DAILY DIGEST, 4/28: DWR approves sustainability plans for 12 groundwater basins; Orange County recycles all its wastewater, a world first; Mountain snow supercharging summer hydropower potential; Herbicides linked to water pollution eyed for public land use; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • MEETING: Central Valley Flood Protection Board beginning at 9am.  Agenda items include an Army Corps update on Cache Creek and Elder Creek Levee Systems, Maintenance Area Budget Hearing for Fiscal Year 2023-2024; and an Informational briefing on current hydrological conditions and flooding concerns in the Tulare Basin. Click here for the full agenda and remote access instructions.
  • MEETING: Central Valley Regional Water Board beginning at 9am. Agenda items include an informational item on Groundwater Protection Targets (Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program), two Waste Discharge Requirements, Several NPDES Program Permits, and an Oilfields Program Update. Click here for the full agenda and remote access instructions.
  • EVENT: Southern California Coalition Quarterly Luncheon from 12pm to 2pm at the Wilson Creek Winery in Temecula.  The topic is Climate resiliency: How challenges and innovation in energy will impact water systems and provide opportunities for partnership. Speaker is Susan Kennedy, Executive Director of Cadiz Inc.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

DWR approves sustainability plans for 12 groundwater basins as efforts continue to protect critical water resources

“The Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced today the approval of groundwater sustainability plans for 12 non-critically overdrafted groundwater basins located across California. The approved basins include Big Valley, Shasta Valley, Scott River Valley, East Side Aquifer, Forebay Aquifer, Langley Area, Monterey, Upper Valley Aquifer, San Jacinto, Upper Ventura River, San Luis Obispo Valley and Santa Margarita.  “We are impressed with the effort that local agencies have put into their groundwater sustainability plans. Since the plans in these 12 basins were adopted in 2022, the local agencies immediately began implementation and embraced groundwater sustainability. We look forward to supporting local agencies while they continue to improve their planning efforts,” said DWR Deputy Director of Groundwater Management Paul Gosselin. “We expect these plans to adapt over time to changing conditions. The climate-driven weather extremes we are experiencing amplify the need for long-term groundwater management planning to ensure a safe and reliable groundwater supply that can be accessed during both wet years and the driest years without causing negative impacts.” … ”  Continue reading this press release from DWR.

California county recycles all its wastewater, a world first

“On April 14, Orange County, Calif.’s Water District (OCWD) and Sanitation District (OC San) announced that together, they had accomplished something that has never been done anywhere else, ever. They are purifying and recycling 100 percent of the county’s reclaimable wastewater.  The county’s Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS), operational and expanding continuously since 2008, is the largest indirect potable water reuse facility in the world. It uses a three-step process — incorporating microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet light. Purified water is pumped to recharge basins, where it percolates into a groundwater basin that provides drinking water to 2.5 million people.  The GWRS now provides 130 million gallons of water a day, enough to meet the daily needs of a million residents. Mike Markus, the general manager of OCWD, has managed this work since its inception. He talked to Governing about the origins of the project and factors in its success. The interview has been edited for clarity and length. … ”  Read more from Governing.

Mountain snow supercharging summer hydropower potential

Hyatt Power Plant
Photo courtesy of the Department of Water Resources

“End of season snow surveys are underway across the northern Sierra. PG&E is gathering data to help better estimate the amount of hydropower they could see this summer.  Action News Now hopped on board a helicopter to an observation site where the latest snow measurements were taking place. The site sits at an elevation of 8200 feet at the trail head parking lot for Lassen Peak. The official number consists of 10 measurements around each location. A preliminary number for the Lassen Peak site was 211 inches of snow, melted down to 118 inches of Snow Water Equivalent or the amount of liquid water locked inside the snowpack. … ” Read more from Action News Now.

SEE ALSOHydropower explained Where hydropower is generated, from the Energy Information Administration

Do you need permit to clear creek after flooding, storms in California?

“Q: The recent storms caused a levee near a creek in my community to break, which caused flooding. My neighbors and I didn’t know if we needed permission from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to clear the creek. What are the rules for homeowners taking action and clearing debris from streambeds and creeks?  A: We appreciate you checking in on this. According to the California Fish and Game Code, emergency work in streams doesn’t require advance notification to the CDFW.  But you do need to let the CDFW know.  An emergency is defined as a sudden unexpected occurrence involving a clear and imminent danger, demanding immediate action to prevent or mitigate loss of, or damage to, life, health, property or essential public services. … ”  Read more from the Redding Record Searchlight.

