DAILY DIGEST, 5/30: Map shows epic amounts of water gushing through CA rivers; State asked to stop diverting iconic Mono Lake’s water to Los Angeles; Tribe taps Sonoma County wineries, farms to save Russian River water; Every drop of the Colorado River counts. So what about evaporation?; and more …

In California water news today …

Map shows epic amounts of water gushing through California rivers

“This year’s historic snowpack has meant epic amounts of water flowing through California’s rivers, streams and creeks.  “Everything’s high right now,” said Travis Hiett, field office chief for the United States Geological Survey’s Sacramento field office. “The San Joaquin’s super high. It’s been 10,000 (cubic feet per second) for, seems like months now — and that’s very rare.”  That’s more than the capacity of four standard 40-foot shipping containers rushing by each second.  Around 40% of the roughly 500 stream gauges across the state are running above normal, provisional data from the U.S. Geological Survey shows. A few dozen are registering record highs for this time of year, especially along the central and southern Sierra. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle (gift article).


Unlikely Northern California will ever see this type of snowfall again, research shows

The 2022-23 winter stands out as a rarity with climate trends showing less snow and more rain falling at lower mountain elevations. New research out the University of California at San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography is showing just how high the snowline will rise by the end of the century.  Researchers found where the rain turns to snow will be climbing an extra 1,600 feet by 2100 if climate change is not addressed. This type of climate shift would greatly impact low elevation ski resorts, losing up to 70% of their lower natural snowpack.  Mike Reitzell with Ski California says this issue can’t wait five or six years if the future of skiing wants to stay strong. He says adaptation strategies need to go into place now. … ”  Read more from Channel 10.

State asked to stop diverting iconic Mono Lake’s water to Los Angeles

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

“As trickling snowmelt in the Sierra Nevada slowly raises Mono Lake — famed for its bird life and outlandish shoreline mineral spires — advocates are pressuring state water officials to halt diversions from the lake’s tributaries to Los Angeles, which has used this clean mountain water source for decades.  Environmentalists and tribal representatives say such action is years overdue and would help the iconic lake’s ecosystem, long plagued by low levels, high salinity and dust that wafts off the exposed lakebed. The city of Los Angeles, they argue, should simply use less water, and expand investments in more sustainable sources – especially recycled wastewater and uncaptured stormwater. This, they say, could help wean the city off Mono basin’s water for good.  Geoff McQuilkin, the Mono Lake Committee’s executive director, said the lake will probably rise another four feet in 2023 — reason, as he sees it, to double down and halt exports. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters.

The role of AI in sustainable groundwater management: Ensuring safe and sustainable water use with intelligent machines

“Groundwater is a vital resource for human consumption, agriculture, and industrial activities. However, over-extraction and contamination of groundwater resources have led to a significant decline in the availability and quality of this precious resource. The challenge of sustainable groundwater management has become more complex with the increasing demand for water due to population growth, urbanization, and climate change.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged as a promising tool for sustainable groundwater management. AI refers to the development of intelligent machines that can perform tasks that typically require human intelligence, such as learning, reasoning, and problem-solving. AI can be used to analyze large datasets, predict future trends, and optimize decision-making processes. … ”  Read more from Tian Shan Net.

What’s the dam problem with deadbeat dams?

Damming rivers was once a staple of public works and a signal of technological and scientific progress. Even today, dams underpin much of California’s public safety and economy, while having greatly disrupted native ecosystems (Quiñones et al. 2015, Moyle et al. 2017), displaced native peoples (Garrett 2010), and deprived residents of water access when streamflow is transported across basins. California’s dams are aging and many will require expensive reconstruction or rehabilitation. Many dams were built for landscapes, climates and economic purposes that no longer exist. California’s current dams reflect an accumulation of decisions over the past 170 years based on environmental, political, and socio-economic dynamics that have changed, sometimes radically. Former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt remarked, “Dams are not America’s answer to the pyramids of Egypt… Dams do, in fact, outlive their function. When they do, some should go.” … ”  Continue reading at the California Water Blog.

