Kaweah River by Kevin

DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: Dual storms to swipe California with flooding rain, mountain snow; High drama, ugly deeds, politics swirl amid the waters of a re-emerging Tulare Lake; Microplastics found in Sierra snowpack; A solar solution to the West’s changing climate?; and more …

California storms continue …

Dual storms to swipe California with flooding rain, mountain snow

“The end of winter will not bring relief from a historically stormy cold season in California. AccuWeather meteorologists warn that twin storms early this week can deliver another round of significant precipitation, first to Northern California, then through the southern part of the state.  The first of these storms arrived Saturday evening. The rain spread across much of coastal Northern and Central California before working its way into interior sections, with moderate rain even being reported at times in cities such as Santa Rosa overnight. This particular storm will continue to deliver rain through Sunday, as the heaviest precipitation shifts inland and the system continues to drive onshore. … ”  Continue reading from AccuWeather.

Another series of storms to slam West, including waterlogged California, with more heavy rain, snow this week

“A brief stretch of dry weather across California has ended as the FOX Forecast Center tracks another series of strong storms expected to bring more heavy rain and mountain snow to the West, including the waterlogged Golden State.  At least two storm systems will impact the region through the middle of the week ahead.  The first storm is already impacting millions of people in the West from California to portions of southwestern Oregon.  As the system continues to push into the region, rain and mountain snow will move into areas such as northern Oregon and Washington in the Pacific Northwest later Sunday and into Sunday night.  The FOX Forecast Center said after this first storm exits the region Monday, a second storm will be aiming for California by Tuesday with more chances of heavy rain in the lower elevations while the Sierra Nevada – which has already seen more than 50 feet of snow this winter – can expect to see additional snowfall accumulations. … ”  Read more from Fox Weather.

Graphics: California inches away from a 30-year snowfall record as more of the state eclipses the 50-feet mark

“A series of atmospheric rivers over California have pushed total snowfall just inches from a 30-year record held at the Central Snow Laboratory, a University of California, Berkeley field research station located at Donner Pass in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains.  “We passed the 2010/2011 season record of 53.58 feet on Monday, and this is now the third snowiest winter since the snow lab opened in 1946,” said Andrew Schwartz, lead scientist and manager at the snow lab.   And more snow is expected to fall in the coming days.  “We are now less than 3 inches from the second snowiest winter record of 55.91 feet set in 1983, and we’ll likely hit that with next week’s storm,” Schwartz said.  … ” Read more from USA Today.

Precipitation piles on in California

“Two successive atmospheric rivers hit California in March 2023, bearing rain, snow, and strong winds. Hundreds of thousands of people lost power as the storm toppled trees, unleashed mudslides, and flooded streets.  The clouds parted on March 16, allowing the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite to acquire a clear false-color image (right) of Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. The false-color image on the left shows the same area on the same date in 2022. Snow appears light blue in the false-color images, water dark blue, and vegetation green.  The previous morning (March 15) the Sacramento River at Red Bluff (120 miles north of downtown Sacramento) flooded to 259 feet in elevation. That is just a foot shy of the record level set in 1997, according to the National Weather Service. … ”  Read more from NASA’s Earth Observatory.

SEE ALSONewsletter: How a 1-hour flight can teach you a lot about water in California, from the LA Times

Much of California has escaped drought, but what lies ahead?

“A recent barrage of winter storms has helped rescue much of California from years of drought, but the state is bracing for possible floods and continued groundwater shortages in the months ahead.  At this time last year, the entire Golden State was coping with drought. Now nearly 64 percent of it is drought-free, after a series of “atmospheric rivers” inundated much of the region with rainfall and heaped piles of snow across the Sierra Nevada mountain range this season.  The improvements have been so drastic that the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California even moved this week to rescind all water use restrictions. … ”  Read more from The Hill.

