DAILY DIGEST, 4/3: April snow survey shows above average snowpack; Newsom announces updated water plan; SGMA Public Hearing set for April 16, ag interests keeping close watch; Yuba Water Agency petitions for Lower Yuba River Accord extension; and more …

Several news sources featured in the Daily Digest may limit the number of articles you can access without a subscription. However, gift articles and open-access links are provided when available. For more open access California water news articles, explore the main page at MavensNotebook.com.

On the calendar today …

  • LUNCH-MAR: Understanding and Minimizing Arsenic Mobilization during Managed Aquifer Recharge from 12:30pm to 1:30pm.  While managed aquifer recharge (MAR) offers numerous potential benefits to water supply, geochemical shifts during MAR can mobilize toxic, naturally occurring contaminants from sediments to groundwater, threatening the viability of MAR as a water management strategy. This presentation describes geochemical drivers of arsenic mobilization during MAR using example field studies in California. Additionally, we provide an overview of general guidance developed for the state of Texas to limit arsenic mobilization during implementation of aquifer storage and recovery projects.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

Two in a row: April snow survey shows above average snowpack for second straight season

“The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today conducted the all-important April snow survey, the fourth measurement of the season at Phillips Station. The manual survey recorded 64 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 27.5 inches, which is 113 percent of average for this location. The snow water equivalent measures the amount of water contained in the snowpack and is a key component of DWR’s water supply forecast. The April measurement is critical for water managers as it’s considered the peak snowpack for the season and marks the transition to spring snowmelt into the state’s rivers and reservoirs.  DWR’s electronic readings from 130 stations placed throughout the state indicate that the statewide snowpack’s snow water equivalent is 28.6 inches, or 110 percent of the April 1 average, a significant improvement from just 28 percent of average on January 1.  The focus now shifts to forecasting spring snowmelt runoff and capturing as much of that water as possible for future use. … ”  Continue reading this press release from DWR.

String of storms takes California water year from rags to riches

“California’s water resources look promising thanks to a string of cold, wet storms since January, but the state’s leaders are eyeing how significant the payout from those storms will be for future years.  State officials and experts from the University of California, Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Laboratory say the Golden State’s water and snow outlook is looking good this spring, despite a dry start to the water year. The milestone snowpack survey of the year, conducted Tuesday at Phillips Station in El Dorado County, found a snowpack measuring 64 inches and a snow water equivalent — water contained in the snowpack — of 27.5 inches. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service.

Newsom announces updated water plan amid above-average Sierra snowpack

“Sporting snowshoes and stylish shades, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday trundled around a summit south of Lake Tahoe with state water officials to unveil a “roadmap to resilience” for the state’s fickle water supply and to confirm good news from an army of sensors scattered throughout the Sierra: California’s end-of-season snowpack haul is blessedly above normal.  The crucial April reading clocked in at 110% of normal, state water officials said Tuesday — a harbinger of a reliable water supply during the upcoming dry summer months. Last year, the April snowpack reading hit an astounding 244% of normal, but the previous three years’ snowpacks were all considerably below normal as California suffered through drought conditions.  That “weather whiplash” driven by climate change was a reminder that there is no time to get greedy, Newsom said, even with many of California’s biggest reservoirs brimming with higher-than-usual water levels providing yet more good news about the water outlook for 2024. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News (gift article).


SGMA Public Hearing set for April 16, ag interests keeping close watch

“The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) went into effect 10 years ago in 2014, and only now, 10 years later, the Tulare Lake Subbasin is designated a critically overdrafted high-priority basin that is most likely going to be put under probationary status.  At the public hearing on April 16, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the California State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) will hear from water stakeholders before voting to place the subbasin on probation. Leading up to the public hearing, DWR and the State Water Board issued a Draft Resolution and Final Staff Report.  The State Water Board indicated that “SGMA recognizes that groundwater management is best accomplished locally.”Despite the privilege given to local oversight and management, the State Water Board will most likely intervene and manage the basin. … ”  Read more from the Hanford Sentinel.

New study in Nature Water puts spotlight on importance of groundwater

“Groundwater is a critical resource around the globe, especially in dry regions, but it’s importance in sustaining ecosystems remains largely unstudied. There are many challenges in managing this precious resource for multiple purposes, including water supply and healthy ecosystems. New research has used satellite imagery and groundwater monitoring data to investigate the links between groundwater and the ecosystems they support throughout the state of California.  The study, published in Nature Water , underscores the pivotal role this resource plays in supporting groundwater-dependent ecosystems. The researchers, including UC Santa Barbara’s Michael Singer and Dar Roberts, identified how groundwater can be used to support ecological conservation within California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Beyond highlighting groundwater’s significance, the study also offers an effective and practical approach for identifying where ecosystems are vulnerable to groundwater change and would benefit from more sustainable water use and management. … ”  Read more from UC Santa Barbara.

