DAILY DIGEST, 3/17: A very wet winter has eased California’s drought, but water woes remain; CDFW testing ‘parentage-based tagging’ of fall-run chinook salmon; CA’s atmospheric river storm strengthens almond markets; Ironhouse Sanitary district wants to develop Delta island; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • WEBINAR: Colorado River Basin Governance, Decision Making, and Alternative Approaches from 12pm to 1pm.  As one of the most overallocated and highly managed rivers in the US, the Colorado River faces significant challenges from a growing population and a changing climate. This presentation will summarize current hydrologic conditions and challenges facing the basin today and the programs and institutions in place to manage these challenges.  Speaker: Rich Juricich, MS, PE , Principal Water Resources Engineer Colorado River Board of California.  Click here to register.

California storms …

A very wet winter has eased California’s drought, but water woes remain

“Torrential rain and snow have again drenched California in recent weeks, amplifying an already wet winter season. The extreme precipitation has begun to ease the state’s long-term drought, the driest three-year stretch on record.  The recent onslaught of precipitation has flooded highways, broken levees and knocked out power for tens of thousands of utility customers, inflicting widespread destruction on Californians still weary from the back-to-back atmospheric river storms that pummeled the state in January.  The deluges have also had another effect: replenishing reservoirs and building up snowpack, which has improved drought conditions across much of the state. This week, the U.S. Drought Monitor noted “broad reductions in drought coverage and intensity” across California and neighboring areas.  But long-term concerns remain in a state where years of aridity, rising temperatures and unsustainable water use have left their mark, experts say. … ”  Continue reading at the New York Times (gift article).

‘There is a whole hell of a lot of water up there right now’

“From late December through January 2023, a total of nine atmospheric river storms swept across California, dumping 32 trillion gallons of water in three weeks and killing at least 22 people before moving inland. February and March brought still more. In late February, the Bay Area hills were blanketed in several inches of rarely seen snow. In early March, residents in Mendocino and Lake counties were snowed in for more than a week, and the snowpack statewide topped 200% of normal, reaching historic levels in the Central and Southern Sierras. On March 11, a levee burst on the Pajaro River, forcing thousands of residents in the farmworker community of Pajaro to evacuate as floodwaters submerged their homes in the middle of the night and drowned strawberry and lettuce fields. … More storms are forecast through mid-March. After that, meteorologists expect this year’s parade of atmospheric rivers to slow down. But the saturated landscape, historically full reservoirs and massive snowpack they leave behind will continue to affect drought conditions and fire risk well into the year, and may increase the risk of major flooding as all that snow melts. … ”  Read more from High Country News.

California snowpack hitting record levels with more on the way

“After the torrential storms in January resulted in a record-setting snowpack in California, the concern was that the state would dry up and the snowpack would be quickly depleted.   With more storms on the way, the Golden State could end up with the most snow it has had in recorded history.   Driving the news: California’s snowpack currently checks in at 223 percent of what is normal for this time of year, according to the latest data provided by the California Department of Water Resources. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun.

How another atmospheric river coming to California could impact historic snowpack

“The series of storms that have brought a deluge of precipitation to the state have pushed California’s snowpack to levels that are significantly above seasonal averages, with some parts of the state seeing more than double these amounts.  But experts are concerned that this snow, particularly at low elevations, is vulnerable to melt with future storms, exacerbating issues like flooding and mudslides that have devastated parts of the state in recent weeks.  With the normal wet season nearing its end at the beginning of April, the state appears to be on track to have one of the best snowfalls in recent history. … ”  Read more from KTLA.

California’s drought has eased, but the state isn’t out of the woods yet

“An extremely wet winter has lifted much of California out of drought, and more rain is on the way. The deluge of rain and snowfall this season has “wiped out exceptional and extreme drought in California” for the first time since 2020, according to a spring outlook published today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The agency forecasts more improvement throughout spring, with even more regions potentially seeing their drought conditions end. Even so, California’s recovery will be patchy, and it’ll take years to replenish some crucial water sources. And as recent storms have already shown, the state will continue to face new dangers from flooding.  “Climate change is driving both wet and dry extremes, as illustrated by NOAA’s observations and data that inform this seasonal outlook,” NOAA administrator Rick Spinrad said in a statement. … ”  Read more from The Verge.


The spillway connection: DWR increases outflow

“The California Department of Water Resources made the jump from 15,000 cubic feet per second to 20,000 cfs Wednesday as part of its ongoing plan to keep up with storm-related inflows.  DWR made the announcement Tuesday afternoon stating that the increase was in response to additional runoff caused by snowmelt and recent heavy rainfall.  Since Friday, the rebuilt Oroville Dam spillway has been consistently releasing water for the second time since April 2019 when the spillway was utilized to release 25,000. According to information from DWR, the spillway, which was rebuilt in 2018 following 2017’s failure, is capable of releasing outflows of up to 270,000. … ”  Read more from the Oroville Mercury Register.