Board updates SAFER Needs Assessment Report to guide state’s drinking water support for communities

Advancing its mission to ensure every Californian has safe and affordable drinking water, the State Water Resources Control Board released its third annual Drinking Water Needs Assessment, which describes the overall health of the state’s water systems and domestic wells and helps direct the funding and regulatory work of the Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) drinking water program.  The report for the first time examines the causes behind chronically failing water systems and incorporates community level socioeconomic factors, including customers’ ability to pay, into its analysis of the risks systems face.  The analysis and findings will guide where the State Water Board focuses its technical assistance and how it prioritizes funding in the 20232024 Fund Expenditure Plan, due to come before the board this fall. … ”  Continue reading this press release from the State Water Board.

Herbicides linked to water pollution eyed for public land use

“The Biden administration is planning to control noxious weeds on federal land using seven new herbicides that scientists say can contaminate streams and groundwater and are harmful to aquatic life.  The plan and environmental review, announced last week, would allow seven additional herbicides to be used where noxious weeds are found on 245 million acres of federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management across the West. … “Herbicide efficiency is changing due to the impacts of climate change, including increasing temperatures, changes in precipitation, and elevated carbon dioxide,” the land bureau’s review says. “It is imperative to have multiple options for herbicides so that treatment can be as efficient as possible.”  But the review acknowledges that the new herbicides “have a wide range of mobility to and potential to enter surface and groundwater,” though they’re not included on the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Primary Drinking Water Regulation’s contaminant list, sparking potential downstream health concerns. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law.

Can California eradicate these giant invasive rodents from its wetlands?

“A two-foot-long rodent, which most resembles a beaver and muskrat, is wreaking havoc in Californian wetlands. Nutria — introduced to the U.S. from South America in 1899 — are a highly destructive animal, whose deep burrows have been known to take down levees and dams and decimate vegetation. The Mendota Wildlife Refuge, known for its legendary duck hunting in the San Joaquin Valley, is a recent victim of this rodent’s invasion. Greg Gerstenberg, former head of the nutria eradication project for California State Fish and Wildlife, told MKJNOW that officials “pulled about 220” nutria out of the refuge in about four weeks last yearAccording to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Nutria can consume up to a quarter of their body weight in plant material in a day and the rodents “do not construct dens, they burrow, frequently causing water-retention or flood control levees to breach, weakening structural foundations, and eroding banks.” … ”  Read more from Field & Stream.

Almond acreage declines for first time in 25 years

“California’s almond acreage declined in 2022 for the first time in 25 years.  It reflects an increase in the removal of orchards and a decrease in the planting of new acreage. Orchard removal areas accelerated in areas where growers were faced with water delivery cutbacks.  As such, they removed older orchards several years ahead of when they normally would in order to keep younger plantings alive that by nature of their age have more remaining years of strong yields.  In a few instances, growers were completely cut off from water forcing them to pull out all of their orchards.  According to the California Almond Board, an almond orchard generally stays in place for 25 to 30 years before it is removed. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin.

When to water? Researchers develop new tool for optimizing irrigation

“Stanford researchers have designed an irrigation optimization tool that could help farmers slash water use.  The tool rapidly estimates water loss from soils due to “evapotranspiration,” a process that involves the evaporation of water into the atmosphere and the uptake of water by plants. Compared to state-of-the-art ways of getting such evapotranspiration estimates, the new Stanford modeling tool works 100 times faster while maintaining high levels of accuracy.  In practice, the tool could dramatically reduce the time needed to devise strategic, efficient irrigation schedules that best position watering and sensing equipment across entire farms. On a narrower, field-by-field basis, the tool could even crunch data fast enough to adjust irrigation on the fly, in near real time, as weather conditions change. … ”  Read more from Stanford News.

Calif. offers $69m in soils, water grants

California’s lead agriculture agency is offering $69 million in grants to help growers improve soil health and water efficiency.  The state Department of Food and Agriculture announced it will hand out $29 million in block grants through its Healthy Soils program and another $40 million in grants from the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program.  The soils program is designed to advance conservation management practices that improve soil health, sequester carbon, and reduce greenhouse gases, while SWEEP incentivizes agricultural operations to invest in water-saving irrigation systems. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press.

