DAILY DIGEST, 3/21: California turns to farmland to funnel water into depleted aquifers; Sites Reservoir’s novel approach to storing water for the environment; Lake Shasta now three-quarters full, DWR reduces outflows from Lake Oroville; Salton Sea Partnership calls on Newsom to commit to measurable progress at Salton Sea; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • MEETING: State Water Resources Control Board beginning at 9:30am. Agenda items include ocean acidification, a public hearing on the draft 2024 CWA 303(d) impaired waterbody listing recommendations, drought update and current hydrologic condtions, and proposed notification and response levels for manganese. Click here for the full agenda and remote access instructions.
  • WEBINAR: New White House Guidance on Indigous Knowledge from 10am to 12:15pm.  Recognizing the value of Indigenous Knowledge for managing lands, forests, rivers and sea, addressing challenges from a changing climate and more, the White House Office of Science and Technology and the Council of Environmental Quality, released a guidance report on November 30, 2022 directing government agencies to incorporate Indigenous Knowledge into their research, policies, and decision-making.  The Sustainable & Resilient Resources Roundtable invites you to a workshop with speakers from the White House, Federal Agencies and Native American Elders, addressing the the goals of the policy and examples of where it is already in practice.  Click here to register.
  • EPA WEBINAR: Tools for Source Water Protection from 11am to 12pm.   EPA’s Office of Water’s Source Water Protection (SWP) team will be presenting on two tools: The Drinking Water Mapping Application to Protect Source Waters (DWMAPS) and the Funding Integration Tool for Source Water (FITS). In addition, there will be a brief overview of the background and concepts of source water protection. Both tools were developed by the SWP Program and can be used either independently or in tandem by many stakeholders for their source water protection needs.  Click here for more information and to register.

In California water news today …

Amid soaking storms, California turns to farmland to funnel water into depleted aquifers

As part of this a groundwater recharge project, floodwater diverted from the Kings River was directed to inundate some fields at Terranova Ranch, stands in contrast to non flooded areas of the ranch in this photograph taken via drone.
Andrew Innerarity / DWR

“As storms have drenched Northern California, water diverted from the swollen Sacramento River has been flowing from a canal and pouring onto 200 acres of farmland.  For more than a month, the water has spread across fields, forming shallow pools, then percolating slowly into the earth.  This farm northwest of Sacramento, which has previously produced rice, is being used to replenish groundwater. It’s one of a growing number of sites across the Central Valley where landowners and local water managers are using farmland to take advantage of this year’s heavy rain and snow by capturing water and putting it underground.  Once applied to the fields near the town of Dunnigan, the water quickly sinks into the soil and makes its way through sediment to the aquifer. Measurements in nearby wells show that groundwater levels have risen. … ”  Read more from the LA Times. | Read via Yahoo News.

Sites Reservoir’s novel approach to storing water for the environment

“In 2014, Proposition 1 set aside $2.7 billion to fund the “public benefit” portions of water storage projects through the Water Storage Investment Program. Water storage for the environment played a crucial role in determining how much funding the projects would receive. One of these projects, Sites Reservoir, offers a novel approach to storing water to benefit freshwater ecosystems when they need it most. We talked to Jerry Brown, executive director of the Sites Project Authority, to learn more about plans for the reservoir and its ecosystem water budget.  Q: Can you tell us about Sites’ unique approach to managing water for the environment?  From my perspective, the environmental water management portion of the Sites project is probably its most innovative part. … ”  Read more from the PPIC.

Lake Shasta now three-quarters full as rains bring it closer to top

“After a relatively dry February, the spigot has turned back on over the North State, thanks to a series of late-winter storms in March that have brought water levels up at Lake Shasta to almost 40 feet from its crest.  The lake — the state’s largest reservoir — has risen 8 feet over the past week and more than 100 feet since Dec. 1, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation numbers show.  Despite the rain pushing the lake up, it still doesn’t appear that officials will need to release water over Shasta Dam’s spillway this spring, something that has happened only twice since 1998.  But the run of wet weather this month is a welcome change from a year ago. … ”  Read more from the Redding Record Searchlight.

SEE ALSODespite rising towards capacity, Shasta Lake officials don’t expect to open spillway, from KRCR

DWR reduces outflows from Lake Oroville

“The California Department of Water Resources announced Monday that it slowed outflows from Lake Oroville from 35,000 cubic feet per second to 27,500 cfs.  According to a press release issued Monday by DWR, the reduction began at 6 p.m. Monday.  Recent inflows caused by snowmelt, runoff and rainfall have raised the lake’s water elevation considerably since December, prompting DWR and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin releasing water into the Feather River from the dam’s main spillway. On Monday, the lake sat at roughly 858 feet in water elevation.  The release noted that weather could change quickly which might mean a change in the outflows as planned. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record.