California’s artisanal cannabis farms were supposed to help build the legal market. Then the bottom dropped out

“The rhythm of North San Juan, CA has changed. Locals—all 151 of them, according to the last census—still grab coffees or a bite at The Ridge Cafe or Mama’s Pizzeria and pick up soil and starts at Sweetland Garden Mercantile. Everyone still knows everyone, and the tiny town still has its own version of hustle and bustle.  But the annual influx of seasonal cannabis farm workers is a thing of the past. Known locally as “trim-migrants,” crowds of energetic young folks would pass through each year to clip buds from the plants, once so prolific in the area’s single-crop gardens.  Another way to visualize the change to “the ridge”—as the area between the middle and south fork of the Yuba River is known—is via Google Maps or a real-estate site such as Trulia. Zoom in using the satellite view to find an array of garden beds and greenhouses tucked back in the woods; search available properties and note all those advertising that the place comes with a “complete garden infrastructure.”  This is the fallout of California’s Proposition 64. In November 2016, the state legalized the growth and regulated sale of marijuana. And while it seemed to present an opportunity for the silent backbone of this and many other local economies across California, the actual effects of the regulation presented a much different cautionary tale. … ”  Read more from Modern Farmer.

California Senate Committee blocks Governor’s plan to gut environmental law to expedite Delta Tunnel

“On May 25, the California Senate Budget Committee in a 3-0 vote temporarily blocked Gavin Newsom’s legislative plan to gut the landmark California Environmental Quality Act and other laws in order to fast-track the construction of the environmentally destructive Delta Tunnel, Sites Reservoir and other infrastructure projects.  Democratic Senators Josh Becker of San Mateo and Mike McGuire of Santa Rosas and Republican Senator Brian Dahle of Redding all voted no, citing the complexity of the legislative package submitted for last-minute consideration by Governor Newsom.  The 10 bills included measures to streamline water, transportation and clean energy projects with an eye toward helping the state meet its climate goals, according to Cal Matters. … ”  Read more from the Daily Kos.

Supreme Court scales back clean water protections. What does it mean for California?

“The Supreme Court’s landmark decision scaling back federal protections for many wetlands and streams has drawn criticism from scientists and environmental advocates, who say the gutting of safeguards will jeopardize water quality throughout the arid West.  California’s water regulators say the ruling will be harmful for protections nationwide, but the more stringent state protections of wetlands won’t be affected.  To examine the implications of the ruling, The Times spoke with Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, about the potential effects of limiting federal protections under the Clean Water Act and how the board will continue to regulate wetlands and streams under the state’s Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act. … ”  Read more from the LA Times. | Read via AOL News.

The reason California beach surf is so much chillier than Atlantic, Gulf Coast waters

“It’s a warm summer day along the Gulf Coast or southeastern Atlantic Seaboard. You head out to the many beaches and take a dip in the ocean to find it comfortably warm. Water temperatures are in the 70s or even 80s, and you feel like you can spend an entire afternoon in the surf.  Meanwhile, it’s a warm summer day along the Southern California coast. You head out to the many beaches and take a dip in the ocean to find … it’s a bit chilly! Water temperatures are in the mid- to upper 60s. Depending on your heartiness, it’s a much shorter dip in the waters than your East Coast beachgoers before returning to the sand to warm up. It’s why most California surfers will wear a wetsuit. … ”  Read more from Fox 11.