California just had its first big wildfire. When will the risk amp up in the Bay Area?

“The historic winter that brought record-breaking rains to parts of Northern California seems long past, as a heat wave brought above-average temperatures to large swaths of the Bay Area this week. With the heat came fire in San Bernardino County, as the Nob Fire burned 200 acres of thick brush, and firefighters had contained 5% of its perimeter as of Thursday.   Such brush and grass fires have been top of mind for fire scientists and officials, but the risk for these blazes in Northern California hasn’t unfolded along the typical timeline, as recent months have brought cool, cloudy weather and even bouts of frost. … The prolonged stretch of cold, wet weather in recent months means that this spring and summer, the risk is generally low for significant wildfires to break out across Northern California, experts say.  “We should have a lower risk of wildfire for (the) majority of the summer,” said Craig Clements, professor of meteorology at San Jose State University and director of the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

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San Joaquin Valley flooding …

Forecast map: California rivers bulge with snowmelt, but no major floods expected. How’s it look near you?

“The “Big Melt” has begun.  As the gargantuan Sierra snowpack gets heated up by warmer temperatures this week, many of the Golden State’s major waterways are expected to see a surge in flow from the melting snow — though major floods still seem a ways off for now. The only rivers forecast to exceed flood stage in the next four days are the Merced River near Yosemite Valley, which will close down parts of the national park, and the West Fork Carson River in Alpine County.  The map below shows the two locations where minor flooding is forecast. Those spots are symbolized by yellow dots. These dot forecasts only predict flooding within the next four days. … ”  Click through to view interactive map at the Mercury News. | Read via MSN News. | Read similar story and map from NBC News.

The West’s historic snowfall is finally melting — and the consequences could be extreme

“To get a sense of the enormous amount of atmospheric water rivers dumped on the Western U.S. this year and the magnitude of the flood risk ahead, take a look at California’s Central Valley, where about a quarter of the nation’s food is grown.  This region was once home to the largest freshwater lake west of the Rockies. But the rivers that fed Tulare Lake were dammed and diverted long ago, leaving it nearly dry by 1920. Farmers have been growing food on the fertile lake bed for decades.  This year, however, Tulare Lake is remerging. Runoff and snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada have overwhelmed waterways and flooded farms and orchards. After similar storms in 1983, the lake covered more than 100 square miles, and scientists say this year’s precipitation is looking a lot like 1983. Communities there and across the West are preparing for flooding and mudslide disasters as record snow begins to melt.  We asked Chad Hecht, a meteorologist with the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at the University of California San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, how 2023’s storms compare to past extremes and what to expect in the future. … ”  Read more from Inverse.

California’s historic snowpack is turning to snowmelt. What you need to know

“After a winter of record snow and rain, California is dealing with the Big Melt.  As temperatures warm, the snowpack is melting and flowing into rivers and streams. All that water has both good and potentially dangerous effects. Flooding has already hit the Central Valley, including around Tulare Lake.  But the water can also help drought-battered farms and water storage networks.  The Tulare Lake Basin and the San Joaquin River Basin remain the areas of top concern, as record-deep snowpack in the southern Sierra Nevada is expected to send a cascade of water down into the San Joaquin Valley as it melts. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

Runoff to create high flows along Westside waterways

“With extended and heavy runoff expected from the existing Sierra snowpack, the Merced County Office of Emergency Services is advising the public of potential flooding along local waterways.  The primary areas of concern are along the San Joaquin and Merced river corridors and the Eastside Bypass. Several dairy, poultry and ag operations could be impacted by floodwaters if flows exceed the capacity of our local channels. The County has created a GIS map to help identify areas at possible risk, which includes Newman, rural areas on the outskirts of Gustine and Stevinson. The map can be viewed at https://tinyurl.com/yc7wz4jsDuring periods of high river flows, flooding can occur quickly. Livestock evacuations are urgent and complex processes. Advanced planning and coordination are essential components of a successful operation. … ”  Read more from Westside Connect.

