DAILY DIGEST, 5/9: Water rights: Newsom wades into the deep end; Reclamation takes advantage of full Shasta reservoir to release flows for migrating salmon; Metropolitan: “We’re the squirrels of the water system”; California is using Arizona as a dumping ground for tons of hazardous waste; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • MEETING: California Environmental Flows Workgroup from 10am to 12pm. Agenda items include Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the Context of Instream Flows, Proposed Bypass Flow Program for Coastal Low-Flow/Seasonal Streams, and Upstream Tech Modeling Efforts.  Click here for the agenda and remote access instructions.
  • WORKSHOP: California Water Plan Update 2023 – Water Use Efficiency Resource Management Strategy from 10am to 12pm.  The California Water Plan describes and updates a broad set of resource management strategies (RMSs) that help local agencies and governments manage their water and related resources. Every RMS can be a technique, program, or policy that can be used to meet water-related management needs of a region and the state as a whole.  During this workshop, the Water Plan Team will gather comments on the draft Water Use Efficiency RMS.  This will be an online only workshop, please register to receive the link.
  • WEBINAR: 2023 Western Drought from 11am to 12:30pm.  NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), in partnership with NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) and National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, is hosting the 2023 Western Drought Webinar on May 9 to provide the latest information on current drought conditions and outlooks. Speakers from the USGS, NWS Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, and NOAA’s Physical Sciences Laboratory (PSL) will also provide updates on groundwater conditions, the Colorado River Basin, and how the wet winter will or will not impact long-term drought in the West.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

Water rights: Newsom wades into the deep end

“Making a splash: When Californians say water is liquid gold, they mean it. Gold Rush-era culture makes up the basis of the state’s water rights system, which essentially amounts to first come, first served.  Like any 19th century artifact, the system has problems: Descendents of the first European settlers have outsize rights, clashing with growing cities. And the murky allocation has led to water-rights owners having claims to five times more water than California usually has available, according to a 2014 University of California study.  Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers have recently made moves to revise the system, claiming it is ill-equipped for the weather upheaval brought by climate change. … ”  Read more from Politico.

Reclamation takes advantage of full Shasta reservoir to release flows for migrating salmon

Shasta Dam
Shasta Dam by Melfoody

“Prior to the development of the Central Valley Project, the advent of spring would unleash a flood of cold snowmelt into the Northern California watershed – signaling to young Chinook salmon that it was time to begin the long, arduous journey down the Sacramento River, through the Delta, and out to the Pacific Ocean to grow and mature.  While that runoff is now largely managed through storage, it’s still possible to recreate those jolts of water through the system. Thanks to ample storage in Shasta Reservoir, Reclamation has been working to implement spring pulse flows on the Sacramento River.  Pulse flows are rapid increases and decreases occurring during a short time frame. A rim-full Shasta Reservoir prohibited a full-fledged pulse flow exercise, but it’s hoped that enough additional water was added to the system to create favorable conditions for fish while facilitating storage management. … ”  Read more from the Bureau of Reclamation.

Metropolitan Water District: “We’re the squirrels of the water system”

“Deven Upadhyay is the assistant general manager and executive officer for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which provides water to 19 million people. We asked Upadhyay to tell us how Met is handling California’s recent precipitation whiplash—and what future improvements might be in the works. Q: Met has seen big declines in State Water Project deliveries in recent years and the potential for significant cuts in Colorado River supplies. What kinds of challenges does this pose? A: First, it helps to understand how the Metropolitan system works and how it interacts with local systems in Southern California. We operate a giant network of pipes and facilities that allows us to move water around the region. We import water from two sources: the Colorado River, via the Colorado River Aqueduct, and the northern Sierra, via the State Water Project (SWP). … ”  Read more from the PPIC.