Another atmospheric river will thrash storm-ravaged California, threatening more flooding and hurricane-force wind gusts

“Swaths of California still saturated by ruthless storms will get walloped by another atmospheric river, spawning fears of renewed flooding and forcing some residents to flee.  The state has already been hammered by at least 11 atmospheric rivers this season. An atmospheric river is like a fire hose that carries saturated air from the tropics to higher latitudes, dumping relentless rain or snow.  The last, which struck California last week, left soil overly saturated and vulnerable to new flooding and rapid runoffs, the National Weather Service said.  The next atmospheric river is expected to slam California from late Monday night through Wednesday. … ”  Read more from CNN.

No telling how much more snow coming for Sierra Nevada

“No one really knows how much snow fell on the infamous Donner Party when the pioneers were trapped atop the Sierra Nevada for months and dozens died near Lake Tahoe in the winter of 1846-47.   But this season has now etched its way into the history books as the second snowiest in the 77 years of record-keeping at the Central Sierra Snow Lab — more than 56.4 feet (677 inches, 17.2 meters) with no end in sight.  And there’s still a chance it could surpass the record of 67.7 feet (812 inches, 20.6 meters) set in 1951-52 when more than 200 passengers on a San Francisco-bound luxury train from Chicago were stranded for three days near Donner Pass west of Truckee, California. … ”  Read more from the AP via WHEC.

Top 10 historic Sierra snow seasons

“A seemingly never-ending winter at Lake Tahoe has now etched its way into the history books as the Sierra’s second-snowiest on record.  No one really knows how much snow fell on the infamous Donner Party when the pioneers were trapped atop the Sierra for months and dozens died in the winter of 1846-47. But 56.4 feet has now fallen this season at the Central Sierra Snow Lab in Soda Springs, California.  That tops the 55.9 feet that fell in 1982-83. The biggest winter in its 77 years of official record-keeping was nearly 68 feet in 1951-52 when more than 200 passengers on a luxury train were stranded three days near Donner Pass. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News.

SEE ALSOCalifornia’s Unprecedented Snowfall Seen From Space: ‘Absurd’, from Newsweek

What California’s atmospheric rivers mean for drought, floods, fires

“California has experienced an exceptionally wet winter with 11 atmospheric rivers battering the state since late December. A twelfth such storm is due to land on Tuesday, threatening to cause even more flooding, landslides and road closures.  Atmospheric rivers are vast airborne currents of dense moisture carried aloft for hundreds of miles from the Pacific and funneled over land to fall as bouts of heavy rain and snow. Here’s what such storms mean for the near and long term.  California has received 147% of average rainfall so far this season, according to the state Department of Water Resources. … ”  Read more from Reuters News.

California’s drought is not over

“More than a dozen atmospheric rivers in succession prompted people to think: The California drought is over! The levees are breaking, hundreds of people are being displaced by the raging waters, rainfall is breaking records, and story after story suggest we are headed out of the decade-long drought that has devastated agriculture and wiped out the state’s water reserves. Whew. Dodged a bullet.  One part of that story is true. By mid-March, two-thirds of the state was officially out of drought.  But it’s temporary. The deluge shifted the focus, like the diversion in a magic trick.  Welcome to the simultaneous cataclysms of climate extremes: Drought leads to deluge. But deluge doesn’t get us out of the drought: The two are inextricably entwined, as further illustrated in this recent paper in Nature Water, which reports on the growing intensity of both droughts and floods.  You don’t have to look at the latest paper to understand that we’re now in a cycle of drought-deluge-drought-deluge. … ”  Read more from Capital & Main.

Graphic: Past and present California drought severity

“It’s been raining a lot here in California, which is helpful, because most of the state has been in severe drought for the past few years. However, the current aging systems can only capture so much of the rainwater, which means we’re still in a drought. For Reuters, Clare Trainor and Minami Funakoshi use a combo heatmap and area plot to show drought severity over the years.”  Check out the graphic from Flowing Data.

Floods have devastated parts of California. Here’s why they’re so hard to forecast

“Continual downpours this winter have fueled destructive floods across California, from the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Kern River Valley. Rising waters often quickly trigger inundations of whole neighborhoods and prompt evacuations and water rescues.  The science of monitoring and forecasting floods is tricky, scientists say. Every step of the process has uncertainty, from on-the-ground measurements to complex computer models.  Though difficult, the work has critical consequences for people’s lives, especially as human-induced climate change makes storms more potent and floods more extreme. Scientists are hard at work developing new approaches, with the potential to pinpoint flood impacts in real time, down to the level of a specific home address. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

California Farm Bureau: California Court of Appeal sides with farmers in precedential water quality cases

“In a legal win for California farmers, a state appeals court rejected all arguments brought by environmental groups and sided with the California State Water Resources Control Board, the California Farm Bureau and others related to the Central Valley’s Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program.  In its March 17 decision, the Third District Court of Appeal addressed three cases brought by environmental plaintiffs against the California State Water Resources Control Board in which the groups challenged the adoption of general waste discharge requirements for growers within the Eastern San Joaquin Watershed.  “The Court of Appeal’s landmark decision supports reasonableness and balancing in protecting water quality, while also maintaining our food supply and the economic viability of agriculture,” said California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson. “The court’s decision is precedential and applies to irrigated lands regulatory programs throughout the state.” … ”  Read more from Morning Ag Clips.

