DAILY DIGEST, 6/1: Slew of water bills swirl around Sacramento; Central Valley flooding offers birds bountiful water; Will it also poison them?; State Water Resources Control Board considering amendments to the Bay-Delta Plan to incorporate tribal beneficial uses; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • WEBINAR: Solutions in Our Soil – Building Sustainable Supply Chains from 10am to 11:30am.  Throughout Sustainable Conservation’s Solutions in Our Soil series, we’ve learned what soil health means and why it’s so important for increasing drought resilience, improving water quality, boosting biodiversity, and nourishing healthy farmlands and communities. But, what does this look like in practice and how can we ensure soil health is prioritized throughout the food system? In this webinar, our panel of experts shed light on the importance of soil health practices and how they’re turning science into practice throughout the supply chain.  Click here to register.
  • WEBINAR: Response: Santa Barbara County Debris Basin Success Story from 11:30am to 12:30pm. The California Silver Jackets Team is hosting four Watershed University lunchtime webinars, focusing on post-wildfire flooding, looking at the four stages of the flood risk management life cycle: preparation, response, recovery, and mitigation.  Please join us for our second webinar: “Response: Santa Barbara County Debris Basin Success Story.”  There will be an opportunity for open discussion and questions with the presenter.  Webinar Link: https://usace1.webex.com/usace1/j.php?MTID=md30f8f8af6324d477f1734de9d0757c6

In California water news today …


Slew of water bills swirl around Sacramento

“Senior water rights holders have arguably the sweetest deal in California water. They often have ironclad deals and some even get access to substantial water during the worst of drought.  But three new bills in the state legislature are taking aim at senior water rights in an attempt to level the playing field.  The bills propose expanding the authority of the state Water Resources Control Board.  Senior water rights date back to before 1914, when there was no permitting or state water authority yet.  For years, advocacy groups have decried the water rights system and demanded changes. Some of those changes could become reality if legislators and the governor approve the current bills. … ”  Read more from SJV Water.

California Assembly advances bill to eliminate lead from school drinking water as new test data shows alarming levels at child care centers

“Today the California State Assembly handily passed a bill aimed at removing all lead from drinking and cooking water used in schools. If passed, it would help protect young children from lead’s serious health harms.  The legislation, Assembly Bill 249, now heads to the Senate, where it is expected to face opposition from the state’s water boards.  If signed into law, the bill would require lead tests at all drinking water fountains and faucets of water used to cook for children in schools serving pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, that receive federal Title 1 funds. About 65 percent of California’s K-12 schools fall into this category. … ”  Continue reading from the Environmental Working Group.

Sen. Alex Padilla focuses on water affordability in hearing

“U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., convened his first hearing as chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife, on Wednesday.  Sen. Padilla appeared on the KCRA News morning show on My58 and said the hearing will focus on how rising water rates, aging infrastructure and extreme weather events have affected access and affordability of clean water across the country.  “One of the crises that has not gotten sufficient attention is water affordability,” Padilla said.”Not just whether families can afford to pay their water bill, which is a very real dynamic, but the water agencies’ long-deferred maintenance of water infrastructure has compromised supply.” … ”  Read more from KCRA.

California Water Agencies outline $3.2B plan for Central Valley flood prevention projects

“California water officials are urging a $3.2 billion investment in flood prevention projects over the next half decade to safeguard the Central Valley; particularly communities on the San Joaquin River that are considered among the most vulnerable in the nation.  The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the Central Valley Flood Protection Board (CVFPB) called for the combined investment from federal, state, and local agencies to meet the recommendations of the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan (CVFPP) 2022 Update. The plan would require an investment of $25 billion to $30 billion over the next 30 years, officials say. … ”  Read more from Engineering News Record.


Central Valley flooding offers birds bountiful water; Will it also poison them?