Massive snowpack’s summer bonus: Clean, cheap electricity for California

“The huge snowpack that has blanketed the Sierra Nevada this winter has done more than end California’s drought and extend ski season. It’s also changing how Californians keep the lights on.  With reservoirs full across the state, hydroelectricity generation from dams is expected to expand dramatically this summer, after three dry years when it was badly hobbled.  In 2017, a wet year similar to this one, hydropower made up 21% of all the electricity generated in California. But by 2021, in the middle of California’s most recent drought, it provided just 7%.  This year, billions of gallons of water are once again spinning turbines in power plants at huge dams like Shasta, Oroville and Folsom, and will be all summer and into the fall as the snowpack melts. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News.

SEE ALSOWhy was your utility bill so high this past winter? Blame the drought — and California., from the Colorado Sun

American River rafters say big California snowmelt means epic season

“Triple Threat. Deadman’s Drop. Satan’s Cesspool. After years of drought, the rapids along California’s American River are truly living up to their names.  As a historic snowpack starts to melt, the spring runoff is fueling conditions for some of the best whitewater in years on the American River and its forks, which course through the Sierra Nevada northeast of Sacramento.  “This is an epic whitewater rafting season,” said Deric Rothe, who owns Sierra Whitewater Inc. and has been rafting for decades. “The conditions are awesome. If you compare the rafting to a rollercoaster, it’s bigger, faster, more fun and more exciting. So, we’re loving it.” … ”  Read more from KCRA Channel 3.

How California’s historic flooding is impacting farms — and food prices

“A year ago, Kirk Gilkey was taking stock of his newly planted cotton, watching green shoots poke through freshly tilled dirt.  These days, he has a view of nothing but water. Nearly two-thirds of the Gilkey family’s 8,700 acres in the southern San Joaquin Valley has been engulfed by Tulare Lake, the long-dormant body of freshwater that has re-emerged with the wet winter and grown to half the size of Lake Tahoe.  “This is the first time we haven’t planted cotton in 75 years,” said Gilkey, 65, whose cotton fields and gin are near the small city of Corcoran in Kings County. “A lot of this ground will stay underwater for another year.” … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Flood recovery goes beyond acreage

“While flooding in California’s Salinas Valley region has had an economic impact, it has taken a personal toll as well.  Not only were many farmworkers left without a job harvesting produce from fields, but some of these same laborers lost their homes.  “Displaced housing is the single biggest issue by far,” said Christopher Valadez, president of the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California. “You might be able to go back to where you live, but if you went back to a disaster then it was full of debris and mud and water damage.” To step in and support the local community, many community members, businesses and charities came together to provide short-term housing, food and essentials. In March, The Grower-Shipper Association and Clinica de Salud del Valley de Salinas set up a mobile clinic at the main shelter for displaced Pajaro, Calif., residents, so services were readily accessible. The medical care was funded by a grant awarded to the Grower-Shipper Association, allowing the services to be provided at no charge to the community. … ”  Read more from Growing Produce.

Mangoes and agave in the Central Valley? California farmers try new crops to cope with climate change

“In a world of worsening heatwaves, flooding, drought, glacial melting, megafires and other calamities of a changing climate, Gary Gragg is an optimist.  As California warms, Gragg — a nurseryman, micro-scale farmer and tropical fruit enthusiast — looks forward to the day that he can grow and sell mangoes in Northern California.  “I’ve been banking on this since I was 10 years old and first heard about global warming,” said Gragg, 54, who has planted several mango trees, among other subtropical trees, in his orchard about 25 miles west of Sacramento.   Gragg’s little orchard might be the continent’s northernmost grove of mangoes, which normally are grown in places like Florida, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.  Northern California’s climate, he said, is becoming increasingly suitable for heat-loving, frost-sensitive mango trees, as well as avocados, cherimoyas and tropical palms, a specialty of his plant nursery Golden Gate Palms.  “Climate change isn’t all bad,” Gragg said. “People almost never talk about the positives of global warming, but there will be winners and losers everywhere.” … ”  Read more from Cal Matters.