California storms continue taking a toll on agriculture

“The continuing series of California storms is having a dire impact on agricultural production in several areas of the state. Most notably, in the Watsonville and Salinas areas where a broken levee caused devastating flooding. Multiple atmospheric river events that have come through the area have impacted the production of a variety of different crops. Strawberries in particular have taken a substantial hit, as the area accounts for approximately one-third of strawberry acreage in California.   “Farms face a massive cleanup. As soon as the cleanup is complete, farmers will begin the process of preparing the fields and starting over,” said California Strawberry Commission President Rick Tomlinson. “For the farms that were flooded, this catastrophe hit at the worst possible time. Farmers had borrowed money to prepare the fields and were weeks away from beginning to harvest. Disaster relief and emergency financial assistance will be critical for both the residential community and the farming operations.” … ” Read more from Ag Net West.

Water Wrights coverage of yesterday’s San Joaquin Valley Blueprint meeting

“The Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley’s board met on Wednesday, March 15th at the International Agri-Center in Tulare followed by a public meeting. … How often do you hear someone say something has to be done? That’s usually following a list of the problems defined. It’s true in order to solve a problem it needs to be identified. That is often the easy part. The follow up is developing a solution. There are many solutions for all manner of perceived problems. Solutions can range from simplistic to complex and ridiculous to feasible. The next step is the heavy lift. Implementing the solution. … Example: the San Joaquin Valley continues to have its surface water supplies reduced and we’re headed for an economic train wreck as we are forced to fallow productive farmland. The problem defined: we need more water. The solution: capture excess flood flows from the Delta. The implementation: The Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley. … ”  Read the full story at Water Wrights.

USDA announces new framework to help guide investments in projects addressing water supply, climate change in the West

“In furtherance of its efforts to address the considerable challenges related to water scarcity in the West, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled the Western Water and Working Lands Framework for Conservation Action (Framework) on February 13, 2023, a blueprint designed to help individuals and entities navigate the complexities of resource conservation and climate change resilience. Developed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Framework provides guidance and strategic support for programs that address impacts from drought and climate change, and defines clear goals and strategies that communities can use to respond to threats to agricultural productivity and environmental quality. … ”  Continue reading from Somach Simmons & Dunn.

California’s chinook salmon season has been canceled because of the state’s prolonged drought

“First it was the lobsters and the crabs. Now it’s the salmon.  California has canceled its Chinook salmon season, USA Today reported, meaning it’s less likely that you’ll see the West Coast fish on menus this year. The season, which would have occurred through May 15, was called off to protect fall Chinook in the Sacramento River, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service.  “Obviously everyone wants to fish, but most fishermen understood the status of where the salmon are and understand they need to make sure those salmon stocks remain healthy,” Robin Ehlke, the salmon staff officer for the Pacific Fishery Management Council, told the newspaper. “Taking a pause of a year—so hopefully the salmon has time to regain their strength—seems appropriate.” … ”  Read more from the Robb Report.

Paths to environmental and economic resilience highlighted at 2023 WIP Summit

“The Sierra Nevada Conservancy’s 2023 Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program (WIP) Summit gathered innovative leaders, scientists, and land managers from California’s Sierra-Cascade to discuss their work addressing critical environmental and economic issues affecting the region.  “Over the past few years, it has become clear the California Sierra-Cascade is at an inflection point,” said Angela Avery, executive officer for the Sierra Nevada Conservancy. “On one hand we’ve got wildfires, climate change, extreme weather, and degraded ecosystems, all of which continue to pose an enormous threat to our landscapes and rural communities. But, on the other hand, we’ve got leaders and organizations in this region that are doing amazing work, more work than ever before, to address these challenges in a head-on fashion.” … ”  Read more from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy.

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In commentary today …

California’s drought is over. Its water problems aren’t.

“California’s recent water windfall is a bit like somebody getting a big tax refund after years of dipping into their 401(k) to pay the bills. Any sense of wealth this sudden bounty engenders will be fleeting and perhaps dangerously misleading. Weeks of heavy snow and rainstorms, poetically known as atmospheric rivers, have essentially ended the state’s three-year drought. Just 9% of California is still experiencing “severe drought” conditions, down from almost 33% a month ago, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Some of the state’s formerly parched reservoirs are overflowing. But the deluge on the surface has barely replenished the state’s groundwater, the 401(k) on which this and future generations of Californians will depend. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post.

