DAILY DIGEST, 9/15: El Niño just ramped up. What does it mean for California weather?; Water Board advances water resilience and safe drinking water through $1.2 billion in financial assistance; Bill to eliminate lead in schools passes, Salton Sea bill stalled; Does every year need to be a massive climate year?; and more …

In California water news today …

El Niño just ramped up. What does it mean for California weather?

“El Niño just ramped up.  On Thursday, the Climate Prediction Center extended its El Niño advisory for a fourth straight month. The agency forecasts greater than 95% odds that El Niño conditions continue through March and a 71% chance of a “strong” El Niño.  The atmospheric pattern, synonymous with warmer global temperatures and intense regional rainfall, is connected to ocean temperatures.  Eastern equatorial Pacific ocean temperatures are currently 1.6 degrees Celsius above normal. If this part of the sea remains at least 0.5 degrees Celsius above normal through the end of October, an official El Niño year will be declared. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle (gift article).


Water Board advances water resilience and safe drinking water through $1.2 billion in financial assistance

“Building on historic state and federal investments in water infrastructure that strengthen California’s resilience to extreme weather and climate change, the State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Financial Assistance distributed nearly $1.2 billion during the past fiscal year (July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2023) to water systems and communities to bolster supplies, expand groundwater recharge and improve access to safe drinking water.  Over $200 million went to clean water projects that further the state’s commitment to developing new supplies through water recycling, stormwater capture and groundwater
recharge as described by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s August 2022 Water Supply Strategy.  When complete, the projects funded the past fiscal year alone will add approximately 165,000 acre-feet per year to the state’s supplies, enough to sustain 486,000 households annually. Nearly all of this new supply, or about 161,000 acre-feet, will be generated through projects that recharge groundwater. … ”  Continue reading from the State Water Resources Control Board.

California Legislature passes bill to eliminate lead from school drinking water, protecting youth

“Today the California Legislature passed a bill to require lead tests at all school drinking water fountains and faucets. The bill also sets a goal of reducing lead levels in school drinking water to zero.  The tests cover all fountains and faucets that have not already been tested and replaced. The fountains and faucets are used by kindergarten through 12th grade students at state Title 1 schools built before 2010.   Assembly Bill 249, authored by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), will help protect California children from lead’s serious and long-term health harms. The Environmental Working Group and Children Now, an advocacy organization focused on children’s health, are co-sponsors of the bill. … ”  Read more from the Environmental Working Group.

‘Salton Sea Conservancy’ bill stalls in California Legislature amid bureaucracy concerns

“Would a proposed Salton Sea Conservancy help efforts in the troubled region? Elected officials and local organizations are split, with some saying it will just add another layer of bureaucracy to already mired efforts.  California Senate Bill 583, authored by state Sen. Steve Padilla, D-San Diego, and coauthored by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, would create the Salton Sea Conservancy, “tasking it with coordinating management of all conservation projects in the region to restore the shrinking sea and reducing the negative health impact the Sea imposes,” according to Padilla’s office. There are currently 10 similar state conservancies under the California Natural Resources Agency, including the local Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy. … ”  Read more from The Desert Sun.

More than $22 million coming to California to support collaborative conservation efforts for imperiled species

Western pond turtle. Photo by USFWS.

“The Department of the Interior today announced more than $40.6 million in grants through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to 10 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Grants will support land acquisition and conservation planning projects on over 7,200 acres of habitat for 65 listed and at-risk species through the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund.  Of that 40.6 million, more than half will go towards preserving endangered species in San Diego County, Placer County, Riverside County and Butte County in California. The grants will support listed species like Stephens’ kangaroo rat, Quino checkerspot butterfly, the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, Otay tarplant, and at-risk wildlife such as the western spadefoot and western pond turtle. … ”  Read more from the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Does every year need to be a massive climate year?

“This year’s legislative session is almost in the books. It’s not too soon for a postmortem: How big a year was it for climate policy?  We started out the session thinking it was going to be pretty humdrum, especially compared to 2022, when lawmakers passed a $54 billion climate spending package and a plan to reach net-zero emissions statewide by 2045. We even had the potential to go backwards, with a deficit-fueled $6 billion cut to last year’s deal.  Hopefully we’re not jinxing things by calling it too soon, but this year is shaping up to be pretty substantive, if less splashy. Call 2023 the meat and potatoes of climate policy. … ”  Continue reading at Politico.