REPORT SUMMARY: Groundwater Well Permitting: Observations and Analysis of Executive Orders N-7-22 and N-3-23

Groundwater is intimately connected with the landscape and land use that it underlies. How land is developed above can change both water demand and how much water can be recharged, and inappropriate land use and poor land management can cause chronic groundwater quality problems. Consistent coordination with land use planning and groundwater use is essential for sustainable management of the basin.  Under SGMA, land-use planning agencies must notify GSAs of any proposal to substantially amend a general plan. When amending their general plan, they must review and consider any adopted groundwater plan (including GSA comments). However, how effective these provisions are in encouraging coordination between land use planning and GSAs is an open question. … ”  Continue reading from Maven’s Notebook.

Central Valley farmers hopeful for strong water allocations following snowpack survey

“Despite a dry start to the year, storms in March and February turned things around, and now the Fresno County Farm Bureau is hoping for better water allocations and a longer watering season for valley growers.  “Because we were looking, staring down a 20 percent on January 1, and the fact that we made up most of that difference, puts us in a much better spot for as well as our water allocations for the water right here on the valley floor,” CEO of the Fresno County Farm Bureau Ryan Jacobsen said.  The April survey, regarded as the most important since most storms have already passed, but snow has not begun to melt yet, showed that the snowpack was above 110%. … ”  Read more from KSEE.

Despite wet year, fish protections limit allocations

An aerial view looking south shows the California Aqueduct (right) and the Delta-Mendota Canal (Left) south of San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos in Merced County, California. By Ken James, DWR

“State and federal water providers have increased promised allocations after accounting for recent storms that improved snowpack and reservoir levels.  The California Department of Water Resources doubled the amount of water it expects to deliver this year to most contractors that rely on the State Water Project, increasing the allocation for water users south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta from 15% to 30% of requested supplies. Those north of the delta are expected to receive 50% of their allotment, while Feather River Settlement Contractors will get their full allocation.  The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the Central Valley Project, increased allocations for south-of-delta agricultural water users from 15% to 35% of their contracted allotment and from 75% to 100% for those north of the delta. The revised allocations followed a new snow survey measurement released March 1 and a spring runoff forecast released March 8. As of April 1, statewide snowpack was 104% of average for that date. A final water allocation for the year, accounting for springtime precipitation, is expected in May or June. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert.

Video: Breaking down who has senior rights to California’s water

California Salmon and Steelhead Coalition: Coldwater champions of the California legislature

“On February 26, Trout Unlimited and our partners in the California Salmon and Steelhead Coalition – The Nature Conservancy and California Trout – commemorated ten years of working together to protect and restore native salmon and steelhead on California’s North and Central coasts.  At a celebratory event in Sacramento, the Coalition honored Assembly members Jim Wood and Steve Bennett for their leadership in conserving and restoring salmon and steelhead and their home watersheds.  An impressive lineup of life-size replicas of salmon and steelhead presided over a table on which the awards were displayed. … ”  Read more from Trout Unlimited.

Silicon Valley billionaires planning Solano County ‘California Forever’ utopia score big win in $510 million fight against farmers

“The Silicon Valley billionaires trying to build a utopian city in Solano County scored a major win in court against landowners they accused of conspiring to inflate the prices of their properties.In May last year, the project’s real estate arm Flannery Associates sued dozens of landowners for $510 million in damages, claiming that through “endless greed” they worked together to jack up sale prices for their property in violation of federal antitrust law. A number of the ranchers have reached settlements with Flannery, which has already spent more than $800 million on land.  On Friday, Judge Troy Nunley in Sacramento U.S. District Court denied an attempt by the remaining landowners, who deny price fixing, to get the case thrown out, a significant boost to the controversial and highly publicized development. … ”  Continue reading from the Mercury News.

