DAILY DIGEST, 6/5: ‘Improvised, spotty and belated’: Will California reform its oversight of water rights?; Thunderstorms and heavy rain returning; Water wasted to the sea?; Too much, too little: Water management in cities under climate change; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • WEBINAR: Invasive Species Lunchtime Talk – Rapid Response and Eradication of Caulerpa in California: Lessons learned from 12pm to 1pm.  This presentation will provide an overview of infestations of marine algae in the genus Caulerpa, with a focus on introductions discovered in California.  The presentation will discuss lessons learned and the importance of an immediate and sustained response when invasive species are detected early on.  Click here to register.
  • WEBINAR: Model Efficient Water Landscape Ordinance Informational Meeting from 2:30pm to 4:00pm. Join DWR and the Water Use Efficiency group to discuss draft updates to the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance(MWELO) to improve its clarity and understanding for landscape professionals and the local agencies. Click here to register.

In California water news today …

‘Improvised, spotty and belated’: Will California reform its oversight of water rights?

“California’s complex system of water rights took shape starting in the mid-1800s, when settlers saw the state’s water as abundant and free for the taking — a time when a Gold Rush prospector could stake claim to river flows simply by nailing a notice to a tree.  Today, California’s oldest and most senior water rights — called riparian and pre-1914 rights — have been passed along to thousands of agricultural landowners, irrigation districts and urban water suppliers that claim control of roughly one-third of the water that is diverted from the state’s rivers and streams. … Legal experts say the way the state manages this antiquated system is in dire need of reform. Among other problems, they say, current law prevents officials from verifying whether claims of senior water rights are valid, ordering those water users to reduce usage, or imposing fines that are large enough to penalize those who flout the rules. Three bills gaining momentum in the Legislature are seeking to change that, even as they draw heated opposition from water agencies and agricultural groups. … ”  Read more from the LA Times. | Read via Yahoo News.

Thunderstorms and heavy rain are returning to California. Here’s a timeline of what to expect

“Just when you thought it was safe to go out without a raincoat — a big weather shift is coming to the Bay Area this week. Cooler temperatures, rain showers and even some thunderstorms and small hail are in the forecast. The most likely period for storms is Monday evening through Tuesday afternoon.  Rainfall totals this week will generally stay under a tenth of an inch, reaching up to a half an inch in areas with heavy showers. Normal June rainfall amounts are generally less than a quarter inch for most of the Bay Area, making this an atypical drenching heading into early summer. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Water wasted to the sea?

James E. Cloern, Jane Kay, Wim Kimmerer, Jeffrey Mount, Peter B. Moyle and Anke Müeller-Solger write, “If we farmed the Central Valley or managed water supplies for San Francisco, San Jose, or Los Angeles, we might think that freshwater flowing from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers through the Delta to San Francisco Bay is “wasted” because it ends up in the Pacific Ocean as an unused resource. However, different perspectives emerge as we follow the downstream movement of river water through the Delta and into San Francisco Bay. … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog.

California’s major reservoirs remain nearly full heading into summer

“This will be the first time in several years that California will enter summer with the majority of its reservoirs at or over 90 percent of total capacity, according to data from the California Department of Water Resources.  As of Saturday, Shasta, Oroville, Folsom, New Bullards Bar, San Luis, Castaic and Cachuma reservoirs are over 90 percent of their total capacity and in the case of Shasta and Oroville are less than 5 percent away from being full.  Each of these reservoirs is all well over their historic averages for this time point-in-time of the year. … ”  Read more from Fox 40.

How cities are trying to stop their land from sinking

“Groundwater has historically been a lifeline in California’s Coachella Valley. Water for farming, for your home and community? It came from under your feet, but the extractions didn’t go unnoticed. Much like taking air out of balloon, the ground began sinking. From 1995 to 2010, parts of the valley fell by as much 0.6 meters (2 feet), a process called land subsidence. The ground became destabilized, creating large cracks in the earth. Uneven sinking damaged the foundations of buildings and roads. The Coachella Canal started to sag to the point that water flow was interrupted. The scenario seemed too familiar, especially in populated, dry places. Another city pumped too much groundwater and began dropping, struggling with water demands and unstable land. But unlike other sinking cities, water managers performed a rare feat: they paused the sinking, even partially reversing it in some areas. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post (gift article).