Kaweah River water managers prepare for more high water as the valley heats up

“Water managers along the Kaweah River system have been frantically maintaining waterways as high flows continue chugging through the system. But even as snowmelt begins and flows increase, there isn’t a risk of flooding yet, according to state officials.  The Kaweah River flows from Lake Kaweah through Terminus Dam. Below the dam, it has multiple branches, including the St. Johns River, which flows west through Visalia. Other branches cut a little further south before also heading west.  Like most southern San Joaquin Valley rivers, the Kaweah and its multiple branches overflowed during the string of storms in March. … ”  Read more from SJV Water.

Kern River water heads north through flood channel but won’t hit Tulare Lake – yet

“The heavily overgrown Kern River flood channel that heads north past Highway 46 and eventually meanders into the southern end of the Tulare Lake bed is filling with water.  But it’s not “flood water” and it won’t make it into Tulare Lake, said Tim Ashlock, General Manager of Buena Vista Water Storage District.  The district is moving water up the channel to “clear a path” and will recapture it further north and put into recharge ponds, he said. After the water soaks in a bit, Buena Vista will put heavy equipment in the channel and begin clearing out the thicket of trees, shrubs and weeds to about three miles north of Highway 46. … ”  Read more from SJV Water.

In commentary today …

Editorial: Aerial wildfire retardant fouls waterways but saves lives. We can’t simply stop using it.

The San Diego Union-Tribune writes, “Under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 — one of the first major federal environmental laws — a core principle of regulation is a cost-benefit analysis that examines the consequences of all the alternatives being considered in response to any particular problem. The smart approach acknowledges the concern reflected in a well-known saying: Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.  A federal court case with this concern at its center is now unfolding in Montana, one that fire officials warn has grim implications for California’s ability to fight the massive forest blazes that have become far more common over the past decade because of the hotter, drier conditions generated by the climate emergency. At issue is the government’s use of aerial fire retardant in responding to giant forest fires that can’t be controlled by other tactics. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Tunnel vision: LA focuses on Delta ‘interruption’ while existing conveyance systems are in peril

Dennis Wyatt, editor of the Manteca Bulletin, writes, “Los Angeles has bigger fish to fry than the Delta Tunnel.  To get an inkling of what that is, you need to stand along the shores of two lakes.  One you can find on the edge of the Great Basin at 6,791 feet near the foot of the Eastern Sierra.  The other is 160 miles south of the Delta.  The first is Crowley Lake.  It was created by a dam built in 1941 by the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power on the upper Owens River.  The LA agency is the much despised engineer of the destruction of Owens Valley agriculture that relegated the local economies to dependency on tourism. … ”  Continue reading at the Manteca Bulletin.

California investors care about environmental, social risks. It has little to do with politics

Christopher Ailman, chief investment officer of CalSTRS, writes, “The words “environmental, social and governance,” or ESG for short, have been embroiled in a polarizing storm of political rhetoric. These simple words are nothing to fear and should not be fodder for political posturing or gamesmanship.  In fact, they are most appropriately looked at through an investment lens to identify risks that are not typically presented in a company’s financial statements or annual reports.  The current furor over ESG is largely positioned along ideological and political lines. That’s plain wrong, and why President Joe Biden’s recent veto of a congressional resolution that would tie the hands of investors was the prudent action to take. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


It’s time to protect Humboldt Bay from worst sea level rise on the West Coast

Bella Tarlton, a junior at Six Rivers Charter High School in Eureka, writes, “I may not be able to get home in 20 years – not because I’ve left the area, but because the roads to my house may be underwater.  I live just a mile from the edge of Humboldt Bay in Northern California, the location of the most rapid sea level rise along the West Coast.  The accelerated change is due to tectonic activity, which is causing the ground around and under the bay to sink at the same rate the sea level is rising.  “Furthermore, much of the land surrounding Humboldt Bay is former marshland, which is more susceptible to inundation,” Stephen Kullmann, a commissioner with the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation, and Conservation District, explained. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal.

Tenmile Creek flows just enough for fish in water year 2022

“The Eel River Recovery Project has collected water temperature and flow data and documented the fish community in the Tenmile Creek watershed that surrounds Laytonville since 2018, and this is an announcement of the release of their Water Year (WY) 2022 findings. Starting on October 1, 2021 and extending to September 30, 2022, it was a year of extremes. Although rainfall was only 70% of normal, conditions were dramatically better for fish than in WY 2021, when most Tenmile Creek reaches and tributaries went completely dry. … ”  Continue reading at Mendocino Voice.