SEE ALSODWR plans road closure as it increases Lake Oroville outflows, from Action News Now

In other California water news …

CDFW testing ‘parentage-based tagging’ of fall-run chinook salmon

“Under cover of darkness and with a series of cold, late-winter storms building, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) staff gingerly released approximately 1.1 million fall-run Chinook salmon fry (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) into the American River at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery in Sacramento County.  It was an evening of firsts for CDFW on Feb. 23, 2023. It was the first release of fall-run Chinook salmon into the American River in more than three years. Since the spring of 2020, drought conditions have forced the trucking of Nimbus Fish Hatchery juvenile salmon to points within the San Francisco and San Pablo bays.  It was also the first time in decades CDFW has released fall-run Chinook salmon at such a small size. The salmon fry, just three months old and only 1.5- to 2-inches in length, had just absorbed their yolk sacks and had not yet been fed by the hatchery. Typically, fall-run Chinook salmon released from the hatchery are about 6 months old and 3.5- to 4-inches in length.  “By putting these fish out into the river now, they are going to experience the natural environment of the lower American River as natural-origin fish would,” said Jay Rowan, who oversees CDFW’s Fisheries Branch. … ”  Read more from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Canceled California salmon season becomes financial burden for fishers

“Salmon season is closed for all of 2023. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife says the drought from recent years limited salmon’s ability to breed, and now there aren’t enough to open the commercial season. Salmon fishers say it is a massive financial burden.  “We have crews that depend on us, we have families to feed,” said Sarah Bates, a salmon fisher based in San Francisco. “I am not exactly sure what we are going to do this summer. It makes me nervous.”   There are two main fisheries in the Bay Area – Dungeness crab and salmon. Officials delayed crab season again this year, and now salmon season is closed. Fishers say the industry will take a big financial hit. … ”  Read more from KGO.

New analysis finds 2023 storms would have yielded water for up to 2.4 million people, farms, and businesses if Sites Reservoir were operational today

Today, the Sites Project Authority announced updated findings from an analysis that projected Sites Reservoir could have diverted and captured 250,000 acre-feet of water as a result of the January storms if the reservoir was operational, and an additional potential 244,000 acre-feet of water as a result of the February-March storms.  “Once again, a flood of storms in Northern California produced a significant amount of rainfall that would have been captured if Sites was operational,” said Jerry Brown, Executive Director of the Sites Project Authority. “Rain will not always come at the right time, so we must build Sites Reservoir to capture storm and floodwater for future use during dry periods.” … ”  Continue reading this press release from Sites JPA.

How California is using recent floods to recharge groundwater

As part of this groundwater recharge project, floodwater diverted from the Kings River was directed to inundate some fields at Terranova Ranch. Andrew Innerarity / DWR

“Even as California reels from a series of drenching atmospheric river-fed storms and near-record snowfall, the drought-plagued state has approved a plan to replenish its groundwater.  The State Water Resources Control Board has approved a request by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to divert floodwaters from the San Joaquin River so they can percolate down to aquifers.  The plan would divert 600,000 acre feet of water — or more than the 191 billion gallons supplied to the city of Los Angeles each year.  “Coming off the heels of the three driest years in state history, California is taking decisive action to capture and store water for when dry conditions return,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a news release.  Newsom also has signed an executive order temporarily lifting regulations and setting clear conditions for diverting floodwater without permits to recharge groundwater storage. … ”  Continue reading at the Weather Channel.

Capturing heavier rains in an era of drought

“If a thirsty Southern California and southeast Australia share a common need, it is to capture and more water from the fewer but heavier rainstorms that are becoming normal with climate change.  UC Riverside public policy professor Kurt Schwabe was just awarded a Fulbright Distinguished Chair Fellowship to collaborate with Australian scientists to better capture and store water as the planet warms. He will work with policy experts to ready Australia and California to recharge managed aquifers, establish groundwater banks, and create water markets to reduce the impacts of drought associated with climate change.  More specifically, the researchers will develop an institutional structure for the use of depleted aquifers for water storage in California and in Australia’s expansive Murray–Darling basin region, which has tributaries of the Murray River, Australia’s longest river. … ”  Read more from UC Riverside.

Pajaro: The look of floods to come soon

“The Pajaro levee break was no surprise and officials know it was weak and vulnerable to high, fast water flows.  In California, there are more than 14,000 miles of urban and rural levees. They protect dry land, cities, towns, homes, businesses, farms and public property from floods. Levees also convey two-thirds of California’s drinking water.  “On average, they are 57 years old and many of them were built using standards that were much less rigorous than are current building practices,” said UC Irvine Climate and Flood Scientist Amir AghaKouchak.  Levees protecting critical infrastructure and population centers have been improved, but that is only some levees. … ”  Read more from KTVU.

Sunken boat pulled out of Sacramento River Deep Water Channel

“Authorities have recovered a sunken boat from the Sacramento River Deep Water Channel near Rio Vista.  The Solano County Sheriff’s Office says the 41-foot cabin cruiser had been left unattended and then sunk during the recent storms that have slammed Northern California and swelled waterways.  Due to the boat being an environmental as well as navigational hazard, officials decided to coordinate to get the vessel out.  On March 3, with the help of the Solano County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol and Lind Marine, the boat was pulled out of the water. … ”  Read more from CBS News.