Developing renewable energy while protecting the farms that grow our food

The California Farm Water Coalition writes, “On its web site, The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) says it conducts hundreds of surveys every year and prepares reports covering virtually every aspect of U.S. agriculture. The agency reports the facts on American agriculture, “…that are needed by people working in and depending upon U.S. agriculture.”  People that work in agriculture or that depend on agriculture includes pretty much everyone on the planet. Excellent soils and a Mediterranean climate make California one of the most productive agricultural centers in the world, allowing the state to produce two-thirds of the nation’s fruits and nuts, and one-third of its vegetables. Not making the best use of this unique agricultural resource would be a big mistake. … ”  Read more from the California Farm Water Coalition.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


PG&E to accelerate removal of Scott Dam due to its lack of seismic stability

“Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has raised concerns about the seismic stability of Scott Dam, and plans to restrict water flow to lower the water level in the reservoir. This will be an expedited measure to limit potential seismic instability of the dam. The decision has been influenced by a recent analysis by the utility’s engineering consultant, which shows that the proposed restriction will improve the dam’s expected stability and safety performance during a major earthquake. … ”  Continue reading at Active NorCal.


Tahoe ski resorts becomes the first in the country to 700 inches of snow

“The historic snowfall continues to slam the Sierra Nevada, with ski resorts throughout Tahoe and the Eastern Sierra approaching historic numbers. With recent parade of storms (and more on the way), two Tahoe ski resorts recently surpassed the 700 inch mark, becoming the first in the country to do so.  On the north side of Lake Tahoe near Donner Summit, both Sugar Bowl and Boreal have reported 700 inches of snow this season. … ”  Read more from Active NorCal.

After break Monday, stormy weather returns Tuesday to Lake Tahoe

“After a break in stormy weather Monday, another storm system will impact the Lake Tahoe Basin from Tuesday into Wednesday, possibly bringing more than a foot of snow to upper elevations and travel impacts.  Tahoe resorts Monday morning are reporting anywhere from 4 to 9 inches overnight with the National Weather Service’s winter storm advisory ending at 11 a.m. Monday.  The service has another advisory, a winter storm watch, that goes into effect at 11 a.m. Tuesday and lasts for 24 hours for more heavy snow, with some rain possible, in Tahoe communities. Accumulations of 4 to 8 inches are expected except 8 to 18 inches above 7,000 feet. … ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

Lake Tahoe fully mixes, records 115-foot clarity

On Feb. 27 or 28, Lake Tahoe flipped or, more correctly, it fully mixed vertically from top to bottom. Full mixing is an annual event in shallower lakes, however, for Tahoe and its 1,640-foot depth, it is a less common occurrence. Lake Tahoe last mixed during the 2018-19 winter.  How do we know it flipped? UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC) researchers are on the lake every week sampling the water quality, the phytoplankton and the overall health. Researchers also maintain instruments in the lake, which take measurements every few minutes.  Typically mixing starts in the fall, with the surface layer of the lake cooling and gradually mixing deeper…. ”  Read more from Tahoe Weekly.

Nevada County and surrounding areas to benefit from federal wildfire resiliency funding

“During a press call today, Vice President Harris, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and White House Senior Advisor and Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu announced $197 million in funding awards to make communities more resilient to wildfires and strengthen the federal, state and local response.   Nevada County will receive funding for two projects, including an update of the county-wide Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP.)  The Vice President kicked off the call by referencing today’s IPCC report. She continued: “Let’s transform how we think about fighting fires. For years, for example, our nation has invested primarily in wildfire response, putting fires out after they start. But to meet this moment, how about if we expand our focus to invest not just in response, but in prevention – which is, of course, about preparedness and resilience. Because we know the best time to fight a fire is before it starts.” … ”  Read more from Yuba Net.


Rain, snow and wind are returning to Northern California. In Sacramento, impacts expected to be milder than recent storms

“After last week’s heavy rain renewed flood concerns, another storm is set to roll into Northern California starting Tuesday. But experts say its impacts — at least in the Sacramento region — are expected to be mild compared to other storms this winter.  “We do have another system that will bring additional precipitation to the area on Tuesday into Wednesday,” said Idamis Del Valle-Shoemaker, a meteorologist with the Sacramento branch of the National Weather Service.  Tuesday and Wednesday’s rainfall is expected to be “on the lighter side,” she said, with roughly a half inch to an inch of rain expected to fall in the Sacramento region. Areas near Stockton and Grass Valley are expected to see similar totals.  She said Sacramentans may see impacts like flooded roadways and longer commute times. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio.

SEE ALSO: How many days has it rained in Sacramento this year? Here’s a look at seasonal records, from the Sacramento Bee

Keeping Folsom Reservoir’s cold water in the bank until it’s needed

“California’s winter storms have blasted the Sierra Nevada with a thick blanket of snow.  That ample snowpack has been subsequently pelted with rain, pushing some of it downhill as runoff through ravines, canyons, and creeks before feeding into the forks of the American River.  The water eventually fills Folsom Lake to the delight of the people throughout the Sacramento metropolitan area who flock there in the heat of summer. Beyond water supply, power generation, instream flow needs, and yes, summertime fun, Folsom has a key role to play in keeping the water temperature in the lower American River hospitable to the fish that return each year to spawn. That means having cold water on demand when it’s needed. … ”  Read more from the Bureau of Reclamation.

