DAILY DIGEST, 9/7: New CA law taps science to improve water management; New water conservation regs could force big cuts in some areas; Will this year’s El Niño be a whopper?; Heralded winemaker sues Napa County over water wells; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • MEETING: State Water Resources Control Board beginning at 9:30am.  Agenda includes Public Workshop on a proposed Draft Policy to Standardize Cost Reporting in Municipal Stormwater Permits; and an Administrative Procedure Act Public Hearing to receive public comments on the proposed regulations for direct potable reuse. Click here for the full agenda.
  • PUBLIC MEETING: California Advisory Committee on Salmon and Steelhead Trout from 10am to 3:30pm. Agenda items include 2021 Re-initiation of Consultation on the Long-Term Operation of the Central Valley Project, Steelhead Report Card Program subcommittee update, drought grant funding status, salmon closure disaster relief, and Constraints and Initial Solutions to Increasing the Pace and Scale of Riverscape Restoration. Click here for the agenda and remote access instructions.
  • WEBINAR: Agricultural Managed Aquifer Recharge (Ag-MAR) – A Method for Sustainable Groundwater Management from 12pm to 1:15pm. More than two billion people and 40% of global agricultural production depend upon unsustainable groundwater extraction. Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR), the practice of strategically recharging water to replenish subsurface storage, is an important practice for managing groundwater more sustainably. In this WRRC Water Webinar, Professor Helen Dahlke describes the practice and feasibility of using agricultural land as intentional spreading basins for groundwater recharge, the opportunities to address climate change with Ag-MAR, and the benefits of Ag-MAR including groundwater storage, increased environmental flows, and domestic well support. Click here to register.
  • CDFW WEBINAR: Atlas of the Biodiversity of California: Using data, maps, and models to protect California’s natural heritage from 12pm to 1:30pm.  In 2003, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife published a collection of full-color maps, photographs, and written accounts of the state’s diverse wildlife species and habitats, called the Atlas of the Biodiversity of California. CDFW has now published the 2nd Edition of the Atlas online on its 20th anniversary. Join us to explore this beautifully illustrated digital version, which highlights Department efforts to chronicle, understand, and protect the natural resources that are California’s heritage.  Click here to register.. 

In California water news today …

New California law taps science to improve water management

In late December 2012 an Atmospheric River storm greatly increased the amount of water in Lake Mendocino (thick blue line shows reservoir storage; green dashed line shows cumulative rainfall). The “rule curve” (dashed orange line) led to the release of this water. The lack of later rains (to February 2014) led to drought conditions and extremely low lake levels. Graphic courtesy of F. M. Ralph (UC San Diego/ Scripps /CW3E;) and J. Jasperse (Sonoma Water) – FIRO Steering Committee Co-Chairs.

“Legislation signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom ensures the state has the science and weather forecasting tools it needs for more flexible reservoir operations. The bill, AB 30, makes breakthrough water management technology standard for the California Department of Water Resources.  The legislation was introduced by San Diego Assemblymember Chris Ward and co-sponsored by the Sonoma County Water Agency and the San Diego County Water Authority. The bill was supported by the Water Authority’s partner, UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  The strategy is called forecast-informed reservoir operations, or FIRO, and it complements Gov. Newsom’s California Water Supply strategy released in August 2022 calling for more reservoir storage capacity to capture runoff from big storms, often fueled by atmospheric rivers. The governor and Legislature have already provided funding for state water managers to integrate the strategy. … ”  Read more from the Water News Network.

Sweeping California water conservation rules could force big cuts in some areas

“With California facing a hotter and drier future — punctuated by bouts of extreme weather — state officials are moving forward with a new framework for urban water use that could require some suppliers to make cuts of 20% or more as soon as 2025.  Many of the suppliers facing the harshest cuts are located in the Central Valley and in the southeastern part of the state — large, hot and primarily rural areas that have historically struggled to meet conservation targets.  In Los Angeles, where the Department of Water and Power has reported significant conservation gains over the last decade, new reductions wouldn’t take effect until 2030, according to state data. Other neighboring water suppliers, such as the city of Beverly Hills and the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, would be required to make cuts of 18% and 13% within two years, respectively. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

El Niño is coming this winter. The question is, will it be a whopper?