California’s atmospheric river storm strengthens almond markets

“California almond growers continue to assess potential damage from the recent atmospheric rainstorm in the state. “It brought a lot of water and snow to the valley. With most of the rivers and creeks spilling, all the water alongside orchards was flooded,” says Bikram Hundal of Custom Almonds LLC. With almond bloom almost done in California, the assessments will look at the toll that fewer bee flight hours, colder temperatures and hail have all taken on the potential 2023 crop.  For a water-intensive crop such as almonds and looming Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) regulations, the water was a welcome respite and the flooded orchards will undoubtedly help with the groundwater recharge says Hundal. … ”  Read more from Fresh Plaza.

California’s new pesticide notification system aims to protect public health. Will it work?

” … Today in California, public notifications alert communities to things like child abductions, wildfires and severe weather. Yet despite decades of research linking pesticides to health harm, the general public receives no advance warning when a toxic pesticide is to be applied. That will change now that California Gov. Gavin Newsom has allocated $10 million to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation to develop a statewide notification system. The public will have access to an online platform to find out about upcoming applications of hundreds of the most dangerous pesticides in a given area. Community advocacy was key in securing that funding in the 2021 budget, according to DPR spokesperson Leia Bailey. … ”  Read the full story at Voices of Monterey Bay.

The debate over California’s landmark environmental law hits new venue

“California’s bedrock environmental law has helped protect residents, wildlife and natural resources from pollution and other negative effects of development countless times since then-Gov. Ronald Reagan put it on the books more than half a century ago.  But the California Environmental Quality Act, better known as CEQA, sometimes is weaponized by competing businesses, labor unions and anti-development neighbors who aren’t necessarily motivated by environmental concerns. They challenge projects in court, based on CEQA complaints, and delay or kill some projects entirely. Some people now argue that such tactics have contributed to California’s housing crisis.  Witnesses spelled out those competing realities during an all-day hearing Thursday before the Little Hoover Commission which, for the first time, is studying whether to recommend changes to the environmental law. … ”  Read more from the OC Register.

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In commentary today …

Waiving California environmental rules for Delta water equates to a civil rights issue

Kasil Willie is the staff attorney for Save California Salmon and a member of Walker River Paiute Tribe, and Regina Chichizola, executive director of Save California Salmon, writes, “There has been a lot of attention for Gov. Gavin Newson’s executive order encouraging California agencies to waive environmental laws to deliver more water to powerful agricultural interests. There have also been hearings about modernizing California’s outdated water rights system.  Largely missing from this discussion is the fact that California still lets race decide who has access to its most precious resource – water.  An analysis of census data for 14,000 individual water right holders suggests that 91% are white.  Ninety percent of California farm operators are white and control 95% of our farmland. Those farmers use 80% of our developed water. Many receive abundant water supplies while cities face shortages and our water quality and ecosystems decline.   California’s antiquated water rights laws were written before women or people of color could own land or vote. It was an era when white people could declare Native Americans vagrants and take them as slaves.  Can you imagine if we still had the same voting, criminal justice or education laws we had a century ago? … ”  Continue reading at Cal Matters.

Newsom’s Delta decisions are the sort of responsive moves California needs for water crisis

Charley Wilson, executive director of the Southern California Water Coalition, writes, “Two recent watershed decisions in California exemplified how difficult it is to manage this precious resource.  Last month, many water leaders applauded Gov. Gavin Newsom for taking quick action to suspend a 1999 environmental regulation and keep more water in reservoirs on a temporary basis. This was a commonsense and prudent move to allow California to adapt in the face of changed climate conditions and severe pressure on the state’s other main source of supply, the Colorado River.  The thinking: Let’s hold on to this water now in case drier times are ahead.  Then the weather forecast changed. A warm atmospheric river shifted course, threatening to melt record snowpack in California’s mountains and send huge quantities of water through the state’s waterways. To prevent catastrophic flooding and operate dams safely, the state acted quickly to release water, creating room in its reservoirs for new flows. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


The 12th atmospheric river of the winter is heading to California and Lake Tahoe

“Enjoy the sun, quiet and calm while it lasts around Lake Tahoe as storms are hanging out on the horizon.  Cool, dry weather is in store to end the work week, but a couple of quick and weak storms will bring a chance of mountain snow and gusty winds this weekend. It is after the weekend when there is potential for a larger, stronger storm (sorry).  The 12th atmospheric river (yes, we are over them too) will affect California from Monday to Wednesday. It looks this storm will come in multiple parts and there are still a lot of variables this far out. It is trending more southerly and affected Alpine and Mono counties and south, but there is still a chance that Lake Tahoe will have heavy snow, see travel disruptions, and add to the already exacerbated snow load. … ”  Read more from South Tahoe Now.

Photo Tour of Palisades Tahoe, CA Buried in Snow | 662″ of Snow & Counting

“I haven’t seen it this deep since 2006.” – Aaron Fox, 3/15/23.  That quote kinda says it all…  Palisades Tahoe is buried.  We mean, really buried. … ”  Check it out at Snow Brains.