Death Valley National Park responds to trolls mocking rain totals during tropical storm

“Hecklers had a good laugh at the decision to temporarily close Death Valley National Park due to the 2.2 inches of rain brought to the park by Tropical Storm Hilary. But on Sept. 12, the park decided to get in on the fun on social media with a cheeky yet informative post addressing the concerns.“We saw you talking about our rain measurements in the comments. ‘2 inches of rain??? That’s it??’ Uh, yeah. Let’s talk about it,” the park wrote in an Instagram post. … ”  Continue reading at SF Gate.

Radioactive discharge from Fukushima nuclear plant raising concerns on California coast

“A controversial plan to release more than one million tons of treated radioactive water into the sea is now underway in Japan, giving scientists here in the Bay Area pause as well as those who seek escape on the open water.   Near Fort Cronkhite in the Marin Headlands recently, surfer Jason Gittens contemplated what is means to be able to enjoy the open oceans. For him, the Pacific Ocean is a treasure.  But as Gittens plunged into the waves off the California coast, roughly 5,000 miles west of him on a different coast – but the same ocean – a controversy is churning.  Recently, protestors have gathered in Tokyo and in parts of South Korea. They oppose Japan’s release of more than a million tons of treated radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean which started on August 24. … ”  Read more from CBS Bay Area.

Lawmakers want to put oil industry on the hook to plug old wells. Will Gavin Newsom sign it?

“California may put oil companies on the financial hook to plug and clean aging oil fields after lawmakers approved a measure meant to prevent taxpayers from footing the bill for orphaned wells. In a year that has been relatively quiet for climate legislation, the passage of Assembly Bill 1167 on Thursday night marked a win for environmentalists and communities mainly around Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley facing methane leaks from aging oil wells that require costly cleanup. If signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Orphaned Well Prevention Act would prohibit the sale of an oil well unless the new owner can pay to plug and remediate it in full before it the well is left “orphaned” or without a financially solvent operator. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


Gailey named to KWUA Leadership Team

“Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) is proud to announce Brian Gailey has joined the team as the Director of Marketing and Public Relations.  “Gailey is a perfect fit for the organization, and he will hit the ground running,” said Paul Simmons, KWUA Executive Director. “We conducted an extensive search, and there were great candidates, but we happily found our person at home.”  For the past sixteen years, Gailey has been an entrepreneur, owning and operating various businesses. Over the last six years, he has been the Owner and Publisher of Klamath Falls News. … ”  Read more from Klamath Falls News.

County will work on water issue during one year Mendocino tent reprieve

“Back in May of this year, restaurants were told the pandemic was ending, and that the special permits issued by the county to allow outdoor and tent seating during the pandemic would be going away. On Tuesday, during a board meeting held in Mendocino, county supervisors voted to grant a one-year reprieve to axing tents and outdoor seating. But as the meeting went on, it became clear that the year would be used to create a policy for code enforcement that also includes what is likely to be the county’s scarcest commodity — water. … ”  Read more from the Mendocino Voice.


Butte County awarded $11 million for water projects

“The California Department of Water Resources awarded multimillion-dollar grants to two groundwater subbasins in Butte County.  DWR announced that the Vina subbasin, which includes Chico and Durham, and the Wyandotte Creek subbasin, which covers the Oroville area, are among 32 subbasins that will receive a total of $187 million to “help support local sustainable groundwater management.”  Vina and Wyandotte Creek each received $5.5 million. The county’s third subbasin, Butte, did not get a grant in the funding announced this week. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record.

Groundwater supply could get a boost across the Sacramento area thanks to a new project

“The Regional Water Authority is trying to make groundwater storage in our region bigger by implementing a new method to save water beneath our feet.   It’s called the Sacramento Regional Water Bank, essentially a natural aquifer that spreads out below the Sacramento Valley and foothills.  Like a bank you can save and withdraw. This water bank makes it possible to deposit and save water during wet times and withdraw it during dry times.  “We have the capacity to store twice the size of Folsom reservoir in terms of additional water supply,” Trevor Joseph, Manager of Technical Services at the Regional Water Authority (RWA), said. … ”  Read more from CBS News.