“San Diego County’s fragile shoreline and vulnerable beachfront properties could be in for a rough winter, according to the California Coastal Commission, the National Weather Service and some top San Diego scientists.  “We are looking at an emerging El Niño event,” staff geologist Joseph Street told the Coastal Commission at its meeting Wednesday in Eureka.  An El Niño is a meteorological phenomenon that occurs every two to seven years. The water temperature at the surface of the Central Pacific Ocean along the equator warms a few degrees above its long-term average, creating conditions for stronger, more frequent seasonal storms across much of the globe.  “El Niño conditions can generate a triple threat for coastal hazards in California,” said Adam Young, an integrative oceanography researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

4 dam projects = 1.8m acre feet of storage

Three reservoir projects in the Diablo Range on the westside of both the Northern San Joaquin Valley and the Delta are part of a strategy to store receive runoff during wet years to cushion California water supplies against prolonged drought. The projects — raising San Luis Reservoir, building a Del Puerto Canyon dam and raising Los Vaqueros Reservoir — would add 245,000 acre feet of water storage capacity.  When coupled with the proposed Sites Reservoir in the Antelope Valley portion of the Coastal Range — of which the Diablo Range is a subrange — an additional 1,827,000 acre feet of off-stream storage could be created. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin.

Winter rains cured California’s three-year drought and summer’s record heat didn’t bring a new one

“By late January of this year, a remarkable thing had occurred in the normally thirsty state of California. Aside from splotches of land on the northern and southern borders, the state’s three-year drought had been entirely cured.  Now, as a globally hot summer winds to a close, the US Drought Monitor map for California reads exactly the same as when the spring ‘superbloom’ cloaked the hillsides in flowers.  Winter and spring rains and snowfall had set records in the mountains, and aside from the tragic flooding that cost some residents their lives and thousands in property damage, the understanding was that the days of water rationing were, for the time being, over.  It’s the first time since April of 2020 that no part of the state was considered stuck in “exceptional drought.” … ”  Read more from Good News Network.

Keep off the grass

“Nearly all of California is officially out of the drought, but one emergency rule that targets bright green lawns is on its way to becoming permanent.  A ban on the use of potable water on nonfunctional turf is one floor vote and a governor’s signature away from becoming reality. Wait, before you run to your sprinkler: Your yard and sport fields aren’t included. The state would ban ornamental grass only on commercial, industrial or institutional properties. Think of those decorative strips of grass at malls or office parks or in common areas controlled by homeowner associations. … ”  Read more from Politico.

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In commentary today …

Environmentalist conceit on basic forest management will bring more devastation

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, writes, “When we see the thousands of people impacted by flames that have engulfed forests and homes in Hawaii, or across the vast wilderness of western Canada and California, it is easy to be both shocked and angry.  Pristine forests, homes, and entire villages no longer exist as they once did. In Lahaina, the area most impacted by wildfires on Maui, at least 115 lives were lost and over $6 billion worth of property was destroyed.  While the underlying causes for this devastation continue to be examined — whether it was electrical utility negligence, water politics, or climate change — the fact remains that proven fire prevention methods haven’t been enough. Or, perhaps, in pursuit of more lofty goals, we’ve been hoodwinked by misguided activist groups to cast time tested knowledge aside. … ”  Read more from the OC Register.

The ground beneath our feet holds the key to successful climate change adaptation

Karen Ross, Secretary of Agriculture, writes, ““Farmers Have the Earth in Their Hands.” That’s the title of a book written by Paul Luu, a European agronomist and leader in the international push to recognize the essential nature of soil in climate resilience and nutrition security. The book resonated with me immediately for several reasons: a connection to the place I grew up — a family farm in Nebraska — and my understanding of the commitment of California’s farmers and ranchers to care for soil in order to maintain sustainability well into the future for food production, environmental protection and stewardship of the land for succeeding generations. It’s critical that we understand the fundamental connection between the ground beneath our feet and the many forms of life it sustains. … ”  Read more at the Sacramento Bee.

Why you should give a damn about America’s dams

Dan Reicher, a Senior Scholar at Stanford’s Doerr School of Sustainability; Tom Kiernan, CEO of American Rivers; and Malcolm Woolf, CEO of the National Hydropower Association, write, “This summer’s unprecedented floods across the U.S. highlight how a massive piece of infrastructure — the nation’s 90,000-plus dams — can play the role of hero or villain in these climate-enhanced calamities.  In Vermont, the 90-year-old Wrightsville Dam, built in response to the Great Flood of 1927 that killed 84 people, did its job, preventing flooding in the state capitol of Montpelier from getting far worse. But over in New York, the Jennings Pond dam, declared “unsafe” by the Army Corps of Engineers more than 40 years ago, breached, causing flood waters to inundate the Adirondack tourist town of Long Lake. … ”  Read more from The Hill.