Group plans cleanup of portion of Delta after scoping out trash, debris of Bannon Island

“After weeks of rain and rising water levels throughout the region, trash and debris are being washed onto areas like Bannon Island in the delta area of Sacramento County.  The River City Waterway Alliance, an organization that focuses on restoring and protecting Sacramento waterways, on Monday morning assessed and documented the debris while planning for future cleanup.  Since mid-January, the team has collected over 200 pounds of trash and debris from the American River.  “There’s a lot of trash that’s been washed into the water since the recent storms. We want to get a sense of where the conditions are and pick up a little bit as we along,” said Kathleen Ford, one of the members. … ”  Read more from KCRA.

SEE ALSO: Park maintenance crews remove 109 tons of garbage from Bannon Island on Sacramento River, from CBS Sacramento


What to expect from today’s Pineapple Express-fueled storm in the Bay Area

“The first day of spring will kick off with a weather pattern that feels a lot like this past winter. A Pineapple Express-fueled storm will make landfall along the Central Coast near Santa Barbara. And while the bulk of this storm will impact Southern California, its outer bands will reel in rounds of rain showers, gusty conditions and thunderstorms to parts of the Bay Area over the course of the day.  Some of the biggest impacts to the Bay Area on Tuesday will be rounds of heavy rainfall during the morning commute and the risk of thunderstorms around the evening rush hour. These downpours will have the potential to raise gusty winds, lightning and small hail. The stage is set for the a return to turbulent weather in the Bay Area. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

An ancient mound of shells has been mined in the San Francisco Bay for 100 years — but the oyster’s future is uncertain

“For years now, if a commuter were to glance to the north side of the San Mateo Bridge, they might see a lonely barge, painted with the words “Lind Marine,” floating a few hundred yards from the shoreline.  A stray vessel in the San Francisco Bay is not an uncommon sight. But this particular barge is the last sign of one of California’s oldest mining industries, which trades in what might be the Bay Area’s most unusual non-renewable natural resource.  Not gold. Not oil. Oyster shells.  For thousands of years, the San Francisco Bay was home to hundreds of millions of Olympia oysters. Native to the West Coast, they were one of the defining species of the bay’s ecosystem. They were also engineers — ubiquitous creatures that formed enormous reef structures, cleaned the water and sheltered other organisms. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News.

Commentary: Marin Municipal Water District board president outlines actions, strategic rate increase

“For over 110 years, the Marin Municipal Water District has delivered clean, reliable and affordable water to customers.  To maintain this record of service, we must not only increase our resilience to drought and climate change with new water supplies, but also fund the replacement and modernization of aging infrastructure and work to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire on our watershed lands.  The MMWD Board of Directors, bolstered by three new members elected last November, is united with dedicated district staff, in partnership with our customers, to forge a path forward to implement the following actions. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal.


How a long history of racism and neglect set the stage for Pajaro flooding

“Thirty-five-year-old Maria Martinez felt nauseated as she and her son crossed the Pajaro River Bridge into Watsonville, in Santa Cruz County.  Their home in the Monterey County community of Pajaro was flooded after a levee failed during an intense storm on March 10. Within hours, streets, homes and businesses of this mostly Spanish-speaking town of 3,000 people were under several feet of water.  As Martinez crossed, she saw two National Guard Humvees, a few fire department vehicles, a couple of sheriff’s cruisers and a security guard truck blocking traffic from entering the flood zone — an area she and many others chose not to evacuate.  “It feels like the border,” she said. “It’s an awful feeling.” … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

San Ardo faces possible repeat water contamination

“The small, rural town of San Ardo is without safe tap water, after storms flooded the town’s well, possibly contaminating it.  “They can use it for showering. We advise them not to brush their teeth with it, not to cook with it and not to drink it,” Jujhar Kaurkhalsa of the San Ardo Water District said.  Now, some 550 people are forced to rely on water delivered from out of town.  The San Ardo Water District has a 3,600 water tanker, supplied by A&G Pumping based in King City and stationed in front of the town’s library. … ”  Read more from KSBY.

City of Paso Robles receives $9.73M grant to build recycled water infrastructure

“The state of California has awarded the city of Paso Robles a $9,730,000 grant for the construction of the city’s Recycled Water Distribution System project.  The grant is provided by the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, through an agreement with the State Water Resources Control Board. The grant will be in combination with a low-interest loan.  According to a press release sent out by city officials on Monday, the project includes the construction of a major pump station at the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant near the Salinas River, 4.5 miles of large diameter water pipeline across the northern part of the city, and a 900,000-gallon concrete tank at the eastern edge of city limits, near Barney Schwartz Park. … ”  Read more from KSBY.