California floods …

California’s massive snowpack is driving fears of major farmland flooding

A drone provides a view of construction equipment placing rock to close a levee break caused by floodwaters from the Pajaro River near the township of Pajaro in Monterey County. Photo taken March 15, 2023 by Ken James / DWR

“After a season of massive snowfall, snowpack in California’s southern Sierra Nevada is way above its normal level. It sits at a whopping 261 percent of its typical April 1 peak, and this week, it sailed past levels from the 1982-83 season, a benchmark year in the modern record for snow and for floods. As spring begins and temperatures warm, the bulk of that snow will start to melt  — driving fears of serious flooding in the valley below. Runoff from recent storms is already filling the region’s reservoirs, sending floodwaters into farms and communities downstream, with more rain and snow still on the way. “It is important to understand that we are in uncharted territory,” said Jeffrey Mount, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center, in an email. “The amount of water tied up in snow in the watershed is about twice the average amount of runoff in an entire year.” … ”  Read more from the Washington Post.

High drama, ugly deeds, politics and moments of kindness swirl amid the waters of a re-emerging Tulare Lake

“The drama was high on the Tulare Lake bed Saturday as flood waters pushed some landowners to resort to heavy handed and, in one instance, illegal tactics, to try and keep their farm ground dry — even at the expense of other farmers and some small communities.  Someone illegally cut the banks of Deer Creek in the middle of the night causing water to rush toward the tiny town of Allensworth.  The levee protecting Corcoran had its own protection as an armed guard patrolled the structure to keep it safe.  At the south end of the old lake bed, the J.G. Boswell Company had workers drag a piece of heavy equipment onto the banks of its Homeland Canal to prevent any cuts that would drain Poso Creek water onto Boswell land. … ”  Read more from SJV Water.

Big rivers kept in check as residents grappled with havoc from streams, springs and snowmelt in Madera and Fresno counties

“In Fresno and Madera counties, it was smaller streams and snowmelt that caused most of the flooding and other issues brought on by the latest spate of atmospheric rivers pummeling the state.  That was especially true in eastern sections of the counties where the normally placid Mill Creek became a raging torrent through Wonder Valley and springs and snow melt from warm rains plagued residents of Oakhurst and North Fork.  The county’s two main river systems, the San Joaquin and Kings, remained in check even as water managers eyed the record-breaking snowpack in their upper watersheds with trepidation.  “We’re not seeing problems yet, but we have a big snow pack,” said Michael Jackson, Area Manager for the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the Friant Dam at Millerton Lake. “Right now, we’re maximizing releases into the river to the level it can safely handle them.” … ”  Read more from SJV Water.

Flooding reported near historic Black town in Tulare County. Did someone breach riverbank?

“A historic region founded by African-Americans in the San Joaquin Valley escaped damage from floodwaters released when a nearby creek bank was breached Saturday, officials said. Crews were working to stop flooding from Deer Creek near Road 88 just north of Allensworth in southwestern Tulare County, according to Cal Fire spokesperson Jazz Shaw. Shaw said residents in the area were under a flood warning and not an evacuation order as of 2 p.m. Saturday. Where flooding could be seen, the water was roughly thigh-high, and roads leading to Allensworth from the north were blocked. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee.

‘We need to stop the water’: A California town’s frantic fight to save itself

“Last week, when it rained for days and floodwaters poured onto roads, the people of Allensworth grabbed shovels and revved up tractors.  The makeshift barriers they built with sandbags, gravel and loose sand kept the water back.  Now, the town of nearly 600 people northwest of Bakersfield faces another threat — a broken levee, along with yet another storm expected to hit in a few days.  On Saturday morning, the residents were back at work, shoveling sand onto a 3-foot high berm.  Allensworth, the state’s first town to be founded by Black Americans, is now a predominantly Latino community. Some residents work on nearby farms, planting and harvesting almonds, pistachios, grapes and pomegranates.  Local leaders say they need help from county, state and local officials to protect their town. … ”  Read more from the LA Times. | Read via Yahoo News.

