DAILY DIGEST, 5/1: What the looming El Nino means for weather and the world; Water deliveries could be affected by years of land subsidence; San Diego farmers want to ditch expensive water supplier; Hatcheries alone cannot save species and fisheries; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • MEETING: Bay Area Council Water & Climate Resilience Committee from 10am to 12pm.  Join the Bay Area Council Water & Climate Resilience Committee to discuss policies impacting the Bay Area’s resilience to drought, floods, and wildfires.  Click here for more information and to register.

In California water news today …

El Niño is looming. Here’s what that means for weather and the world.

“Earth is under an “El Niño watch” as scientists eye signs that the climate pattern is developing.  Its arrival could mean significant impacts worldwide, including a push toward levels of global warming that climate scientists have warned could be devastating.  Since March, a rapid increase in average ocean temperatures has been helping to fuel speculation that El Niño is imminent. The pattern could mark a quick departure from an unusually extended spell of El Niño’s inverse counterpart, La Niña, which scientists say ended in February. Before it materializes, here is what you need to know about it, and what it could mean for your community and planet. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post (gift article).

SEE ALSOWhat an ominous surge in ocean temperatures means for the planet, from the Washington Post

Water deliveries could be affected by years of land subsidence

Even after a surplus of water fell on the state this past winter, California continues to face problems brought on by the years of drought that plagued the state.  Earlier this month, the California Department of Water Resources announced that there would be no restrictions in water allocation from the State Water Project for the first time since 2006 due to a tremendous increase in reservoir storage. While reservoir storage can see tremendous gains in a single year, the same can’t be said for groundwater. Years of overpumping groundwater aquifers, particularly in the San Joaquin Valley, has caused the land to subside.  “We can think of an aquifer as sands and gravels and clays kind of filling up a volume of space and the voids are all filled with water,” said Claudia Faunt, Supervisory Hydrologist for the United States Geological Survey. Problems arise when this occurs, especially because land subsidence occurs at differing rates…. ”  Read more from Channel 10.

San Diego North County farmers want to ditch expensive water supplier. Will elected leaders stop them?

“Should two rural North County communities be allowed to purchase cheaper water from outside of the San Diego region in a desperate attempt to save farming — even if it could mean slightly higher bills for other ratepayers?  That’s a question elected leaders will have to answer in coming weeks, as a years-long attempt by water managers in Fallbrook and Rainbow to flee skyrocketing rates comes to a head.  “We lose farmers every single year,” said Rainbow Municipal Water District General Manager Tom Kennedy at a recent public meeting. “Agriculture’s dying in the North County.”  The process is being overseen by the San Diego County Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO. Specifically, Rainbow and Fallbrook have requested authorization from the agency to buy wholesale water from Riverside County, as opposed to San Diego County. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Video: Senate Bill 366 could modernize the California Water Plan

“Michele Canales, policy analyst for the Office of Senator Anna Caballero, and Danielle Blacet- Hyden, deputy executive director for the California Municipal Utilities Association, drop by to talk about Senate Bill 366 by California Senate Anna Caballero.”  Watch video from Stormwater Solutions (8:43)

Hatcheries alone cannot save species and fisheries

Andrew L. Rypel and Peter B. Moyle write, “The photo is a common one (Fig 1). Large numbers of fish are being released into a river, stream or estuary – products of a fish hatchery. A politician or government leader looks on, or even participates in the release, says a few words, and then grabs a photo opportunity for the press or social media. It *looks* good, like we are doing our best to save and improve fisheries. But, does it actually work?  On the surface, fish hatcheries strike many as an example of a management approach that is effective. If we don’t have enough fish, why not just grow more fish in a hatchery and release them into the wild to boost populations? Yet on closer inspection, a variety of problems arise from reliance on hatcheries to support fisheries or to ‘save’ endangered species. Often fish populations continue to decline even if supplemented with large numbers of hatchery fish. … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog.

Epic snowpack upends rhythms of life for many species in Sierra Nevada range

“The Big Melt is finally underway in the Sierra Nevada range, and soon there will be few wild places beyond the reach of water sounds: dripping, gurgling and roaring as runoff flows from lofty peaks to sage plains below.  But the whiplash change from extreme drought to epic snowpack is having very different consequences for a variety of species.  “In the ever changing ebb and flow of water in California, no given year is great for all species,” said Joshua Viers, a professor at UC Merced specializing in the hydrology of the Sierra Nevada. “But in a year like this one, which is exceptional by all measures, we are looking at a resetting of the dynamics of the entire ecological canvas from the redwoods to the desert.” … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

Big wildfires can devastate California’s fish. But they thrive with frequent, small burns

“It’s ingrained in the minds of many fish biologists and conservationists — and many more members of the public — that fire is a destructive force. When fire burns an area, that will be bad.  But a burgeoning area of research shows that wildfires can stimulate growth and abundance in freshwater creeks and rivers — particularly low- to moderate-severity fires.  “If we don’t have a good grasp of what’s going on with fire, there’s no way we can manage for things like fish, for people, for communities or anything, really,” said Lenya Quinn-Davidson, director of the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Fire Network, addressing a crowd gathered for a healthy fire and fish workshop at the 40th Annual Salmonid Restoration Conference last week in Fortuna. … ”  Read more from KQED.