Up to 70% of California’s beaches could vanish by the end of the century, study says

“As much as 25% to 70% of California’s beaches could completely erode by the end of the century due to rising sea levels and “cascading uncertainties in greenhouse gas emissions [and] global temperature projections,” according to a new study from the United States Geological Survey that collected two decades’ worth of satellite data from San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, The beach was used as a model to analyze the state’s entire 1,100-mile-long coastline.  The models used in the study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed and published, are based on sea level rise projections of 1.6 feet to 10 feet, a range that is expected to vary depending on the rate and reduction of carbon emissions over time. Ongoing climate trends and historically damaging storms also play a role in the acceleration of the shifting coastline, which could put several beaches at severe risk of erosion, including Point Arena and Humboldt Bay in Northern California, Pismo Beach and Morro Bay in Central California, and Newport Beach and San Clemente in Southern California, leaving only rocky cliffs and coastal infrastructure behind. … ”  Read more from SF Gate.

Is kelp the next ocean hero? Only if we can protect it.

“Floridians are bracing for an unwanted visitor this summer: sargassum. A 5,000-mile-long island of this rootless seaweed is floating around the Atlantic, and large swathes of it are expected to wash ashore in Florida and other states in the coming months. Smaller amounts have already arrived, and the rotting clumps of algae on the beach release hydrogen sulfide, giving off the smell of rotten eggs.  A large landfall will be a health hazard — and a deterrent for tourists and nesting sea turtles alike. It’s also expected to cost communities millions in lost revenue and cleanup.  Out at sea, sargassum isn’t bad: It’s a life raft and food pantry for a variety of ocean organisms. It’s also a reminder of the myriad benefits that algae can provide.  Kelp, in particular, is having a moment. … ”  Read more from the Revelator.

No kidding: California overtime law threatens use of grazing goats to prevent wildfires

“Hundreds of goats munch on long blades of yellow grass on a hillside next to a sprawling townhouse complex. They were hired to clear vegetation that could fuel wildfires as temperatures rise this summer. …Targeted grazing is part of California’s strategy to reduce wildfire risk because goats can eat a wide variety of vegetation and graze in steep, rocky terrain that’s hard to access. Backers say they’re an eco-friendly alternative to chemical herbicides or weed-whacking machines that are make noise and pollution. But new state labor regulations are making it more expensive to provide goat-grazing services, and herding companies say the rules threaten to put them out of business. The changes could raise the monthly salary of herders from about $3,730 to $14,000, according to the California Farm Bureau. … ”  Read more from US News & World Report.

How California’s record snowpack plays a part in wildfire season

“A wet winter brought record snowpack to California, alleviating drought conditions in many parts of the state. But even that blessing for parched landscapes comes with its costs. Officials throughout the state have prepared for what comes in a wet season’s aftermath, like excess snowmelt flooding rivers.  Another hazard that still lies ahead is peak wildfire season. CapRadio’s Manola Secaira spoke to Zack Steel, a research scientist who has studied changing wildfire patterns in California. While last winter’s heavy rains and snowfall boosted the state’s water resources, Steel said it could also play a part in how and where wildfires manifest this year. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio.

A severe shortage of conifer seedlings is thwarting reforestation projects in the west

“When Stewart McMorrow, the wildfire resilience staff chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, received funding in 2017 to reopen a once-lauded state forest nursery, he faced a daunting challenge. “When it closed down [in 2003], everything was put away broken and dirty, just abandoned,” he said of the site in Davis, California. “The greenhouses were dilapidated.”  When he took the job in 2015, only three employees, himself included, ran the drastically scaled back reforestation operation for Cal Fire. With the nursery reopening, the pressure was on McMorrow to produce more conifer seedlings, as various stakeholders belatedly recognized the dire gap between reforestation needs following historically large wildfires and the seedlings needed to do the job. … ”  Read more from Sierra Magazine.

Federal court rejects push to block fire retardant use to fight wildfires

“As fire season draws closer, anyone concerned that the United State Forest Service (USFS) will not be allowed to use aerial fire retardant to contain blazes lighting up the nation’s forests will not have to worry.  A Federal judge in Montana issued a ruling Friday in favor of the continued use of aerial fire retardants by Federal firefighters.  The backstory: Last October, the Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics (FSEEE) filed a lawsuit against the USFS in Montana seeking to prevent the use of aerial fire retardants without a permit under the Clean Water Act. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun.

