DAILY DIGEST, 3/23: Where CA’s reservoirs are at after storms; Study offers insights on reducing nitrate contamination from groundwater recharge; Restoring wetlands: a strategy to address climate, biodiversity, and water; Cottage cheese injections and electric shocks: Emeryville attempts to reclaim toxic soil; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • MEETING: Delta Stewardship Council beginning at 10am in Rio Vista. Agenda itens include the Delta Lead Scientist Report, Delta Independent Science Board update, and a panel focusing on Sherman Island perspectives and issues.  Click here for the agenda and remote access instructions.
  • WEBINAR: Executive Order N-4-23: Flood Water & Groundwater Recharge from 1pm to 2:30pm.  Please join the California Department of Water Resources, State Water Resources Control Board, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for a webinar on the Executive Order N-4-23, related to flood water capture and groundwater recharge. The webinar will include opening remarks, a presentation detailing the requirements of the Executive Order, and opportunity for question and answer from participants.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

Here’s where California reservoir levels stand after latest round of rain

“After this month’s heavy rain, California’s reservoir levels are continuing to push upward, with many past their historic water storage averages for this time of year — something many reservoirs have not seen since late 2019 or 2020.  The statewide average water storage level is 107% of the historic average for this time of year, adding up to 27 million acre-feet of water stored across the state and marking the first time since 2020 that water storage levels surpassed the historic average.  Five of the state’s eight largest reservoirs have also matched or surpassed their historic averages — Shasta and Oroville in the northern part of the state, San Luis in the western San Joaquin Valley, and Don Pedro and McClure in the central Sierra foothills. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

SEE ALSO: After 14 atmospheric rivers, how full are California’s reservoirs?, from Your Central Valley

California may break the record for the amount of water in its snowpack

“Since the beginning of 2023, California has seen a record-setting amount of snow across the state, especially in the Sierra Nevada, setting up the state to close in on the records for the highest snow water equivalent, which was reached just over a decade ago.  Snow water equivalent is the amount of water that would result from melting the snowpack, according to the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab.  This year has seen heavy rain and snow pummel the state, including in lower-elevation communities that usually do not see snow, like El Dorado Hills, Auburn, Placerville, Santa Cruz, Walnut Creek and Oakland. … ”  Continue reading at KTXL.

As Lake Shasta rises 111 feet to fill to historic level, is California’s drought over?

“Lake Shasta on Tuesday night received the last bit of rain and runoff needed to raise the water level to its historic average.  With more storms on the way, could that mean the latest drought is over, and a fresh start with full reservoirs this year?  “We have really turned a corner here,” said Don Bader,​ area manager of the Bureau of Reclamation which manages Shasta Dam.  It’s a far cry from last year’s bone-dry winter, according to the National Weather Service.  As of Wednesday, the reservoir had risen 111 feet since Dec. 1 and was 38 feet from the top, Bader said. … ”  Read more from the Redding Record Searchlight.

How California storm’s ‘rapid intensification’ led to extreme impacts — and will it happen again?

“A rare storm system with two eyewalls spinning around San Francisco and Santa Cruz churned powerful winds, downpours and damage across the Bay Area on Tuesday, along with a brief thunderstorm and tornado warnings along the California coast. The low-pressure system rapidly evolved into a storm that caused unusual springtime severe weather.  It culminated in sea level pressure that fell to 985 millibars, the lowest level ever recorded at San Francisco International Airport in the month of March.  This uncommon, but not unprecedented, low-pressure system’s pressure dropped so quickly that its center quickly grew an eye. The storm kept intensifying and splintered into two centers of circulation. The centers grew their own eyes and began to dance around each other — a Fujiwhara Effect unfolding over Monterey Bay. Both eyes then spun out in different directions: One made landfall over Santa Cruz and the other over San Francisco. … ”  Continue reading at the San Francisco Chronicle.

What does all this rain mean for California’s drought?

“As you’re well aware, California has had an extremely wet winter, replete with severe flooding, snowed-in mountain communities and a massive snowpack accumulating in the Sierra Nevada. So what does that mean for the state’s drought?  In January, after back-to-back atmospheric river storms, it was still largely unknown whether the downpours could reverse our drought, which began in 2020 and has stretched through the three driest years on record in the state. At the time, many experts said that it could very likely take multiple wet months, or even multiple wet seasons, to end the drought — and there was no telling whether the wet weather early in the season would be followed by a dry spell, which is exactly what happened last year. But this winter has continued to bring torrents of rain and snow through March, which has changed the drought outlook. … ”  Read more from the New York Times.