Conservancy grants $250k to tackle invasive plants in Lake Tahoe

“The California Tahoe Conservancy Board on Thursday approved a $250,000 grant to Tahoe Resource Conservation District for aquatic invasive plant surveillance and rapid response in Lake Tahoe.  “Aquatic invasive species threaten wildlife habitat, water quality, and recreation opportunities at Lake Tahoe,” said Adam Acosta, Chair of the Conservancy Board. “We’re excited to support Tahoe RCD’s efforts to detect and remove invasive plant infestations to help protect the Lake.”  Tahoe RCD will employ divers to assess previously treated infestation sites and known hotspots. The divers will remove any invasive plants they find by hand or by installing and removing plant barriers. … ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune.


More rain is on its way to Sacramento. Here’s when it could start — and how long it may last

“Take advantage of the sunny weather while it’s around, because more rain is predicted for Sacramento. The National Weather Service predicts another storm this weekend — though it’s weaker than the last round, said meteorologist Idamis Del Valle-Shoemaker. Sacramento saw 11 consecutive rainy days in March, bringing the city above its normal rainfall for the month with 3.02 inches. It’s not over yet. Expect sunny skies with 60 degree temperatures for Thursday and Friday. Come Saturday night, a weaker system will roll through the region and bring light showers into Sunday. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee.


Scott Dam gates to stay open, meaning Lake Pillsbury diversions to remain at drought levels

“Pacific Gas & Electric says it intends to keep the gates open at Scott Dam from now on in deference to seismic safety concerns, meaning Lake Pillsbury in Lake County will never completely fill again, even in a wet year like this one.  The utility usually closes the dam gates in April, allowing spring runoff and snowmelt to raise the water level for summer recreation and water releases during the later, drier parts of the year.  But the company says updated seismic analysis of the dam suggested a higher level of risk than previous evaluations, prompting a change in operations. Instead, more water will be allowed to flow into the Eel River this spring instead of keeping it behind the dam. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.


Here’s when the next round of rain showers is forecast for the Bay Area

“Bay Area residents have been basking in the sun for the past couple days, enjoying a break from the storms that soaked Northern California, while traces of fog help cool off some of the hillsides near the coast. This sunshine is on its way out by the end of this weekend, but the Friday and Saturday chance for showers from the forecast earlier in the week has been downgraded to patchy drizzles and morning fog.  Starting Friday morning, there’s a good chance fog will envelop the coastline of Sonoma and Marin counties and parts of San Francisco Bay. By Saturday morning, that fog could make its way toward parts of Santa Rosa and raise a few drizzles. These drizzles will then evolve into light showers by Saturday afternoon and evening, and scatter out to the wider Bay Area Sunday morning, delaying some of the flood recovery efforts underway.  The stage is set for a gradual return of Northern California’s wet pattern. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Ironhouse Sanitary district wants to develop island

“Jersey Island, owned by the Ironhouse Sanitary District, has long been a literal dumping ground for the sewage district. Next, it might be the next battleground over development growth. The island is located between Oakley and Bethel Island on the San Joaquin River. Ironhouse currently grows fodder crops such as hay and alfalfa on the 3,520-acre island. The District purchased the island for $3 million in 1993. The District is permitted to apply biosolids on the farm fields. Biosolids are an organic, nutrient-rich soil amendment that are produced through the wastewater treatment process. For years, maintenance of the levees surrounding the island has cost the district about $1 million per year according to Chad Davisson, the district’s general manager. Now, the outside sale of biosolids has covered much of the levee maintenance but the district wants to turn its burden into a profitable asset. … ”  Read more from The Press.

What will happen to vital San Jose rain data?

“San Jose is overhauling its suspect rain measurement system — but the mystery around the data it’s been collecting hasn’t evaporated just yet.  Officials at the National Weather Service said Thursday that they replaced a rain gauge at San Jose Mineta International Airport — the source of the city’s official precipitation data — that previously had been reporting what were believed to be grossly inaccurate numbers. The swap came after intense public criticism of the meager totals in a historically rainy year, the agency said, even though a fourth inspection of the device this year showed nothing wrong with the existing weather instrument.  “It was kind of like, so many questions have arisen, why not just put in a brand new rain gauge?” said NWS’s Science and Operations Officer Warren Blier. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News.

A Field Note from the Pescadero Creek Watershed

We begin at the ocean where CalTrout Bay Area Regional Director Patrick Samuel tells us we will work our way upstream – just like the endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead that swim here. It has been raining persistently the past few days, and so the sun above us is a pleasant (and warm) surprise as we school like fish on the coastal bluff overlooking the craggy coastline to our left.   Many moons ago, this landscape transitioned from an oak valley to a large coastal marsh as sea-level rose after the last ice age. Today, the estuary formed by the confluence of Pescadero and Butano creeks off to our right is smaller. How did we get here? Over the years, the system has been manipulated again and again. Settlers altered the marsh by building levies that trapped water for agriculture and duck hunting, increasing sediment runoff from the hills with logging, and changing how water flows from source to sea. It seems that the Pescadero Creek watershed has seen it all. … ”  Read more from Cal Trout.