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In commentary today …

Whatever happened to adaptive management?

Tom Cannon writes, “The big hype over the past several decades in the Central Valley has been Adaptive Management.  Whatever happened to it?  Did we forget about it, or simply take it for granted?  Did we rebrand it, morph it into something else?  I wrote a “white paper” on the topic for CALFED over 20 years ago.  My version was more about conducting experiments to address unknowns to help inform management decisions.  The Delta Stewardship Council holds a forum every two years on Adaptive Management.  This year, the forum delves into governance.  Presenters and participants are from Delta governments and those who would like to participate in Delta government.  Topics include equitable adaptation, governance systems and needs, and human dimensions of adaptation and governance.  While that all is nice, it is not what I am looking for to manage the Delta ecosystem.  I am more for the older definition.  We need answers. … ”  Read more at the California Fisheries blog.

Newsom’s CEQA changes scorn the people most affected

Columnist Thomas Elias writes, “It looks at times as if Gov. Gavin Newsom is trying to imitate Jerry Brown as he tries to gut California’s main environmental protection law, at least for large infrastructure projects like reservoirs, road and bridges.  Brown certainly did reduce the clout of the 1970 California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA, usually pronounced “see-qua”) during his fourth and final term as governor, mainly clearing the way for large spectator sports facilities like the Golden State Warriors’ Chase Center in San Francisco, the Inglewood SoFi Stadium that’s now home to both the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers and the rapidly rising Inglewood basketball arena under construction for the Los Angeles Clippers.  “We have proven we can get it done for stadiums,” said Newsom, “so why…can’t we translate that to all these other projects?” It’s clear he doesn’t want the very people who figure to be most affected by these changes to have any voice in their fate. … ”  Continue reading from the Ventura County Star.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


Meadows at Upper Truckee River and Trout Creek flooding, just as restoration projects wanted

“Most of the meadows around South Lake Tahoe have had a lot of standing water over them this spring, and those surrounding Trout Creek and the Upper Truckee River have seen more water than they’ve experienced in years.  Both waterways went over their banks weeks ago, and it may be several weeks until water moves back into its normal flow pattern.  Extensive restoration has occurred on both the Upper Truckee River and Trout Creek, and what is occurring now is exactly as planned and more natural. … ”  Read more from South Tahoe Now.


Celebrating the people and partnerships saving Sacramento River winter-run chinook salmon

“What’s it like to work every day to save a species? NOAA Fisheries is working to recover five West Coast Species in the Spotlight. They are among nine species nationally that NOAA Fisheries has identified as facing a high risk of extinction, and where concerted recovery actions can make the difference.  Many of the species once had great economic and ecological value as part of the marine ecosystem. Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon once provided food and spiritual significance for California tribes such as the Winnemem Wintu.  Brian Ellrot, NOAA Fisheries’ Sacramento River Winter-Run Chinook Salmon Recovery Coordinator, shares with us why Sacramento River Winter-Run Chinook Salmon are worth saving, his proudest achievements to date, and where more work is needed. … ”  Continue reading from NOAA.

Corning council pushes for infrastructure on westside of I-5

“The city took one more step Tuesday night to bring water and sewer services to the west side of Interstate-5.  The City Council unanimously approved a water and sewer extension development reimbursement agreement to Galleli Real Estate.  According to city staff, American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 funds were approved by the council to fund a reimbursement agreement for a water and sewer crossing, whereby developers would support the cost of the bore with the city reimbursing them for all or a significant portion of the work after it is completed. … ”  Read more from the Tehama Daily News.

Plan underway to raise Folsom Dam to store more water in the lake

“Big crowds were out at Folsom Lake on Memorial Day, and with a record-breaking snowpack, the lake is now nearly full. But there’s also a large amount of water being released downstream  There’s now a plan underway to store more water in the lake, and that involves raising Folsom Dam. … Now, efforts are underway to help store more of this water during wet years. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working to raise Folsom Dam by three and a half feet. The plan also requires raising eight earthen dikes that surround the lake’s perimeter.  Work has already been completed on one of the dikes, and this year, construction is beginning along the western shoreline. … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento.