The water is higher than we need and the snowpack threatens

“The Sierra snow pack continues to go up and the rain keeps on coming. But what goes up must come down. If it comes down too much or too fast, problems we’re already seeing could get worse.  Even without rain, aggravating river flows most California rivers are now at very high levels and more rain is on the way. But it’s that massive snow pack that is creating a real worry for water experts.  The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office issued evacuation orders for two neighborhoods in Manteca and Lathrop. Many folks saw no reason to leave since this is an expected event every five to seven years. “Our houses are built for flooding. So, nobody lives downstairs. Like I told you earlier, only two inches in my bottom floor,” said Airport Circle resident Mel Sparks. … ”  Read more from KTVU.

‘Fighting this clear into June.’ Epic snowpack means flooding problems are only beginning

“The winter of 2022-23 has piled a record snowpack onto the southern Sierra Nevada range on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley. And water officials — already dealing with floods wrought by a series of storms that have drenched central California over the past few weeks — are also facing the likelihood that even more flooding could happen when all that snow inevitably melts. Fresno County Supervisor Buddy Mendes, a farmer in the Riverdale area of southwestern Fresno County, says he’s keeping a wary eye on channels that in normal years are dry, but this year are being pushed to their limits as operators of foothill dams release water to make room for more rain and snow. “I’ve told our emergency services group that we’ve got a short-term deal” with storms expected this week, Mendes said on Monday. “But we’ve kind of got to go to the long game. We’re going to be fighting this clear into June.” … ”  Continue reading at the Fresno Bee.

California dairy farmers prayed for rain – now it’s forcing some to evacuate

“Not long ago, California dairy producer Ryan Junio prayed for rain. The ongoing water scarcity challenges that faced the Golden State was the No. 1 concern for this Tulare County dairy farmer.  “As a dairy producer, water scarcity is an ever-growing challenge and is my top concern,” Junio said last summer.  Junio wouldn’t have thought that nine months later he would be dealing with a different water crisis, as massive flooding has wreaked havoc on California’s largest dairy hub, Tulare County, home to 330,000-plus dairy cows. Recently Junio’s farm, Four J Jerseys, which consists of two dairies located in Pixley and home to 4,200 cows, had to evacuate one dairy that sits south of the Tule River. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West.

Sandbag barrier along San Joaquin River aims to protect Firebaugh from flooding

“Riverside communities across the Valley are bracing for more rainfall that will raise water levels.  On Monday, the entire community of Firebaugh remained under an evacuation warning.  Crews have reinforced the weakest spot along the San Joaquin in hope of prevent flooding.  Pete Ramirez’s family has owned their Firebaugh home along the San Joaquin River for more than 50 years.  “You don’t know what’s going to happen,” Ramirez explained. “So, there’s always a worry and a concern.” … ”  Read more from KFSN.

Towns in California’s Central Valley face flood crisis, forcing thousands to flee

“Thousands of people in the rural San Joaquin Valley have been forced to leave their homes as rivers and creeks have swelled from recent storms, putting neighborhoods and farms under water — and more wet weather looms.The flooding was most severe in Tulare County, where over the weekend scenes played out of residents being plucked from high water by rescuers in boats, dairy workers rustling cattle out of swampy fields, and backhoes pouring dirt to repair storm-damaged levees.In the small, low-lying communities of Allensworth and Alpaugh, about 70 miles south of Fresno, sheriff’s deputies went door to door to evacuate residents before water pushed through stream banks and submerged streets. In the foothills, many in the mountain town of Three Rivers were ordered to leave as rivers rose while mud and water choked off roads. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

SEE ALSOCalifornia town engulfed in floodwater. But residents fear what will happen if they flee, from the LA Times

Shaping up to be the ‘Biggest water year in modern history’ on the Kings River

“Early Monday morning, water started its two-day journey flowing from the Pine Flat Dam into the old Tulare Lakebed.  Water officials feel this is needed, because of all the water the dam is getting, and with more snowmelt on the way.  The water will end up downstream to farmland South of Hanford, and West of Corcoran, where the Tulare Lake used to sit.  “The Kings River has been flowing high now for the last two to three weeks with all of the storms we’ve been having,” said Randy McFarland, a consultant for the Kings River Water Association. “We haven’t had a big water year like this since ’82, ’83, and this one has the potential to be the biggest water year ever recorded or observed in modern history,” McFarland said. … ”  Read more from Your Central Valley.

Tulare County prepares for more rain, flooding

“As areas like Alpaugh and Allensworth continue to flood, the county is warning residents to remain alert and stay vigilant with more rain in the forecast.  The county of Tulare, city of Porterville and city of Visalia are working together through Emergency Operation Services. They issued a joint statement warning their communities that more rain and therefore more flooding could be on the way. County and city officials encourage residents to stay vigilant and be prepared over the course of the next week. Since the county was hit so hard over the last few weeks, local waterways and water systems throughout the county are significantly stressed. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette.