Toppled trees, displaced cattle herds: Tulare County ag dealing with deluge

“In Tulare County, where signs reading “pray for rain” line the highway, many communities are underwater – and that includes agricultural fields.  Flooded orchards, toppled trees, and displaced farmers and farmworkers. That’s what Tulare County Farm Bureau Executive Director Tricia Stever Blattler is observing across her county.  She said in the last three days as floods began to get out of control especially along the Tule River, the dairy community has scrambled.  Dairy farmers have deployed trailers and trucks to people needing to move hundreds to thousands of cattle in a matter of a day, Stever Blattler said. Mounds of cattle feed are wet and moldy, and some producers have had to relocate entire herds of cattle. … ” Read more from KVPR.

Who deserves a levee? The fight to save California communities from flooding

“The tiny town of Hamilton City sits in the direct path of the mighty Sacramento River, muddy and swollen by this week’s storms.  But a new $125 million levee system – the product of the community’s 35-year-long fight to make something big from something broken — is protecting its 1,900 farmworkers and their families.  This week, as a levee failure drowned the town of Pajaro, Hamilton City’s river also overflowed. But then it gently spread across a landscaped floodplain, losing its fury. The levee held firm. The system, the first of its type in the state, offers a new paradigm for how to respond to flood risk in an era of dangerous climate change. … There are 1,758 levee systems throughout California listed in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers database, built to hold back rivers and protect towns, homes, businesses and crops from flooding. Sixty years old on average, many are past their design lives. But the highest priority for replacing the structures is awarded to affluent urban areas, not small, rural and disadvantaged communities.  The tale of this town, two hours north of Sacramento, shows the challenge of protecting these modest places. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News.

DWR supports flood fight efforts at Pajaro River levee break

“As storms continue to bring rain and snow to California this winter, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) is working to provide support to communities impacted by flooding. One recent high-profile event was the levee break along the Pajaro River in Monterey County.  During the storms in early March, there were growing concerns about the conditions of rural levees along the Pajaro River, threatening the downstream community of Pajaro. As part of DWR’s efforts to support communities statewide with flood response, DWR deployed a Flood Fight Specialist team to the location at the county’s request to assess conditions. … ”  Read more from DWR News.

Reservoirs high stakes ‘cat & mouse’ game with Mother Nature

“While an abundance of water is making its way into California reservoirs, federal, state and local dam operators are worried about two uncontrollable things: more atmospheric rivers and a quick melt of the snowpack in the mountains.  Even though they’re not completely full, many California dams have begun releasing water, just to make sure they have space for a lot more to come.  For instance, Lake Sonoma is releasing a lot of water into the Russian River on its way to the Pacific Ocean at Jenner.  “This is good to see though, it’s, I’ve never seen them let out this much water, so that’s good,” said Rick Deaton. … ”  Read more from KTVU.

In other California water news …

Scientists found microplastics in Sierra snowpacks. Should we worry about Bay Area drinking water?

“Scientists have found microplastics in snowpacks across the Sierra Nevada, a jarring discovery that may help California regulators better understand how the polluting particles are entering the state’s drinking water supply.  The preliminary findings also indicate that microplastics — tiny fragments shed from synthetic clothing, food packaging and tires — are so widely dispersed that they have found their way to some of the most remote and pristine parts of the California landscape, a troubling evelopment as scientists race to understand their long-term health impacts. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Testing at the source: California readies a groundbreaking hunt to check for microplastics in drinking water

“Tiny pieces of plastic shed from food wrappers, grocery bags, clothing, cigarette butts, tires and paint are invading the environment and every facet of daily life. Researchers know the plastic particles have even made it into municipal water supplies, but very little data exists about the scope of microplastic contamination in drinking water. After years of planning, California this year is embarking on a first-of-its-kind data-gathering mission to illuminate how prevalent microplastics are in the state’s largest drinking water sources and help regulators determine whether they are a public health threat. … ”  Read more from Western Water.

A solar solution to the West’s changing climate?