Tribe taps Sonoma County wineries, farms to save Russian River water

“To hear water stakeholders tell their stories, the connection to the Russian River is every bit as personal and spiritual as it is professional in nature.  Take, for instance, Dry Creek Rancheria Tribal Chairman Chris Wright.  The Pomo Indians tribal leader is spearheading a major grant-funded, multi-million-dollar, drought-resistant water capture plan. He hopes it will spark interest from Healdsburg-area wineries and farms in a 7,000-acre area to help with the water supply that keeps the Russian River economic microcosm going.  The benefits are threefold — from water consumers and fisheries to wineries and other agriculture businesses at “ground zero” in the valley.  And the stakes are high, as drought periods have turned up over the past few decades, prompting concern among local farmers and water agencies. … ”  Read more from the North Bay Business Journal.


Advocates: Reparations are the answer for sea level threat in West Oakland, Calif.

“Toxic waste lurking in the soil under the San Francisco Bay community of West Oakland, and places like it, is the next environmental threat in a neighborhood already burdened by pollution. Residents in these communities of color are calling for climate justice as a form of reparations.  The stability of buried contamination from Oakland’s industrial past relies on it staying in the soil. But once the rising waters of San Francisco Bay press inland and get underneath these pockets of pollution, a certain amount of that waste will not stay in place. Instead, it will begin to move.  More than 130 sites lie in wait.  Human-caused climate change is already forcing this groundwater rise in West Oakland and other parts of the Bay Area. … ”  Read more from NPR.

Sunnyvale celebrates milestone in 20-year Cleanwater Program

“Having secured $635 million in federal loans for Sunnyvale’s 20-year Cleanwater Program, city staff on May 24 took the opportunity to show federal and local environmental officials what they’ve achieved with the funding so far.  The low-interest loans are being used to rebuild Sunnyvale’s aging wastewater treatment plant, which was originally built in 1956 and is one of the oldest on the West Coast.  “Today we’re celebrating the completion of stage 1 and the beginning of stage 2,” said Mayor Larry Klein to the small group that toured the Donald M. Somers Water Pollution Control Plant at the end of Borregas Avenue.  The tour highlighted projects that have received federal funds through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News.


Juvenile salmon to be released Wednesday at Santa Cruz Wharf

“The closure of California’s 2023 commercial and recreational salmon fishing season came amid ongoing concerns about dwindling fish populations and poor habitat conditions.  As part of efforts to help boost ocean salmon populations, state officials and members of a local conservation nonprofit organization will release 160,000 juvenile chinook (king) salmon into Monterey Bay from the Santa Cruz Wharf on Wednesday. The goal is that these fish will grow to adulthood at sea and eventually be caught locally. … ”  Read more from Lookout Santa Cruz.

Threats from climate change leave San Luis Obispo County facing an ‘uncertain future.’ Here’s how

“You may not see the dramatic effects of this human-caused climate change here quite yet: When you turn on your tap, water still comes out. The heatwaves only last a week at most, and you can escape to the expansive beaches to cool off.  But experts say they’re keeping close tabs on the data and noticing even subtle shifts in wind speeds, ocean temperatures, heat wave intensity and rainstorm frequency that signal San Luis Obispo County certainly will not be immune to the impacts of climate change as greenhouse gasses continue to warm up our atmosphere.  “We’ve always had natural climate change,” said John Lindsey, a former meteorologist for PG&E. “Yes, it’s always happened. But the rate of change (now) is completely, 100% unprecedented.” … ”  Read more from Yahoo News.