Threats of arrest force hard decisions on Poso Creek, which could swamp two towns

“Jack Mitchell’s phone is ringing off the hook these days, but he almost always picks up.   The head of the Deer Creek Flood Control District is busy coordinating crews and heavy equipment at multiple sites as he attempts to shepherd flood water from the Poso and Deer Creeks and White River along the edges of the old Tulare Lake bed.  But the caller early Monday wasn’t asking for a dozer. Instead, the person issued a warning: “We have papers drawn up and if you move the land plane or cut into the Homeland, you’ll immediately be arrested and thrown in jail,” Mitchell recalled.  The “land plane” is a piece of heavy equipment that was dragged onto the banks of the Homeland Canal, owned by the J.G. Boswell company, at the southern edge of Tulare Lake to prevent a cut into the canal to drain flood water from Poso Creek. … ”  Read more from SJV Water.


Heavy rain to hit Southern California; thousands flee flooding in Central Valley

“A weary, storm-soaked California is bracing for another bout of heavy rain, power outages and potential flooding this week as a cold weather system takes aim at the state.  Light rain was falling in many regions Monday, the first day of spring, with precipitation expected to gain strength early Tuesday and linger into Wednesday.  Unlike recent warm atmospheric river storms that pulled moisture from the tropical Pacific, the incoming system will be a “cold, powerful, dynamic storm coming out of the northwest,” said David Sweet, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. The greatest effects are expected in Southern California. … ”  Read more from the LA Times. | Read via Yahoo News.

Messy cleanup: 40,000 pounds of storm trash collected since February, county says

“Could too much rain cause more pollutant problems? It’s definitely something to keep an eye on as Southern California prepares for yet another storm.  The wet conditions have caused sinkholes and toppled tress, but all the rain is also sending more pollutants into the ocean.  “I think the amount of rainfall that we have had this season is unprecedented, and that means the amount of material that gets carried through the system is also unprecedented,” said Phyllis Grifman, the executive director of the USC Sea Grant program.  Plus, the last three months in Southern California have been pretty wet. … ”  Read more from KABC.


Salton Sea Partnership calls on Newsom to commit to measurable progress at Salton Sea

“In response to comments by California Governor Gavin Newsom, touring the Salton Sea on Monday, March 20 with California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot, according to a press release from the Salton Sea Partnership, the Salton Sea Partnership issued the following statement:  “The governor’s visit to the Salton Sea is heartening, and we’re encouraged by Secretary Crowfoot’s commitment to fill the position vacated in August by Salton Sea Management Program head Arturo Delgado in a matter of days. However, today’s press conference was otherwise lacking in specifics,” the release reads.  “We were disappointed to hear nothing about support for and long-term management of various projects to mitigate wind-blown dust, construct recreation infrastructure and provide habitat, like the Bombay Beach Wetland, a 940 acre habitat enhancement project that aims to protect birds, pupfish, and wildlife,” it reads. … ”  Continue reading at the Imperial Valley Press.

Newsom updates on progress made toward lithium production in Imperial Valley

“Gov. Gavin Newsom visited Imperial Valley on Monday to get an update on the progress being made toward lithium production.  Imperial Valley, located along the border with Mexico and east of San Diego, contains some of the largest lithium deposits in the world, earning the nickname “Lithium Valley.”  One of the deposits is underground near the Salton Sea.  Lithium is essential for battery production, and as California looks to transition more toward electric cars, the state’s energy commission had estimated there’s enough lithium to meet future demand, even across the country. … ”  Read more from KCRA.


Your water bill could go up 14% | Here is how it is affecting San Diego farmers

“According to Public Information Officer Noelle Denke for the Fallbrook Utility District, over the last decade, the San Diego County Water Authority has raised water costs for the Fallbrook and Rainbow Municipal Water Districts by an average of 8% per year. As a result, the region has lost an estimated 10,000 acres of groves and 1 million trees. And now, water rates could go up 14%. “The cost of water has become exorbitant. We’ve had farmers go out of business. We see stumped trees all over Fallbrook and Rainbow,” said Denke. So, why is this happening? … ”  Read more from Channel 8.

San Diego asks public for new ideas on Ocean Beach Pier

“The city of San Diego will be inviting the public to a series of community workshops to give information and collect input on the Ocean Beach Pier Renewal project, the city announced Monday.  That project is intended to provide a long-term solution for the 56-year-old pier, which has been damaged by storms in the past several years — including the possibility of a full replacement.  “The Ocean Beach Pier has provided countless memories for people all around the world since it opened in 1966, but the harsh marine environment has caused major wear and tear over time,” said Mayor Todd Gloria. “We are exploring the potential of replacing the pier because we value its importance to the community of Ocean Beach as an iconic attraction and an economic driver. … ”  Read more from NBC 7.