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In commentary today …

Editorial: California snow survey makes it official — we’re all wet

The LA Times editorial board writes, “At the end of the rain and snow season, California is officially wet. The crucial April snow survey conducted Tuesday morning showed above-average Sierra snowpack. That means there will likely be enough melt over the rest of spring and summer to keep reservoirs from being depleted.  It’s not unexpected, but it’s a relief, because the season’s first survey showed a snowpack of only 25% of normal. A series of storms helped the state to catch up. The snowpack is now 64 inches, or slightly more than 5 feet, which is 113% of average at the measurement spot in El Dorado County. Surveys in other locations show about 105% of average snowpack statewide.  “Average is awesome,” California Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth said Tuesday at the survey site. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

A better pathway forward for the Bay-Delta

Daurice Kalfsbeek-Smith, Colusa County Supervisor and Gary Bradford, Yuba County Supervisor, write, “As elected officials representing Colusa and Yuba counties, we sent a letter to Governor Newsom earlier this year encouraging him and his administration to advance the Agreements to Support Healthy Rivers and Landscapes (sometimes known as the Voluntary Agreements) and the associated benefits for communities, farms, businesses, the environment and the public. We were joined in this letter by counties throughout the Sacramento River Basin—we have specifically urged the State Water Board to identify the Agreements to Support Healthy Rivers and Landscapes alternative in its final staff report and forthcoming program of implementation as the State Water Board’s best pathway for updating the Sacramento/Delta portions of the Bay-Delta Plan.  Here’s why we believe that is the right choice. The agreements represent a comprehensive, collaborative plan that is designed to contribute to the recovery of fish and wildlife species and provide an alternative to the one-size-fits-all requirements to release massive amounts of flows in an attempt to improve Bay-Delta fisheries. … ”  Continue reading at the Northern California Water Association.

The fallacy behind California’s rollback of water conservation rules

Ed Harrington. former general manager of the San Francisco PUC, and Cynthia Koehler, executive director of nonprofit WaterNow Alliance, write, “With California’s reservoirs brimming, this is the moment to strengthen our long-term water future, before the next drought. Unfortunately, the State Water Board has just taken a major step back from the fastest and cheapest way of securing water supplies for cities and towns by rolling back its own proposed conservation rules.  The draft rules issued in 2023 were intended to implement 2018 legislation “Making Water Conservation a California Way of Life.” The bill was already a compromise, and the regulations implementing it years later were conservative.  The new rollback sets the state even further behind, likely to the detriment of ratepayers statewide. The primary driver for the change seems to have been complaints that the water savings proposed won’t make much difference and will cost too much. The evidence, however, indicates otherwise, and decision makers need a fuller picture. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


Cal Poly Humboldt fisheries professor is working with local tribes to create better fishing stewardship practices

“Jose Marin Jarrin is a new assistant professor in the department of fisheries biology at Cal Poly Humboldt. He is leading a new form of fishery science in Northern California, using empathy and understanding when talking with impoverished communities. He is originally from South America and he never forgets where he came from.  “Being Latinx, I’m also from a historically excluded community,” Jarrin said. “So I saw a lot of similarities.”  Marin Jarrin was recently awarded a little over $1.1 million from the California Climate Action Seed Grant to research climate change resilience by looking at tribal fishery practices. His goal is to reinvigorate Northern California fishery research, while also building a center that will last for years. … ”  Read more from the Lumberjack.

Divided waters: Debate over Scott Dam’s fate boils over in Eel Russian Project Authority meeting

“The Eel Russian Project Authority convened its second Board meeting on March 19, 2024, addressing the debate surrounding the fate of Scott Dam and the future of water diversion along the Russian River. Held at the Board of Supervisors Chambers in Ukiah on March 19, the meeting saw arguments from residents and stakeholders, highlighting deep divisions over whether to preserve the dam or pursue alternative solutions. Amidst calls for preserving water storage and concerns over the impact on fisheries, the Board ultimately voted to advance alternative E-2, the Pumping Station, signaling a pivotal moment in the ongoing saga of water management in the region. … ”  Read more from MendoFever.


Commentary: The call to protect Lake Tahoe echoes across the nation

Julie Regan, executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, writes, “For most Northern Nevadans and Californians, Lake Tahoe is more than a distinctive spot on the map. Whether you only go a few times a year or every single weekend, it always feels like your refuge. You never take it for granted.  Neither do the scientists, planners, biologists, volunteers, lawmakers and engineers who work to protect the lake from environmental threats. In fact, the call to protect Lake Tahoe has echoed across America in support of one of the most comprehensive and successful conservation programs in the nation. Since public and private partners established the Lake Tahoe Environmental Improvement Program in 1997, we have completed more than 800 major restoration projects to protect one of our country’s most treasured landscapes. The job is far from finished, however, and now we are encouraging federal lawmakers to continue supporting this crucial work. … ”  Read more from the Reno Gazette-Journal.