“The summer of 2022 was tough for farmers in the American West: Hot, dry conditions led snow to melt early, reservoirs to run low and streams to pare down to mere trickles. For many, that meant less water to grow crops and reduced yields. But Byron Kominek, a farm manager near Longmont, Colorado, enjoyed an abundant harvest of peppers, tomatoes, squash and lettuces.  When his family farm stopped making a profit, Kominek installed solar panels on the plot and invited Sprout City Farms to grow crops beneath them. It’s a setup known as agrivoltaics — where solar panels and agriculture occupy the same land — and the duo effectively harvests the sun twice, for both food and electricity. Protected from the high midday sun, plants under panels become mini swamp coolers: As they open their pores to photosynthesize, water escapes from their leaves — creating a cooler microclimate. This reduction in heat increases the efficiency of the panels — even as the panels are sheltering the crops beneath from overexposure to the hot sun. Consequently, agrivoltaics can provide benefits to both farmers and electricity producers. … ”  Read more from Ensia.

Extensive winter rain likely to heighten wildfire risk in California

“While relentless precipitation across California has eased some of the state’s most concerning environmental conditions, the risk of wildfires along the western coast is likely to increase for residents moving into the dry season.  Because of the recent storms, much of the vegetation that had stunted growth over the last few years due to extreme drought has been replenished, but according to experts, this flush could become the perfect tinder for fast-moving wildfires as the plants dry out in the months ahead.  “When you build up your vegetation to those levels, the fire risk goes up. Just logically, there’s more to burn,” said Dr. Chris Potter, an ecologist with the Earth Sciences Division at NASA’s Ames Research Center. “That’s sort of the downside for our wet years.” … ”  Read more from Fox 5 San Diego.

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

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

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In commentary this weekend …

Editorial: It’s now not a drought; it’s a water storage problem

The Bakersfield Californian editorial board writes, “Last weekend, 15 million people in California and Nevada — many of them in the Central Valley, including Kern County — were under the threat of flooding. Evacuations were announced, and federal and state emergencies declared, as California continued to be pummeled by torrential rains and snowfall. And water-logged Californians braced for yet another “atmospheric river” to hit the state midweek. Atmospheric rivers are bands of moisture that can stretch for thousands of miles and act like fire hoses as they dump water from saturated air. These storms have been accompanied by heavy mountain snowfall that will eventually melt and add to floodwaters. Words like epic and record-breaking are used to describe the extreme, months-long weather events. That leads to the logical question: Is California still in a drought? That depends on how you define “drought.” In California, it’s more complex than just the absence of rain — which has been the situation since 2019. It is the balance between water supplies and water use. … ”  Continue reading at the Bakersfield Californian.

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Podcasts …

WATER TALK: Atmospheric Rivers

A conversation with Dr. Katerina Gonzales (EPA Climate Adaptation Advisor) and Dr. Daniel Swain (UCLA) about atmospheric rivers, climate extremes and futures, and climate science communication.

THE LANDSCAPE: The tangled fates of Arizona and Arabia

Aaron and Kate are joined by author and professor Natalie Koch, whose new book—Arid Empire: The Entangled Fates of Arizona and Arabia—explores the ways in which Arizona and Saudi Arabia have worked together to promote desert agriculture, and how that work is connected to a global obsession with engineering our way out of ecosystem collapse.

WATERLOOP: EPA’s move to regulate PFAS

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed drinking water regulations for several types of PFAS, the so-called forever chemicals that are pervasive in society and the environment and pose a risk to human health. The announcement was made at an event in Wilmington, North Carolina and this episode features the remarks by EPA Administrator Michael Regan and commentary by waterloop host Travis Loop.

ENGINEERING WITH NATURE: Visionary ideas for restoring America’s estuaries

Over 40% of Americans—that’s 130 million people—live along the coasts of the United States. That high concentration of people is putting a lot of pressure on sensitive coastal ecosystems. Host Sarah Thorne and Jeff King, the new National Lead of the Engineering With Nature® Program, are joined by Daniel Hayden, President and CEO of Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE). RAE, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to protecting and restoring bays and estuaries along the coasts, has a bold vision for the future where EWN and nature-based solutions play a critical role.