“After struggling through years of punishing drought, California waterfowl and flocks of migrating birds are now enjoying a rare bounty of water as winter storms and spring snowmelt submerge vast tracts of Central Valley landscape.  But even as birders celebrate the return of wet conditions along portions of the Pacific Flyway, experts worry that this liquid bonanza could ultimately poison tens of thousands of the avians as temperatures rise and newly formed lakes and ponds begin to evaporate.  The concern: botulism.  “Botulism occurs naturally in the soil and in the Tulare basin,” said John Carlson, president of the California Wildfowl Association. “When the water temperature heats up during the summer and gets stagnant, the botulism really kind of booms, and you can have multi-thousand-bird die-offs.” … ”  Read more from the LA Times. | Read via AOL News.

Illegal pot trade linked to Mexican drug cartels leaves contaminants, dead animals behind

“In the mountainous expanse below, drug trafficking organizations have taken advantage of Northern California’s remote wilderness to grow cannabis in deep defiance of the state’s marijuana and environmental regulations.  They’ve poisoned soil, streams and wildlife with banned pesticides, leveled countless acres of forest, ignited massive wildfires, poached billions of gallons of precious water and left nothing but death and debris in their wake.  Cannabis has been the lifeblood of Northern California’s economy for decades. And the state’s regulatory process for legal cannabis cultivation, still in its relative infancy, is burdensome and often prohibitive to the very industry the communities here were built around.  But unlike the region’s local industry, the drug trafficking organizations operating illegal cannabis grow sites in national forests and public lands, often called “trespass grows,” have proven merciless in their disregard for natural resources. … ”  Read more from the Courier-Journal.

State Water Resources Control Board considering amendments to the Bay-Delta Plan to incorporate tribal beneficial uses

“The San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary Water Quality Control Plan (Bay-Delta Plan) is currently undergoing its periodic review of updates and amendments by the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board). Tribal representatives have requested the incorporation of recognized Tribal Beneficial Use (TBU) definitions to the Bay-Delta Plan. If these definitions are incorporated in the Bay-Delta Plan, the SWRCB must also amend or establish water quality objectives and implementation programs to achieve and maintain water quality sufficient for these designated beneficial uses. … ”  Read more from Somach Simmons & Dunn.

Supporting water resources managers in the transition between wet and dry years in California

David Guy with the Northern California Water Association writes, “As we watch the beginning of summer unfold, the water management challenges in California are presenting themselves in a way that should be instructive to the policy discourse on water. The nature of California, with the maldistribution of water in time and place, coupled with seemingly more extreme weather events, suggests some new opportunities to advance a more modern water management system that better adapts to a changing climate and our state’s important values.  As a backdrop for future water management, we should acknowledge that Californians have built a highly managed water system that has served the state well, recognizing our system is under strain for several reasons: an aging infrastructure, a better understanding of the consequences this infrastructure has created, the evolving values in California water, and an increasing recurrence of droughts, floods and fires. … ”  Read more from the Northern California Water Association.

Dam safety is top priority in California

“May 31 marks National Dam Safety Awareness Day, established after the South Fork Dam failure of 1889 took the lives of 2,200 Pennsylvanians. The threat of dam failure persisted into the early 20th century for Californians, when the St. Francis Dam, located just north of Los Angeles, collapsed and swept a 140-foot-tall wall of water through San Francisquito Canyon, claiming the lives of over 400 people. Flash forward to the 21st century and spillway failures (when water overtops a dam’s emergency ‘spillway’, or passage for surplus water) on California’s Oroville Dam in 2017 and North Fork Dam in 2023, point to the increasing urgency of devoting state resources to dam removal, especially where dams have deferred maintenance issues. Moreover, as the effects of climate change intensify, unpredictable precipitation patterns are putting increased strain on our water infrastructure, underscoring the need to address these problems head on. … ”  Read more from American Rivers.

Can Californians keep their lawns?

“The tremendous rains over the winter have filled California’s reservoirs, blessed the snowpack and brought waterfalls and ancient lakes back to life. In some parts of the state, the precipitation has also revived something that was thought to have been a thing of the past: green lawns. Last spring, when California was still in a worsening drought, Jeff Fox and Amy Bach let the grass in their San Francisco backyard go dry. They covered their desiccated lawn with bark chips, added some succulents and well-placed rocks, and welcomed their new, drought-friendly landscaping. They were among the thousands of people who abandoned the California dream of a single-family home surrounded by a lush, neatly kept lawn. Then this winter, the Bay Area, like much of the state, was battered with enormous amounts of rain. By January, the lawn “came back fuller and greener than it’s ever been,” Fox told me. “We were totally taken by surprise.” … ”  Continue reading at the New York Times.