Weather woah! What a difference a half year makes for California growers

“Last year at about this time, more than 400 people packed an auditorium in California’s San Joaquin Valley to demand action on sourcing more water for the valley’s parched farms. After a few years of drought, and new limits to groundwater pumping, some in the audience were talking about the prospect of fallowing prime farmland. Worse, if growers couldn’t demonstrate a reliable source of water, the bankers in the audience said they likely wouldn’t get any loans, the beginning of the end for some operations. The hot and sunny days were dark indeed.  Flash forward a year, and things look very different. California has been pounded by a series of storms produced by atmospheric rivers. Aptly named, these are long, narrow ribbons of water vapor that travel from the tropics — hence the moniker “Pineapple Express” — and drench much of California before slamming into the Sierra Nevadas producing copious amounts of snow. … ”  Read more from Growing Produce.

Radio: From peak to tap – should we worry about microplastics in our drinking water?

“This winter was one for the books. With record-breaking low temperatures and a stream of atmospheric rivers, snow came to parts of California that rarely see it. That added up to a huge amount of snowfall for the Sierra Nevada mountains, where much of the Bay Area’s drinking water comes from.  Now, as all that snow melts and makes its way downhill, flooding is a major concern. But another concern has to do with what that snowmelt is bringing with it. We sent KALW environment reporter Joshua Sirotiak up to the mountains to find out what researchers are looking for in our drinking water.”  Listen at KALW.

Slow water movement to counter drought and floods

“For approximately a hundred years, our civilization has developed approaches to speed water away. Increasingly frequent and severe floods and droughts lead to higher levees, bigger drains, and longer aqueducts. We are beginning to learn, however, that increasing concrete infrastructure to control water is exacerbating the problem.  Erica Gies’s new book, Water Always Wins, focuses on the slow movement of water, essentially nature’s way, to absorb floods, store water for droughts, and feed natural systems. California is adopting policies and laws to slow water movement in two ways in order to recharge our underground basins. … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent.

Increased droughts are disrupting carbon-capturing soil microbes, concerning ecologists

“Soil stores more carbon than plants and the atmosphere combined, and soil microbes are largely responsible for putting it there. However, the increasing frequency and severity of drought, such as those that have been impacting California, could disrupt this delicate ecosystem.  In a U.S. National Science Foundation-supported perspective in the journal Trends in Microbiology, microbial ecologist Steven Allison warns that soil health and future greenhouse gas levels could be impacted if soil microbes adapt to drought faster than plants do. He argues that we need to better understand how microbes respond to drought so that we can manage the situation in both agricultural and natural settings.  “Soil microbes are beneficial, and we couldn’t live without their cycling of carbon and nutrients, but climate change and drought can tweak that balance, and we have to be aware of how it’s changing,” says Allison of the University of California, Irvine. … ”  Read more from the National Science Foundation.

Boiling Point: What would Teddy say?

““The forest and water problems are perhaps the most vital internal questions of the United States.”  So said President Theodore Roosevelt in his First Annual Message to Congress on Dec. 3, 1901, as quoted in historian Douglas Brinkley’s “The Wilderness Warrior.” I’ve been making my way through the conservation-focused biography, published in 2009, and finding myself fascinated by how many of Roosevelt’s insights into the environmental challenges of the American West still hold true today — even as others feel anachronistic at best and irredeemably racist at worst. … The 26th president fought to protect wildlife — and yet he urged the construction of dams and reservoirs that would allow for tens of millions of people to move West, with seemingly little regard for the fish whose habitat would be blocked, or the Native American tribes who had forged a sacred bond with those fish over many millennia.  The consequences of that callous attitude are still being felt today. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

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Today’s featured article …

FEATURE: Why California’s Water Extremes Are Wilder than Ever — And What We Can Do About It

Written by Robin Meadows

Snow in the Sierra. Photo taken March 31, 2023. Kate Cohee / Office of the Governor

What a relief last winter is finally over. In late December, California was hit by the first in a series of powerful storms called atmospheric rivers. These ribbons of extraordinarily wet air rush across the ocean and can dump staggering amounts of rain and snow upon landfall. After the driest three year stretch on record, it seemed like a miracle: Water! Falling from the sky!

Then eight more atmospheric rivers arrived in January. And they kept coming (and coming) through February and March — so many I lost count. Soon I wished the torrential rains would just stop. I felt like a bad Californian.

