DAILY DIGEST, 5/8: Cracks, hacks and attacks: The many risks facing CA’s aging water infrastructure; Illegal cannabis making water problems worse; Momentum grows for new thinking about river restoration; Wet year amid Colorado River drought puts water-use cuts in question; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • VIRTUAL PUBLIC MEETING: Colorado River Draft SEIS from 8:30am – 11:30am. Reclamation will hold four virtual public meetings to provide information on the draft SEIS, answer questions, and take verbal comment.  This is the second of the four meetings.  An interactive webpage with information on the project background and summaries of the draft SEIS alternatives and analyses will be posted on the project website prior to the virtual public meetings. Each virtual public meeting will begin with 30 minutes for participants to explore the background information on the webpage at their own pace. The formal meeting presentation will begin 30 minutes after the scheduled meeting start time. Reclamation will take questions and public comments following the presentation. The interactive webpage materials and the virtual public meetings will be available in Spanish.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

Cracks, hacks and attacks: The many risks facing California’s aging water infrastructure

“In California, where epic Sierra Nevada snowpack and “the Big Melt” have substantially increased the stakes for reservoir managers, officials say they’re taking steps to protect the state’s water systems from hackers, terrorist attacks and natural disasters, such as the flooding that temporarily severed the Los Angeles Aqueduct — the city’s water lifeline to the Owens Valley.  But experts say the challenges are numerous. Many of the systems in California and nationwide are still operating with outdated software, poor passwords, aging infrastructure and other weaknesses that could leave them at risk.  “We’ve seen a steady rise in both the prevalence and the impact of cyberintrusions, as well as an extraordinary increase in ransomware attacks, which have become more destructive and more expensive,” said Joe Oregon, chief of cybersecurity for Region 9 of the federal Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency. … ”  Read more from the LA Times. | Read via Yahoo News.

Illegal cannabis is making California’s water problems worse

“California’s stubbornly persistent illegal cannabis industry isn’t just undercutting the legal market — it’s also behind some of the world’s most blatant water theft.  The state’s estimated $8 billion underground marijuana industry consumes staggering volumes of the precious resource, despite the state legalizing recreational use back in 2016. Some participants have been known to truck in stolen water, while others take it from fire hydrants or dig illegal wells. Years of off-and-on droughts in the state have exacerbated the problem.  “The amount of water stolen by the illegal cannabis industry is mind-blowing,” said John Nores, a retired lieutenant and former team leader of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Marijuana Enforcement Team. “We are talking millions and millions of gallons taken annually by these unlawful operations.” … ”  Read more from Bloomberg (gift article).

What to know about California’s boosted water allocations

“California’s reservoirs are filled to the brim. Our snowpack is epic. And, in what feels like a near-miraculous turn of events, less than 8 percent of the state is still considered to be in a drought.  Another perk of this water bounty: The two biggest water systems that send clean water throughout California will both, for the first time in nearly two decades, deliver all of the water requested by cities, farms and businesses. This is great news for a state that was mired in extreme drought and struggling to survive off reduced water supplies for years.  “I think everybody is thrilled,” said Laura Ramos, interim director of research and education at the California Water Institute at Cal State Fresno. … ”  Continue reading at the New York Times (gift article).

‘They’re sacrificing us’: a California town feels ignored months after flood

Flooding in Merced County. Photo taken January 11, 2023. Photo by Andrew Innerarity / DWR

“In early January, the small Central Valley community of Planada was one of the first towns engulfed by a wave of back-to-back storms that hit California this winter. Amid relentless rains, a creek that runs past the town broke through an ageing levee. Flood waters swamped the town and surrounding agricultural fields.  About half the homes were damaged, and many remain in various states of disrepair. Water lines mar neatly painted facades. Piles of salvageable furniture and boxes full of water-logged memories have been left to air out in back yards.  Months later, residents are still digging themselves out. And local leaders are pleading for more help, without which the unincorporated, rural community of 4,000 might never fully recover. … ”  Read more from The Guardian.