Floodwaters reached the Elkhorn Slough. What chemicals did they carry with them?

“When the Pajaro River levee breached shortly after midnight March 11, floodwaters made their way south down Salinas Road, and later that Saturday morning, reached the Elkhorn Slough, a national estuarine research reserve.  On their way, the waters inundated Tri-County Landscape Supply, and just before 3pm on Sunday, March 12, Elkhorn resident Rebecca Dmytryk filed a hazardous materials spill report with the state Office of Emergency Services, stating there was a sheen of “unknown black petroleum product” about 200-by-45 feet in size that appeared to be coming from a shed at Tri-County.  Tri-County manager Juan Ramirez confirms it was the source – a tank holding 60 gallons of waste oil, which is “all gone,” he says. He adds everything was up to code, but it got submerged by the flood. … ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly.

Compromise between Cal Am and ratepayer advocates paves way for Pure Water Monterey expansion.

“An agreement reached March 15 between Cal Am and the Public Advocates Office, a division of the California Public Utilities Commission that represents ratepayer interests has helped clear one of the last hurdles toward the expansion a Pure Water Monterey, a recycled water project led by Monterey One Water, and which would add another 2,250 acre-feet to the Monterey Peninsula’s water supply.  And with that expansion—if it does indeed move forward—there is finally a chance the Peninsula could get out from under the 2009, state-imposed cease-and-desist order against Cal Am, which forced Cal Am, a private water utility, to stop illegally overpumping the Carmel River. Ever since, the order has hung over the Peninsula like an anvil, and has prevented any new water meters being set—with rare exceptions—within Cal Am’s service district. That, in turn, has exacerbated the region’s housing crisis—you can’t build housing without more water. … ”  Continue reading at Monterey Weekly.

Cal Am says it intends to sign water purchase agreement

“After more than a year of wrangling, California American Water Co. has agreed in principle to sign an agreement to purchase water from a major expansion of a Monterey Peninsula water recycling project that when completed will provide for thousands of acre-feet of additional water.  Evan Jacobs, external affairs manager for Cal Am, confirmed Thursday that what was agreed upon was a filing made by the state Public Advocates Office that gave Cal Am a portion of what it wanted. The filing still must be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC, but it’s the first time all sides have agreed in principle since September of 2021.  The Public Advocates Office helps to ensure Californians are represented at the CPUC by recommending solutions and alternatives in utility customers’ best interests. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald.

Central Coast reservoirs show remarkable recovery

“After years of critically low-levels at reservoirs, water storage levels throughout the Central Coast have show remarkable recoveries.  In Nov. 2022, most of California was in moderate to extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. As of March 16, most of the state is no longer in drought, with small portions in moderate and severe drought. … ”  Read more from Cal Coast News.

‘It’s just quite a sight’: Ventura County’s Lake Piru spills for first time since 2006

“Lake Piru reached capacity Thursday, spilling for the first time in 17 years.  Over the last few months and a series of storms, the lake filled from just 14,000 acre feet – just under the minimum amount of water needed called “dead pool” – to 82,000 acre feet or nearly 27 billion gallons of water.  The water breached the Santa Felicia Dam’s spillway around 5 a.m. Thursday, said Mauricio Guardado, general manager of the United Water Conservation District. The district held a special board meeting near the dam a few hours later.  “Everybody’s got smiles on their faces,” Guardado said. “It is overflowing. It’s just quite a sight.” … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star.


Could a record snowpack mean flooding in the Valley?

“As the Central Valley braces for another atmospheric river-driven storm arriving early next week – bringing another 1.5 to 2 inches of rain starting late on Saturday and intensifying into the week – a potential catastrophe is accumulating in the Sierra. As the snowpack at elevation continues building well past historic high levels, the possibility of intense floods in the Valley grows ever more likely.  For the entire Sierra Nevada Range, the snowpack is at 212% of the average. The snow, however, isn’t distributed evenly. The southern Sierra to our east bears an outsize proportion, with the snowpack at 257% of normal on March 12. Experts at the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District (KDWCD) put the total water stored in the snowpack at 700,000 acre feet.  That’s equivalent to more than 280 billion gallons of water. … ”  Read more from Valley Voice.

Stockton receives double its yearly rainfall, with more to come

“Stockton has received nearly double its average yearly precipitation thus far this rainy season, according to the National Weather Service.   The weather service reports the Central Valley city is at about 198% of its normal rainfall for the current rain year, which runs from the beginning of October through the end of September. It’s a stark contrast to last winter, which saw the driest January, February and March in California on record.  Stockton typically receives 10.62 inches of rain on average per year, NWS meteorologist Idamis Del Valle-Shoemaker told Stocktonia Wednesday morning. But she says the city’s current precipitation total sits at more than 21 inches. … ”  Read more from Stocktonia.