It is wonderful to see brimming reservoirs and towering snowpacks. But unrelenting storms also left floods, mudslides, evacuations, highway closures, and power outages across much of the state.

While alternating between drought and deluge is nothing new for California, climate change is making these swings even more dramatic. New research will help the state prepare for future water extremes by tightening both long and short term forecasts, as well as optimizing water savings in the wettest years for use in the inevitable dry stretches. New policies could make water allocation more equitable during years like this one, when rivers are running high. And updates to the state’s water system will help safeguard deliveries to cities and farms as the supply boom and bust cycle grows ever wilder.

Click here to read the full article.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


Navarro River, two more Mendocino Coast watersheds to see salmon habitat restoration

“Linda MacElwee, watershed coordinator for the Mendocino County Resource Conservation District (MCRCD), still receives numerous calls every fall as a bar of sediment builds up at the mouth of the Navarro River. She explained that the state used to open up this bar, which is created by low flows and big waves and blocks fish passage into the river.  “What we have kind of come to understand is, we don’t want to open up that bar,” she said. “It means that we would be inviting fish into the system when there isn’t really sufficient flow to support them, even once they got in.” … ”  Read more from the Mendocino Voice.


Shasta Lake sitting just shy of full ahead of a promising summer

“Recent rain is making its way into local reservoirs, including Shasta Lake, where the pool is almost full. Late season storms like those seen over the weekend and on Monday have brought Shasta Lake to just 3.2 feet from capacity, the highest level in years.  “Well, I always say we like more water than less water for our season. We have more water this year than we need, but that’s a great example of what Shasta can do for us,” explained Don Bader, who serves as the Northern California Area Manager for the Bureau of Reclamation. … ”  Read more from KRCR.

Bell Ranch trustee sues Tehama County over well fee

“The Tehama County Flood Control and Water Conservation District has been sued along with its board of directors by a trustee of Bell Ranch. David Garst filed suit on April 3, alleging the district violated Propositions 13, 218, and 26, Government Code section 54999.7, along with common law of utility rulemaking, when the TCFC passed a $0.29 per acre registration fee on June 20, 2022.  The lawsuit was the subject of a special meeting that was a joint closed session with the County Board of Supervisors and the TCFC on April 18. That meeting was held one day after the regular April 17 meeting was canceled.  In the 15-page filing, He’s asking that the court vacate and rescind the fee and refund him any payment of the fee, to stop charging him based simply on the amount of acreage he owns, absent any evidence in the rate-making record that demonstrates the basis to impose the charge and “Commission a cost of service analysis to establish a sufficient basis for charges.” … ”  Read more from the Colusa Sun Herald.

The many benefits of Sacramento’s urban forests, explained

With a hot weekend on tap that will be acting as a preview for another hot Sacramento summer, the numerous benefits of trees begins to stand out. Sacramento has long been known as the “City of Trees” due to its extensive urban canopy. A tool developed by MIT, known as Treepedia, compiled urban forestry data from cities around the world and evaluated canopy data into their Green View Index. Sacramento has a Green View Index of 23.6%, ahead of cities like Seattle, Miami, New York, and even Paris, which has long been lauded for its trees.  Dr. Vivek Shandas is a professor of climate adaptation at Portland State University focusing on urban forestry and is no stranger to the City of Trees. He has worked with several tree-related organizations throughout the region. … ”  Continue reading at Channel 10.


Safe – for now: State prisons in Corcoran should stay dry, but flood water is creeping up

“As Tulare Lake flood water creeps ever closer to the small city of Corcoran, officials at the two state prisons there have stopped accepting inmate transfers while they develop larger evacuation plans.  Together, the prisons house 8,000 people, many with severe mental health and substance abuse issues as well as rival gang members.  Moving the population en masse would be tricky.  So, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has stopped accepting incoming transfers, according to a spokesperson.  Though speculation has been rampant that the prisons have already begun moving inmates “of concern” out of the flood zone, the CDCR spokesperson said, “incarcerated persons are not being moved out at this time beyond normal institution operations.” … ”  Read more from SJV Water.