California strawberry growers assess flood damage

“Recent flooding in California has caused an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to strawberry farms, according to industry leaders. California Strawberry Commission experts say it is too early to tally the full scope of the destruction, and weather forecasters predict continued rainfall across growing regions through the week. Nevertheless, early estimates offer a glimpse into the flooding’s impacts. The industry has faced two major rounds of flooding this year. The first big storms hit in January, battering fields from Ventura County in Southern California up to Santa Cruz County in the north. … ”  Read more from the Capital Press.

Study offers insights on reducing nitrate contamination from groundwater recharge

As part of this a groundwater recharge project, floodwater diverted from the Kings River was directed to inundate some fields at Terranova Ranch. The project is designed to capture excess flow for groundwater storage in Fresno County. Andrew Innerarity / DWR

“With California enduring record-breaking rain and snow and Gov. Gavin Newsom recently easing restrictions on groundwater recharge, interest in “managed aquifer recharge” has never been higher. This process – by which floodwater is routed to sites such as farm fields so that it percolates into the aquifer – holds great promise as a tool to replenish depleted groundwater stores across the state.  But one concern, in the agricultural context, is how recharge might push nitrates from fertilizer into the groundwater supply. Consumption of well water contaminated with nitrates has been linked to increased risk of cancers, birth defects and other health impacts.  “Many growers want to provide farmland to help recharge groundwater, but they don’t want to contribute to nitrate contamination of the groundwater, and they need to know how on-farm recharge practices might affect their crops,” said Matthew Fidelibus, a University of California Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology. … ”  Read more from Cal Ag Today.

Restoring wetlands: a strategy to address climate, biodiversity, and water

“No matter where you live, you’re likely to have a wetland somewhere nearby. Wetlands include any land that is saturated with water at least some of the time, like marshes and mangroves along our coasts, floodplains and wet meadows along rivers and streams, and vernal pools and prairie potholes. And all of these wetlands touch our lives in many ways you may not realize. In a new report produced by Point Blue Conservation Science and the Natural Resources Defense Council, we compiled evidence for a wide range of benefits wetlands provide us every day. Across all types of wetlands, we found evidence for a broad array of benefits, but what became clear is that wetland restoration is an important strategy for addressing three major challenges we face here in California and around the world: climate change, biodiversity conservation, and water management. … ”  Read more from Point Blue Conservation Science.

The Yolo Bypass is filled with water after some dry years. Here’s how often that happens

“Interstate 80 drivers and Capitol Corridor riders and have been treated this year to the spectacular three-mile journey over the flooded Yolo Bypass, which last received flows from the Sacramento River over the Fremont Weir in 2019. The Yolo Bypass floods only intermittently – sometimes staying dry for years. Though it receives water from several streams and canals on its western edge, widespread flooding of the bypass depends largely on high water in the Sacramento River spilling over the weir at its northern mouth. This year, rains in January and March have filled the Sacramento River high enough to send water into the bypass. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee.

Senator Anna M. Caballero announces statewide legislative strategy to ensure water for all Californians

“A reliable and sustainable water supply is critical to every aspect of California’s economy and the quality of life for all Californians. That is why Senator Anna M. Caballero (D-Merced) is authoring Senate Bill 366, The California Water for All initiative, as an important step in creating adequate statewide water supplies for future generations.  Senate Bill 366 would establish  bold, necessary water supply targets to capture and produce enough water for all uses, including communities, agriculture, and the environment. By modernizing the California Water Plan for a 21st century climate, SB 366 ensures accountability for state agencies on water management issues.  “Despite decades of work to improve California’s water system, our infrastructure remains inadequate to meet present needs and is woefully unprepared to meet future needs,” Senator Caballero said. “The targets set in place by SB 366 would create new accountability and effectively generate a commitment from the State, the water community, and stakeholders to follow through on comprehensive, long-term water supply solutions that will transform water management for generations to come.” … ”  Read more from Senator Caballero’s website.

SoCal assemblymember introduces bill to require microfiber filters on washing machines

“Assemblymember Tina McKinnor (D-Inglewood) has introduced Assembly Bill 1628, which would mandate the installation of microfiber filters on all new washing machines sold in California by 2029.  “California has been a leader in reducing plastic pollution and must continue to lead on this issue,” said Assemblymember Tina McKinnor. “AB 1628 is a solution that is cost and energy efficient and has the potential to dramatically reduce the volume of microfibers entering the environment.”  Assemblymember McKinnor represents several cities and communities in Los Angeles County including Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lenox, Los Angeles, Marina del Rey, Venice, West Athens, Westchester and Westmont.  The bill aims to reduce the quantity of plastic microfibers that end up in freshwater systems and oceans. … ”  Read more from the Santa Monica Daily Mirror.