Too much, too little: Water management in cities under climate change

“As the effects of climate change grow, effective urban water management becomes more complex and crucial. Water management challenges – and their solutions – are not one-size-fits-all, though. Some cities, like New York City and San Francisco, face flooding and sea level rise, while Los Angeles must contend with both an evaporating water supply and times of excess stormwater. This past March, Felicia Marcus, the Landreth Visiting Fellow with Stanford’s Water in the West program, met with spokespeople from these three cities to discuss natural water solutions at a side panel of the UN 2023 Water Conference. Read on for takeaways from the conversation. … ”  Read more from Stanford News.

‘Climate whiplash’ is the new normal for California, experts say

“Summer is approaching in California, and warmer temperatures have been melting the massive snowpack dumped on the state over the winter. Several swimmers and kayakers drowned this spring as rivers flooded and raged. The National Park Service took the rare step of closing much of Yosemite National Park’s scenic valley for several days to protect hikers and campers from floods. In April, California snowpack was at 237% of the average.  After years of drought, a string of storms over the winter and into the spring dropped as much as 700 inches of snow across California’s mountain range over the winter — even on some beaches. The heavy snowfall caused massive power outages, stranded some mountain community residents for more than a week at a time, and led to at least 13 deaths.  It was a sharp reversal from 2022, when California recorded its driest January, February, and March in over a century and drought records were set across the western U.S. Experts call such wild swings from one type of extreme weather to another “climate whiplash.” And new research shows the trend could worsen and that the wetter years may not make up for extended years of drought. Water managers in the state are already starting to plan strategies to deal with longer droughts and less snow. … ”  Read more from Yale Climate Connections.

This California nonprofit is fighting fire with finance

“For 33 years, Cheryl Walshin has lived in the shadow of the Siskiyou Mountains surrounded by woods that have grown thick with wildfire fuel.  Young trees. Fallen limbs. Overgrown brush.  All waiting for a spark.  The danger of her situation was underscored three years ago, when one of the most destructive wildfires in Oregon history tore through two nearby towns, destroying more than 2,000 homes and businesses. One reason the blaze took off was because the area hadn’t been cleared of the kind of debris that has collected for years around Walshin’s home.  So it was a huge relief when two dozen workers arrived at her property in April to chop down trees and thin the nine acres around her home. Even better for Walshin, 79, was that the work was free — paid for by an Oregon nonprofit.  “I couldn’t afford this,” Walshin said. “They’ve altered my reality.” … ”  Read more from E&E News.

How is climate change limiting access to insurance?

“Climate change is bringing with it more frequent storms, floods, wildfires and other costly risks, which is in turn making homeowner’s insurance increasingly either unaffordable or unavailable in growing parts of the United States.  State Farm, the largest home insurer in the United States in 2022, announced last week it would not accept new applications for homeowners policies in wildfire-ravaged California, a change that has sent shockwaves through insurance markets.  Here is how stronger climate change impacts could drive a potential “end of insurance” in the United States … ”  Read more from Eco-Business.

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In commentary today …

California agriculture could use an ancient history lesson

Ángel S. Fernández-Bou, a Senior Climate Scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, writes, “When I was an agricultural engineering student, I took a class called History of Agriculture.  I loved that class, in part, because I love agriculture, but also because I love ancient history. I used to study ancient history just for fun, and when I had the opportunity to write a paper for that class, I decided to write about the origins of agriculture and civilization in Mesopotamia and Egypt.  Mesopotamia is one of the cradles of human civilization. Agriculture started there about 10,000 years ago, and about 5,500 years ago they invented the cuneiform writing system. The first documents ever written were about agricultural production! … ”  Read more from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


Butte County: Controlled burn begins two-week project to reduce fire danger, invasive vegetation

“Brownish haze began to fill the sky west of Oroville on Saturday morning. Before long, the Sierra Nevada foothills became difficult to see. The Sutter Buttes, some 20 miles to the southwest, were only visible by way of their ghostly outlines.  Is wildfire season here already, so soon after an extraordinarily wet winter?  No. Temperatures are definitely rising and vegetation is drying out, as it does every late spring in the Sacramento Valley, but fire officials are working to get ahead of the types of fires that foul the air and can threaten homes and businesses. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record.

Sacramento weir project in the works

State agencies are ramping up a project to deal with dangerous river levels and catastrophic floods. FOX40’s Mason Mauro shares more.