Kern River water may be plentiful this year but it’s never cheap

“The Kern Water Bank Authority paid $35,000 just to file an application for a temporary permit to take up to 300,000 acre feet of Kern River flood water.  There’s no guarantee the permit will be approved. Nor that the conditions in the permit – that rights holders are so full they can’t take more water and it’s in danger of being lost to the county – will ever be met.  That may seem like a high price for a slim chance. But if the permit is approved, and the water comes through it will have been the deal of the century.  Especially considering what water bank participants currently pay just for the hope of Kern River flood water.  First, some background. … ”  Read more from SJV Water.


Ridgecrest: Water District prepares to meet incoming water flow from LA Department of Water and Power

“At a special board meeting on May 2, the Indian Wells Valley Water District board of director unanimously agreed to have staff file a Notice of Exemption for the 2023 Emergency Release Mitigation Project.  The Notice of Exemption seeks a temporary exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act. With the exemption, the Water District aims to prepare the valley for excess water being released from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power aqueduct into the Indian Wells Valley.  CEQA allows exemptions for specific actions necessary to prevent or mitigate emergencies, and the Water District’s Notice of Exemption states, “Here, the emergency is the need to mitigate potential property damage to Navy facilities on China Lake playa.” … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent.


Southern California’s historic rivers offer wildlife habitat, recreation

“The rivers in Southern California are an enigma, and by some observer’s standards, their meager, seasonal flows wouldn’t even qualify as a “real river.” But few places in the world have captured, managed, channeled, and fought over their water resources with more necessity and ingenuity than the cities of Southern California.  Southern California rivers are unique for several reasons; they are short by normal standards, their flows are comparatively low, their origins can reach lofty alpine elevations over 9,000 feet, and the area they collect their water from, or “watershed,” is small in comparison to other major rivers.  As an example, the Sacramento River in Northern California is four times longer and has a watershed 10 times larger than the Santa Ana River, which is the largest river in Southern California. … ”  Read more from the San Bernardino Sun.

Pasadena’s current water use restrictions will stay in place, despite recent record rains

“The City will stay the course and stick with implementation of stricter water conservation measures under Level 2 of its Water Supply Shortage Plan.  This after the City Council on Monday voted against a recommendation that would have eased local watering restrictions.  For nearly two years, Pasadena has kept outdoor watering to two days per week from April to October and one day per week from November to March.  It also adopted a voluntary water reduction target of 15 percent, which aligned with the state’s reduction goal. … ”  Read more from Pasadena Now.

Long Beach may look for ways to hold upriver areas accountable when sewage spoils beaches

“As temperatures reached the 80s and people flocked to the shore for beach cleanups on Earth Day last month, an order to stay out of the water dampened what could have been a very busy beach weekend after months of wet weather in Long Beach.  The beach closure was prompted by the second sewage spill of 2023 that resulted in 250,000 gallons of raw sewage entering the Los Angeles River near Downey and making its way toward Long Beach where the river’s mouth dumps its contents into the ocean.  The spill was attributed to a temporary blockage from maintenance crews from the Los Angeles County Sanitation District. … Councilmember Kristina Duggan, who was elected to represent Southeast Long Beach—which has the largest share of recreational beach space in the city—said it’s time for the city to look at how it can hold cities and businesses accountable. … ”  Read more from the Long Beach Post.

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Along the Colorado River …

Radio: Colorado River states learn to live with less

“States in the Southwest are already feeling the effects of climate change as one of their most precious resources, the Colorado River, dries up. Aquifers are disappearing, reservoirs are at an all-time low and cities are stretching their water supply as farmers struggle to get by on less and less water.  Here & Now‘s Peter O’Dowd speaks to KUNC’s Luke Runyon, whose six-part podcast series, “Thirst Gap,” explores whether a region that relies on water can learn to live with less of it.”