ACWA members attend workshop on proposed water use efficiency regulations

“The State Water Resources Control Board today held a pre-rulemaking workshop on the proposed regulatory framework for “Making Conservation a California Way of Life” and several ACWA members attended to provide comments.  This new framework proposes unique water use efficiency goals for each urban retail water supplier, including urban water use efficiency standards, variances, an urban water use objective, and commercial, industrial, and institutional (CII) performance measures. The workshop was held to gather public input and staff member input on the proposal before the State Water Board implements the rulemaking process.  ACWA has been extremely engaged on this effort for the past several years and ACWA Regulatory Relations Manager Chelsea Haines provided verbal comments to address overarching concerns with the draft framework and technical concerns with the outdoor standard. … ”  Continue reading at ACWA News.

Development of Flood-MAR Network detailed in new report

From the Water Plan eNews: The development of the Flood-Managed Aquifer Recharge (Flood-MAR) Network is detailed in a new report from DWR. Flood-MAR is a management strategy to recharge aquifers by using flood flows to spread water onto agricultural lands, working landscapes, and managed natural areas. The report explains why and how multiple interest groups came together and formed a network to improve the integration of surface and groundwater management. The report is a California Water Plan Update 2023 supporting document for convening watershed networks.

Water Blueprint hosts Congressman Costa, Senator Hurtado, Michele Canales, Senior Policy Analyst for the Office of Senator Caballero & PPIC’s Ellen Hanak

“On Wednesday, March 15, Water Blueprint for the SJV hosted Congressman Jim Costa, California Senator Melissa Hurtado, Michele Canales, Senior Policy Analyst for the Office of Senator Anna Caballero, and Ellen Hanak, Vice President and Director of the Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Center at the organization’s first Large Group meeting of 2023 on Wednesday, March 15th.  Just under 100 stakeholders (in person and via zoom) from various regions of the San Joaquin Valley participated in the 1.5 hour meeting at the International Agri-Center in Tulare.   The group had the pleasure of hearing from four special guests. If you missed the meeting, here is a brief recap of what they shared … ”  Click here for the full press release.

Are floating solar panels the future of clean energy production?

“Floating solar panels placed on reservoirs around the world could generate enough energy to power thousands of cities, according to a study published last week in the journal Nature Sustainability.  Called floating photovoltaic systems, or “floatovoltaics,” these solar arrays function the same way as panels on land, capturing sunlight to generate electricity. They sit on a floating platform and are kept in place by cables connected to the bottom of the body of water, writes Wired’s Matt Simon. The new research shows this buoyant technology has the potential to create vast amounts of power and conserve water—without taking up precious space on land. … ”  Continue reading from Smithsonian.

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In commentary today …

No matter how much rain or snow falls this year, California will still have a water shortage

Jay Famiglietti, a global futures professor at Arizona State University, writes, “During a winter of blizzards, floods and drought-ending downpours, it’s easy to forget that California suffers from chronic water scarcity — the long-term decline of the state’s total available fresh water. This rainy season’s inundation isn’t going to change that.  How is this possible, given the unrelenting series of atmospheric river systems that have dumped near-record snowfall over the Sierra and replenished the state’s reservoirs?  It’s all about groundwater. … ”  Continue reading at the LA Times. | Read via Yahoo News.

Western water crisis solutions inevitably end with a lot less for California farms

Veteran journalist Jim Newton writes, “A modest proposal for western water: Turn off the spigot to the Imperial Valley and let the farms go fallow. In return, provide a water future for Arizona, Nevada and Southern California.  Sure, there would be a price to pay. California’s Imperial Valley, which sits in the southeastern corner of the state, bordered by Arizona and Mexico, produces alfalfa, lettuce, corn and sugar beets, among other crops. It’s home to more than 300,000 head of cattle. Cutting off the water would end all of that, along with the livelihoods of the farmers and ranchers who produce it and the communities that depend on it.  But let’s face it, the whole valley defies nature. It’s a desert that became an agricultural area when the All-American Canal was built just over 100 years ago. That canal, an 80-mile long ditch that draws water off the Colorado River before it can reach its natural destination in Mexico, irrigates fields that would otherwise be barren in a valley where summer temperatures regularly top 100 degrees and annual rainfall is about 2 inches.   No canal, no farms. … ”  Continue reading from Cal Matters.