Tulare Basin and Lake – 2023 and their future

“The Tulare Lake basin is unusual, even for California. It has the most human water use of any basin in California, the greatest agricultural water use, the greatest groundwater overdraft, among the least environmental water use, and no outlet to the sea.  Having no outlet to the sea, almost all precipitation and almost water entering the Tulare basin leaves only to the atmosphere by evaporation and evapotranspiration from the landscape and agriculture (some imported water is trans-shipped to Southern California cities). Today, with the development of extensive agriculture and reservoirs, this water overwhelmingly leaves the basin from evapotranspiration from crops (and the landscape). … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog.

Snowmelt thrills whitewater rafters, but California sheriffs closing some rivers to recreation for now

“A river whose twists and turns have earned names like “Troublemaker,” “Satan’s Cesspool” and “Dead Man’s Drop” warrants respect — even when years of drought have tamed its rushing waters. This, of course, is not such a year.  A winter that drenched the Golden State with torrential rains and blanketed its mountains with massive, now-melting snow has swelled California’s rivers like the American to levels not seen for years, even generations.  That’s making for an epic, adrenalin-fueled season for whitewater thrill-seekers. Andres Moreno, whose 8th-grade class at Golden Valley Charter School near Folsom took a trip last week down the South Fork of the American River with American Whitewater Expeditions, had been rafting before, but that was nothing like it is now.  “I thought I would get wet — but, like, not that wet!” Moreno, 14, said afterward. “I didn’t expect it to be so many, like, big waves.” … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News. | Read via Yahoo News.

California’s epic snowpack is melting. Here’s what to expect

“The waters from a long-dry lake, resurrected by epic rains earlier this year, already lap at the levee of this Central Valley town of 22,000 people. A hundred square miles of crops are drowning around it. But the flood that Corcoran City Manager Greg Gatzka is really worried about has yet to come.  That flood — frozen in a historic snowpack — is still sleeping, piled around Sequoia trunks, some 80 miles away. Unseasonably warm temperatures are starting to wake it up.  For Gatzka, warmer temperatures mean “the snowpack, the ominous thing that we can see on the horizon … is coming our way,” he said.  “You can look at a scene like this and think the worst is behind us, when in fact it’s quite the contrary,” said California Gov. Gavin Newsom during a recent tour of Corcoran, which sits on Tulare Lake’s historic shores. … ”  Read more at NPR.

Making shift happen: momentum grows for new thinking about river restoration

Doty Creek, a restored stream using process-based restoration in the Sierra foothills in California. Photo courtesy of Placer Land Trust

“Brian and Pat Robertson first noticed something wrong nearly 30 years ago. A stream called Little Bear Creek ran through their property in northern Idaho, but the waterway had long ago been altered during a logging operation and essentially functioned as a ditch, carrying water swiftly away from the valley. Trees were dying; the water table was dropping; neighbors were digging dry wells. After consulting with Natural Resources Conservation Service and touring several Forest Service restoration projects in Oregon, the Robertsons decided to take the creek back to Stage Zero.  Stage Zero is like hitting the reset button to a time before the stream had formed a channel. With help from 10 agencies, the Robertsons filled in their stretch of Little Bear Creek until it was flush with the surrounding landscape. They scattered large logs about to help slow the flow of water. Then the stream could decide where it wanted to go: spreading out in fingers across a valley; pooling in wetlands; creating little micro-habitats — places where water-loving plants could grow, insects could hatch and young salmon could thrive.  Since the restoration at Little Bear Creek began more than five years ago, the water table has risen several feet. The meadow is transforming into a wetland. In time, the Robertson say, willows may return, then beavers.  The Robertsons’ project is an example of process-based restoration. … ”  Read more from The Revelator.

