 19 million people in six counties. The board imposed the restrictions, which included limiting outdoor watering to one day a week, in parts of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties last year during a severe shortage of state water supplies. … ”  Read more from the Associated Press.

SEE ALSOMetropolitan board rescinds emergency conservation mandate imposed on dozens of communities, press release from Metropolitan Water District

How much rain fell in LA? Here’s where the storm shattered rainfall records

“A storm that produced steady and sometimes heavy rain Tuesday and overnight into Wednesday broke Los Angeles-area rainfall records that have stood for decades.  The system fueled by a large plume of moisture over the Pacific Ocean drew moisture into Southern California that came down in the form of overnight downpours in some areas.  “This storm has already broken rainfall records and we’re not done yet,” said NBC4 forecaster Belen De Leon.  At Los Angeles International Airport 1.97 inches of rain fell Tuesday — the sixth highest one-day total on record in March. Downtown LA also saw a rainfall record with the 24th highest single-day rain total on record in March. … ”  Read more from NBC LA.

Ocean water area in Dana Point’s Doheny State Beach closed due to sewage spill

“Ocean water in the area where Doheny State Beach and San Juan Creek meet in Dana Point has been contaminated by a sewage spill and will be closed until further notice, the OC Health Care Agency announced on Wednesday.  The closure occurred after an estimated 4,000 gallons of sewage spilled in the area due to an overflow of a main city sewer line in San Juan Capistrano, Environmental Health officials at the OC health agency said in a statement.  Officials said 1,500 feet of ocean water up the coast, as well as 1,500 feet down the coast of that area, were affected by the spill. Swimming, surfing, and diving in that area are closed to the public until the water quality meets acceptable standards. … ”  Read more from the OC Breeze.


Lithium Valley: $1.4 billion deal is next step toward power plants at Salton Sea

“Two companies have inked a $1.4 billion agreement to build up to six geothermal power facilities around the Salton Sea in Imperial County.  Under the deal signed Wednesday, Controlled Thermal Resources will hire Fuji Electric Corp. of America to finish construction of its first plant. Fuji also will provide parts for — and possibly build — five more. Combined, they could produce 330 megawatts of steam power and enough lithium for millions of electric-car batteries.  CTR declined to disclose whether it has obtained funding for all or part of the ambitious, five-year construction package at its Hell’s Kitchen project site. CTR is one of three companies seeking backing to perfect lithium extraction technology and ramp up geothermal and lithium production in so-called Lithium Valley. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun.

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Along the Colorado River …

House lawmakers join senators in rallying around Colorado River

“A bipartisan coalition of House lawmakers are forming a “Congressional Colorado River Caucus,” with the goal of collaborating on ways to best address worsening drought conditions across the seven-state basin.  “Together, and working with our colleagues in the Senate, we will collaborate with each other and state and local leaders, putting the interests of our communities above all else,” Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) said in a statement on Wednesday.  Neguse, who serves as ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands, announced the creation of the caucus, which will include members from six of the seven Colorado River states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. … ”  Read more from The Hill.

Radio: It’s raining again in Phoenix. Here’s what a wet spring could mean for Arizona’s water supply

“There is more rain falling Phoenix on Wednesday, which adds on to an already wet winter and early spring. But how much of an impact is all of that rain and snow having on the region’s water supplies?  To find out, The Show checked in with Joel Lisonbee. He’s a climatologist and drought information coordinator at the National Integrated Drought Information System within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  Lisonbee talked about are the latest data is saying about where we are in the west in terms of the drought, relative to all the precipitation we’ve gotten so far this winter.”  Listen at KJZZ.

Arizona: Microsoft agrees to make data centers air-cooled amid water infrastructure challenges in Goodyear

“Redmond, Washington-based tech giant Microsoft Corp. has agreed to switch its cooling system for future data centers in Goodyear and invest more than $40 million to expand the city’s wastewater capacity through an updated development agreement with the city that was approved last week.  Microsoft has been planning to build a five-building data center campus across nearly 300 acres south of MC 85 and the Phoenix Goodyear Airport since it first purchased the site in 2018. It has been working with the city for several years to find a solution for the significant amount of wastewater produced from cooling its data centers — all as it continues to build out its campus in phases. … ”  Read more from Channel 15.