Preserving a landmark agreement: Yuba Water Agency petitions for Lower Yuba River Accord extension

“The Yuba Water Agency Board of Directors unanimously approved to submit a water-right change petition to the State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday in order to extend water transfer agreements under the Lower Yuba River Accord for an additional 25 years.  First established in 2008 after decades of legal battles, the Yuba River Accord is a landmark multi-agency agreement. It has guided water usage, purchases, and instream flow requirements since its inception. However, Accord water transfers will expire on Dec. 31, 2025, and the Agency is seeking an extension for the state’s approval. The Accord has been praised over the years for its impact on improved conditions for fish like salmon and steelhead, flood risk reduction, water rights protections for farmers and ranchers, and providing a reliable water supply for cities and farms throughout California. … ”  Read more from the Appeal Democrat.

Kindergarteners release trout into Feather River

“Standing on the boat ramp at 80 Second St. in Yuba City, two kindergarten classes at Butte Vista Elementary School released steelhead trout into the Feather River last week.  Suzanne Price, a kindergarten teacher at Butte Vista Elementary, said she started this fish release activity with the school about seven years ago to give kids an additional science curriculum.  Before the release on March 27, the classes learned about different life stages and observed the steelheads in special tanks that were temperature-set to match the Feather River for about one month. The Chico Area Flyfishers donated the tanks to the classes. … ”  Read more from the Appeal Democrat.


Lake Casitas edges closer to spilling for the first time in 25 years

“Lake Casitas crept closer to spilling this week, marking what would be a first for the drought-stressed reservoir in more than 25 years.  The Ojai Valley lake was over 96% full as of Tuesday. When the water will reach the spillway remains to be seen. Mike Flood, general manager of the Casitas Municipal Water District, said it could be as soon as next week.  The lake last spilled in 1998. It came close again in 2005, but the district stopped diverting water from the Ventura River to slow things down during a damaging storm season.  Since then, the lake level dropped to record lows during a yearslong drought. Casitas, which gets no imported water, fell below half full in 2015 for the first time since it had filled decades earlier. Water levels kept falling. District officials were looking at severe water restrictions in 2022. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star.


Water deliveries underway for customers of Fresno Irrigation District

“Water deliveries are underway for customers of the Fresno Irrigation District.  The main feeder canal out of Pine Flat Dam is full now and just started filling last week in anticipation of deliveries.  It’s too early to tell how long the irrigation season will last, but the FID is projecting enough water supply to extend deliveries to at least July.  The March 1 statewide snow survey indicated the snow-water content in the Kings River watershed was 68 percent of average.  The San Joaquin River watershed snow-water content is slightly higher. … ”  Read more from KFSN.

VIDEO: Exploring the south valley’s wetlands, preserves and habitat sanctuaries – a mini tour

“In late February, the nonprofit Central Valley Joint Venture took a group of environmental scientists, advocates and nature enthusiasts on a tour of successful wetland restoration projects in the south San Joaquin Valley.  The tour focused on the efforts to reclaim agricultural land for habitat and the possibility of returning more of the valley to its original state.”   Watch the video from SJV Water.


SCV Water: Garcia secures $2.1 million for PFAS treatment

“As part of the federal government’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget process, Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, has secured $2.1 million in funding to the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency for the agency’s treatment project planned to remove “forever chemicals” from local groundwater, SCV Water announced in a news release.  The funds will go toward the agency’s S Wells PFAS Treatment and Disinfection Facilities project, which is planned to bring several wells back into service that have been taken offline due to contamination by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, according to the release. … ”  Read more from The Signal.

Water improvements coming to Calimesa area

“San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency (SGPWA) supports South Mesa Water Company (SMWC) as the small water agency implements a $10.2 million grant from the State Water Resource Control Board.  The SGPWA Board of Directors approved a plan at its March 4, 2024 meeting to bridge a funding gap that brings infrastructure improvements to the cities of Calimesa and Yucaipa. The new plan serves the area with imported water for the first time.  SMWC will replace approximately 50,229 linear feet of water distribution pipelines and accessories through a Proposition 68 grant and the SGPWA’s gap funding assistance. According to a press release the accessories, consisting of valves, vents and manhole covers, are considered to be undersized and have exceeded their useful life. … ”  Read more from Water World.


San Diego region has enough water to meet 2024 needs and beyond, report finds

“Owing to consecutive wet winters, regional infrastructure investments and conservation efforts, San Diego County has enough water to meet the region’s needs in the foreseeable future, according to a report released Tuesday.  The California Department of Water Resources performed its fourth snowpack survey of the year on Tuesday, “confirming that the early winter’s “snow drought” gave way to a slightly above normal snowpack following a series of storms,” the report read.  The DWR’s early April survey marks the typical peak snowpack for the year in the Sierra Nevada, and the Colorado River Basin — the main source of water for San Diego County — also reports more snow than average for this time of year, according to a statement from the San Diego County Water Authority. … ”  Read more from KPBS.