The effects of wildfires on aquatic ecosystems

“Most people assume that wildfire harms aquatic ecosystems and fisheries. But such assumptions are being challenged by new research. There is no doubt that under some conditions, especially immediately after a high-severity blaze, aquatic ecosystems can suffer temporary degradation. But increasingly, we are beginning to understand that wildfires are a crucial positive influence on aquatic ecosystems.  Fire influences on fish can generally be broken down into three categories: short-term, delayed response, and long-term effects. The short-term impacts would usually be considered neutral or negative, while the long-term effects, on the whole, would be regarded as a positive influence. Rieman et al. report no known examples of stream fish extirpation due to wildfire. … ”  Read more from Counter Punch.

Fish of the day with a side of PFAS – Toxic pollutants found in us freshwater fish

“There are many things that people wish could last forever, like the smell of spring, fresh produce, or wildflowers. One thing that would likely never make this list is harmful chemicals, but in some cases, they have the potential to persist for a very long time. Researchers recently identified alarming amounts of these “forever” chemical pollutants in freshwater fish residing in streams and rivers within the United States. Specifically, the study found large quantities of a common manufacturing chemical, often referred to under the umbrella term PFAS or polyfluoroalkyl, within the tissues of fish. PFAS have both water- and oil-repelling bonds, meaning any water or oil that comes in contact with the chemical, gets repelled. This characteristic makes PFAS a perfect component in packaging materials, fire-fighting foams, stain or water-resistant clothing, and many other necessities. However, because PFAS don’t dissolve, they are incapable of naturally degrading in the environment, or in a living body. … ”  Read more from FishBio.

California’s forests are packed with dead trees. Harvesting them could cut wildfire risk.

“California has more than 30 million acres of forests. Many are densely packed with small trees or trees that have been killed by beetles.  Removing some of the small and dead trees would make the forests more resilient to drought, pests, and wildfires.  “If these dead trees burn or rot en masse, that’s going to emit a lot of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that from a climate change perspective, we can’t afford,” says Sandra Lupien, director of mass timber at Michigan State University. … ”  Read more from Yale Climate Connections.

As sea levels rise, it’s time for West Coast communities to overcome ‘taboo of managed retreat’: report

“By the end of the century, sea levels along the West Coast could rise two feet and an additional 1.6 feet under a high emissions scenario, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In 2050, flooding is expected to occur ten times more frequently than today, says the report, which is based on 26 expert interviews as well as a September 2022 workshop in Santa Cruz including elected officials, scientists, nonprofits and consultants.  Along with highlighting leading practices for local governments looking to address sea-level rise, the report calls for a reframing of the debate around managed retreat, suggesting alternative terms such as “corrective shoreline planning,” “managed realignment,” “community-led relocation” and “planned relocation.” … ”  Read more from Deep Dive.

Return to top

In regional water news and commentary today …


Column: CDFW’s “Fishy Decision”  and public records ordinance demise near

Jim Shields writes, “At back-to-back meetings last week (April 26 and April 27), the Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council (LAMAC) and the Laytonville County Water District (LCWD) Board, both approved supporting the Eel River Recovery Project (ERRP) in a ludicrous dispute with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) regarding essential watershed restoration work. For disclosure purposes I’m chairman of the LAMAC and district manager of the Water District.  For the record, the Water District has a long-standing relationship with ERRP, and we have assisted and partnered with them over the years on a number of watershed restoration projects that have been brought to successful completion. I have worked with ERRP’s Executive Director, Pat Higgins, for 10 years on numerous watershed projects.  One of those projects involved a $475,000 grant from the State Water Board to stop bank erosion, restore riparian areas and to create fish habitat improvement structures in critical reaches for salmon and steelhead. … ”  Read more from the Ukiah Daily Journal.

Lady of the Lake: Time to talk about temperature!