Lawn wars consume America’s neighborhoods

“The American lawn has become the latest front-line issue in neighborhoods across the country: Some are shelling out to maintain lush greens while others forgo mowing and chemical treatments.  Why it matters: Environmental campaigns like “No Mow May,” the “anti-lawn” movement, “Food Not Lawns” and “Climate Victory Gardens” are gaining steam — but prompting homeowner associations and other traditionalists to dig in their heels.  The issue pits property values, aesthetics and “curb appeal” against concerns about drought, gas-powered mowers and biodiversity. Even among those who prize sustainability, there’s debate over lawn care techniques — but agreement that too much mowing is bad for pollinators. … ”  Continue reading at Axios.

Drought and storms topple urban trees. Now some cities are planting ‘trees that survive in the desert.’

“After a series of winter storms pummeled California this winter, thousands of trees across the state lost their grip on the earth and crashed down into power lines, homes, and highways. Sacramento alone lost more than 1,000 trees in less than a week. Stressed by years of drought, pests and extreme weather, urban trees are in trouble.   The U.S. Forest Service estimates that cities are losing some 36 million trees every year, wiped out by development, disease and, increasingly, climate stressors, like drought. In a recent study published in Nature, researchers found that more than half of urban trees in 164 cities around the world were already experiencing temperature and precipitation conditions that were beyond their limits for survival. … ”  Read more from USA Today.

What can Northern California expect this wildfire season? Risk depends on where you live

“Record rains this winter may have dampened Northern California, but wildfire season is still coming — and certain regions will see it sooner than others. Temperatures in the region are warming up, teetering in the high 80s and low 90s in Sacramento, slowly drying up land drenched in early 2023 storms. According to the state’s Department of Water Resources, California is experiencing one of the largest snowpacks in history, with about 126 inches of snow depth and 54 inches of snow water as of April 3, the last official measurement. Typically, peak Northern California fire season begins in June or July and can run through November, according to the Western Fire Chiefs Association. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee.

Politicians tell Forest Service: Do more to fight wildfires

“Lawmakers from several western states want the U.S. Forest Service to do more to address a wildfire crisis that they say will surely destroy more landscapes, communities and livelihoods as long-term drought persists around the West. They grilled Forest Service Chief Randy Moore during a congressional hearing this week, asking about the agency’s spending priorities and the backlog of national forest lands that need to be treated to reduce wildfire risks.  U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany, a Wisconsin Republican and chair of the House Natural Resources Committee’s panel on federal lands, said the agency needs to usher in a new phase of accountability and transparency if it wants “reverse the tide against this historic crisis.” … ”  Read more from KSBY.

Return to top

In regional water news and commentary today …

BOS declares end to local drought emergency in Mendocino County

“A drought emergency declaration in place over the past two years was lifted in the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday. “Current conditions are not beyond the control of the services, personnel equipment and facilities of the county” after a stormy winter and spring helped replenish local water reserves, the resolution states.  The board voted unanimously to approve the item as part of this week’s consent calendar. Governor Gavin Newsom lifted some drought provisions, such as emergency water deliveries, around the state last month. The measure maintained the ban on wasteful water uses like ornamental lawns and preserved emergency orders focused on groundwater supply, among other responses to drought. … ”  Read more from the Mendocino Voice.

Modesto Irrigation District general manager will retire after 26 years with utility. Any word on successor?

“Ed Franciosa will retire as general manager of the Modesto Irrigation District after 14 months in the post. The May 26 departure was announced in a news release Friday from the utility. Franciosa, an electrical engineer, has worked there since 1997. The MID board had appointed him in March 2022. He informed the nearly 450 employees of his retirement on Thursday.  “I’m grateful for MID and the wonderful employees and fellow water and power industry professionals I have had the privilege to work with throughout my 36-year public service career,” Franciosa said. “I’m honored to have had many opportunities at the district, including serving as general manager, and I’m proud of my contributions to providing the excellent services MID is known for.” … ”  Continue reading at the Modesto Bee.