San Francisco sinkhole: Street repairs to take at least 6 weeks

“San Francisco officials on Wednesday said repairs to the large sinkhole that opened at Green and Fillmore streets could take about six weeks.  “The construction team is working on a schedule for repairs,” officials with the San Francisco Water Power Sewer said in an update on its website. “We will provide a more specific timeline when one is available.” A 74-year-old water main burst on Monday morning, opening a sinkhole and sending water onto the street and inundating nearby buildings. Some businesses flooded. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

SEE ALSO: It could take up to 6 weeks for SF to fully recover from water main break, sinkhole, from NBC Bay Area


Salinas: After months without water Graves Elementary receives loan to get new well

“Parents, students and staff with Graves Elementary stepped in front of the Monterey County Board of Education Wednesday afternoon to plead their case for a loan that’ll help provide their students with clean drinking water due to their water well collapsing on itself.  The Monterey County Office of Education voted unanimously to give a $150,000 loan.  “The estimate from the company that will more than likely be replacing the well is around $150,000,” Michelle Ross, principal of Graves Elementary, said. … ”  Read more from KSBY.

Monterey Peninsula Water Management District board of directors to consider takeover of Cal-Am water system

“While the California American Water Co. has repeatedly said they have no plans to sell their water system that serves much of the Monterey Peninsula, the local water management district board of directors is considering using eminent domain to take over the system.  The public will get a chance to weigh in on that possibility at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 10 in a hearing in the Irvine Auditorium at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, 499 Pierce St., Monterey.  “The purpose of the hearing is to consider adoption of a resolution of necessity,” explained District General Manager Dave Stoldt.  The resolution of necessity would entail taking by eminent domain the Monterey water system, which is currently privately owned, operated and held by Cal Am. If approved, the water system would be converted to public ownership and controlled by the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District. … ” Read more from the Monterey Herald.

Federal funds upgrade Morro Bay monitoring sensors and improve research opportunities

“The Morro Bay National Estuary Program, a non-profit dedicated to protecting and restoring Morro Bay, received just over $900,000 annually for the next five years through the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.  The non-profit is already using those funds to support restoration, monitoring, and education projects that benefit Morro Bay’s human residents and visitors as well as the flora and fauna above and below the surface of the unique bay.  One of those projects involves a partnership with Cal Poly researchers to study water quality in the bay. … ”  Read more from KEYT.

Arroyo Grande Creek cleanup begins with $1.2 million boost from the state

“Construction repairs began on Arroyo Grande Creek in Oceano the week of Sept. 11 and are expected to take several months to complete.  The project’s two phases aim to fix damage caused by this past winter’s storms, when an overwhelmed Arroyo Grande Creek caused a levee to break on the south side of the creek. Earlier this summer, the SLO County Board of Supervisors authorized a project focused on sediment removal (phase 1) and one that will rehabilitate the levee (phase 2).  Brandon Zuniga, a water resources engineer for the Public Works Department, told New Times they’re estimating the projects will be completed sometime in January 2024, depending on how conditions are at the creek this winter. … ”  Read more from New Times SLO.

Board of Supervisors invests in Santa Maria River realignment

“Andy Guiterrez has seen the Santa Maria riverbed flood time and time again since calling Guadalupe his home in 1957.  Most recently, he watched the church where his mother’s funeral was held flood and an entire neighborhood get destroyed when a river levee breached during the January storms, he told the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Sept. 12.  “Help us,” he pleaded to the supervisors. “Have the hindsight to see what needs to be done. … Now we’re looking at El Niño, climate change, all this other stuff going on, it will happen again. It will.” … ”  Read more from the Santa Maria Sun.

Lake Nacimiento lawsuit advances to hearing stage

“In a legal battle that has been ongoing since 2019, the Nacimiento Regional Water Management Advisory Committee is gearing up for a court hearing set for Sept. 26, at the California Superior Court of San Luis Obispo County, Paso Robles Branch. The lawsuit, which alleges mismanagement of water releases by Monterey County, has been marked by delays and legal disputes, but it now stands at a juncture.  The NRWMAC, a” committee dedicated to safeguarding the interests of Lake Nacimiento’s recreational users, lakefront property owners, visitors, sports enthusiasts, and local farmers,” initially filed the lawsuit in 2019. They contended that Monterey County’s actions were causing harm to the lake’s water levels, and their lawsuit sought remedies to rectify the situation. … ”  Read more from the Paso Robles Daily News.


Central Valley communities of color lack flood control. Would representation on water boards help?

“During three weeks in December and January, storms dumped 32 trillion gallons of rain and snow on California. With it came unwelcome floods for many communities of color.  The winter and spring storms were a rare chance for drought-stricken communities to collect rainwater, rather than have their farms, homes and more overwhelmed by water. Much of the rain that fell instead overflowed in lakes and streams, leading to disaster in low-income Central Valley towns like Allensworth and Planada.  “It’s a long history of disinvestment in disadvantaged communities and communities of color, in drinking infrastructure, water systems and flood control,” said Michael Claiborne, an attorney for the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, an environmental justice organization based in the San Joaquin and East Coachella Valleys. … ”  Read more from Fresnoland.