Modern gold rush: here’s what we know about California’s new gold panning era

“Amidst devastating winter storms that wreaked havoc across California, a modern-day gold rush has emerged, drawing people from far and wide. The extreme rain and subsequent flooding have given birth to what experts call the California Gold Rush 2.0. As the atmospheric river storms relentlessly hit the state, the flood water washed fresh deposits of gold into creeks and rivers, tempting modern adventurers with the promise of striking it rich.  With the floodwaters clearing out debris and exposing precious nuggets, gold panning has become more accessible. In the heart of historic Jamestown, many locals have witnessed a surge in visitors hoping to uncover their own treasures.   Despite the risks posed by the melting snowpack and rapidly flowing rapids, the allure of California’s gold-filled waterways proves irresistible. … ”  Continue reading at The Travel.

Introducing CaDC Analytics: a powerful tool for water management

“We are excited to announce that the California Data Collaborative (CaDC) is launching a new software product that will revolutionize the way water suppliers and managers use data to plan, evaluate, and report their water demand management programs. CaDC Analytics is a web-based platform that supports workflows across water efficiency, customer service, water resources, and operations.  The product offers advanced analytics and visualizations designed with years of learning and feedback from CaDC’s members while integrating new and useful data sources that many water suppliers are unable to easily access.  By pooling their data and expertise, CaDC members have created a data-sharing platform and a growing suite of water-management tools that encode the full story of their water. The product is supported by funding from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as well as the CaDC coalition of water suppliers. … ”  Continue reading from the California Data Collaborative.

Climate change is threatening ketchup. AI could help save it

Hold on to your Heinz. The latest looming food shortage is likely to include ketchup, coming hard on the heels of last year’s potato chip crisis and runs on mustard (in France, at least). Three summers’ worth of unprecedented high heat in the world’s key tomato-producing regions—Australia, Spain, and California’s central valley—have led to a precipitous decline in tomato paste stocks, the key ingredient for ketchup and other condiments. California, which produces a quarter of the world’s tomatoes, and 95% of the tomatoes used in U.S. canned goods, delivered nearly 5% less than the expected crop in 2021, and 10% less in 2022 due to the ongoing drought, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Record-setting precipitation earlier this year helped with drought conditions, but it also flooded fields, forcing farmers to postpone planting, which could lead to reduced yields this year as well.  Other grocery-store staples are likely to follow suit, as climate change, driven by ever-increasing fossil fuel emissions, wreaks havoc on crops ranging from corn to canola oil. … ”  Read more from Time Magazine.

Emergency California halibut regulations, river salmon season closure adopted

“California halibut fishing has been spectacular on San Francisco Bay this year, with some of the best action in memory reported in recent weeks.  For example, the Lovely Martha sportfishing boat returned to Fisherman’s Wharf on Thursday, May 25 with 14 limits of striped bass (28) and 14 limits of halibut (42). “We started out the day with a wide-open bass bite and then switched over to halibut,” reported Mike Rescino, Captain of the Lovely Martha.  However, the pressure on these fish this year, due to the total closure of ocean and river salmon fishing, led Rescino and other skippers and anglers to request a change in the bag limit from three to two fish to protect the fishery. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record.

Wildlife Conservation Board funds environmental improvement and acquisition projects

“At its May 25, 2023, quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $83.15 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California and, in some cases, provide new and improved public access, recreational and educational opportunities.  Among the 28 projects approved, the WCB provided a $24 million grant to The Wildlands Conservancy for a cooperative project with the State Coastal Conservancy to acquire approximately 11,691 acres of land in the Carmel Valley in Monterey County for the protection of upland and lowland habitats and the wildlife species they support. .. ”  Continue reading from the Department of Fish & Wildlife.