Newsom order eases groundwater recharge amid deluges. Stanislaus already does plenty

“Farm groups said they stand ready to inject more storm runoff into aquifers under an executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom. The March 10 decree suspends the permit process for new groundwater recharge projects through June 1. The state seeks to capture more of the runoff from the massive storms this year. Some of the irrigation districts in Stanislaus County have done on-farm recharge for decades. And it is happening increasingly on restored natural floodplains such as Dos Rios Ranch, southwest of Modesto.  The Modesto Irrigation District can easily meet its own customers’ needs from the Tuolumne River this year. That prompted a unanimous board vote Tuesday to sell water to farmers just outside the boundaries. The hope is that these users will forego well-pumping, further boosting the aquifer. “God’s doing it right now, but we’re going to give him a little help,” board President Larry Byrd said. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee.

Lake Kaweah reaches capacity, spillway becomes operational

“As there seems to be no escape from the rain and flooding, Visalia continues to prepare for the worst case scenario throughout town to help prevent devastation to the city.In the morning on March 16, Lake Kaweah reached its capacity allowing for the spillway at Terminus dam to be activated. The additional flow could cause several waterways in Visalia to reach capacity and spill over at various points with some localized flooding near the waterways. It is still unknown the amount of damage these added outflows could have on surrounding communities. Chief of public affairs for the Sacramento district Army Corps of Engineers Rick Brown said it is important that residents listen to their local entities for any information on flooding. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette.

SEE ALSOLake Kaweah reaches capacity, no evacuations in Visalia expected, from the Visalia Times-Delta

Ongoing battle: USACE monitoring Success Lake water releases

“The United States Army Corps of Engineers has been waging an ongoing battle to limit the flood damage when it comes to the water it’s having to release from Success Lake as a result of last week’s storm.  The United States Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District in which Success Lake is include stated on Wednesday it was releasing more than 10,000 cubic feet of water per second, cfs, at Richard L. Schafer Dam through its outlet works and spillway.  The Army Corps of Engineers also stated it was expecting to increase water releases to 12,500 cfs by Wednesday evening. As of Monday evening that release was 6,000 cfs. … ”  Read more from the Porterville Recorder.

Residents in small Tulare County towns take brunt of historic flooding

“Tulare County’s two main reservoirs both “filled and spilled” after the latest series of atmospheric rivers slammed into California starting March 10.  The storms dumped rain on the San Joaquin Valley floor and melted at least some of the historic snowpack in upper elevations, swelling rivers and streams that flooded out residents of numerous communities.  Lakes Kaweah and Success both reached their storage capacities of 185,600 acre feet and 82,500 acre feet, respectively, and began releasing water from their spillways within three days of each other. … ”  Read more from SJV Water.

131 homes affected by flooding at a small Tulare County community. Help is available

“On Wednesday, the main streets along Road 124 and Railroad Drive in the small community of Cutler in Tulare County were mostly cleared. But the area surrounding homes was caked with a thick layer of mud.  Just days before, a canal system near the community was overwhelmed and breached – leading to flooding at 131 homes, some in Cutler and others in Orosi, a town a mile north.  Several families removed damaged belongings from their homes and assessed the flood damage this week. Most said their homes were uninhabitable due to water damage.  Supervisor Eddie Valero, whose district represents this area of the county that runs into the foothills, confirmed most of the affected homes were located directly along the breached canal. … ”  Read more from KVPR.

Tiny town of Earlimart has been dry so far, how long will its luck hold out?

“The flood-prone town of Earlimart has been mostly dry — so far — during this series of massive storms slamming California.  Highway 99, which spears through the center of the tiny farmworker village in southern Tulare County, was flooded out by the White River and had to be closed twice after one, followed by another, atmospheric river inundated the San Joaquin Valley starting March 10.  But the town was mostly spared.  How long can residents expect to stay dry? That remains to be seen. … ”  Read more from SJV Water.

Treading Water: Pond, CA residents doing the best they can in the ongoing flood

“This week’s storm brought more flooding to the Pond community, leaving behind mud and water damage to many of the homes in the small neighborhood.  Residents, including Annette Blevins, say they were able to pump out the flood water and restore safe drinking water to the community on Wednesday, but by Thursday morning, new flood waters had come through, setting them back at square one.  “They’re supposed to be working on Poso. That’s what we’ve been told all week, but then why are we flooding again?” says Blevins. “If that’s happening, why are we flooded again?” … ”  Read more from Channel 23.

Lake Isabella may be the next to “fill and spill” as it is continues filling rapidly

“Lake Isabella could be the next Central Valley reservoir to “fill and spill” as it is rising rapidly, with an estimated two million acre feet of water hunkered down in a record high snowpack and more storms coming.  The Kaweah and Success reservoirs in Tulare County have already reached that point, Success releasing water from its still-under-construction spillway on Monday and Kaweah using its spillway starting Wednesday.  The massive amount of inflow to Lake Isabella has been stunning and the lake is already approaching its “restricted” level of 360,000 acre feet.  “It been rising at almost 1,000 acre feet an hour,” said a clearly awe struck Kern River Water Master Mark Mulkay. … ” Read more from SJV Water.