California, San Diego out of drought danger, for now

“Californians don’t have to worry too much about drought for the foreseeable future.  The state’s Department of Water Resources said Tuesday’s snowpack survey revealed the snowfall in the Sierra Nevada mountains is above average at roughly 113%.  “You can take a deep breath this year, but don’t quadruple the amount of time in your shower,” joked California Governor Gavin Newsom who was on hand for the survey near Lake Tahoe.  That future may have to adjust anyway because of climate change. Newsom unveiled a new statewide water plan focusing on capturing more water runoff and snow melt while also preparing for dry years. … ”  Read more from NBC 7.

Why is San Vicente Reservoir so full?

“After two years of above-average rainfall, the reservoirs in San Diego are at near capacity.   San Vicente’s reservoir waterfalls are spilling in to help raise the water level, but what does that mean as we head into the Summer months?  “Knowing how much we have now, so when the drought comes, we will be able to our community what it needs. The precipitation over the past couple of years has been substantially above normal from the previous and we’ve had 2 years back-to-back with unusually wet weather,” said Eva Plajazer, Director of Operations and Maintenance for the San Diego Water Authority. … ”  Read more from Channel 8.

This is ‘on the level of the Flint water crisis,’ warn advocates at California’s southern border

“For most of the past two years, residents of Imperial Beach have not been able to open their windows. Nor spend the day at the beach with their family. Nor send their children to a playground. A series of converging factors, including an increase in storms brought about by climate change, have caused raw sewage to spill into the Pacific Ocean.  “Every day is hit or miss — is this [a] day I am going open [to] the door and be hit by that unbearable stench?” said Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre, an avid but frustrated surfer who made this her signature issue. “An entire generation of children here are growing up not knowing if it is safe to go outside.”  Outdated sewage treatment plants on both sides of the border have fallen into disrepair, bringing a host of deleterious public health, environmental, and economic challenges. It’s so bad that beaches have been closed for the past 800 days and counting. Imperial Beach is not alone, as the sewage has moved as far north as Coronado, just south of San Diego. … ”  Read more from Western City.

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Along the Colorado River …

Video: Kyl Center groundwater report provides guidance on ‘water resilience’

“ASU’s Kyl Center for Water Policy published a study on Phoenix’s groundwater use, and the findings conflict with information published by the Central Arizona Home Builders Association.  The Kyl Center examined the growth in the Valley regarding groundwater use and the consequences that come with it. The report is said to provide communities with solutions to become “water resilient.”  According to the Kyl Center, many of the Valley’s larger, older cities view groundwater as a deep long-term savings that we will use if our surface-level supply becomes scarce. However, some programs permit the use of groundwater for growth, acknowledging that groundwater needs to be replenished. … ”  Read more and watch video from Arizona PBS.

Republicans want to weaken the laws that protect Arizona’s fragile water supply

Kathleen Ferris, Phoenix water attorney, writes, “Groundwater in Arizona belongs to all of us. It is a public resource and sensible management of it is vital to our shared future.   But instead of fulfilling their obligation to protect this finite and diminishing water supply, Arizona’s Republican legislators have introduced dozens of bills at the statehouse aimed at enriching residential developers and corporate farmers who want to expand their groundwater use.   Many of these bills are advancing and will end up on the governor’s desk.  One intent of these bills is to weaken the state’s assured water supply requirement for development in urban areas. This crucial consumer protection prevents the sale of subdivision lots that lack a 100-year water supply, thereby assuring our desert state’s longevity. … ”  Read more from Arizona Central.

New study explores water use in the Colorado River Basin. Irrigation among Utah’s priorities.

“The final 100 miles of the Colorado River is a shell of its former self — nearly 10 miles wide at the turn of the century, steamboats would transport carriages and early-model cars from Mexicali to San Luis in Mexico’s Baja California state.  Jaguars, beavers, deer and coyotes roamed the fertile riparian ecosystem and farmers had more water than they knew what to do with.  Now, a weave of concrete canals brings water to sprawling industrial farms situated in the Mexicali Valley, with much of the natural riverbed dry and the wildlife sparse. Tides still drive water from the Gulf of California into the valley a few times a year, but the days of a lush river delta in northern Mexico are long gone. … ”  Read more from the St. George News.

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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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