Riparian forests: How California farmers can protect waterways

Arohi Sharma, Deputy Director of Regenerative Agriculture with NRDC’s Nature Program, writes, “Around 200 years ago, California’s Central Valley was covered in a mosaic of wetlands and riparian forest ecosystems. The state’s two major rivers, the Sacramento and San Joaquin, used to flow freely into the Central Valley. The flooding that naturally occurred on these two river ecosystems created ecologically rich riparian zones that buffered the rivers, absorbed excess water during floods, and stabilized nutrients and soil. With their deep root systems and perennial cover, riparian forests built healthy and highly productive soil over millennia. Farmers saw the potential of these soils, and subsequently, the riparian forests were uprooted to support the expansion of agriculture across the Central Valley in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Now, after decades of extractive agricultural practices, habitat destruction, monocropping, and excessive groundwater pumping, the Central Valley is struggling with critically low groundwater levels, biodiversity losses, and soil health degradation. It’s time to rethink our approach to farming and restore the same ecosystems that once made the Central Valley biologically rich and resilient. … ”  Read more from the NRDC.

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Today’s featured article …

PLANNING & CONSERVATION LEAGUE: Updating California Water Laws in the Face of Droughts and Climate Change #2

Water rights have garnered increasing attention as water managers and decision-makers grapple with how best to respond to changing conditions.  At the 2022 Annual Environmental Assembly of the Planning and Conservation League, a group of water law and policy experts presented eleven recommendations for modernizing California’s water law system for the 21st century.  Those recommendations didn’t suggest a wholesale changeout of the current system but rather recommended incremental steps and more tools for the State Water Resources Control Board to be able to confront these challenges.

At the 2023 Assembly, two of the participants in the group, Richard Frank, a Professor of Environmental Practice and Director of the California Environmental Law & Policy Center (CELPC), and Jennifer Harder, a Professor at University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, returned to discuss the progress made in last year’s legislative session and what pieces of legislation might be moving forward this year.  They were joined by Michael Claiborne, directing attorney for the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.

Click here to read this article.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


Tehama County commentary: Water wars, again? Give us a break

Shanna Long, fourth generation journalist and former editor of the Corning Daily Observer, writes, “Mark Twain knew a thing or two about water and whiskey. One is for drinking and the other for fighting, as he so eloquently penned more than a century ago.  His famous quote played out Wednesday morning as the Groundwater Commission listened to several hours worth of data and public comment on agenda item No. 4, a and b, an informal discussion regarding Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-3-23 and the proposed language apparently written solely by Supervisor Matt Hansen to apply an ag well moratorium in specific areas of Tehama County.  On the surface, the meeting was cordial and Supervisor Hansen did exactly as promised when he campaigned for supervisor: Tackle ‘Big Ag’ and put a moratorium on production ag well drilling in certain parts of the county where domestic and ag wells have gone dry. … ”  Read more from the Tehama Daily News.


Cottage cheese injections and electric shocks: Emeryville attempts to reclaim toxic soil

“Emeryville is still digging itself out from under its industrial past.  For years, the city has cleaned up vast swaths of land contaminated by the scores of commercial warehouses that used to dominate the East Bay shoreline community. By the early 2000s, Emeryville earned a reputation as “one of the foulest industrial wastelands in the Bay Area,” according to one news outlet, which said the soil was “so toxic that anyone treading it had to wear a moon suit.”  In 2004, for instance, 15,000 gallons of cottage cheese was injected into the groundwater below an abandoned factory, cleaning up the toxic hexavalent chromium — a substance some have dubbed “the Erin Brockovich chemical” — that was produced while manufacturing car bumpers in the 1950s and ’60s. … ”  Read more from the East Bay Times.

Commentary: Newark should drop plan to develop shoreline in flood zone

Zoe Siegel, senior director of climate resilience at Greenbelt Alliance, and Maxwell Davis, a steward with East Bay for Everyone, write, “Newark could address the housing and climate crises simultaneously by building resilient homes. But the city’s current plan continues to prioritize development of Newark’s shoreline, putting 469 single-family homes in a flood zone on a site scientists have urged be protected and restored to wetlands.  This is not a regular shoreline housing proposal. Newark plans to pave over a 500-acre mosaic of undeveloped marshland and wildlife habitat along San Francisco Bay. The development, on a site known as “Sanctuary West” or Newark Area 4, would need over 100,000 truckloads to bring in 1.67 million cubic yards of fill. Area 4 is entirely within a FEMA flood zone that already is pumped annually to reduce flooding and is anticipated to be nearly completely inundated by sea-level rise in the near future. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News.