What to know about the Colorado River

“The Colorado River has shaped life as we know it in the southwestern United States. Its water has allowed for explosive population growth and agricultural development in some of the driest parts of the country. But due to overallocation and climate change, the river is drying up.   What that means for the future of life in the southwestern U.S. depends, in large part, on how the seven states that rely on the river renegotiate the 1922 Colorado River Compact, and whether they finally allow tribal nations a seat at the bargaining table. In April, the federal government released options for how the states and tribes could cut their use of the river. The states and tribes have until May 30th to comment on the options before federal officials announce a decision. … ”  Read more from the Colorado Public Radio.

Imperial Irrigation District testifies to State Assembly on Colorado River status and potential state impacts

“Representatives of the Imperial Irrigation District and the Colorado River Board of California testified Tuesday, May 2, during an informational hearing before the California State Assembly’s Water, Parks and Wildlife standing committee, according to a press release.  IID Board Vice President and California’s Colorado River Commissioner JB Hamby and IID Water Department Manager Tina Shields testified at the state capitol on how Southern California is preparing for climate impacts to water supplies.  Commissioner Hamby spoke on the history of the development of the river by California’s Colorado River water users, the Law of the River, programs and agreements that maintain the state’s use within its 4.4 million acre-feet entitlement, and next steps toward a consensus-based alternative to the Bureau of Reclamation’s Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). … ”  Read more from the Desert Review.

California is using Arizona as a dumping ground for tons of hazardous waste

“The Colorado River can be a magical line.  By crossing the river near Parker, Arizona, the waste California considers hazardous becomes regular trash in Arizona.  “Since 2018, California has taken more than 660,000 tons of contaminated soil and dumped it at regular landfills in Arizona,” CalMatters reporter Robert Lewis said.  The organization broke the story in January after a months-long investigation into how California disposed of its toxic waste.  “So every year California digs up 100,000s of tons of contaminated soil,” Lewis said. “Toxic material, nasty stuff, DDT, lead, heavy metals.” … “Nothing magical happens when this dirt crosses from California into Arizona. What happens is California regulations stop at the border. Its waste does not,” Lewis said. … ”  Read more at Channel 12.

A plan to pay farmers to use less of the Colorado River comes up dry

“One way to save massive amounts of water from the drying Colorado River — state and federal officials had hoped — was to effectively buy water this year from farmers and ranchers with a $125 million conservation program.  But very few are taking the offer. Or those willing to sell were turned away.  “It’s a comical mess,” Shaun Chapoose, chairman of northeast Utah’s Ute Indian Tribe, said. “They ain’t fixing nothing.”  Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, which make up the river’s upper basin, launched the System Conservation Pilot Program late last year, offering money to farmers and others willing to forgo their water use this year, restarting a water-saving initiative that ran just a few years ago.  This time around, though, the program is slated to spend twice as much to save a fifth less water, Colorado River officials say. … ”  Read more from the Greeley Tribune.

Scientists are using lasers to uncover the secrets of Colorado’s snowpack. So what does it mean for your water supply?

“On a sunny day in mid-April, scientist Jeff Deems strapped on his backcountry skis, tromped out to a snow-covered field and began digging.  “I was expecting there to be a little more than 70 centimeters here,” he said, standing in the middle of a snow pit that looked vaguely like a shallow grave. Somewhere overhead, out of sight, his team was in an airplane over the Roaring Fork Valley mapping its snowpack from above.  Each year, Deems and his partners at Airborne Snow Observatories Inc. use lasers, planes and their own two feet to calculate how much water is in the mountain snowpack, where most of the state’s water supply is stored before it melts each spring. Their monitoring technique, developed at NASA, offers better accuracy than other tools and can gather snow data where other monitoring programs are blind. … ”  Read more from the Colorado Sun.

What does “dead pool” mean for the American West?

“When I spoke with Eric Balken, the executive director of the Glen Canyon Institute, via phone on Valentine’s Day, Lake Powell had reached a troubling milestone.  “Lake Powell’s elevation is 3,522.16 feet today,” Balken said. “That’s the closest it’s been to dead pool since 1968.”  He paused.  “We could be watching Lake Powell’s mortality in real time.”  Put simply, dead pool occurs when the amount of water stored in a reservoir is so low, water can no longer flow downstream. Lake Powell, the largest reservoir in the US, hits dead pool at 3,374 feet. … ”  Continue reading from Sierra Magazine.