How did winter rains affect Paso Robles groundwater basin? There’s ‘really good news’

“Heavy winter rains did some good for the dire groundwater conditions in the Paso Robles area, new data show. According to the San Luis Obispo County Groundwater Sustainability Department, 79% of the wells measured in April on the Paso Robles groundwater basin had higher levels than the same time the year before. Some wells had water levels rise more than 50 feet — a difference that could mean those households may be able drink their own water again. … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune. | Read via Yahoo News.

Column: Shaking out what happens in the salt marsh

“Cool stuff happens in salt marshes. Signs in the Carpinteria Salt Marsh Nature Park describe the life cycle of parasitic trematodes (eew, right?), whose function is so important that it warrants an hour-long video by UCSB and USGS’s Dr. Kevin Lafferty.  You might not observe the tiny trematodes on a trail walk, but if you’re lucky you could spot huge schools of leopard sharks as they graduate from the marsh at high tide to brave the ocean currents on their own.  If ocean waves are the heartbeat of the earth, the tidal marshes are its deep yogic breaths. Estuary channels breathe in water and nutrient-rich sea life, returning aquatic life born in the relatively safe, still nurseries of the shallow channels. … ”  Continue reading at Noozhawk.


Flood worries recede as levees, diversions stem Tulare Lake expansion

“California officials believe that tens of thousands of people living near Tulare Lake are unlikely to experience flooding this year, thanks to improving weather conditions and swift planning following a series of powerful storms that refilled the basin for the first time in decades.  The backstory: Tulare Lake in California’s Central Valley was once the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River, fed by snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada each spring. However, the lake eventually went dry as settlers dammed and diverted water for agriculture. This year, the lake started to reconstitute after the Golden State was hit with a dozen atmospheric rivers packed with massive amounts of rain and snow. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun.


Slew of water warnings, gloomy weather put damper on Memorial Day weekend for beachgoers

“Despite a slew of water warnings due to high bacteria levels and uncharacteristically gloomy weather, Southern California beaches were still teeming with tourists and locals hoping to soak up every bit of the Memorial Day Weekend.  On Friday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health issued a water use warning for a number of county beaches, unfortunately perfectly lined up for the ever-busy holiday weekend that traditionally draws thousands of beachgoers.  Warnings were issued due to “bacterial levels exceeding health standards” and warned people from “swimming, surfing and playing in ocean waters.” … ”  Read more from CBS News.

Judge orders halt to Ballona Wetlands restoration project

“A California Department of Fish and Wildlife plan to introduce tidal flows into the Ballona Creek wetlands has come to a screeching halt after a judge ruled recently that the agency’s environmental impact report on the project failed to adequately account for flood risks.  In a May 17 decision, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant ordered the agency to set aside its certification of the final EIR for the project because it “failed to disclose and analyze flood control design parameters” associated with proposed levees and other infrastructure.  In response to four lawsuits filed by environmental groups, Chalfant ordered the agency to suspend any project activity in the 600-acre West Los Angeles ecological refuge and prepare a new “legally adequate” environmental impact report “if it chooses to proceed.” … ”  Read more from the LA Times. | Read via Yahoo News.

OC planners, leaders brainstorm ideas to save vanishing beaches

“Coastal leaders and planners from across the state gathered recently to brainstorm solutions for a shared concern: how to combat severe erosion and climate-change challenges already causing trouble and expected to worsen in years to come.  The two-day Smart Coast California Policy Summit in Newport Beach drew leaders to trade tactics as a report released recently by the United States Geological Survey made a dire prediction: By 2100, modeling done estimates that 25% to 70% of California’s 1,100 miles of coastline may become completely eroded due to sea level rise scenarios.  The vanishing of area beaches would mean a loss of recreation space, threats to infrastructure and hits to tourism revenue and a coastal economy that brings billions to the state each year, officials warned. … ” Read more from the OC Register.