‘California is meant to burn’: Experts teach landowners art of prescribed burns

“The prescribed burn begins on a California hill with a drip torch to light brush, needles and fallen branches, the flames spreading out on the forest floor far below the tree canopy.  Students on this Saturday class learn how to keep the burn under control, while others stand by ready to assist with water pumps, hand tools and first aid.  Teaching locals is exactly what Susie Kocher is hoping to accomplish through the El Dorado Amador Prescribed Burn Association. Founded in 2021, the association teaches private landowners about prescribed burns, including how to plan and carry them out safely.  Experts like Kocher and fire officials consider prescribed burns a vital tool to curb wildfire risks by preemptively burning dry timber and other fire fodder that could fuel the kind of out-of-control blazes California has seen in recent years. … ”  Continue reading from Reuters News.

Majority of Californians fear worsening weather swings due to climate change, poll finds

As California continues to experience swings from one weather extreme to another, a majority of residents say they are increasingly concerned about the state’s changing climate, and some worry that weather impacts could force them to move in the future.  Nearly 70% of registered voters say they expect that volatile fluctuations between severe drought and periods of heavy rain and snow — what some call weather whiplash — will become more common in the future due to climate change, according to a new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times.  The poll comes on the heels of a shockingly wet winter that ended three years of drought, killed nearly two dozen people and flooded the long-dry Tulare Lake Basin.  Although responses were sharply divided along political lines, they seemed to reflect a growing unease among residents about the current and future effects of global warming on California. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

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In commentary today …

California must realign its priorities for water usage

Chirag G. Bhaka, California Director of Food & Water Watch, writes, “The massive snowpack in the Sierras looming over California’s Central Valley has shifted the state’s water focus from years-long drought to the threat of devastating flooding. But both of these seemingly opposite perils have a common origin and mandate a common solution. To achieve water stability and sustainability, the state must realign its priorities by putting people and communities over the profiteering industries that are driving the water and climate crisis.  For the last 20 years, California has been mired in a historic dry period, punctuated by a few short bursts of strong storms and heavy precipitation. This winter’s deluge is consistent with that pattern, one which scientists predict will become more extreme as climate change accelerates — longer droughts and increasingly severe storms. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News.

California’s snow is melting and it’s a beautiful thing

Andrew Schwartz, the lead scientist and station manager at the University of California, Berkeley, Central Sierra Snow Lab, writes, “My fellow Californians often remark that the weather in this state feels like it has been reduced to two seasons, both defined by natural disasters: In summer and fall, huge, intense wildfires rip their way across dry land, while winter and early spring bring intense atmospheric rivers with heavy rainfall, floods and landslides along with winds that take down trees.  The weather extremes here are so common, and climate change is so in your face, that many people now just expect to jump from one natural disaster to the next. And this pessimism means it’s hard to enjoy it when — for once — nature deals us a good hand. But this year, after several brutal years of fighting drought, we finally got the water that we have so sorely needed for so long. We damn well better enjoy it. … ”  Continue reading at the New York Times.

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Today’s featured article …

DELTA STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL: West False River Salinity Barrier Project

California is highly prone to droughts, and droughts are expected to increase in frequency as climate change impacts intensify.  In times of severe drought, the amount of water stored in the upstream reservoirs may not be enough to hold back the saltwater that pushes into the Delta along with the tide from the San Francisco Bay. If the saltwater intrudes into the central Delta, it can hinder the ability to extract freshwater from the Delta for municipal use, cause Delta water to become unfit for farming, and impact aquatic habitat.

To combat severe drought conditions in 2015 and 2021-22, the Department of Water Resources constructed a temporary barrier in the West False River in the Central Delta.

These previous barriers were built as an emergency response under the Governor’s emergency drought orders. Given the success of the barrier in reducing the intrusion of saltwater into the Delta, the Department of Water Resources circulated an environmental impact report (EIR) last year that would cover two installations of the barrier over a period of ten years. The EIR is anticipated to be finalized this fall.

At the April meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Robert Trang, supervising engineer with the Department of Water Resources, updated the Council on the project.