Three scenarios predicted for Lake Powell water levels

“Three possible scenarios have been mapped out for Lake Powell as the summer months approach.  Lake Powell’s water levels could rise to 3,615.62 feet by the end of July, according to a 24-month report on maximum probable inflow released in April by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. This is the best-case scenario mapped out by the bureau.  Water levels at the reservoir, which sits on the Colorado River in Utah and Arizona, were at 3,530.67 feet as of Sunday. Another and more likely scenario forecasts that the reservoir will reach 3,590 feet by the end of July, slightly higher than its current level. At the end of July 2022, Lake Powell dipped to 3,535 feet.  The minimum possible water level that could be seen this summer is 3,575.44 feet, according to the Bureau of Reclamation’s forecasting. … ”  Read more from Newsweek.

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In national water news today …

More federal funding can close the rural water gap. Will Congress and the USDA step up?

“This week is Drinking Water Week, but not everyone in America has the same access to safe, reliable running water, or a system for removing and treating wastewater when flushing toilets. Rural communities and communities of color are more at risk of unsafe water and inadequate sanitation due to historical disinvestment, regulatory failures, and structural racism.  This is the rural water gap, and while new federal funding is meant to address this gap, a study released today demonstrates that federal agencies need clearer metrics and milestones to ensure they reach the communities that need it most. Doing so would contribute to the Biden Administration’s commitment to Justice40 and environmental justice for all. … ”  Continue reading from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Wall Street is paying more attention to the business risks posed by water

“From cereal maker General Mills, which relies on local farmers around the world to supply grains and nuts for its products, to tech firms like Microsoft and Amazon that need dependable supplies of freshwater to cool data centers, the list of companies vulnerable to water-related disruptions is growing.  By one estimate, some $15.5 billion worth of corporate assets have been left stranded or at risk by things like community opposition or regulatory changes triggered by water stress. Supply chain and logistical problems caused by water woes make matters worse.  The food, energy, and apparel industries are particularly vulnerable, but no company is immune. About two-thirds of big corporations inadequately manage their water risks, according to proxy advisor ISS, while 69% of listed companies reporting to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) said they are exposed to water risks with a potential value of $225 billion.  With climate change, the numbers are expected to grow. … ”  Read more from Quartz.

Everyone was wrong about reverse osmosis—until now

Menachem Elimelech never made peace with reverse osmosis. Elimelech, who founded Yale’s environmental engineering program, is something of a rock star among those who develop filtration systems that turn seawater or wastewater into clean drinking water. And reverse osmosis is a rock star among filter technologies: It has dominated how the world desalinates seawater for about a quarter of a century. Yet nobody really knew how it worked. And Elimelech hated that.  Still, he had to teach the technology to his students. For many years, he showed them how to estimate the high pressures that push the water molecules in seawater across a plastic polyamide membrane, creating pure water on one side of the film and leaving an extra-salty brine on the other. But these calculations relied on an assumption that nagged Elimelech and other engineers: that water molecules diffuse through the membrane individually. “This always bothered me. It does not make any sense,” he says. … ”  Read more from Wired Magazine.

EPA preps Trump-era plan to push wetlands permitting to states

“EPA is moving forward with plans to clarify how states can take control of federally administered wetlands permitting, in a move that opponents worry will empower deregulation enthusiasts.  At least two Republican-led states, Alaska and Nebraska, and one led by a Democrat, Minnesota, are on a quest to oversee a dredge-and-fill permitting program that influences construction projects with implications for federally protected waters. Their push coincides with EPA’s plans to advance a Trump-era rule revising Clean Water Act requirements around that program, with the agency intending to issue a proposal by September.  EPA is currently having discussions with the trio of states about the possibility of shifting primacy over the permitting program, the agency confirmed to E&E News. Regulators simultaneously submitted their proposed revision to the Office of Management and Budget in early March, with a final rule anticipated by October of next year. … ”  Read more from E&E News.

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NASA snow report for May 1 …


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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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