America should harvest a trillion gallons of rainwater

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Today’s featured article …

IEP ANNUAL MEETING: Understanding Predators to Better Understand Predation

Stanislaus River. Photo courtesy of FishBio.

“Salmon populations in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta have significantly decreased over the past century, with most populations considered endangered, threatened, or species of concern. Non-native sport fishes, such as striped bass or black bass, are popular sportfish and economically important to the Delta; however, as predators, they create challenges for the recovery of salmon as predation during outmigration is a major factor contributing to the population decline.

Balancing competing interests of non-native fisheries with the need to reduce predation pressure on native species will require novel and flexible management strategies and increased information on sport fish populations.

In response to the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act (2016), FIshBio worked with NOAA Fisheries and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop and implement a predator study on the Stanislaus River.  The program’s overarching goal was to identify potential management strategies to mitigate Chinook salmon mortality from predation.  This research into the ecology of these predators is an important step in developing strategies to reduce predation pressure on native fishes.  At the 2023 IEP Annual Workshop, Tyler Pilger, fisheries biologist with FishBio, gave a presentation on the initial results of the study, now in its fifth and final year.

Click here to read this article.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


Klamath Project Farmers will get to finish irrigation season; No further cuts to water supply

“Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA), along with districts, individual water users, and tribes in the Klamath Basin, received a letter from the Bureau of Reclamation on Tuesday, announcing that the previously communicated “likely” reduction to the Klamath Project’s water supply was no longer necessary and that Reclamation was “reaffirming” that 260,000 acre-feet of water would be available to allow farmers to finish the crops that are almost ready to harvest. KWUA estimates that there are over $100 million in crops still in the ground in the Klamath Project, mostly potatoes, onions, and garlic.  “This situation is symptomatic of the dysfunction related to water management decisions currently being made for the Klamath Project,” commented Paul Simmons, KWUA’s Executive Director and Attorney. … ”  Read more from Klamath Falls News.


STPUD on target to meet California’s 2025 water target for South Lake Tahoe

“Climate change requires Californians to use water more wisely and prepare for more frequent and persistent periods of limited water supply. Two new water efficiency bills are now in place in the state as a response to more frequent droughts and dry spells. SB606 and AB1668 were created to help the state better prepare for future droughts and other effects of climate change on the State’s water supplies.  While water conservation has been a way of life for those living on the South Shore and in the South Tahoe Public Utility District (STPUD), not all areas of the state have been as proactive. … ”  Read more from South Tahoe Now.


Folsom Lake is losing water to evaporation. Why officials say it’s not a problem

“Folsom Lake has plenty of water heading into the fall.  As of Wednesday morning, the reservoir is at 73% of capacity. That is the highest the water level has been in early September since 2019.  At this point in the year, the reservoir is drawn down as managers send water to local customers and provide for environmental needs.  At the same time, a notable amount of water is lost to the dry air sitting just above it through evaporation.  “In August we were losing about point three inches a day,” said Drew Lessard, the area manager for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees water operations at Folsom Lake. … ”  Read more from KCRA.

One of California’s largest water pipeline projects will run through Elk Grove. Here’s when

“A water pipeline project said to be one of the largest of its kind in California will soon break ground in Elk Grove. Its destination: thousands of acres of south Sacramento County farmland and habitat. Construction of the Harvest Water project is set to begin late this year. The project is 41 miles of pipeline in all, stretching from Regional San’s EchoWater Resource Recovery Facility at Laguna Station Road east of Franklin Road near Interstate 5 south to Twin Cities Road near the Cosumnes River Preserve. The water project will deliver up to 50,000 annual acre-feet of treated recycled water to irrigate up to 16,000 acres of crops, replenish wildlife habitat and raise groundwater levels. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee.


Heralded winemaker sues Napa County over water wells

Photo by Daniel Salgado on Unsplash

“A lauded winemaker in California’s most famous wine region has filed a lawsuit against Napa County after the county refused to issue permits for water wells on land owned by the winemaker.  Plaintiff Jayson Woodbridge, founder and owner of Hundred Acre Wine Group, says in his lawsuit that Napa County is overstepping its authority.  The county has denied water well permits at four of Woodbridge’s vineyards: Double Vee Properties LLC; Caldera Ranch LLC; and Hundred Acre LLC, all in St. Helena; and The Hundred Acre Wine Group in Calistoga.  The federal lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the Northern District of California, seeks a declaration that the county’s actions violate state law governing water rights as well as the Fifth and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. It also seeks damages and attorneys’ fees. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service.