“Dear Lady of the Lake, It’s spring on Clear Lake. The days are getting warmer. How does temperature affect Clear Lake and are the patterns in temperature changing?  Hello Toma,What a great question! I am very happy to be able to chat about lake temperature today as it’s very important when studying lakes and trying to understand how to manage a lake.  Today’s column will be about one of the basic principles in limnology, or the study of inland freshwaters, like lakes, ponds, wetlands, creeks and streams. Temperature is part of a group of physical factors when talking about lake science, as opposed to biological (i.e. fish or algae) or chemical factors (i.e. nutrients or metals). … ”  Read more from the Lake County News.


Roller coaster weather pattern continues for Northern California; 90s expected by next weekend

This spring has featured a roller coaster-type weather pattern with drastic swings in temperature. With temperatures expected to rise back into the 90s again next week, this wacky pattern continues.  May has started off cool and wet in California, particularly compared to the end of April when valley temperatures soared into the mid-90s. So far, Sacramento is actually 7.5 degrees below normal in terms of average temperature this month.  Sacramento has yet to hit 70 degrees this month, which is impressive considering the average high temperature is nearly 80 at this point of the year. … ”  Read more from Channel 10.

Solano County Supervisors to look at county agriculture: now and future

“The Solano County supervisors on Tuesday will be presented an agricultural assessment with recommendations for a possible Strategic Initiative for Agriculture.  The supervisors also will consider authorizing submission of a $500,000 planning grant to fund the project.  The presentation is the culmination of a yearlong study through an ad hoc committee comprised of Supervisors John Vasquez and Mitch Mashburn. … ”  Read more from the Daily Republic.


Sonoma County: Confusing legalese sparks row over coastal plan

“For many Californians, the coast is a sacred ground. Instead of beaches crammed with bungalows and fast food as on the gulf coast or Atlantic, its contemplative, wide open vistas.  A pending update to documents guiding, or some would say limiting… development… is sparking some disagreement.  An update to the local coastal plan has been in the works for some time. Supervisor Lynda Hopkins said that in conversations with the county’s planning director and staff, she learned clauses in the long established plan, including, ‘parcel specific zoning’ aren’t what they seem. … ”  Read more from Northern California Public Media.


Marin Municipal Water District details water supply budget

“Marin Municipal Water District has released a plan to spend millions of dollars collected under a proposed rate hike to pay for new water supply projects in the next two years.  The agency, which serves 191,000 residents in central and southern Marin, is considering substantial rate increases to pay for new water supply projects, repair aging facilities and recover financial reserves lost during the recent two-year drought.  The median residential customer would face a 20% cost increase on their bimonthly bills under the plan.  The district Board of Directors is set to vote on the rate proposal at its 6:30 p.m. May 16 meeting, which will be held in person and via teleconference at the district’s headquarters in Corte Madera. The new rates would take effect on July 1. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal.


Oxnard households likely to see 24% water rate hike in July

“The average Oxnard family could see monthly water bills go up about $12 starting in July.  The City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved water rate increases for utility customers as Oxnard’s water division grapples with rising operational costs and aging pipes.  “What we put off today is only going to be worse tomorrow and at a higher cost,” said Joe Marcinko, assistant public works director, on Tuesday.  If the council adopts the increases in a final vote at the May 16 meeting, the new rates will take effect on July 1. Rates would also increase annually through 2027. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star.


Golden Hills: Long after developers moved on, CSD still works to secure water rights for community

“The community we know today as Golden Hills — and more specifically, the area served by the Golden Hills Community Services District — includes one of the first large-scale subdivisions of ranchland in the greater Tehachapi area. The initial subdivision was called Oak Knolls, and as early as April 1961, 2-1/2 acre parcels were advertised by the developer, Pacific-Atlantic Properties, Inc., of Pasadena. An article in the Los Angeles Times the next year said the “12-acre lake has been completely filled, using water available from one of the many wells on the huge tract”, “the first saddle horses have arrived for the riding stables which will function as an integral part of the projected Oak Knolls Golf and Country Club.” … ”  Read more from the Tehachapi News.