Arizona: Rio Verde Foothills poised to sue Maricopa County over water woes

“Residents of Rio Verde Foothills will likely sue Maricopa County over its inaction in solving the community’s ongoing water crisis.  Community members gathered to discuss next steps a week after the county rejected Scottsdale’s proposed solution. While residents had problems with the proposed deal, which would have seen Scottsdale sell water to the county for distribution to Rio Verde Foothills, they were happy that an agreement was finally on the table, and had hoped the county would negotiate to improve it.  Instead, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors rejected the proposal outright, urging Scottsdale to contract with the private water company EPCOR to provide water. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service.

Supreme Court to hear arguments on Navajo Nation water needs

“The Navajo Nation will argue Monday at the Supreme Court that the United States must meet the water needs of their reservation in Arizona, amid long-standing tensions about how to apportion the dwindling flow of the Colorado River.  In the first oral arguments of a two-week sitting of the high court, the Navajo will defend a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that kept alive their long-running legal effort to force the government to come up with a plan to provide enough water.  In court filings, the tribe contends that an 1868 treaty promised both land and water sufficient for the Navajos to return to a permanent home in their ancestral territory. … ”  Read more from Roll Call.

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In national water news today …

U.S. public water supply is a local source of phosphorus pollution

“In the United States, public water systems are sometimes dosed with phosphate to reduce copper levels and lead pipe corrosion. This practice can help avert humanitarian disasters like the Flint water crisis, but because phosphorus can contribute to eutrophication, it could harm local aquatic ecosystems. For example, phosphorus that enters the environment when pipes leak or people water their lawns may find its way into rivers, lakes, and groundwater. Exactly how much phosphorus enters the environment from the public water supply, though, is unknown, making it difficult to address this source of pollution.  Flint et al. estimate for the first time how much phosphorus enters the environment from the U.S. public water supply. Using data from 2015, the team analyzed phosphate dosing concentrations, data from public water system facilities, the volume of water supplied by these facilities, and estimates of how much water is lost because of leakage and outdoor water use. … ”  Read more from EOS.

PFAS rule sets up sprawling legal war

“EPA’s historic move to regulate “forever chemicals” in drinking water has set the stage for a multi-pronged courtroom slugfest among the agency, water utilities that must comply with the rule and multinational conglomerates that have flooded the environment with the toxicants linked to a long list of health problems, including cancer.  Although lawsuits cannot be filed until EPA finalizes its PFAS proposal, interested parties will spend the coming months filling the regulatory docket with comments that will eventually inform the final rule or shape opponents’ future legal challenges against the agency — and one another.  Case law on the topic is limited: EPA’s proposal marks the agency’s first enforceable standard of its kind for PFAS and its first effort to regulate a drinking water contaminant in over 25 years. … ”  Read more from E&E News.

The water industry reacts to proposed PFAS regulations for drinking water

“With the U.S. EPA’s announcement on Tuesday proposing maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a key and long-awaited step toward a final rule, stakeholders throughout the water industry — representing utilities, industry, the environment, legal interests, and public health — were quick to offer their opinions. … ”  Read more from Water Online.

As hackers loom, U.S. Epa requires water systems to evaluate cyber defenses

“Months after a notable wave of computer system hacks caught drinking water and wastewater systems around the country off guard, the U.S. EPA is making the protection of these systems a priority.  “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will require states to evaluate cybersecurity as part of their checks on public drinking water systems,” The Hill reported. “The agency said … that many such systems haven’t taken basic steps to ensure their security, even as cyberattacks are becoming more frequent.” … ”  Continue reading at Water Online.

As 1.5 degrees looms, scientists see growing risk of runaway warming, urgent need to slash emissions

“As the planet rapidly approaches 1.5 degrees C of warming, scientists warn that rising temperatures are degrading the Earth’s ability to soak up carbon dioxide, threatening to further exacerbate climate change. To keep warming in check, they stress, countries must make steep cuts to emissions in the next few years.  Research highlighted in Hot Science, a project of the Bezos Earth Fund and World Resources Institute, underscores the urgent need to draw down emissions, which hit a record high last year as the global economy recovered from the pandemic slowdown. Ocean warming also hit a new high in 2022, with scientists warning that the “global long-term warming trend is so steady and robust that annual records continue to be set with each new year.” … ”  Read more from Yale e360.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

EVENT: Water Energy Education Alliance to hear results of statewide water and wastewater workforce needs assessment

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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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