Marin utility eyes delay of ‘smart’ water meter expansion

“Marin Municipal Water District staff are recommending delaying a proposed expansion of “smart” water meters to all customers in order to address more urgent risks to the agency’s main software system.  On Tuesday, staff and consultants told the district Board of Directors that attempting to simultaneously complete two of the district’s largest technological upgrades in decades may result in potential system failures.  “These systems, they’re not sexy, but they’re incredibly important to the operation of the district, and their failure is noticed far and wide and immediately if it does happen,” district consultant Andrew Levine told the board.  For the past 23 years, the water district has used the same software system from the multinational company SAP to manage nearly all of the agency’s functions, including billing, water-use tracking, human resources, maintenance planning and customer relations. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal.

Pleasanton residents weigh in on proposed water rate increases — and they’re not happy

“More than a thousand people have recently signed a new petition to ask the Pleasanton City Council and city staff to postpone the upcoming decision to increase water rates.  The petition on change.org, which cites just over 1,600 signatures as of Wednesday morning, claims that city officials have not done a good job communicating accurate information about their proposal — which is a shared concern among some residents.  Resident concerns were heightened after the city sent out a state-mandated public notice brochure, which many said was very confusing to read and understand. Several residents, like Jocelyn Combs, even pointed out formatting errors that made the document difficult to follow. … ”  Read more from Pleasanton Weekly.


Large swarm of anchovies invades Santa Cruz harbor

“Santa Cruz Harbor avoided an event of washed up, dead fish after swarms of anchovies invaded the harbor last week. The baitfish, which were primarily anchovies, were first observed in the Santa Cruz Harbor last week, officials from the Santa Cruz Harbor said in a news release.  From an aerial view, the large schools of fish appear as darkened portions of the water, Holland MacLaurie, port director for the harbor, told SFGATE. MacLaurie said from a distance, the water looks “discolored,” but the fish are visible up-close. … ”  Read more from SF Gate.

For Monterey Peninsula water users, updated ban will be enforced

“Monterey Peninsula water officials are not kidding when it comes to enforcing a state ban on using drinking water to irrigate lawns and other “nonfunctional” turf. They’ll ask nicely once, but if people don’t comply, it will be time for them to break out checkbooks.  The ban is not new, rather it has been readopted by the California Water Resources Control Board, and will remain in effect through 2024. This ban applies to commercial, industrial and institutional areas, including homeowners’ associations that water common areas. There is no ban on the use of recycled water for those purposes.  The ban does not include residential lawns or trees, sports fields and turf regularly used for recreational purposes or civic or community events. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald.

City of Paso Robles releases video about local water supply

“The City of Paso Robles has produced a video to help inform residents about the local water supply. The video provides an overview of the city’s water sources and planning efforts and helps answer questions residents may have about having enough water to sustain planned community growth and demand. “We have noticed a common misconception among residents that the City of Paso Robles does not have enough water to support the new homes and commercial projects that are in the pipeline,” says City Manager Ty Lewis. “The reality is the exact opposite, Paso Robles is actually better prepared for growth and drought than most cities in California due to the foresight of City leadership going back over 30 years.” … ”  Read more from the Paso Robles Daily News.

Supervisor Arnold takes issue with Paso water basin grand jury report

“Despite heavy rainfall in January and March of this year, the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin still faces sustainability issues and low groundwater levels.  A recently released report from the SLO County grand jury found that rural residents who pumped water from the basin remained at risk of having their wells dry up, that there has been a failure to equally regulate pumping restrictions and fees across the affected water districts that rely the basin, and that public information and outreach on the Paso Basin was inadequate.  However, when the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors heard the issue on Aug. 22, 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold took umbrage with the grand jury’s findings.  “I am concerned … that this report is very misleading,” Arnold said at the meeting. “The grand jury is kind of a watchdog, [and] I am saying this publicly so they know that they may not have had the full information.” … ”  Read more from New Times SLO.