Santa Barbara: City receives $1.26M for microplastic pollution research

“The City of Santa Barbara has received a $1.26 million grant to research microplastic pollution prevention, with the goal of providing clean streets, clean air and clean seas. The city’s Sustainability & Resilience Department announced Friday that its Creeks Restoration and Water Quality Improvement Division, in partnership with the University of Southern California (USC) Sea Grant Program, was awarded the grant. Microplastics are small plastic pieces or fibers smaller than 5mm in size (about the size of a pencil eraser). They are found on our streets, in our creeks and ocean, the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe. … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara News-Press.

SoCal: May starts with spring showers. See this week’s wet weather forecast

“Spring showers and below-normal temperatures are in the forecast for Southern California during the first week of May.  Light showers and drizzle arrived early Monday ahead of the morning drive.  “We’re starting off cloudy with areas of drizzle,” said NBC4 forecaster Belen De Leon.  Afternoon highs will be in the low- to mid-60s for most areas with highs dipping into the 50s in mountain communities. Wind speeds will increase throughout the day. … ”  Read more from NBC 4.

San Diego: Pure Water: City rethinks sewage recycling, eyes Lake Murray

“With phase one of San Diego’s Pure Water sewage recycling system nearly half built, city officials are making major adjustments to plans for constructing the rest of the system in order to avoid delays and potentially shrink overall costs.  To cope with severe flooding at the Morena Boulevard pump station that threatens to delay the start of operations by more than a year, city officials now plan to temporarily recycle only 40 percent as much sewage so they can start on time in mid-2025.  Slashing the daily capacity from 30 million gallons to 12 million gallons will allow the city to cut the Morena Boulevard pump station out of the recycling system until it can be activated in late 2026 — at least a year behind schedule. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Return to top

Along the Colorado River …

Abundant snowfall in Rockies cause for extra water to Lake Mead

“The Bureau of Reclamation released its April 24-Month Study late April, which includes an increase to downstream flows from Lake Powell to Lake Mead of up to 9.5 million acre-feet (maf) this water year, Oct. 1, 2022 through Sept. 30, 2023.   Lake Powell’s Glen Canyon Dam’s annual release volume for water year 2023 was initially set at 7.0 maf, based on the August 2022 24-Month Study, and is now projected to increase to up to 9.5 maf because of high snowpack this winter and projected runoff in the Colorado River Basin this spring, according to the report. The actual annual release volume from Glen Canyon Dam is adjusted each month throughout the water year and is determined based on the observed inflow to Lake Powell and the storage levels of Lake Powell and Lake Mead.  While this water year’s projections are above average, the Colorado River Basin is experiencing severe drought conditions and system reservoirs remain at historically low levels, the report said. … ”  Read more from the Desert Review.

The Western water crisis is turning to an 80-year-old solution: Shooting crystals at clouds

“This coming winter, residents in the American West may glance up to the sky and see planes shooting tiny particles at clouds. That might sound like something from a sci-fi flick—but it’s a legitimate effort to create more water during a megadrought that’s now in its 23rd consecutive year.  The technology, cloud seeding, is a process of stimulating clouds to produce more precipitation, and has been around for more than 80 years. It’s been used in different ways through history, but there’s growing research and interest—and an inflow of federal funding—as Western states struggle to deal with water shortages. Though far from the only solution, it’s viewed as one tool that could help reduce dangerous deficits. … ”  Read more from Fast Company.

Return to top

More news and commentary in the weekend edition …

In California water news this weekend …

An aerial view looking south shows the California Aqueduct (right) and the Delta-Mendota Canal (Left) south of San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos in Merced County, California. Photo Taken April 14, 2023. Ken James / DWR
  • Big shift in weather is headed to California. Here’s a timeline for what to expect in May
  • AI programs consume large volumes of scarce water
  • Lake Shasta approaches full pool for the first time in nearly two years
  • Water levels are going up in the West’s massive reservoirs. Has the water crisis been averted?
  • UCLA Law students advocate for equitable groundwater rules at the State Capitol
  • Congressman Valadao’s WATER for California Act passes out of House Natural Resources Committee
  • Reintroductions: A lifeline for salmon in the Central Valley
  • Near-record California heat is melting snow and triggering flooding
  • Rain, snow, cold temps return next week to Lake Tahoe
  • California American Water rejects unauthorized purchase offer
  • Too little or too much, there’s always controversy brewing over Kern River water
  • Ninth Circuit drains $48 million judgment over Pomona’s polluted water supply
  • And more …

Click here to read the weekend edition of the Daily Digest.

Return to top

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOTICE: Water Right Petitions for Temporary Urgency Changes in Mendocino and Sonoma Counties

NOW AVAILABLE: 2022 California Bacteria Summit Summary Published Online

REGISTER NOW for the Army Corps Regulatory Program Workshop

Return to top

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.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email