Seasonal Russian River dam use to begin Monday

“Sonoma County’s water agency, Sonoma Water, is starting the annual process of inflating its rubber dam in the Russian River, a critical part of managing the region’s water supply system.  The multi-day undertaking, which begins Monday and can last between four and 14 days, takes place near Forestville downstream of Wohler Bridge.  Pooling water created by the dam is used to recharge groundwater, which is naturally filtered through sand and gravel and used as drinking water by more than 600,000 residents in Sonoma and Marin counties.  “As we get into summer with warmer temperatures and increased demand as people start spending more time outside, this is when we start holding some of that water back so it soaks into the aquifer,” said Andrea Rodriguez, a spokesperson for Sonoma Water. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.


After a wet winter, Bay Area goats have a lot on their plates

“As the morning marine layer gave way to another sunny late-spring afternoon, dozens of goats munched their way across a hillside at the edge of a suburban Hayward neighborhood.  Blades of wild oat grass, already faded from green to pale yellow, shot up past the goats’ spotted bellies. Thistles reached above their heads.  The herd from the grazing company Goats R Us was getting a taste of a trend that has been clear this spring for gardeners, hikers and anyone who has taken note of an overgrown freeway embankment or median strip. In the wake of a wet winter that drenched California, grasses and other vegetation have been growing like gangbusters. … ”  Read more from Berkeleyside.


West Kern energy project would turn depleted oil reservoir into synthetic geothermal storage

“Western Kern’s legacy oil fields have gained new interest recently as a place to bury carbon dioxide. But what about also using the area’s ample underground geologic formations to store energy for the state power grid? A Bakersfield company is working with federal scientists to develop a plant in Antelope Hills that would use parabolic mirrors to focus sunlight on groundwater that would be injected hot into an underground reservoir. Later, when the power is needed, steam from the hot water would run a turbine connected to an electrical substation nearby. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian.


Commentary:  Desert Water Agency’s support for California’s water security is vital for sustainability

Steve Grasha, Director of District 1 for the Desert Water Agency, writes, “California, known for its beautiful coastline, desert landscapes and vibrant cities, faces a constant challenge when it comes to water resources. With a rapidly growing population, climate change impacts and recurring droughts, ensuring water security is a top priority of the Desert Water Agency. In this pursuit, the Desert Water Agency (DWA) has emerged as a key player, demonstrating its support for the California State Water Project (SWP) and the Sites Reservoir Project for the past 60 years. These initiatives are essential for preserving California’s precious water resources and securing a sustainable future for the Coachella Valley and the state. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun.

Salton Sea environment detrimental to respiratory health of local children

“In the United States, low-income immigrant and minority children often live in environments that have highly polluted air.  A study led by researchers at the University of California Riverside (UCR), demonstrates this among the Latinx and Purépecha immigrant children and caregivers living along Inland Southern California’s Salton Sea, a highly saline drying lakebed surrounded by agricultural fields.  Ann Marie Cheney, an associate professor of social medicine, population, and public health in the School of Medicine, was the lead author of the study. … ”  Read more from the Imperial Valley Press.


Rural districts say San Diego behind opposition to their exit from County Water Authority

“The Fallbrook and Rainbow water districts have pushed back on an Assembly bill that would require a countywide public vote to approve their exit the San Diego County Water Authority, accusing the city of San Diego of attempting to increase its power.  The two rural districts said in a statement that the city is “trying to make it harder — if not impossible” — for other districts in the county get less expensive water.  San Diego is sponsoring AB 530, which would  change state law relating to water districts that seek to change water suppliers by requiring a countywide vote. … ”  Read more from the Times of San Diego.

SEE ALSO: Two North County water districts look to part ways with San Diego Water Authority, from Channel 10

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Along the Colorado River …

Hay – yes, hay – is sucking the Colorado River dry

“Agriculture slurps 80% of the Colorado River in the U.S. each year, and a single forage crop, alfalfa hay, is responsible for over a third of that drain. Alfalfa, meaning “father of all foods” in Arabic, is the nutrient-rich linchpin of the dairy and beef business. No other field crop produces more protein per acre. But that bounty comes with high water use. Alfalfa has a long growing season — another plus for farmers — a deep root system and a leafy, dense canopy that needs immense moisture to stay green. But that’s not the whole story: A century-old legal doctrine compels farmers to use as much river water as they’re allotted, or else lose access to the unused portion in the future. That perverse incentive, combined with the cheap Colorado River water afforded to many Western water districts, means that wasteful irrigation methods have not gone out of fashion. That includes a technique called “flood irrigation,” which is exactly what it sounds like: watering hundreds of alfalfa acres at a time by briefly flooding the field. … ”  Read more from High Country News.