Extreme weather in North America usually brings images of severe thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes, floods and droughts and a rising sea level. I am sure that you agree that Florida is one state in the U.S. where planning for these future events makes a lot of sense. California has more in common with Florida than you might think. Water is a Many Splendor ’ed Thing brings you another water relationship that has a personally significant impact to your life.  Produced by Steven Baker, Bringing People Together to Solve Water Problems, water@operationunite.co 530-205-6388

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In regional water news this weekend …


‘Let’s not forget the last few years’: A look at water supply in Mendocino County following the storm

“For the first time in years, large swaths of California — about half, by some estimates — have been lifted completely out of drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Statewide, snowpack is at 200% of the average peak since 1981; California has had 149% of its average precipitation. The majority of Mendocino County is currently considered no longer in drought, with easternmost zones classified as “abnormally dry.”  That data, though, gives us a snapshot of a moment in time. It doesn’t show what the summer will be, what next year will bring, or what new challenges could be in store, as Nicholas Malasavage of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) illustrated for The Mendocino Voice in a phone conversation Thursday. He’s part of the team that manages outflows from Lake Mendocino and other area reservoirs. … ”  Read more from the Mendocino Voice.

PG&E signals that it will speed up removing dam which helps divert water from the Eel River to the Russian River

“PG&E has signaled strongly that it is considering the expedited removal of Scott Dam due to seismic concerns, according to a news item in an industry publication on March 16. In the meantime, the spillway gates at the top of the dam will remain open.  This will cause Lake Pillsbury, the reservoir behind the dam in Lake County, to be ten feet, or 26% lower than it normally is, heading into spring. According to the PG&E article, “With the dam gates remaining open, water availability will be similar to dry year conditions experienced in 2020 and 2021.”  PG&E owns and operates Scott Dam and Lake Pillsbury, along with the rest of the Potter Valley hydropower project, which diverts water from the Eel River into the Russian River. The utility is in the process of developing a plan to surrender the entire project. … ”  Continue reading at the Redheaded Blackbelt.


Beginning of spring, beyond, to be stormy at Tahoe

“The beginning of spring will be snowy with at least two weather systems forecast to move through the Lake Tahoe region, officials said.  One system has already entered the basin and will last into Monday, the first day of spring, before another storm drops into the basin for Tuesday and Wednesday.  The National Weather Service in Reno has a winter weather advisory in effect through 11 a.m. Monday and a winter storm watch that goes into effect at 5 a.m. Tuesday and lasts through 11 a.m. Wednesday. … ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune.


Editorial: Our forecast was all wet, but dry times will come

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat editorial board writes, “On Jan. 4, with a heavy rainstorm in the North Bay forecast, our editorial was headlined, “Don’t count on a drought-buster.”  Ten weeks and as many atmospheric rivers later, hillsides are emerald green, Lake Sonoma is at its highest level in years, still more rain is in the forecast, and emergency drought restrictions are history in Santa Rosa. You can water your lawn at any time of day and take a long shower without feeling guilty.  Well, even Willie Mays never batted 1.000.  But — you knew a “but” was coming, right? — water is a perpetual concern in California. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.


Marin Municipal Water District seeks rate hikes of up to 20%

“Most Marin Municipal Water District ratepayers could see their water bill costs increase by 20% this summer under a proposed rate plan released this week.  The proposed rate hikes under the four-year plan are significantly larger than those approved in recent decades. District staff and governing board members said the increases are necessary to address several pressing priorities and challenges the utility faces in the aftermath of the recent drought.  These include balancing the utility’s finances after a reduction in water sales, saving to secure new sources of water to weather future droughts and addressing a backlog of maintenance for the water supply system. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal.