New River Improvement Project finally breaks ground

“Residents of Calexico and those in the vicinity of the infamously polluted New River subject to adverse health effects will finally see environmental justice enacted in a real and tangible way as state, city, and binational collaborators of the New River Improvement Project broke ground on Friday, May 26 in Calexico, a few hundred feet from the U.S.-Mexico border.  The integral waterway, which begins in Baja California and winds its way north through Calexico towards the Salton Sea, is widely known to environmental advocates and officials as being one of the most severely polluted waterways in the United States. … ”  Read more from the Imperial Valley Press.

This California town was already dying. Then the state moved to close its prison

“Two things bring people here, prisons and water, and this tiny desert town is losing both.  The locals interested in keeping Blythe afloat have ideas: They’ll build a logistics center, or they’ll develop better recreation opportunities on the Colorado River, or they’ll reopen their soon-to-be shuttered state prison as an immigration detention center. … The city’s latest disappointment came in May, when the governor’s proposed budget kept Chuckawalla Valley State Prison on the list of prisons Newsom wants to close.  Then there’s Blythe’s water, which feeds fields of alfalfa taken out of town by the truckload as bales of hay, and is increasingly going to large farm conglomerates.  So if there’s no prison and very little water, what becomes of this place? … ”  Read the full story at Cal Matters.


Assembly bill would require countywide vote for Fallbrook, Rainbow to exit San Diego County Water Authority

“An Assembly bill introduced late last week would require a countywide vote before two agricultural districts in north San Diego County could leave the San Diego County Water Authority.  Assembly Bill 530, introduced Thursday by Tasha Boerner Horvath of Encinitas, would amend California’s Water Authority Act, to require a majority vote in both the separating district and the county to complete a detachment. The Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District are seeking to join the Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County in hopes of securing lower-cost water for farmers. … ”  Read more from the Times of San Diego.

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Along the Colorado River …

Every drop of the Colorado River counts. So what about evaporation?

“For more than a hundred years, California, Arizona, and Nevada never accounted for evaporation on the lower basin of the Colorado River as they divided its water between themselves and later with Mexico. Their logic held that as long as there was more water than people used, they could ignore small losses from natural processes. More importantly, it was politically fraught—for decades, the lower basin states have been unable to reach an agreement about how evaporation should be taken into account when sharing the river’s waters. Even as a 23-year-long megadrought sucked moisture out of the already arid region, evaporation stayed off the books with decision making.But now, as water managers scramble to find a solution to a river that’s been overused, mostly for irrigation-heavy crops like livestock feed, they’re forced into a harsh reality: every drop counts, including those that disappear into the air. … ”  Read more from Popular Science.

Colorado River agreement punts on drastic cuts and difficult negotiations

“State and federal officials are celebrating an agreement reached this week by Arizona, California and Nevada to reduce their use of Colorado River water by millions of gallons over the next three years.  But it’s a temporary reprieve. Bolstered by a winter with heavy rain and snow throughout a region that has suffered two decades of severe drought — and the worst megadrought in 1,200 years — the three-state agreement will spare seven Western states from painful cuts. Negotiators had feared drastic reductions to prop up the depleted river system that provides water to 40 million people, some of the country’s most productive agricultural land and a hydroelectric power apparatus.  Instead, the three states in the Colorado River’s lower basin agreed to reduce their water use by 3 million acre-feet (a unit of measurement that amounts to 326,000 gallons) through the end of 2026. The agreement meets just half of the reductions that federal officials called for during negotiations. Federal officials, however, praised the announcement. … ”  Read more from the Arizona Daily Star.

Colorado River deal brings relief, but is it a short-term solution to a long-term crisis?

“The American West is breathing a collective sigh of relief after Colorado River basin states resolved months of tensions with a pivotal plan for water consumption cutbacks earlier this week.  Yet both state officials and water experts are raising concerns that this conservation proposal may just be a short-term solution to a long-term crisis.  “I think they needed to do something, and this is what they could agree to,” Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis, told The Hill.  “They agreed to ask the federal government to pay them to use less water,” Lund added, chuckling.  Following a year of fiery negotiations, the Colorado River’s Lower Basin states — California, Arizona and Nevada — announced on Monday that they had finally agreed to a joint plan for water consumption cutbacks. … ”  Read more from The Hill.