Cal Fire: $5 million grant awarded to Eel River project in Mendocino County

“An effort to restore part of the Eel River watershed in Mendocino County is just one of the many projects awarded more than $142 million from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the agency reported this week.  The agency announced in a press release, that “$142.6 million has been awarded for statewide investments in projects intended to enhance carbon storage while restoring the health and resilience of existing and recently burned forests throughout California.”  A total of “27 grants were awarded to local and regional partners implementing projects on state, local, tribal, federal, and private lands. Fuels reduction and prescribed fire treatments funded under these grants are aimed at reducing excess vegetation and returning forest and oak woodlands to more fire, drought, and pest-resilient conditions.” … ”  Read more from the Ukiah Daily Journal.


Nevada Irrigation District issues warning of cold, dangerous water flows

“An incoming heat wave this weekend will trigger rapid snowmelt on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada. The Nevada Irrigation District (NID) is anticipating high flows, cold water and dangerous conditions in rivers and waterways.  “With warming temperatures, it may be tempting to head to the water. NID asks the public to be mindful that the rapid melt will create river levels exceeding flows in recent years,” said NID’s Director of Power Systems Keane Sommers. “Additionally, the water is very cold and could limit your ability to save yourself. The high flows and cold temperatures will combine to result in an increased risk around local waterways.” … ”  Read more from YubaNet.

Snowpack, reservoirs contain enough water to supply Reno-Sparks area for up to 3 years

“Current water content in the Sierra Nevada snowpack and upstream reservoirs is enough to supply customers in the Reno-Sparks area for up to three years, according to the Truckee Meadows Water Authority.  TMWA officials said on Thursday the water supply outlook for 2023 is ‘excellent’ after an historic, record-breaking winter across the Sierra Nevada and northern Nevada. … ”  Read more from Fox 11.


Lake Oroville at 91% capacity, DWR increases water releases

“The heavy snow melt has triggered more water releases from Lake Oroville this week. The first release through the Spillway in four years happened in March with 15,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) were released.  The California Department of Water Resources upped this amount this week. On Wednesday, 18,000 cfs were released — and 20,000 cfs on Thursday.  “It makes you feel a lot better when you see it full versus when you see it empty,” said Kevin McCarthy who lives in Oroville. … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento.

Carmichael Water District digs deep for water

“A $6 million Aquifer and Storage and Recovery Well will limit future shortages for 44,000 Carmichael Water District customers.   One of many similar projects in Sacramento, the well is being sunk on San Juan School District land at Garfield Avenue. Its operation should begin by late next year.  Construction is necessitated by State restrictions on drawing from the American River during droughts.  For more than 100 years, the benevolent artery has quenched local thirst, filled tubs irrigated and gardens. But climate change and competing demands from other areas have jeopardized CWD rights to river water. … ”  Read more from the Carmichael Times.


Oxnard to seek national wildlife refuge status for Ormond Beach

“The city of Oxnard and two nature conservancies will apply for national wildlife refuge status for Ormond Beach.  The move would turn over management of about 650 acres of coastal wetlands — owned by Oxnard, the California State Coastal Conservancy and the Nature Conservancy — to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Representatives for the three partners said at a meeting Monday the wildlife service is the most capable entity to manage the area, though neither side has agreed to a deal.  About 100 people attended the public forum virtually and in person. While the meeting topic was long-term management of the wetlands, residents were focused on planned improvements to public access and conservation. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star.