Photos show brutal damage from wild Bay Area storm

“The Bay Area spent Wednesday assessing the damage from yet another round of intense rain and winds that left a deadly trail and scenes of destruction in their wake.  The extreme weather was responsible for at least five deaths across the Bay Area, according to public safety officials. From San Francisco to Palo Alto to Santa Cruz, trees were uprooted by the severe gusts, smashing down across roads and crushing cars. Five fatalities from tree-related incidents were reported across the region. … ”  Read more and view pictures at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Alameda County Water District drops drought surcharge after wet winter

“The Alameda County Water District announced Wednesday that surcharges prompted by years of drought will be dropped in April, following one of the wettest winters on record.  At a special meeting held Tuesday, the agency’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to end the surcharges, which were put in place after a water shortage emergency was declared.  In March of 2022, the water district imposed a surcharge of $0.787 for every 748 gallons, or unit of water, that customers use. On March 1, the surcharge increased to $0.82 per unit of water.  “The rains have quenched our drought-stricken state, and for the first time in several years, we see California edging its way out of drought,” ACWD Board President Paul Sethy said in a statement. … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento.

Novato slide triggered by ‘bomb cyclone’ threatens utilities

“Marin picked up the pieces after another powerful storm slammed into Marin, triggering a mudslide in Novato that threatened water and gas lines that distribute throughout the county.  The Tuesday night landslide destroyed a section of Redwood Boulevard north of the city that runs adjacent to Highway 101. The slide caused a large segment of the road to buckle, blocking access to Olompali State Park and bending a PG&E power pole.  The “bomb cyclone” storm that ripped through the county on Tuesday resulted in downed trees into homes and widespread outages that left areas of Woodacre and Sausalito especially hard hit. The swirling low pressure system deepened quickly, increasing wind speed. Tuesday broke the all-time record for the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded in March at San Francisco International Airport. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal.


“They let us down”: Pajaro flooding victims demand answers as town hall devolves into shouting match

“Nearly two weeks after a levee failure forced hundreds of families in the small Monterey County community of Pajaro to leave their homes in the middle of the night, both county officials and residents are demanding answers for why federal assistance promised by the governor has yet to materialize.  At a heated town hall meeting Tuesday, county authorities told Pajaro residents that emergency evacuation orders could be lifted by the end of the week and that they are “hoping” evacuees will be able to return starting Friday. Still, the meeting quickly devolved into a shouting match as residents excoriated officials over a lack of information, miscommunication and a failure to deliver the financial aid they need to rebuild their lives. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News.

Monterey Peninsula Water Management District moves forward with an attempted public buyout of private water utility Cal Am.

“David Schmalz here, watching the last grains of sand draining through the hourglass before the heat gets turned up in a long-anticipated drama, as a March 21 statement from the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District throws down the gauntlet.  The district announced it has finalized its appraisal of Cal Am, the private utility water provider for the Monterey Peninsula, to buy it out in what could be a friendly—but likely hostile—attempted takeover. It will most certainly end up in court—Cal Am has repeatedly said it’s not for sale—but this is nonetheless a long-awaited moment.  On Monday April 3, at 5:30pm in the Monterey City Hall council chambers, the district will host a public presentation outlining the methodology its consultants used in the appraisal, followed by a Q&A. But regardless, the die will have already been cast: the district’s statement notes that while the presentation is occurring, “it is expected that an offer to purchase the system will be made to Cal Am on or about the same time.” … ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly.

Often-dry Twitchell Reservoir east of Santa Maria filling up to dramatically high level

“Recent wet weather is helping fill up the often-dry Twitchell Reservoir to a dramatically high level not seen in a quarter century.  As of Wednesday, the reservoir located about 10 miles east of Santa Maria, along the Northern Santa Barbara and South San Luis Obispo county line, measured at 57% capacity, a remarkable amount since it was only 1% capacity in early January.  “I think it’s awesome, especially this lake. It’s always dry. It disappears and then comes back after we get these big old rains,” said Lompoc resident John Carrillo, while visiting the reservoir on Wednesday afternoon. “Hopefully, it sticks around for a while. It’s very rare that we get to see it this full.” … ”  Read more from KEYT.


Delta Conservancy Board approves $2.5M for Delta Aquatic Center of Stockton

“The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy Board on Wednesday approved a new multimillion-dollar planning project that aims to bring a world-class water sports facility to the city of Stockton, bolstering recreation and tourism opportunities in the community.  The Board approved $2.5 million in grant funding for the Delta Aquatic Center of Stockton planning project, which was proposed by the San Joaquin Community Foundation and received dozens of letters of support from institutions and community members.  The grant funding from the Delta Conservancy was made possible by the Budget Acts of 2021 and 2022, which provided the Delta Conservancy with one-time general fund allocations of $5,250,000 and $6,125,000 for projects that support climate resilience, community access, and natural resource protection activities that benefit the Delta (collectively known as Climate, Access, and Resource (CAR) funding). … ”  Read more from the Delta Conservancy.