Reeling from storm damage, local farms face delayed strawberry, tomato harvests

“On Monday afternoon, Joe Schirmer canceled deliveries to restaurants and farmers’ markets from his popular farm, Dirty Girl Produce, and prepared for the latest atmospheric river set to slam Northern California. He nervously monitored a dry creek bed on one of his four Watsonville properties. During intense storms earlier this year, it had already filled with water and jumped its bank.  On Tuesday, it was just as Schirmer feared. Heavy rain and winds hit the region. The creek turned into a rushing river. It jumped its bed in a new spot, eating into rows of leeks and gouging an 8-foot chasm into what’s usually a road for the farm’s tractors. The damage will likely mean the loss of more than a half acre of land that can no longer be farmed, Schirmer said. “It’s kind of irreparable,” he said. “I can’t imagine how we fix it.” … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Are there drugs in the poop? Some Bay Area places are testing sewage to find out

“In an effort to better track drug use and overdoses — now among the leading causes of deaths among young and middle-aged adults in many U.S. communities — health and sewage agencies in two Bay Area jurisdictions recently began testing wastewater for traces of fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine and nicotine.  Marin County and Sewer Authority Mid-Coastside, the sewage district that includes the city of Half Moon Bay, started testing samples of their community effluent for signs of the drugs in February and November, respectively. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

How one Bay Area team is responding to increasing threat of plastic pollution to world’s oceans

“It’s a startling reminder, often hidden from our collective view. A cargo hold full of debris and plastic plucked from a floating garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean known as the North Pacific Gyre. We got a close-up look last year when the recovery ship KWAI docked in Sausalito.  It was a mission organized by the Ocean Voyages Institute. Mary Crowley is the executive director.  “We started doing it to learn about what was out there, and to figure out the best ways to collect it. And now we’re doing it to kind of create change, to create a habitat where the ocean life isn’t being killed,” Crowley said. … ”  Read more from KGO.


Monterey County investigates suspected sewer leak from pipeline near Pajaro

“Monterey County has uncovered an issue with a high-pressure sewer pipeline that serves Pajaro and nearby communities.  Randy Ishii, the county’s director of public works, facilities and parks, said Saturday that he believes the pipeline was damaged in the flood.  The pipeline is approximately under the Highway 1 bridge, according to Ishii.  “It’s the area that was badly scoured by the Pajaro River floodwaters that tore through the area,” Ishii said. … ”  Read more from KSBY.

Another California reservoir is about to spill — for the first time in 24 years

“Heavy rains from a series of atmospheric river storms have filled another San Luis Obispo County lake to the brink of spilling for the first time in more than two decades. Lopez Lake near Arroyo Grande was at 92.6% capacity as of Friday afternoon, according to data from SLO County Public Works, a massive gain from where it was just three months ago. As recently as Dec. 10, Lopez was at a mere 22% of capacity. On Jan. 1, it was at 24%. Less than a week ago, however, the reservoir had improved to 66% filled. The combination of multiple atmospheric rivers in January and March now have it nearly at capacity.  “It’s definitely going to spill,” San Luis Obispo County Public Works Department spokeswoman Paula McCambridge told The Tribune. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee.


Evacuation orders issued along parts of San Joaquin River

“The San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services announced on Saturday that that evacuation orders have been issued for Airport Court in Manteca and Haven Acres Marina in Lathrop.  The two sites were originally under an evacuation warning, but the orders were increased due to concerns of increased water levels and likelihood of loss of power from water encroachment on the power system, furthering potential safety concerns for residents. The San Joaquin River in the areas has now reached the danger stage, and the water levels have caused lack of accessibility to roadways, impeding residents from safely evacuating on their own and causing safety hazards for first responders and emergency personnel. … ”  Read more from Stocktonia.

San Joaquin County to fix erosion on Calaveras River levee

“San Joaquin County will fix erosion along a prominent portion of the Calaveras River levee near Interstate 5 in Stockton. According to county officials, increased flows into the Calaveras River during storms caused the riverbank to erode as fast-moving water took out chunks of dirt. The erosion to the north bank of the Calaveras River levee was first discovered on New Year’s Day, but the extent of the damage was hard to measure as the river remained high. … ”  Read more from Channel 10.