‘Take a seat, bro’; Embattled water agency muzzled critic at public meeting, ACLU says

“Already roiled by criminal indictments against its general manager and bitter infighting between board members, the embattled Central Basin Municipal Water District has now been accused of trying to muzzle critical comments at a public meeting.  After telling a Downey resident and vocal critic of the board that he was “out of order” for mentioning criminal charges against district general manager Alejandro “Alex” Rojas, and then ordering guards to eject the resident from a recent meeting, the district’s board has been accused of violating the Ralph M. Brown Act, a California law that guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in government meetings.  “It is abundantly clear … that the Board had no legitimate or legal basis for its actions, which violated the Board’s obligation to allow public comment,” read a cease-and-desist letter filed recently by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

LA County program supports multi-benefit stormwater infrastructure projects

“An urban orchard with a nature-based playground and education garden. A living schoolyard that reduces air pollution and heat by replacing asphalt with vegetation, trees and a rain garden. A green street that combines stormwater management strategies with natural habitat and public health benefits. By funding these projects and others like them, Los Angeles County is embracing a multi-benefit approach to stormwater management.   LA County’s voter-approved Safe Clean Water Program (SCWP) aims to improve water quality, enhance water supplies, improve public health, and provide community investment benefits, with a particular focus on disadvantaged communities. The SCWP is funded through a parcel tax that generates approximately $280 million annually in perpetuity. The program disperses funds into three pots: 10% to the District Program for administration and capacity building; 40% to fund stormwater projects in cities throughout the county on a per capita basis; and 50% distributed through grants under the Regional Program. … ”  Read more from Stormwater Solutions.


Century-old Scripps Pier records reveal precipitation trends

“Researchers at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography investigated the history of Southern California climate using a unique dataset collected at the iconic Ellen Browning Scripps Pier in La Jolla, Calif.  Led by oceanography graduate student Sierra Byrne, the team analyzed the relative freshness of the water which has been measured by hand at the pier site since 1916. Periods when the water was less salty indicate that there was more freshwater entering the ocean from nearby streams. Inundations of freshwater took place during years when there was extreme precipitation and more streamflow.  Plotted on a graph, the history reveals the marks of climate patterns such as El Niños and La Niñas and longer patterns such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). The signature of a 30-year-long negative phase of the PDO from the 1940s to 1970s when waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean were relatively cool reveals itself in a pattern of minimal salinity variation in pier samples. … ”  Continue reading at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

ReWild Coalition calls for maximum wetlands restoration in Mission Bay

“ReWild Mission Bay supporters held a press conference on April 19 to emphasize the need for the greatest possible volume of restored wetlands in the City’s De Anza Natural wetland restoration proposal in northeast Mission Bay.  The event was sponsored by the ReWild Coalition, which includes members of San Diego Audubon Society, Outdoor Outreach, San Diego Pediatricians For Clean Air, San Diego Coastkeeper, San Diego Surfrider Foundation, and San Diego Sierra Club, among others. It was held the day before the City Parks and Recreation Board’s informational public hearing to receive community testimony on the Draft De Anza Natural Amendment to the Mission Bay Park Master Plan, which has been released for public comment. … ”  Read more from San Diego News.

Imperial Beach wants state of emergency declared due to sewage from Mexico

“The city of Imperial Beach is asking the U.S. Department of State to declare a state of emergency over ongoing pollution coming from south of the border, in particular raw sewage.  Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre says the bacteria levels in the water along are at “astronomical” levels and have led to consistent beach closures since Dec. 2021.  “I’ve asked for a state of emergency, because just like a tornado or a hurricane or a tsunami that can lead to a natural disaster, the levels of pollution that we’re talking about are impacting us,” said Aguirre. … ”  Read more from Fox 5.

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Along the Colorado River …

Colorado River water plan could trigger unprecedented supply cuts, ripple effects on key industries

“Earlier this month, the Biden administration proposed a plan to distribute cuts from the Colorado River and resolve the centurylong legal dispute between states across the American Southwest that share its water supplies.  Decades of drought and overuse have brought the river’s water levels to historic lows. States in the Lower Colorado River Basin — Arizona, California and Nevada — now must choose between one of three options proposed by the federal government.  The outcome of these talks will have far-reaching implications for agriculture and energy in the region. The Colorado River provides water for over 40 million Americans and 30 Tribal Nations, fuels hydropower resources in eight states and supports agriculture across the region.  “Food, energy and water tend to be regulated separately, which can be problematic. You can’t change policy in one of these areas without impacting the others,” says Robin Craig, professor of law at the USC Gould School of Law. … ”  Read more from USC.