Flood operations meeting yields little good news as water continues to wreak havoc in the San Joaquin Valley

“At an all-hands-on deck flood operations briefing Wednesday morning at the International Agri-Center in Tulare, the reports were quick and grim.  A bridge over Cross Creek in Kings County had just washed out at Houston Avenue south of Hanford, the CalTrans rep told dozens of emergency workers from fire, roads, rail and water districts mostly from Kings and Tulare counties.  The meeting was organized by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, CalFire, which is coordinating with the Tulare County Office of Emergency Services to get a handle on widespread damage unfolding in the region after an onslaught of atmospheric rivers brought historic flooding starting March 10. … ”  Read more from SJV Water.

‘Hope for the best, plan for the worst.’ Boils along San Joaquin River levee cause community concern

“Concerns about flooding all along the San Joaquin River won’t end anytime soon, and that has communities keeping a close eye on the levee that sits between them and the river.  The portion of the San Joaquin River levee that runs behind Durham Ferry school in the Manteca area of San Joaquin County is facing a big test right now.  “At Durham Ferry, they told me there was 10 to 12 boils that they had put sack rings around,” said Manteca city council member Charlie Halford. “They have seepage in other areas.” … ”  Read more from KCRA.

High river flows and flooding will remain a threat for months in Stanislaus County

“The San Joaquin River near Patterson can’t carry much more water without flooding outside its banks.  Nearby residents, watching the river level and the online forecasts Wednesday, were aware the San Joaquin near the Las Palmas Avenue bridge would rise half a foot Thursday because of runoff coming out of Yosemite and the southern Sierra.  “The water is coming up tomorrow,” said Bonnie Washburn, who lives on Ash Avenue adjacent to the river. She expected to know Thursday if the water creeps close enough to the home for she and her husband to leave.  “If we make it through tomorrow, then we will worry about the melting snow. There is a lot of snow up there,” Washburn said. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee. | Read via AOL News.

Consolidated Irrigation boasts groundwater recharging amid Kings River runoff

“While Kings and Tulare Counties are grappling with floods after weeks of heavy rain, a Selma-based irrigation district is not having any such issues.  Consolidated Irrigation District, which serves southern Fresno County and small portions of Tulare and Kings Counties, is taking advantage of its extensive system of ponding basins to store the excess water coming from the Kings River.  The big picture: By Tuesday, most flows in the Kings River were largely surplus to what would typically be any beneficial use, but Consolidated was diverting 900 cubic feet per second into its canals that provide surface water to irrigate farms around Sanger, Del Rey, Parlier, Fowler, Kingsburg, Monmouth and Caruthers. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun.

Kings County faces ‘biblical’ floods

Corcoran: “If you look out off Sixth Avenue, heading south out of town, you will be stopped by the ever-clear, monstrous, lake-like body of water that has swallowed the road and much of the surrounding farmland and area.  “Some have described it as a biblical moment in time,” said Kings County Sheriff Dave Robinson.  And if you saw it yourself, you might think the same thing.  Water has washed over farmland off the Tule River, covered crops, flooded dairies, and filled homes, all from a break in a nearby levee, that has ultimately filled what used to be the Tulare Lake bed.  “We’re gonna have a million acre-feet of water in an area that feeds the world, and that million acre-feet of water isn’t gonna go away anytime soon. It’s gonna take their farmland out of production, you know in all likelihood for a couple of years,” said Sheriff Robinson. … ”  Read more from Your Central Valley.

Boswell-Poso Creek “stand off” continues as flood waters build

“The stand off over draining Poso Creek flood waters into a canal owned by the powerful J.G. Boswell Company continued Wednesday, despite hopes of a detente.  “I think they worked it out and found a solution they could all live with,” said Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, recounting a “back of the truck” meeting between the parties.  Not quite.  The Boswell company put three large pumps on the banks of the Homeland Canal to suck up Poso water and put it into the canal.  But it’s a pittance compared to what’s coming in, said Jack Mitchell, head of the Deer Creek Storm Water District, which manages portions of Poso and Deer creeks as well as a section of the White River. … ”  Read more from SJV Water.