Restoration of Bouquet Canyon Creek to help endangered fish and get water to homes

“In an eight-mile swath of a damaged creek in unincorporated Santa Clarita, the connections between humans, nature, water supplies and survival of a rare fish are frayed by climate change.  “This is a story about climate resiliency,” summed up Kerjon Lee, spokesperson for Los Angeles County Public Works, the lead agency in a multi-faceted project aimed at restoring a badly degraded section of Bouquet Canyon Creek to serve several populations and objectives.  “We are trying to make meaningful changes to protect resources,” Lee said. “But it is also about connecting the water source for communities downstream.” … ”  Continue reading from the LA Daily News.


Colorado River water: Abattis lose latest bid to pry control from Imperial Irrigation District

“Imperial County’s largest farming family has lost again in its years-long bid to gain control of valuable Colorado River water allocations associated with its land.  The Imperial Irrigation District on Tuesday won a motion to dismiss a case by Mike Abatti and several relatives, close friends and business associates that closely mirrored an ultimately unsuccessful series of cases they had brought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear their petition in 2021.  U.S. Southern District Court Judge Michael Anello, based in San Diego, issued the motion to dismiss the new case after hearing oral arguments from both sides a week ago, based on res judicata, a legal term meaning that the matter already had been judged. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun.

Land of extremes: The saltwater saga: Resilient residents

“In the Southern Colorado Desert, the Salton Sea has been home to wildlife that has defied the challenging environment. From migrating birds to fish that defy the toxicity levels of the Salton Sea. As impressive as this may sound, the Salton Sea’s toxic levels will only rise. The Salton Sea has only existed for about 100 years, and despite its relatively short duration, it has become an important resource for both resident and migratory birds. The Salton Sea’s complicated history began as an accidental diversion of water from the Colorado River into the Salton Sink. Over the years the lack of natural water flow and excessive evaporation has resulted in the accumulation of salt. In the past the sea was once filled with life, but nowadays it is proving difficult for the wildlife to continue thriving. … ”  Continue reading at the Imperial Valley Press.


San Diego’s Pure Water site first in state to follow innovative water recycling process

“California is looking to boost water supply and considering new regulations to recycling wastewater straight to your tap. Some refer to it as toilet to tap, however experts in the field say this phrase is anything but accurate. “It never has been toilet to tap. That has never happened,” said Andrew Salveson, the Carollo Water Reuse Chief Technologist. CBS 8 visited San Diego’s Pure Water project. It’s in phase one of construction and will supply nearly half of the city’s drinking water by the end of 2035. The water goes through a rigorous recycling process. Our crews got to see it all happen at the Pure Water demonstration site.  “Five different treatment steps,” said Dough Campbell, the deputy director of Pure Water operations. … ”  Read more from Channel 8.

Port of San Diego starts environmental review of mega Seaport San Diego project

“The Port of San Diego has initiated a state-mandated environmental review of developer 1HWY1’s Seaport San Diego project, which proposes to demolish Seaport Village and redo surrounding areas with thousands of hotel rooms, ocean-research facilities, public attractions, and new marinas and piers.  The agency’s environmental work, a requirement of the California Environmental Quality Act, officially got under way Thursday with the publication of what’s known as a notice of preparation. The 163-page document includes a preliminary evaluation of anticipated impacts to the environment, which are expected to be substantial across categories such as air quality, water quality and transportation. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

California Water Board holds meeting on Tijuana Sewage

“For decades, Mexico has dumped millions of gallons of sewage from the Tijuana River Valley into the Pacific Ocean, without any concern for the environment.  The sewage then moves north, contaminating the waters of Imperial Beach, and even Coronado.  Year after year, politicians have tried and failed to stop the sewage. In September 2020, under President Donald Trump, Congress allocated $300 million to the EPA as part of Trump’s replacement for NAFTA, the US-Mexico-Canada agreement. … ”  Read more from KUSI.