Radio: If the Colorado River were a bank account, we ran out of cash more than 20 years ago

“In Colorado, when we look up at the rocky mountains, it’s difficult to imagine how much those snowy white peaks mean to the rest of the world. But for more than a hundred years, millions of people have relied on the water that flows into the Colorado River from the Rocky Mountain snowpack. Close to 40 million people use water from the Colorado River. In the winter, 90% of vegetables consumed in both the US and Canada are grown with Colorado River water.  In the last 20 years, tensions over increasingly scarce Colorado River water supplies have been rising in step with climate change and global temperatures.  KGNUs Alexis Kenyon spoke with Dr. Jack Schmidt the director of the Center of Colorado River Studies at Utah State University about what a shrinking Colorado River means for everyone and everything it sustains.”  Listen at KGNU.

Sizing up Colorado River water fight

“With Arizona facing a 21% cut in Colorado River water allocations from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation this year, an expert in water policy at Arizona State University said April 25 she’s hopeful farmers won’t be expected to alter their operations as the region grapples with declining water levels.  On April 24, the bureau opened bypass tubes at Glen Canyon Dam to allow three days of high-water flow from Lake Powell through the Grand Canyon. Arizona is in the middle of its longest drought in about 1,200 years.  Sarah Porter, director of the Kyle Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, said during a Farm Foundation seminar on water rights this week that Arizona farmers are facing increasing pressure to cut usage.  Agriculture accounts for nearly three-fourths of consumptive water use in the basin and that puts farmers squarely in the spotlight.  This has sparked public debate and discussion about a perceived need for farmers to move away from crops that require a lot of water. … ”  Read more from The Progressive Farmer.

Commentary: Sharing the pain in the Colorado River

John Sabo, Director of ByWater Institute at Tulane University, writes, ““We have 19th century laws, we have 20th century infrastructure, and we have 21st century climate. And those three things don’t fit very well together.”   That comment in The New York Times from John Entsminger, who represents Nevada in negotiations to reshape water allocations in the Colorado River Basin, is a clear summation of the messy situation facing the 40 million people who depend on the river.  It’s time to move on from trying to mash those ill-fitting pieces together and instead imagine what the big-picture future for water in the basin should look like. We need that big-picture future so that we can rapidly create the policies, infrastructure and management systems that can get us there. … ”  Read more from Forbes.

Panelists highlight disparities between Arizona’s urban, rural groundwater management

“Record drought throughout the Southwest has taken a toll on the Colorado River, and put greater emphasis on other water supplies. KJZZ News hosted a panel discussion Wednesday in Tempe on Arizona’s groundwater situation.  The lack of regulation in the state’s rural areas is a big concern. KJZZ received hundreds of questions related to groundwater from audience members in advance of and during the event.  Groundwater accounts for about 40% of Arizona’s overall supply. And it’s been closely regulated in the state’s urban areas since 1980. Phoenix water director Troy Hayes says the city has been able to leave groundwater largely untouched. … ”  Read more from KJZZ.

In Arizona, fresh scrutiny of Saudi-owned farm’s water use

“In rural Arizona’s La Paz County, on the state’s rugged border with California, the decision by a Saudi-owned dairy company to grow alfalfa in the American Southwest for livestock in the Gulf kingdom first raised eyebrows nearly a decade ago. Now, worsening drought has focused new attention on the company and whether Arizona should be doing more to protect its groundwater resources.  Amid a broader investigation by the state attorney general, Arizona last week rescinded a pair of permits that would have allowed Fondomonte Arizona, a subsidiary of Almarai Co., to drill more than 1,000 feet (305 meters) into the water table to pump up to 3,000 gallons (11 kiloliters) of water per minute to irrigate its forage crops. … ”  Read more from the AP.

Tribal nations were once excluded from Colorado River talks. Now they’re key players

“This Spring, a high level delegation met inside the Arizona Governor’s office to announce a huge water conservation deal.  The crowd was a who’s who of the western water world, including top Biden administration officials, the head of Arizona’s powerful water department, the state’s Governor Katie Hobbs, and its senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema.  But the man at the center of the announcement was someone who probably wouldn’t have even been invited to this type of event not too long ago: Governor Stephen Roe Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community. … ”  Read more from the LAist.

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National water and climate update …

The Natural Resources Conservation Service produces this weekly report using data and products from the National Water and Climate Center and other agencies. The report focuses on seasonal snowpack, precipitation, temperature, and drought conditions in the U.S.

Water and Climate Update 2023-04-27

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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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