Here’s how water moves through Lake Powell

“The Colorado River plays a pivotal role in the lives of many western state residents as a major municipal and agricultural water source. Lake Powell, a reservoir on the border of Utah and Arizona, is fed by the Colorado River. Water then flows from Lake Powell into the Grand Canyon and Lake Mead downstream.  Lake Powell is a reservoir, unlike Great Salt Lake which is terminal, so snowpack and water flow into Lake Powell greatly impact numerous communities downstream.  Jack Schmidt is a natural resources professor and Janet Quinney Lawson chair in Colorado River Studies at Utah State University. Schmidt has spent his career focused on the Colorado River system.  “Lake Powell is a reservoir; it’s not a lake. And, like any reservoir, it has a drain,” he said. … ”  Read more from Utah Public Radio.

Microplastic shards plague every Colorado river. Here’s where, and how they get there.

“Lexi Kilbane knew, in a vague, nonscientific way, that plastic pollution was a growing problem, and that tiny shards of plastics were showing up everywhere a microscope might look.   But the magnitude of the contamination finally hit home after she dipped a water testing kit into a City Park lake, right near her house, and filtered the sample. Fibers from shredded tarps, jackets and carpet popped into view, in a dystopian kaleidoscope.   “There’s no mistaking that for a natural particle,” said Kilbane, a University of Denver graduate student and microplastics project manager for Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center.  “Unless you’re a fish, of course,” Kilbane added. “It was stunning that someone like me, without any sort of background in this, could plainly see the issue in front of my eyes.” Using national protocols for detecting microplastics, Kilbane and the nonprofit advocacy group CoPIRG sampled 16 waterways in Colorado and found the plastics pollution in every one. … ”  Read more from the Colorado Sun.

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In national water news today …

Land around the U.S. is sinking. Here are some of the fastest areas.

“Imagine Earth’s surface is like a stack of pancakes. The pancakes, or layers of soil and rocks, may appear fairly evenly stacked and fluffy. Over time though, the stack can become compressed, thinner and shorter. Scientists observe this downward motion of land, called land subsidence, across the planet. While some regions of land experience uplift, many parts of Earth’s surface are sinking — fast. Scientists are especially concerned for sinking locations near the coast, which are at a higher risk for flooding as sea levels rise in a warming world. Hurricanes and extreme rainfall events can also bring more damage to such low-lying areas. But understanding this slumping land motion is not simple, scientists say. Even within the same city, some regions may be sinking at faster rates than other areas. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post (gift article).


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More news and commentary in the weekend edition …

In California water news this weekend …

  • Race to move water underground on as California’s Central Valley overflows
  • Millerton Lake can drain, fill six times over with registered snowpack, officials say
  • In the face of a changing climate, DWR is committed to making investments in forecasting our water supply
  • Audit finds California water agency not adequately considering climate change in forecasts
  • Supreme Court rules on wetlands. Here’s how it affects California environment protections
  • 6 common misconceptions about El Niño and its impact on California weather
  • Federal judge finds Forest Service violated Clean Water Act while fighting wildfires
  • Dan Walters: The stakes for Newsom’s big plan to streamline big California projects
  • Environmental nonprofits sue Sonoma County over groundwater well regulations
  • As oil platform Holly is decommissioned what happens to the ecosystems on the underwater structure
  • 2023 Colorado River Drought Response Operations Plan Finalized; plan focuses on recovery of upstream reservoirs
  • Fear, frustration and fatigue: How a deal to save the Colorado River was struck
  • And more …

Click here for the weekend edition.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOTICE of Water Quality Certification Application for Removal and Decommissioning of the Kanaka Powerhouse for the Kanaka Hydroelectric Project (FERC Project No. 7242) License Surrender

NOTICE of Water Quality Certification Application for Merced River Agricultural Diversion and Fish Habitat Enhancement Project

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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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