Chaos in Tulare County shows need for advance flood planning

Deirdre Des Jardins writes, “High flood flows in Tulare County are causing levee breaches. Levee breaches on Deer Creek and Poso Creek are currently endangering Allensworth, a California town that was founded by African-Americans, as well as the town of Alpaugh. For more background on Allensworth, see this article.  Los Angeles Times reporter Ian James drove to Allensworth and interviewed Jack Mitchell, the 83 year old staff for the Deer Creek Flood Control District and the volunteers from Allensworth who were fighting to save their town. See A California town’s frantic fight to save itself from floods … ”  Continue reading at the California Water Research blog.

Community of Allensworth comes together to face historic flooding

“The historic Black community of Allensworth continues to face flooding danger as another atmospheric river hits the Central Valley.  The agricultural communities of Alpaugh and Allensworth, home to about 1,400 people, were ordered evacuated this weekend because of “the possibility of residents becoming isolated due to impassible roadways,” according to Tulare County sheriff’s officials.  The flooding was caused by a breached levee along Deer Creek, just north of Allensworth.  The risk of flooding, property damage, and threat to safety prompted the Allensworth Progressive Association and residents to protect the town of roughly 600 residents. … ”  Read more from the Visalia Times-Delta.



Mono Lake Committee’s presentation at the State Water Board’s Mono Lake virtual public workshop

“In December the Mono Lake Committee asked the State Water Board to take emergency action to deliver more water to Mono Lake due to the lake’s perilously low level. We were specifically concerned about the increasing risk of coyotes accessing the islands in Mono Lake where California gulls nest.  As it turns out, Mother Nature took immediate action, surprising us all with six weeks of memorably wet weather in December and January. The wet winter means the lake will rise this year, and we recognize changed circumstances reduce the need for action before April 1.  At the same time, we have all seen this movie before. … ”  Read more from the Mono Lake Committee.


SoCal tornadoes damage dozens of structures, snapping beams and ripping off roof. 2 hurt

“On Wednesday afternoon, Micaela Vargas stood in front of her Kia Telluride, which she’d parked near her workplace in Montebello.  Unfortunately for Vargas, who lives in Whittier, it seemed unlikely that she would be able to drive the vehicle home.  On top of her car and several others was a massive, leafy section of a tree, thrown there by a tornado that touched down in the area Wednesday afternoon.  Video on social media showed a dark funnel cloud forming over the Montebello area and debris flying hundreds of feet into the air.  The roof was torn off a Montebello building, several others were damaged, and a 1-foot-diameter tree was uprooted completely. … ”  Read more from the LA Times. | Read via AOL News.

SEE ALSO:  Rare tornado near Los Angeles rips building roofs; 1 injured, from the AP

LA reuses lots of stormwater, but wants to save more

“Hours after another storm soaked Southern California, LA County’s principal stormwater engineer Sterling Klippel stands at the base of the San Gabriel Dam, looking like a kid in a candy store. He gazes in awe at the thousands of gallons of stormwater rushing through this dam every second.  “Just this October, this facility was completely drained,” he says.  This dam is almost 300 feet deep in the middle, and it went from empty to full in less than six months. And it’s just one of more than a dozen dams in the county.  Soggy Southern California has gotten more than two feet of rain this season – so far, about double an average year, making it one of the top 10 wettest years on record.  “It’s amazing to see it when it’s here, and every drop is precious. So we do our best to capture every drop of it,” says Klippel. … ”  Read more from the LAist.

Las Virgenes MWD: From drought to floods: Water is life

At its regularly scheduled board meeting, MWD voted to rescind the historic emergency water conservation restrictions for 6.6 million people in its State Water Project-dependent areas, signaling a drastic improvement in drought and hydrologic conditions. All LVMWD customers are now able to irrigate more than once a week.  Water budgets have been normalized and no longer include drought factors. On Tuesday, the LVMWD Board of Directors also adopted changes to its Code that allow for the use of flow restriction devices in perpetuity, regardless of drought and water supply conditions. The use of flow restriction devices was temporarily suspended after the Board took action in February to de-escalate the drought emergency from Stage 3 to Stage 2.  LVMWD customers conserved water at a very high level. In the latter half of 2022, customers achieved an average of a 40% reduction in usage, which is unprecedented. … ”  Click here to read the full press release from Las Virgenes MWD.