Demolition, preservation and cleanup: Behind the scenes at NASA’s rocket test site

“Deep in the Santa Susana Mountains, two masses of steel beams stand hundreds of feet above deep concrete basins.  The structures are known as the Coca stands, former rocket test stands used by NASA to test everything from the Space Shuttle’s main engine to equipment used during the Apollo moon missions.  Up close, the structures are so large it’s impossible to see them in their entirety. It’s not until one visits a lookout point that the full Coca stands are visible.  These days, visitors will see one of the stands being torn down. The demolition began in March and comprises phase six of NASA’s eight-phase demolition plan for the test site. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star.

Pasadena’s watering rules could be relaxed, 15% water conservation target could be lifted

“The City Council on Monday will consider shifting watering rules from the current two days per summertime week to three days per summertime week and to simultaneously lift the 15 percent voluntary water-use reduction target.  The current Level 2 of the City’s Water Shortage Plan went into effect on August 16, 2021, before the state was deluged with trillions of gallons of rain from a series of atmospheric river storms.  Level 2 dictates that residents on even-numbered street addresses are limited to watering only on Mondays and Thursdays, and on odd-numbered street addresses to watering on Tuesdays and Fridays from April to October. From November to March watering is restricted to just one day per week. … ”  Read more from Pasadena Now.

Rindge Dam removal advances to pre-construction, engineering, and design phase

“The feasibility study to permanently remove Rindge Dam, about three miles up Malibu Creek from the ocean and downtown, was originally commissioned back in 1992. A lot of locals didn’t believe it would ever happen, because it would be such a huge, expensive, long-term project — a government pipe dream. From time to time over the decades, California State Parks, along with co-partner U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), would make presentations and collect public comments about the project, but never provide much in the way of updates.  Well, last Tuesday, April 25, California State Parks made a big announcement: It’s happening, and the pre-construction, engineering, and design phase (PED) of the project is now starting. A public workshop on the PED phase will be scheduled in the coming months. … ”  Read more from the Malibu Times.


For perhaps the first time, sand from offshore Oceanside will replenish San Clemente beaches

“A 50-year beach nourishment project starting this fall in San Clemente will get its sand offshore from another sand-starved beach town — Oceanside.  The “borrow pit” chosen for the federal project is about one mile out in the ocean west of the Oceanside Harbor and Camp Pendleton’s Del Mar Boat Basin.  Beginning in November, a hopper barge will dredge 250,000 cubic yards of the precious material for the first delivery of a cycle to be repeated about every six years until the San Clemente project is completed. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Return to top

Along the Colorado River …

Wet year amid Colorado River drought puts water-use cuts in question

“This year’s spring-summer runoff into Lake Powell is set to be the highest since 2011, but a top Arizona water official won’t say if that will mean an easing of cuts in Colorado River water use proposed for 2024.  An official from Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District said, however, that this year’s runoff has been so good, computer modeling shows no additional cuts are needed beyond those already approved in past agreements to keep Lake Mead from falling below 1,020 feet, or 50 feet lower than where the lake is expected to stand at the end of 2023.  California water officials still plan to pursue cuts of about 400,000 acre-feet in use starting next year, said the Metropolitan Water District official, Bill Hasencamp. … ”  Read more from the Arizona Daily Star.

SEE ALSO: Heavy snowfall improves Arizona’s Colorado River water forecast, from KJZZ

What’s the status of water’s future in Arizona? Here are 7 things we know

“Arizona water leaders met this week to discuss the future of water in the West Valley.  The event, which was hosted by the Western Maricopa Coalition, or WESTMARC, aimed to discuss solutions to water issues, as well as to give attendees a better understanding of the complexity of water.  People from the Arizona Department of Water Resources, local governments and utility companies, like Salt River Project and EPCOR, spoke at the event Wednesday morning.  Here are seven key takeaways. … ”  Read more from Arizona Central.