Click here to read this article.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


South Yuba River Citizens League receives $4M grant for Yuba River

“As part of a continued effort to restore fish and wildlife habitat throughout the state, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) last week approved about $83.15 million in grants, including $4 million for a project in Yuba County that will benefit the Yuba River.  According to the WCB, the South Yuba River Citizens League was awarded a $4,081,000 grant for a “cooperative project” with Yuba Water Agency. Called the Upper Rose Bar Restoration Construction project, it is intended to “increase spawning habitat, create backwater habitat and reduce bank erosion on the Yuba River one mile north of Smartsville in Yuba County,” the WCB said. … ”  Continue reading from Yahoo News.


EPA water protections ruling a win for local farmers

“Northstate farmers are breathing a sigh of relief following a major Supreme Court ruling on water protections.  In a 5-4 vote, the ruling makes it harder for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate certain bodies of water, narrowing the definition for which waterways can be considered “protected” and therefore require a permit for discharges. … Farmers feared that a ruling in favor of the EPA could have been detrimental to daily operations because of the red tape that would have come along with the permit process. … ”  Read the full story at KRCR.

City of Roseville stored more groundwater than ever thanks to this year’s wet winter

“Thanks to this year’s big winter rain and snow season, City of Roseville officials say they have been able to store more groundwater than ever before.  Improving groundwater storage is an important part of the greater Sacramento region’s plans to increase the security of the drinking water supply. …  For the past several weeks, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has been making increased releases at Folsom Lake. Thanks to a contract with the City of Roseville, some of that excess water is being stored in aquifers below the city. … ”  Read more from KCRA.


After the algal bloom cleared out of Lake Merritt, the nudibranchs came to party in droves

“If you lay an old towel right down in the gull poop on Lake Merritt’s dock, sweep away the food wrappers and other detritus, hang your head over the side of the dock, and peer into the murk, a wondrous underwater forest awaits you.  This forest is thick with slippery green sea lettuce, and pocked with “trees” that are not plants at all, but colonies of tiny animals that, in their youth, stuck themselves to the sides of the dock and claimed it as their home. They waft in the current, grabbing or sucking prey from the water as it floats by. Hardly anyone has much of a backbone here; it’s mostly invertebrates, with a few visiting fish. Some of their names are familiar (mussels, barnacles, sea anemones, sponges) and some might not be (bryozoans, hydrozoans, tunicates), but each has its place in this aquatic landscape.  I’ve been coming here for years to photograph and learn about this forest, avoiding the poop and assuaging the fears of the concerned strangers who think I’ve either died or lost my cell phone. And last year, Lake Merritt’s dock turned out to be a courtside seat for me to observe the succession of species following an ecological apocalypse—the harmful algal bloom of August 2022. … ”  Read more from Bay Nature.

Judge’s ruling delays Pacheco Dam expansion plans

“Plans to build a new dam for Pacheco Reservoir in southeast Santa Clara County are on hold after a superior court judge in May ruled that the project developer had incorrectly claimed it is exempt from state environmental laws.  Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Theodore Zayner on May 18 ruled that the project applicant, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, had filed a “notice of exemption” that was not in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act. The ruling was issued in response to a lawsuit filed in June 2022 by Stop the Pacheco Dam Project Coalition, and later amended to include the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band and the Sierra Club. … ”  Read more from San Benito Free Lance.

Editorial: Hard decisions await Marin Municipal Water District as scrutiny mounts

The Marin Independent Journal editorial board writes, “When voters in the Marin Municipal Water District went to the polls in November, they spoke with their votes.  They wanted change.  In electing three new members to the district’s board, they called for a change in the strategy and decisions that had left the district’s water supply perilously close to running dry.  Back-to-back rain-soaked years rescued the district and has bought its leadership time to develop and implement a plan for increasing its supply and resiliency.  That is going to take a significant investment, which unfortunately translates into increasing rates and the cost of water.  The new board voted 4-1 to raise rates by an average of 20%.  Now it has to deliver. That is a whopping increase. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal.