Desert farmers defend maligned alfalfa production

“The Imperial Valley, a vast grid of greens, browns and yellows, produces dozens of crops. But two visual features define the valley: open channels carrying water from the Colorado River and blocks of hay that tower above the irrigation channels.  Forage crops such as alfalfa, sudangrass and bermudagrass cover more than half the Imperial Valley’s farmland. “From the growers’ perspective, alfalfa is their best crop,” said Ali Montazar, University of California Cooperative Extension irrigation and water management advisor for Imperial, Riverside and San Diego counties.  But as the Colorado River dwindles, environmentalists and competing water users scorn farmers for growing the thirsty crop in a drought-stricken region. “It’s simple math,” High Country News reported last year. “Growing less hay is the only way to keep the river’s water system from collapsing.” … ”  Read more from Ag Alert.

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Along the Colorado River …

Salt River Project says water released from dams won’t be wasted

“Arizona rivers and creeks are rising as recent storms dropped a lot of rain and snow on our state. SRP says they need to release water from their several dams as they cannot let the reservoirs overflow.  “If we didn’t let the water out the water would go overtop and you certainly don’t want that to happen,” SRP Surface Water Lead Tim Skarupa said. “That’s a complete safety issue. To make sure the dam is safe, we have to release that water.” … ”  Read more from Arizona Family.

Colorado River: The Navajo Nation’s ‘forever home’ is in crisis

Jacqueline Keeler writes, “When my mom describes growing up along the Little Colorado River in Cameron, Arizona, on the Navajo Nation, she describes the abundance of the plants they grew and the animals they raised: melons near Shadow Mountain and orchards of peaches and apricots along the Little Colorado. She’d help drive large herds of cattle from the river’s north side toward Gray Mountain to the south.  By the time I came along, my mom’s generation had moved away: first for college, then for jobs. Those still living in Cameron—my grandparents and my great aunts and uncles—were traditional Navajos who spoke only Diné bizaad, the Navajo language. They had never gone to boarding school where the ethos was infamously “kill the Indian in him and save the man,” so they possessed self-confidence about their culture and humor about how things had changed.  Now, the Supreme Court is considering whether the U.S. government has lived up to its treaty promises to provide a “forever home” for the Navajo people to live our traditional pastoral life. At issue is whether those promises in the 1868 treaty included access to water and whether the lack of it constitutes a breach of promise. … ”  Read more from Atmos.

At its lowest point in history, Lake Powell sees first growth in months

“Nearly 50 years after being filled, Lake Powell recently reached its lowest point. Since then, the lake’s seasonal uptrend in water levels has begun. Lake Powell hit a new low of 3520.46 feet on March 13, data from the Bureau of Reclamation shows. However, the following eight days all saw more water flow into the lake than out of it, resulting in just under half a foot of rise in water levels. The increase is the first sustained gains the lake has seen since May of last year. … ”  Read more from Channel 12.

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In national water news today …

Federal judge raises constitutional questions about WOTUS rule

“The latest iteration of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule took effect on March 20 for most of the country. A federal judge in Texas has blocked the implementation of the rule in both Texas and Idaho. “The Agencies’ effort to read navigability out of the statute’s text to permit categorical encroachment on States’ rights raises constitutional questions this court should—if any other reasonable interpretation of the Act exists—avoid,” U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Vincent Brown said in his opinion.  At the same time, Judge Brown also denied a request for a nationwide injunction. In his ruling, he said that certain parameters of the new WOTUS rule raise several questions likely to be litigated further. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West.

New UN report paints a grim picture for the future of the world’s water

“Water, water everywhere, but more than 1 in 4 people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water. Nearly half the world, 46%, lacks safely managed sanitation. And water shortages are projected to get worse. Well, these are among the headlines from a new United Nations report on water.  We’re going to talk them through with Richard Connor, who’s editor-in-chief of the report and also hopefully get to some bright spots and success stories. Richard Connor, welcome. Thanks for your time. … ”  Read more or listen from NPR at KVCR.

Exploring the depths of water’s role in climate change

“Covering nearly three-quarters of the Earth, surface water plays a critical role in the carbon cycle of the planet by storing and also emitting greenhouse gases. But exactly how much of a role it plays and its potential to help mitigate climate change is still a question.  In the past year, Ben Girgenti ’22 MESc has been chest deep in mud at the Yale Nature Preserve to create buckets of mini wetlands to test methods for reducing emissions.  In Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, YSE Professors Peter Raymond and Jim Saiers, joined by their colleague Yale Associate Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences Noah Planavsky, are working together with a team of students to spread crushed rocks on a watershed.   And in the southern U.S., Jonathan Gewirtzman, PhD student, and Frannie Adams ’23 MESc are measuring methane emissions to explore the effects of climate-driven disturbances in the Florida Everglades.   They are among several YSE researchers working on two key projects involving water ecosystems: reducing emissions and increasing carbon uptake. … ”  Read more from Yale School of the Environment.

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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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