’Unprecedented’: A monster avalanche has buried a major California highway for weeks

“If it was just another avalanche, residents of California’s Sierra Nevada might yawn. Winters in the mountains are chock full of wobbly snow, especially this winter.  But last month’s avalanche just north of the town of Lee Vining, on the Sierra’s east side, was different. It buried a portion of a major U.S. highway, cut off a string of small communities heavily reliant on one another and stranded food deliveries, mail and even people. For weeks, road crews have been struggling with how to get rid of it.   Technically a series of avalanches, the sprawling icy mass tumbled down more than 2,000 feet, splintering into several slides before crossing Highway 395 sometime around Feb. 25. Snow now sits as thick as 40 feet and spans, on and off, across nearly three miles of road along the shores of Mono Lake. The avalanches carried with them trees, power lines and fences designed to catch rocks. … ”  Continue reading at the San Francisco Chronicle.


Rain rapidly melts snow in mountain areas as residents face a fresh set of challenges

“Recent rainstorms in the San Bernardino Mountains brought both relief, melting much of the snow that had stranded some residents for weeks, and new problems, setting off minor flooding and rockslides.  In Lake Arrowhead, Linda Knorr and her husband had been trapped inside their home for about a week and had to shovel several feet of snow off their property.  They were among many snowed in by a series of snowstorms early this month that left some mountain residents without reliable access to food, supplies and medication.  Plowing the steep highways and streets that snake through the communities of Crestline and Lake Arrowhead was painstaking work. Some residents were effectively entombed in their houses due to impassable roads or towering snow berms that blocked their driveways. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

“Weather whiplash”: Floods hit California as water restrictions end for millions

“While the muddy runoffs, snowed-under vistas, and bright blue tarps that have stretched across Los Angeles rooftops these past weeks may indicate this wet and wild weather isn’t abating anytime soon, news confirming 44 percent of California is no longer in drought and the easing of water restrictions may be the flip side to severe storms buffeting the state.  The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California announced Wednesday it would end water restrictions for nearly 7 million residents—news that arrives as tens of thousands remain under evacuation orders and more Californians face blackouts, landslides and flooding from a pummeling of winter weather. The restrictions—among them, limiting outdoor watering to one day a week—were installed in parts of Los Angeles, Ventura, and San Bernardino counties last year. … ”  Read more from LA Magazine.

4,000-gallon sewage spill closes Doheny State Beach in Dana Point

“Health officials have closed access to parts of Doheny State Beach after roughly 4,000 gallons of sewage spilled onto the beach in Dana Point on Wednesday.  The spill came from a main city sewer line in San Juan Capistrano, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. The closure extends 3,000 feet around the spill site at the mouth of San Juan Creek at the beach in Dana Point, according to officials.  The area will remain closed to swimming, surfing and diving until follow-up tests show the water meets acceptable standards. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

Toxic algae reaches ‘danger’ level at Lake Elsinore

“For the time being, it is not safe for pets or people to go into the water at Lake Elsinore, the city warned Tuesday. The reason is high levels of toxins from algae were found in the lake. “Based on recent lab results from lake water sampling and guidance from the California State Water Board, the City of Lake Elsinore is announcing that, effective immediately, current levels of toxins from algae warrant the posting of a ‘Danger’ advisory,” the city announced. … ”  Read more from The Patch.


The price of San Diego’s ‘drought-proof’ water could spike a whopping 14 percent

“San Diegans are facing a tidal wave of rate increases in coming years for so-called drought-proof water — driven in large part by new sewage recycling projects coupled with the rising cost of desalination and importing the Colorado River.  While many residents already struggle to pay their utility bills, the situation now appears more dire than elected leaders may have anticipated.  The San Diego County Water Authority recently announced that retail agencies should brace for a massive 14 percent spike on the cost of wholesale deliveries next year. While local water managers have ways to ease that pain for residents and businesses, at least in the short term, higher bill are likely unavoidable. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

San Luis Rey River crests at 12.5 feet after heavy rains

“The San Luis Rey River in North County crested at 12.46 feet Wednesday evening, its highest level in several years, according to automated data recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey for the National Weather Service.  No flooding or damage was reported, and the waters had receded to a little under 12 feet by Thursday afternoon. The previous high for the river this year was a little over 10 feet after a series of storms in January. Usually it’s less than 6 feet deep. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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Along the Colorado River …

Colorado river basin lawmakers team up to address western water shortage

“A bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers is looking to tackle water issues involving the Colorado River.  Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., announced that he was leading the effort to find solutions regarding the Colorado River Basin by creating the Congressional Colorado River Caucus.  “As the Representative of the headwaters of the Colorado River, I’m honored to be joined by colleagues from the Upper and Lower Basin States in launching the Congressional Colorado River Caucus. 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 and working together towards our shared goal to mitigate the impacts felt by record-breaking levels of drought. We must protect the reliability and consistency of this critical water source—and we’re ready to get to work,” Neguse said in a statement. … ”  Read more from Center Square.