DWR Joins Stockton East Water District to announce $12.2M investment for water resilience project

“On Wednesday, Stockton East Water District and the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) joined local and federal officials to highlight a $12.2 million project that will support groundwater recharge, water quality and habitat restoration project along the Calaveras River. The announcement is part of DWR’s new “Go Golden Initiative,” which educates Californians about the innovative projects local water agencies are leading – with DWR grant funding – to build California’s long-term water resilience.  “The Stockton East Water District is excited to continue improving our water supply by investing in key water infrastructure, and as proud Golden Partners to the Department of Water Resources. We’re grateful to DWR for awarding the region over $12.2 million to support the Weir Modification project,” said Stockton East Water District General Manager Justin Hopkins. … ”  Read more from DWR News.

Stockton East Water District receives funding for weir improvements

The Stockton East Water District received funding on Wednesday from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) for the Bellota Weir Modifications Project.   The project will include numerous improvements to the weir, located east of Linden on the Calaveras River.  Project components include construction of a new screened diversion intake and associated conveyance improvements, construction of “fishways” comprised of a roughened channel and fish ladder to improve upstream anadromous fish migration from Mormon Slough, and construction of a fish exclusion structure on the Old Calaveras River to prevent entrainment of juvenile salmonids, according to ca.gov.  … ”  Read more from ABC 10.


Proposed stormwater fee hikes move ahead

“The Manhattan Beach City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved the initiation of a mail-in ballot process aimed at significantly increasing the stormwater fees paid by residents.  If approved by over 50 percent of residents who cast ballots in a per-parcel vote, the stormwater fees would increase the fees paid by single-family residences from $19 a year to $129 a year, on average. The fee has not increased since 1996, while the cost of operating the City’s stormwater system —  which is required by state law and protects overflow from reaching the ocean —  has vastly increased. Over the past six years, the system has required over $1 million in annual subsidies from the City’s General Fund, including $1.6 million this year. That structural deficit is projected to increase to over $2 million a year over the next six years if the fee is not increased. Additionally, city staff has identified $8.3 million in repairs and improvements the stormwater system will require in coming years. … ”  Read more from Easy Reader.

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Along the Colorado River …

Rainfall and Lake Mead water levels, explained

“When it comes to Lake Mead’s water levels, even the biggest storms that hit Las Vegas aren’t much of a factor.  The Las Vegas Valley saw a deluge of water from a series of monsoonal storms that moved in Friday and that dumped more than an inch of rain in a matter of days. While it seems like such a torrent of water would provide a substantial boost to Lake Mead, that just isn’t the case.  Even massive storms like those that hit over Labor Day weekend only contribute what amounts to a fraction of an inch of increased water levels at Lake Mead, said Paul Miller, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service’s Colorado Basin River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City. … ”  Read more from the Las Vegas Review Journal.

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In national water news today …

The journey of a microplastic: An unfolding story

“From the packaging of an online order to the takeaway cup holding a morning coffee, plastic is everywhere. In 2019, humans produced 460 million tonnes of plastic, an enormous increase from the mid-twentieth century when roughly two million tonnes were produced annually. A key aspect of plastic pollution is that it comes not just from large items such as water bottles and plastic bags, but also from microplastics—pieces that are five millimetres or smaller.  We know that the scale of plastic pollution is enormous, but what happens when microplastics infiltrate aquatic ecosystems? The Ricciardi Lab at McGill is looking to understand the routes by which organisms accumulate microplastics in their bodies. … ”  Read more from The Tribune.

Highlights from State of the Climate 2022

Graphs of yearly global surface temperature compared to the 1991-2020 average for each year from 1900 to 2022, from 6 data records, overlaid on a GOES-16 satellite image from September 22, 2022. (Image credit: NOAA Climate.gov)

“Greenhouse gas concentrations, global sea level and ocean heat content reached record highs in 2022, according to the 33rd annual State of the Climate report.  The international annual review of the world’s climate, led by scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) and published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), is based on contributions from more than 570 scientists in over 60 countries. It provides the most comprehensive update on Earth’s climate indicators, notable weather events and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments located on land, water ice and in space.  “This report is a truly international effort to more fully understand climate conditions around the globe and our capacity to observe them,” said NCEI Director Derek Arndt. “It is like an annual physical of the Earth system, and it serves present and future generations by documenting and sharing data that indicate increasingly extreme and changing conditions in our warming world.” … ”  Read more from NOAA.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

CALL FOR EXPERTS: National Academies Review of the Long-Term Operations of the Central Valley Project

NOTICE of Water Right Permit Application and Petition in Mendocino County

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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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