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Along the Colorado River …

Las Vegas is asking companies that want to move or expand there to show how much water they plan to use

“Las Vegas isn’t just a hot spot for revelers.  Thousands of businesses, particularly from California, have moved to the region over the past few decades, and the population is booming alongside other Southwestern cities.  All of that growth in a region plagued by extreme heat, drought, and a dwindling water supply raises tough questions for city and state officials who want to spur economic growth without draining the Colorado River dry. In one example of that challenge, Arizona’s governor in June halted construction in areas around Phoenix, citing a lack of groundwater.  Yet officials in greater Las Vegas told Insider their city is well positioned for growth thanks to decades of water-conservation measures — the latest of which involves a new tool that evaluates the water use of companies interested in moving to the region or expanding operations. … ”  Read more from Business Insider.

Nevada official wants to completely drain Lake Powell

A dramatic solution on how to fill Lake Mead is gaining popularity, and now a Clark County commissioner has backed the proposal.  Lake Mead in Nevada and Arizona and Lake Powell in Utah and Arizona have suffered from a regional drought for years, and excessive water usage is slowly depleting the Colorado River faster than natural weather patterns can fill it. … The dwindling water supply is impacting the efficiency of hydropower at the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona and creating drought issues downstream at Lake Mead.  The issue has pushed some organizations to pursue a solution called Fill Mead First, which would save Lake Mead by draining Lake Powell, and the idea recently gained steam when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation accepted public comments on the future of the Colorado River. … ”  Read more from Newsweek.

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In national water news today …

Drought profiteers: How Wall Street plans to cash in on crisis

“We all depend on water for survival, and access to it is a human right. But that access faces threats on multiple fronts, from industrial pollution to climate change-driven drought.  For a growing group of Wall Street investors, they don’t see this as a crisis — they only see dollar signs.  A disturbing trend has emerged across the globe and in the United States. Growing water markets are turning our increasingly endangered water supply into a cash cow to be milked for all its worth — even if that means depriving families and the environment of this priceless resource. … ”  Read more from Food & Water Watch.

Dams and flood controls ‘not ready’ for a more extreme climate

“More than 11,000 people are now known to have died, with thousands still missing, after Mediterranean storm Daniel made landfall in Libya over the weekend. Inland areas were flooded, as seen in Sentinel 2 images released by the European Union’s space program on Wednesday. Coastal settlements built near or over alluvial fans and deltas of ancient Wadi—the Arabic term traditionally referring to river valleys—were swept away. In Derna alone, the worst affected city, the flood destroyed two-thirds of all buildings and killed over 2,000 people.  “The infrastructure has to be ready for these sorts of events,” says Auroop Ganguly, Northeastern University’s distinguished professor of civil and environmental engineering. … ”  Continue reading at Forbes.

Biden administration restores the power of states and tribes to review projects to protect waterways

“States and Native American tribes will have greater authority to block energy projects such as natural gas pipelines that could pollute rivers and streams under a final rule issued Thursday by the Biden administration.  The rule, which takes effect in November, reverses a Trump-era action that limited the ability of states and tribes to review pipelines, dams and other federally regulated projects within their borders. The Environmental Protection Agency says the new regulation will empower local authorities to protect rivers and streams while supporting infrastructure projects that create jobs. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service.

SEE ALSO: EPA Issues Final Rule to Strengthen Water Protections, Support Clear and Timely Reviews of Infrastructure and Development Projects, press release from the EPA

A legal victory for the (very) little guys

“Call it a win for the little species, though all kinds of endangered animals and plants stand to benefit.  A sweeping legal settlement approved this week has put the Environmental Protection Agency on a binding path to do something it has barely done before, by its own acknowledgment: Adequately consider the effects on imperiled species when it evaluates pesticides and take steps to protect them.  “When you think about what a pesticide is, it’s supposed to kill pests,” said Michal Freedhoff, assistant administrator for the agency’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “It is difficult to design a process where it kills only the things it is supposed to kill.” … ”  Read more from the New York Times.

Earth just had its warmest August — and summer — on record, spurring dire warnings

“Amid a backdrop of extreme weather events and devastating wildfires, federal and international officials this week issued dire warnings about record-setting temperatures and the worsening effects of climate change.  Last month was the planet’s warmest August on record, and the Northern Hemisphere experienced its hottest meteorological summer, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday.  “Global marine heat waves and a growing El Niño are driving additional warming this year, but as long as emissions continue driving a steady march of background warming, we expect further records to be broken in the years to come,” read a statement from NOAA chief scientist Sarah Kapnick. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

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National water and climate update …

The Natural Resources Conservation Service produces this weekly report using data and products from the National Water and Climate Center and other agencies. The report focuses on seasonal snowpack, precipitation, temperature, and drought conditions in the U.S.


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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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