Half Moon Bay: Harbor board hears sea level rise options

Last week the San Mateo County Harbor Commission discussed a Pillar Point Harbor sea level rise study presented by the San Mateo County Flood and Sea Level Rise Resiliency District, also known as OneShoreline. Eighteen months ago, OneShoreline asked the consulting firm Environmental Science Associates to study Pillar Point Harbor’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in terms of sea level rise and erosion.  The goal of the study was to identify how to sustain key assets like infrastructure, recreation and ecology, said OneShoreline CEO Len Materman. Based on the results of that study, OneShoreline floated potential long-term solutions that overlapping jurisdictions in the area should consider when dealing with the projected sea level rise and erosion rates. … ”  Read more from the Half Moon Bay Review.


Salinas Valley farmers seek rebound after floods, virus hit lettuce crops

“Things were challenging enough for lettuce growers in Monterey County’s Salinas Valley before Mother Nature dealt a one-two punch in this year’s storms.  Farmers in 2022 had suffered an estimated $150 million in crop losses as impatiens necrotic spot virus — a destructive plant disease spread by thrips — moved from field to field.  Then this year, vast flooding from atmospheric storms damaged multiple crops, with lettuce growers suffering an additional $54.4 million in losses, according to figures released by the Monterey County agricultural commissioner.  The flooding is seriously testing lettuce farmers growing the signature crop in the Salinas Valley, renowned as “the Salad Bowl of the World.” … ”  Read more from the King City Rustler.

Santa Barbara County continues Carpinteria salt marsh dredging

“Due to the increased flooding risk to adjacent properties and the City of Carpinteria, Santa Barbara County is conducting an emergency dredging operation at the Carpinteria Salt Marsh. Operations will continue 24-hours as needed until the amount of sediment in the marsh is no longer a flood risk to the community. The estimated completion date is early July 2023, as operational safety and circumstances allow. Further information will be provided as it is developed.  After the creek flows receded following the extreme rains from January 2023, the Carpinteria Salt Marsh revealed an extreme amount of sedimentation. This sedimentation obstructs Santa Monica Creek and Franklin Creeks. … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent.


Updated flood maps shows more potential problem areas in Kern County

“The flow of water coming out of Lake Isabella has dropped recently and could go down even more with critical road work needed on Highway 178 in the canyon.  The road is currently shut down.  Lake Isabella sits at around 436,000-acre feet as of Thursday morning. The water being released out of the lake into the lower Kern has dropped to nearly 7,400 cubic feet per second. … ”  Read more from Channel 23.


Sierra Madre accepts $126,000 settlement from Monsanto stormwater lawsuit

“The city of Sierra Madre has accepted a $126,000 settlement with chemical company Monsanto Inc. in a class-action lawsuit against the company, that alleged its products contaminated bodies of water and stormwater systems.  In 2016, several cities and counties, including Los Angeles and Long Beach, sued Monsanto claiming industrial chemicals it manufactured up until 1977 called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) impaired the environment and continues to contaminate sites, including stormwater and wastewater systems, water bodies, sediment, natural resources, fish and other wildlife.  The city’s City Council approved the settlement at its May 23 meeting. … ”  Read more from the Pasadena Star News.


In search of answers at the Salton Sea

“As the temperature on an early April afternoon crept above 80 degrees, Cruz Marquez, a member of the Salton Sea Community Science Program, stood at a folding table under a blue tent, scrubbing a small glass vial with the cloth of his T-shirt. The vial, which held 20 milliliters of water from the nearby Salton Sea, had to be clean before he inserted it into a photometer to identify the water’s contaminant levels.  Less than a decade earlier, the beach where Marquez stood lay under the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake. Over the last 25 years, the Salton Sea has lost a third of its water due to an over-allocated Colorado River. As it shrinks, the sea’s salts plus pollutants from agricultural runoff reach higher concentrations. All those extra nutrients fuel algae blooms that then decay in the sulfate-rich sea, resulting in a rotten-egg smell that can extend for miles. As temperatures rise and the water retreats further, locals suspect that the contaminated sediments in the exposed lakebed are worsening air quality; the area’s childhood asthma rate is one of the highest in the state.  But for several years, no government agency has monitored contaminant levels in the sea. … ”  Read more from High Country News.