California’s Route 395 remains closed after being buried by avalanches

“In late February, a series of avalanches buried half a mile of U.S. Route 395 on the eastern side of California’s Sierra Nevada under 30 to 40 feet of snow and debris. Three weeks and another atmospheric river later, a portion of the highway near Mono Lake is still closed, with no solid estimation as to when it’ll reopen.   The full extent of the damage the avalanches caused to U.S. 395 won’t be known until snow and debris have been cleared, which could take weeks, Caltrans District 9 wrote in an update posted to Facebook. The avalanches that struck the hillsides above the highway between Lee Vining and State Route 167 are expected to have carried rocks, trees, guardrails, fencing and pieces of road along with heavy amounts of snow and ice, guaranteeing that future debris removal will be a lengthy process.  … ”  Read more from SF Gate.


Flooding vulnerabilities of L.A. River’s Glendale Narrows spark concern amid record rain

“Heavy rain this week turned the Los Angeles River flood-control channel into a raging torrent, and with new storms expected on Monday, emergency officials are keeping a wary eye on a well-known stretch that has long been vulnerable to flooding.  Glendale Narrows is a lush seven-mile section of rumbling runoff between Griffith Park and downtown that attracts numerous sightseers and bicyclists. But despite its Instagram appeal, the narrows is a flood manager’s nightmare.  It remains one of the few areas along the World War II-era channel that has a soft bottom due to its high water table. As a result, it is prone to erosion and buildups of sediment, vegetation and debris that could back up flows dumped by major storms. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

Ditching your lawn for a drought-tolerant yard? What you need to know

“Many Southern California homeowners have traded their conventional grass-dominant lawns for some version of drought-tolerant or xeriscape landscapes. Giving up the weekly task of mowing and edging, along with the prospect of lower water bills and perhaps even a rebate was appealing. The internet is full of beautiful photos of California-friendly gardens and instructions on how to design and install them. Unfortunately, guidance on maintaining these landscapes is difficult to find.  In my own neighborhood, I saw some very well-done (and some not so well done) yard conversions. A few were professionally designed and installed, but many were do-it-yourself projects. Now, a few years later, most of these landscapes have either been replaced with artificial turf, extensive concrete work, or allowed to fall into disrepair. … ”  Continue reading at the Riverside Press Enterprise.

Newport Beach receives updates on groundwater replenishment system

“The Newport Beach City Council received a presentation on the groundwater replenishment system on Tuesday at the behest of Councilman Brad Avery, who sits on the board representing the city for the Orange County Sanitation District.  The district oversees service to roughly 2.6 million residents and serves about 20 of the 34 cities throughout Orange County. Orange County Sanitation District general manager Rob Thompson noted eight pump stations within Newport Beach are operated by the sanitation district.  “We take our jobs as environmental stewards very seriously,” Thompson told the council. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

Overflowing Mojave River prompts emergency in Apple Valley

“Apple Valley officials have declared an emergency to allow work crews to reinforce the embankment between the overflowing Mojave River and a sewer line.  Town Manager Doug Robertson, in his role as director of emergency services, declared the local emergency on Thursday. The work is being performed after the river began flowing within a few feet of the sewer line and with additional storms expected next week, town officials said.  The winter storms and heavy rains, coupled with large water releases from mountain reservoirs and flooding, have resulted in conditions of “extreme peril” within the Town of Apple Valley including potentially “calamitous water levels” in the Mojave River, town officials said. … ”  Read more from the Victorville Daily Press.

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Along the Colorado River …

Commentary: Farmers can’t keep hogging the water in parched Southwest

Adam Minter, a Bloomberg Opinion columnist, writes, “The lush lawns and green golf courses of Southern California are an emblem of the desert Southwest’s dependence on the Colorado River. But they’re just a small part of the demands placed on this crucial water resource in times of both drought and plenty. The far bigger part, as much as 80%, comes from millions of acres of irrigated farms across the parched region. Those farms play a crucial role in the economic health of California and the desert Southwest. But their water rights and consumption are increasingly at odds with the region’s massive growth. As the seven states of the Colorado River Basin seek to preserve the river, agriculture must give up more. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post.