Column: The Nevada water crisis you aren’t hearing about

Mason Voehl, executive director of the Amargosa Conservancy, writes, “There is a grave water crisis facing Nevada, but it’s not the one getting all the press. Hidden underground, aquifers are being rapidly depleted, causing untold impacts to natural and human communities. In my capacity as executive director of the Amargosa Conservancy, a Nevada and California nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving the Amargosa River, I have a front-row seat to this brewing calamity.  While Southern Nevada existentially depends on the Colorado River for commercial and residential water, many communities in rural Nevada are entirely dependent on groundwater for their survival. Though Nevada remains the driest state in the union, the Great Basin and Mojave deserts contain vast groundwater aquifers that make human habitation possible. These aquifers are reservoirs spanning hundreds of miles and contain water that fell as precipitation thousands of years ago when Nevada’s climate was far wetter. … ”  Read more from the Nevada Independent.

Return to top

In national water news today …

A countertop device that makes water from thin air

“In much of the United States, it’s easy to take our drinking water for granted. But water scarcity due to droughts and climate change is increasingly a problem in North Amercia, and for many elsewhere around the world, accessing that basic human necessity has always posed a problem. A report by the World Meteorological Association found that 3.6 billion people had inconsistent access to water in 2018. The founders of Spout Ventures want to be a part of the solution.  Spout designs atmosphere water generators: machines that condense potable water from the humidity in the air around us. Today, they are launching their first consumer product: a generator small enough to fit on a countertop (8.5 inches wide, 19 inches deep, 15 inches tall) that requires no more input than a typical wall plug to operate. Every day, it can produce up to 2.5 gallons of water, and 80% of homes globally are in climates humid enough for the device to work, according to the company. … ”  Read more from Fast Company.

US food pesticides contaminated with toxic ‘forever chemicals’ testing finds

“Some of the United States’ most widely used food pesticides are contaminated with “potentially dangerous” levels of toxic PFAS “forever chemicals”, new testing of the products finds.  The Environmental Protection Agency has previously been silent on PFAS in food pesticides, even as it found the chemicals in non-food crop products. The potential for millions of acres of contaminated food cropland demands swifter and stronger regulatory action, the paper’s authors say.  “I can’t imagine anything that could make these products any more dangerous than they already are, but apparently my imagination isn’t big enough,” said Nathan Donley, environmental health science director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), which co-authored the study. “The EPA has to take control of this situation and remove pesticide products that are contaminated with these extremely dangerous, persistent chemicals.” … ”  Read more from the Guardian.

Return to top

More news and commentary in the weekend edition …

In California water news this weekend …

Evening light on the Coast at San Luis Obispo. Photo by Fred Moore.
  • California water policy: how will water — or lack thereof — impact our economy in the 21st century?
  • Pesky pattern to keep West cool, dreary in the coming days
  • Rural California schools, hit hard by flood damage, dread what snowmelt could bring
  • Central Valley town seeks $20 million for flood recovery. Will Gavin Newsom fund it?
  • Prices for canned tomato goods could rise as California farms stay soggy after record rain
  • Road trip: Day on the Delta Loop: A ‘well-kept secret’ from the Bay Area with sunshine and cheap beer
  • California readies for treasure hunt as floods wash up ‘Gold Rush 2.0’
  • Hurtado introduces bill prohibiting sale of CA farmland to foreign governments
  • Device to monitor household water use reveals California’s ranking among other US cities
  • This tribe was barred from cultural burning for decades — then a fire hit their community
  • Idle oil wells’ next act? Becoming batteries for renewable energy
  • Video: Ocean water off California coast ‘less salty’ during El Niño years
  • This year’s salmon run is a celebration along the Klamath River
  • EPA orders Air Force to respond to oil spill from Travis Air Force Base
  • And more …

Click here for the weekend digest.

Return to top

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOTICE: Application for discharge of dredged or fill material for the Kern Plateau Meadow Restoration Project

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