Algae bloom prompts water contact advisory at Lower Otay Reservoir

“An algae bloom prompted city officials to post caution signs at its Lower Otay Reservoir, according to San Diego officials.  The City of San Diego advises the public to not expose their skin to the water while the cautionary alert is in effect.  However, the algae bloom does not impact the safety or quality of the City’s drinking water, officials said. The water is treated using several processes prior to being delivered to homes and businesses, according to the City.Local biologists found out the water at Lower Otay Reservoir tested positive for Cyanobacteria, also known as “blue-green algae.” … ”  Read more from Fox 5.

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Along the Colorado River …

Breakthrough Colorado River plan: The benefits and limits

“After nearly a year of gridlocked negotiations on the future of the stressed Colorado River, Arizona, California, and Nevada reached a breakthrough last week, uniting behind a voluntary proposal to further curtail their water use.  Some observers call the proposal “historic.” But how significant is it? Since the news broke, others have described the Lower Basin agreement as overhyped. It’s still just a proposal, and only a short-term one for managing critically low reservoirs, which threaten hydropower and water supplies for millions of people.  While some see the proposal as “the best thing since sliced bread,” others see it as a Band-Aid on a bullet wound,” says Nevada negotiator John Entsminger. “Neither of those things is true,” says the general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. … ”  Read more from the Christian Science Monitor.

Arizona has a lot of ideas to use less water. Which will win state cash?

Columnist Joanna Allhands writes, “A Phoenix school wants to install rainwater harvesting and low water-use gardening beds, so it can teach the wider community to use them.  A Tucson-based nonprofit wants to extend water conservation education programs and rebates to residents who pump groundwater from private wells.  There are multiple proposals to upgrade inefficient water meters, yank turf from city parks and schools, and to run irrigation water through pipes instead of uncovered earthen canals.  And that’s just a sample of the water-saving proposals submitted to Arizona’s Water Infrastructure Finance Authority (WIFA) for possible funding.  That’s good news. … ”  Read more from Arizona Central.

Phoenix to get up to $60M for giving up Colorado River water

“The Phoenix City Council unanimously approved a plan Wednesday to give up a share of its Colorado River allocation in exchange for money.  “This agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation gives us a fantastic opportunity to not only reduce our Colorado River water usage but also to invest the up to $60 million in compensation provided in diversifying our water portfolio and providing more conservation tools for our residents and industries,” said Vice Mayor Yassamin Ansari.  Phoenix will forego up to 150,000 acre-feet of the city’s river water entitlement over three years. That’s about the amount of water used by 450,000 households in a year. Phoenix said the deal, which is in addition to reduced deliveries Arizona agreed to in the Drought Contingency Plan, will have no impact on city water customers. … ”  Read more from KJZZ.

New study says interstate would hurt AZ’s water supply

“The future highway connecting parts of Arizona is hitting a few speed bumps as one environmental group released a scathing report.  The Center for Biological Diversity released a study last week claiming that Interstate 11, referring to it as the “Deadpool Highway,” would mean dramatic population growth and an unsustainable increase in water demand.  Therefore, water use would go up to nearly 400,000 acre-feet per year, or roughly 15% of Arizona’s annual allotted water supply from the Colorado River.  Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity says the project is a major problem environmentally and financially. … ”  Read more from Channel 15.

As the Supreme Court debates a Navajo water rights case, climate change adds new questions

“It’s an effort for 73-year-old Percy Deal to haul water to his home on the Navajo Nation.  Every three weeks, he loads two 55-gallon drums into his truck and drives 20 miles on rough, unpaved roads to the public water supply. To keep trips to a minimum, he uses a splash pad in his kitchen where he can save water in a basin and reuse it multiple times for handwashing and other chores.   He’s given up on having enough water to grow crops, which he remembers neighbors doing on Black Mesa when he was growing up.  “About 30, 40 years ago, we used to have plenty of rain,” Deal said. “And there was a natural spring where water came out on its own. I remember when I was a little boy herding sheep, there was at least two or three places where the water came out. Those springs are dry now. People used to plant corn, squash, potatoes, beans and things like that. Now the ground is so dry that plants don’t grow anymore.” … ”  Read more from Arizona Central.