Arizona’s water troubles show how climate change is reshaping the West

“Jay Famiglietti moved to Arizona this year after a career using satellites to study how the worst drought in a millennium was sapping groundwater beneath the American West.  He has documented that the decline of groundwater in California’s Central Valley accelerated dramatically in recent years, and that states along the Colorado River were losing their aquifers far faster than the more visible shriveling of the nation’s largest reservoirs.  It was not a satellite but an airplane, however, that was on Famiglietti’s mind as he picked up his wife at the airport earlier this year: a charter flight of people arriving in Phoenix as part of a major expansion of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., one of Arizona’s premier economic development jewels. This symbol of Arizona’s future brought home the stakes of this moment.In one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country, it’s a boom time — water-intensive microchip companies and data centers moving in; tens of thousands of houses spreading deep into the desert. But it is also a time of crisis: Climate change is drying up the American West and putting fundamental resources at ever greater risk. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post.

Snowpack buys Utah’s water supply some time but planning for a drier future is key

“The high Utah mountains gained 30 inches of water this winter, compared to 12 inches the year before. That amount of water in one season has done wonders for Utah’s ongoing drought.  “This time last year, about 99% of the state was in severe drought,” said Laura Haskell, the drought coordinator with the Utah Division of Water Resources. “So we have just about 14% [that] is in the moderate drought category. And that’s it.”  Prior to this winter, Haskell thought it would take “several years” to replenish the reservoirs because of “how low they were.” Now, “all our reservoirs are expected to fill this year,” with the exception of Strawberry and Lake Powell. While Great Salt Lake’s water level has risen by 4 feet this year, it still needs more to ease concern. … ”  Read more from KUER.

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In national water news today …

Post-Sackett, chaos erupts for wetlands oversight

“A shocking Supreme Court decision scaling back protections for the majority of the nation’s wetlands has unfurled a hazy regulatory landscape, even as it is set to both open up major development opportunities and threaten public lands across the country.  While more than half of states and many industry groups welcomed the outcome of Sackett v. EPA as providing long-sought clarity, its implications for the regulated community are still unfolding. Wetlands determinations are on hold, and could be for some time. Some of the nation’s most beloved areas, meanwhile, are significantly less protected than they were.  “I think we’re likely to see a lot of examples of wetland areas that don’t meet the majority’s new narrow standard but that the public expects regulators to protect,” said Ashley Peck, a water quality adviser and environmental litigator for Holland & Hart’s water law practice. … ”  Read more from E&E News.

Broken record: Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels jump again

“Carbon dioxide levels measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory peaked at 423 parts per million in May, continuing a steady climb further into territory not seen for millions of years, scientists from NOAA and Scripps Institution of Oceanography offsite link at the University of California San Diego announced today.  Measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2) obtained by NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory averaged 424.0 parts per million (ppm) in May, the month when CO2 peaks in the Northern Hemisphere. That is an increase of 3.0 ppm over May 2022, and represents the fourth-largest annual increases in the peak of the Keeling Curve in NOAA’s record. Scientists at Scripps, which maintains an independent record, calculated a May monthly average of 423.78 ppm , also a 3.0 ppm increase over their May 2022 average.  Carbon dioxide levels are now more than 50% higher than they were before the onset of the industrial era. … ”  Continue reading from NOAA.

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More news and commentary in the weekend edition …

In California water news this weekend …

  • Surging California rivers become a deadly threat, months after storms
  • Sites Reservoir water right application moves forward
  • Legislation to curb water use for irrigation clears California Assembly
  • State auditor points out inadequacies with California water management
  • There’s a mess under that dense snow that shut California passes. See heavy task ahead
  • Why is A.C.I.D. canal still leaking? Half of water supply lost due to leaks, officials say
  • Levee rupture floods Highway 99
  • What San Diego’s water divorce might cost you
  • And more …

Click here to read the weekend digest.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOTICE of Water Right Permit Application A025517X01 of Sites Project Authority – Colusa, Glenn, and Tehama Counties

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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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