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Along the Colorado River …

Snowpack rising: Good water news for now, but Lake Mead unlikely to see a difference

Photo by Nikola Knezevic on Unsplash

“Snow is forecast every day this week in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, and snowpack levels have climbed to nearly 150% as warmer spring temperatures near.  It could be the winter we remember as one of the bright spots in a drought that defined the past two decades in the Colorado River Basin.  The Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) stored in snowpack of the Upper Colorado River Basin reached 146% on Monday. The increase pushed measurements in the Lower San Juan region to more than triple what’s considered a normal year. The Colorado Headwaters region — which should benefit from snowfall this week — remained at 127% of normal. … ”  Read more from KLAS.

Senators seek disaster funding for drought-stricken Lake Mead

“Senators from the two states that border Lake Mead are calling for the National Park Service to use some of the $1.5 billion in natural disaster recovery funding the agency received to address the drought-stricken reservoir.  The latest federal spending bill signed by President Joe Biden in December allocated $1.5 billion to pay for recovery efforts at national park lands that have been hit by natural disaster, including severe flooding at Yellowstone National Park last summer that washed out several sections of roads.  In a letter sent Tuesday to National Park Service Director Charles Sams and Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young, Nevada Democratic Sens. Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto, along with Democrat Mark Kelly and Independent Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, asked that Lake Mead’s shrinking shorelines also receive some of that financial attention to address the long-term toll that 23 years of drought have taken on the nation’s largest reservoir. … ”  Read more from the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Arizona utilities have long rejected covering canals with solar panels. Here’s why that may change

“Arizona residents often suggest — to their utilities, the media, their neighbors — that the canals that deliver water from the Salt and Colorado rivers to the big cities ought to get covered with solar panels.  The idea just seems like a natural fit for a place with nearly 300 days a year of sunshine and crisscrossed by wide, uncovered canals carrying precious water that can evaporate under the hot sun.  Utilities have mostly balked at the idea, saying that coverings of any kind on the canals would hinder maintenance on the ditches, and that solar is cheaper and easier to build over solid land. First responders also regularly need to get in those waterways to rescue people and animals. … But the tide might be shifting. … ”  Read the full story at Arizona Central.

Biden may prevail against Navajo in SCOTUS water battle

“The Supreme Court on Monday appeared closely divided on whether to side with the Navajo Nation in the tribe’s high-stakes fight against the Biden administration and four states to protect its right to water from the drought-stricken Colorado River.  While the court could decide the case on narrow procedural grounds, some of the more moderate conservative justices questioned whether a ruling for the Navajo would obligate the federal government to build a vast network of pipelines and pumps to deliver water to the tribe or upset the delicate balance struck by the 40 million people who rely on the massive waterway that travels among seven states and Mexico.  Justice Amy Coney Barrett pressed an attorney for the Navajo Nation on whether it expected the federal government to not only assess the tribe’s needs, but also supply the water it requires. … ”  Read more from E&E News.


A $125 million program to cut Colorado River water use shuffles forward with fractured support

“$125 million conservation program that pays farmers and ranchers to use less water is lurching forward this month in the face of fractured support and a hefty time crunch.  The federally funded conservation pilot program pays volunteers to cut back on their water use on a temporary basis as part of an Upper Basin plan to reduce water use in the parched Colorado River Basin.  On Wednesday, Colorado’s top water board approved protections for water users in the program so conservation wouldn’t impact their water rights, even as big players among the state’s water districts pushed to slow down its launch, and agricultural producers seemed to be conflicted about joining the program in the first place. … ”  Read more from the Colorado Sun.

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In national water news today …

The IPCC’s latest climate report is a final alarm for food systems, too

“The world’s top climate scientists are not pulling any punches in their latest assessment: The climate crisis is already affecting the world’s food supply and exacerbating hunger—and those impacts are going to get worse. “Rapid and far-reaching transitions” are required in every sector, the experts concluded, including food and agriculture. And if we’re going to “secure a livable and sustainable future for all,” those changes must happen within the current decade.  “Food systems around the world are being pounded by the climate crisis now. Every fraction of a degree of warming raises the risk of food shortages and multiple crop failures,” said Million Belay, a food systems expert with the international nonprofit IPES-Food, in reaction to the report’s publication. “Transforming food systems is now an urgent priority and a massive opportunity.” … ”  Read more from Civil Eats.

Bottled water fueling famine around the world: Study

“Bottled water is fuelling famine around the world, according to a new report from the UN.  The multi-billion dollar industry has masked failures to supply safe drinking water for all, scientists said.  A quarter of the global population, around two billion people, are facing drought but providing them with safe water would require an annual investment of less than half the $272 billion now spent every year on bottled varieties.  On top of this, it is estimated the industry produced around 600 billion plastic bottles and containers in 2021, which converts to some 25 million tons of plastic waste – most of it not recycled and destined for landfills. … ”  Read more from MSN News.

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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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