Lake Mead may face deeper pumping to protect water quality

“The Southern Nevada Water Authority already pumps water to the Las Vegas Valley from near the bottom of Lake Mead. But it may need to pump from even deeper in the shrinking reservoir to protect the quality of that water.  The water authority’s board of directors on Thursday approved spending $1.4 million to evaluate if changes need to be made to the straw that brings water from near the bottom of Lake Mead and determine if the intake should be even lower to ensure that water quality isn’t jeopardized if the nation’s largest reservoir continues its precipitous drop.  The need to evaluate comes less than a year after plunging levels at Lake Mead led the water authority to turn on its low-lake-level pumping station to draw water from the third intake straw and less than three years after the $1.5 billion project was completed. … ”  Read more from the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Lake Mead update: Projections show record low water level coming soon

“New projections for the water level at Lake Mead show a slight improvement over the past two months. The new projections are part of the US Bureau of Reclamation’s “Most Probable 24-Month Study.”  As of March 16, Lake Mead’s water level is 1,045.89 feet above sea level, this is the measurement the government uses for all reservoirs in the Colorado River Basin. The full pool level for Lake Mead is 1,229 feet meaning it is now 183.11 feet lower than when full.  The end-of-the-month projections take into account Southern Nevada’s wet winter and Colorado mountain snowpack. … ”  Read more from KLAS.

SEE ALSO7 facts you may not know about Lake Mead, from the Las Vegas Review Journal

Wet weather could give lakes Powell and Mead a nudge in the right direction

“Record snowfall and rain have helped to loosen drought’s grip on parts of the western U.S. as national forecasters and climate experts warned Thursday that some areas should expect more flooding as the snow begins to melt.  The winter precipitation wiped out exceptional and extreme drought in California for the first time since 2020, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Thursday in a seasonal, nationwide outlook that came as parts of the state are under water. In neighboring Nevada, flood warnings were in effect and rushing water prompted some evacuations overnight in one of Arizona’s tourist towns.  Elsewhere, NOAA’s forecast warned of elevated flood risks from heavy snowpack this spring in the upper Midwest along the Mississippi River from Minnesota south to Missouri. … ”  Read more from KUER.

Feds spend $2.4 million on cloud seeding for Colorado River

“The Southern Nevada Water Authority on Thursday voted to accept a $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to fund cloud seeding in other Western states whose rivers feed the parched desert region.  The weather modification method uses planes and ground-based cannons to shoot silver iodide crystals into clouds, attracting moisture to the particles that falls as additional snow and rain.  The funding comes as key reservoirs on the Colorado River hit record lows and booming Western cities and industries fail to adjust their water use to increasingly shrinking supplies.  “This money from Reclamation is wonderful, we just have to decide how exactly it’s going to benefit us,” said Andrew Rickert, who coordinates Colorado’s cloud seeding for the Colorado Water Conservation Board. … ”  Read more from the Associated Press.

Western water wars at high court focus on Navajo Nation

“The fight for water in the West heads to the Supreme Court next week where the justices will decide if the government has a duty to give a tribal nation a share of the region’s most precious resource.  For over a century, the Navajo Nation has been seeking recognition of get their water rights to the Colorado River. While states like New Mexico and Utah have come to settlements with the Navajo over water rights, Arizona has been a holdout in these negotiations. Now the Navajo want the federal government to step in on its behalf.  “What the Navajo Nation is doing in this case is saying that the United States, because of all these failures to get those water rights quantified, has breached a trust duty to the tribe,” Robin Craig, a professor of law at the USC Gould School of Law specializing in water issues, said in a phone call. “Why Arizona is not thrilled about it is because those water rights from the tribe would come off the top of its share of the Colorado River.” … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service.

SEE ALSO: Feds want justices to end Navajo fight for Colo. River water, from the AP via Spectrum 1

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In national water news today …

New PFAS guidelines – a water quality scientist explains technology and investment needed to get forever chemicals out of US drinking water

“Joe Charbonnet, an environmental engineer at Iowa State University who develops techniques to remove contaminants like PFAS from water, explains what the proposed guidelines would require, how water utilities could meet these requirements and how much it might cost to get these so-called forever chemicals out of U.S. drinking water.  PFAS are associated with a variety of health issues and have been a focus of environmental and public health researchers. There are thousands of members of this class of chemicals, and this proposed regulation would set the allowable limits in drinking water for six of them.  Two of the six chemicals – PFOA and PFOS – are no longer produced in large quantities, but they remain common in the environment because they were so widely used and break down extremely slowly. The new guidelines would allow for no more than four parts per trillion of PFOA or PFOS in drinking water. … ”  Read more from The Conversation.

The filthy truth about your tap water

“Following years of concern, the US Environmental Protection Agency moved this week to clean up drinking water, announcing the nation’s first standards for six “forever chemicals” found in tap water. It’s a foreboding and informal name for human-made chemicals that coat nonstick pans, food packaging, and waterproof clothes before ending up in the water you drink. These chemicals, known as PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are pervasive and found in pretty much everyone—even newborn babies.  If the EPA rule is finalized, public water companies will need to monitor for the chemicals and keep two widely studied ones, PFOA and PFOS, below levels of 4 parts per trillion—around the lowest threshold measurable. The rule will also regulate combined amounts of four other types of PFAS chemicals. … ”  Read more from Wired Magazine.

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NASA Snow Report …


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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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