California to store more rainwater as it vies with Arizona for flow from Colorado River

“After watching billions of gallons of rainwater wash away into the Pacific, California is taking advantage of extreme weather with a new approach: Let it settle back into the earth for use another day.  As the latest batch of storms lashed the Golden State, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order this week to hasten projects that use rainwater to recharge aquifers, reversing decades of an emphasis on channeling it into drains and out to sea.  “California is seeing extreme rain and snow, so we’re making it simple to redirect water to recharge groundwater basins. This order helps us take advantage of expected intense storms and increases state support for local stormwater capture efforts,” Newsom said in a statement.  Even apart from the order, the state had already committed $8.6 billion to the effort. … ”  Read more from Cronkite News.

Low Lake Mead water level tough on small town

“With the water level on Lake Mead dropping each year, an unincorporated community near the lake has seen its tourism dollars dry up as well.  “That grocery parking lot on the weekends used to be full of boats and trailers. Now it’s nothing. It’s nothing,” said Mark Hopkins, 48, one of the owners of the Ace Hardware in Overton.  The sixth-generation Moapa Valley resident said his community is “highly impacted by the lack of tourists and lack of the people utilizing the lake.”  At his hardware store, Hopkins has adjusted the fishing section, stocking gear targeted at trout fisherman headed northeast to Utah rather than gear for Lake Mead fisherman. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service.

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.

The Buzz: How snowmelt affects Arizona’s water supply

“It’s been a wet winter in southern Arizona. Rain gauges monitored by the National Weather Service’s Tucson office are showing an average reading of 0.9 inches above average since October.  And snowpack in the mountains of northern Arizona is similarly above average. Flagstaff had one of its snowiest winters ever, and mountains in eastern Arizona saw around 140% of normal snowfall.  The moisture has the state mostly out of drought conditions, and the state’s reservoirs are so full that they are releasing water to make room for snowmelt.  The Salt River Project began low-level releases from two reservoirs that are fed by the Verde River in recent weeks. … ”  Read more from Arizona Public Media.

As drought persists in the west, justices to consider Navajo Nation’s rights to Colorado River

“Thirty percent of Navajo Nation citizens have no running water. Navajos use 8-10 gallons of water a day, about a tenth of what the average American uses. Meanwhile, the water level at Lake Powell, the massive reservoir created by the Glen Canyon Dam on the Utah-Arizona border, is at historic lows, threatening its ability to generate power. The federal government has ordered the seven Colorado River states to reduce their water usage by one-fifth. After 23 years of drought, the desert southwest is in a water crisis.  The Navajo Nation reservation is about the size of Ireland or West Virginia, with large portions bordered by the Colorado River. Yet, the Navajo Nation does not have water rights to the main stem of the river. … ”  Read more from the SCOTUS blog.

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In national water news this weekend …

Scientists learn more about how to limit human exposure to ‘forever chemicals’

“A recent study revealed elevated levels of potentially toxic chemicals in some species of fish in two Northern California rivers.  The study specifically identified the Feather River and San Joaquin River, along with hundreds of other waterways in the United States.  The chemicals are scientifically known as PFAS – poly-and perfluoroalkyl substances – and there are thousands of different types that are used in manufacturing. PFAS are commonly used as part of waterproof materials. They can also be found in food packaging, clothing and certain floor coatings, as well as firefighting foams.  The United States Environmental Protection Agency refers to PFAS as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down on their own. … ”  Read more from KCRA.

New review of world water resources provides sustainable management strategies

“A recent review study led by The University of Texas at Austin provides an overview of the planet’s freshwater supplies and strategies for sustainably managing them.Published in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, the study highlights the connections between surface and groundwater and calls for diversified strategies for managing them both.  “I like to emphasize a lot of solutions and how they can be optimized,” said lead author Bridget Scanlon, a senior research scientist at the UT Bureau of Economic Geology, a research unit of the Jackson School of Geosciences. … ”  Read more from PhysOrg.

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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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