Colorado has had a good water year, but experts say it won’t lessen long-term drought conditions

“As of the end of May, the Arkansas River basin snowpack has fallen just a bit, but it’s still at what’s considered a normal level. Conditions were at 60 percent of normal during this same time last year. Elsewhere in the state, the Upper Rio Grande and the Colorado River basins show levels at 111 percent of normal and 140 percent of normal, respectively. Brian Domonkos with the Colorado Snow Survey Program said those numbers bode well for the state’s water supply, but they won’t make a lasting dent in long-term drought conditions. He also cautioned that year-to-year comparisons can be subjective, as the calculations depend on where the snow has melted, and how fast. “It’s going to have to become more the norm to have these above normal snowpack and precipitation years for several years going forward to overcome a drought,” he said. “And even still, the question still remains, ‘will it help us get out of the drought?'” … ”  Read more from Colorado Public Radio.

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In national water news today …

New classification system focuses on wetland connectivity

“Wetlands provide an array of important ecosystem benefits. They discourage flooding, moderate streamflow, harbor wildlife, and keep contaminants out of downstream waters. However, these benefits are far from one-size-fits-all. Size, depth, climate, and configuration all help determine how wetlands perform and which services they offer.  Wetland connectivity — the degree to which water from wetlands flows into nearby rivers, lakes, and oceans — is gaining increasing attention among scientists as one of the most important factors that determine the type and level of ecosystem benefits wetlands provide. However, determining whether wetlands connect to other freshwater systems can be difficult. For example, water from wetlands may flow into other bodies from either above or deep below ground-level, for only certain parts of each year, or only in instances of heavy rainfall. … ”  Read more from Stormwater Report.

How the Supreme Court’s wetlands ruling could impact pollution, flooding

“The Supreme Court’s decision to curb federal regulations for wetlands could have far-reaching implications for America’s water.  The ruling is expected to open the nation up to more water pollution, experts say. And not only that: They say it could also make the country more vulnerable to floods.  The court Thursday narrowed the federal government’s authority to regulate wetlands, saying it only has jurisdiction over those that have a “continuous surface connection” with other regulated waters such as lakes or rivers.  In practice, this will mean that wetlands that don’t meet this definition will be open to development, unless they are in a state that has its own requirements. … ” Read more from The Hill.

Danger in the dust! The hazards of windblown dust

“Dust comprises small particles (about 50 microns or smaller in diameter) of sediment or soil which are suspended in the atmosphere and transported by the wind. While these small airborne particles may seem benign, they pose a significant threat to human and environmental health, transportation safety, and the global economy.  A recent study in Reviews of Geophysics explores the costly effects of dust in the Western Hemisphere, where scientific understanding is fragmented. We asked some of the authors to give an overview of airborne soil dust, its health and safety impacts, and what important questions remain. … ”  Read more from EOS.

Everyone hates plastics, even Wall Street. But maybe not for long

“Everybody hates plastics. It’s hard to recycle. Microplastics are floating around the Pacific Ocean, eaten up by the fish we eat. But corporate investors still like them, probably because it’s not about plastics. It’s polymers – which can be found in organic materials or made synthetically from hydrocarbons as a derivative of the oil and gas industry. These polymers are made into plastics and resins and are the mother of all materials around us – from the keyboards we type on, the phones in our hands, the cars we drive, and the subway seats we sit on.  But while corporate investors see green in the polymer materials space, investors have not. … ”  Read more from Forbes.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOTICE of Petition for Temporary Transfer per Various Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation License and Permits

NOTICE of Preparation and Scoping Meetings for an Environmental Impact Report for the Kerckhoff Hydroelectric Project Relicensing

DELTA STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL: Certification of consistency filed for Prospect Island Tidal Habitat Restoration 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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