DAILY DIGEST, 6/3: Extreme heat forecast for Western U.S. kicks off sweltering summer; CA has underestimated potential of future flooding; Can the Drought Monitor keep up with climate change?; and more …

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In California water news today …

Extreme heat forecast for Western U.S. may kick off sweltering summer. Here’s the outlook

“A significant early-season heat wave headed for western North America is threatening to deliver stifling temperatures that could break records, prime the landscape for wildfires and kick off a sizzling summer.  A powerful high-pressure ridge, or heat dome, will bring unusually hot temperatures to the Golden State by the middle of this week before spreading into the Pacific Northwest and Southwestern Canada, according to Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with UCLA. Temperatures could remain well above normal across much of the region for as long as 10 to 14 days.  The hottest parts of California won’t be the inland desert regions that typically experience high temperatures, but rather portions of Northern California and the Sierra Nevada foothills, Swain said during a briefing Friday. … ”  Read more from the LA Times. | Read via AOL News.


California has underestimated the epic potential of future flooding, research shows

A drone view of flooded fields at the intersection of 56/County Road J22 and Central Valley Highway 43 east of Alpaugh in Tulare County, California. The floodwaters caused by the March storms are reforming Tulare Lake.  Photo taken March 23, 2023.  Josh Baar / DWR

“For well over a century, the Great Flood of 1862 has remained among California’s worst natural disasters — a megastorm that’s been used as a benchmark for state emergency planners and officials to better prepare for the future.  A dreaded repeat of the flood — which killed at least 4,000 people and turned the Central Valley into a 300-mile-long sea — would probably eclipse the devastation of a major California earthquake and cause up to $1 trillion in damage, some experts say.  Yet even as California scrambles to cope with the effects of climate whiplash and increasingly extreme weather, new research suggests the potential magnitude of such events could be far greater than that of the 1862 deluge.  After analyzing layers of sediment at Carrizo Plain National Monument, researchers at Cal State Fullerton say they have identified two massive, unrecorded Southern California flood events within the last 600 years. … ”  Read more from the LA Times. | Read via AOL News.

The U.S. Drought Monitor is a critical tool for the arid West. Can it keep up with climate change?

“Known for its glowing swaths of yellow, orange and red, the U.S. Drought Monitor has warned farmers, residents and officials throughout the nation of impending water scarcity every week since 1999.  Backed by data on soil moisture, temperature, snow cover, meltwater runoff, reservoir levels and more, the map has become an essential instrument for determining the outlook of water supplies, declaring drought emergencies and deciding where and when government aid should be distributed, among other things.  But this critical diagnostic tool is also struggling to keep pace with climate change as longer and more persistent dry spells plague the American West and take an increasing toll on groundwater reserves and the Colorado River, according to a recent study published in the journal AGU Advances.  One problem, researchers say, is that the monitor was launched just as one of the driest periods in the history of the Southwest began, and it has never been adjusted for the region’s growing aridity. … ”  Read more from the LA Times. | Read via Yahoo News.

Adaptive management wheel

“In practice, adaptive management wheels have squarish corners.  In ideal adaptive management, there is a steady or periodic process for gathering performance and environmental data, analyzing that data in the context of an integrative computer model, discussions based on the analysis to determine the most promising adaptations of management to reflect this likely better understanding, and repeating this general process into the future (Holling 1978).  In real adaptive management, transaction delays, costs, and risks for science and management impede the smooth acquisition and digestion of scientific information as well as management discussions and decision-making. … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog.

California to receive half a billion federal dollars for water infrastructure improvement projects

“Water is essential to many of our daily activities, but aging infrastructure jeopardizes these systems.  According to the EPA, the country has underinvested in water infrastructure, a sentiment Jerry Burke, who is part of the American Society of Civil Engineers, also shares.  “There have not been enough investments into the water infrastructure since it was constructed. In 1977, 63% of the capital budget went to fund infrastructure repairs and by 2017 9% was going toward water, infrastructure and repairs. That is the biggest reason why we’re seeing issues on our existing infrastructure and more investment needs to be made now before the results become catastrophic,” said Burke, director of engineering at Inland Empire Utilities Agency.  Those issues range from constant water main breaks to decades-old water pipes, and they are just two of the reasons why the ASCE gave the country a C in its latest infrastructure report card. … ”  Read more from Spectrum 1.

Geoengineering faces a local vote with global consequences

“The fate of the nation’s first outdoor experiment of the potential to limit global warming by altering clouds will be determined this week by a handful of local officials in the San Francisco Bay Area.  But before the city council of Alameda, elected by a community of 77,000 people, decides on whether to allow the resumption of the internationally significant research, it will discuss replacing the roof of a senior center and other municipal issues. The consideration of the marine cloud brightening study — official, agenda item “7-B” — stands to be one of the first consequential public hearings on solar geoengineering in the nation. … ”  Read more from E&E News.

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In commentary today …

A manager was accused of stealing a lot of California water. Prosecutors struck out

“It’s not every day that a former source gets indicted. So when a San Joaquin Valley water manager was charged by federal prosecutors two years ago with allegedly stealing millions of dollars worth of water for lavish personal gain, it stopped me cold. It simply did not square with the person that I thought I knew. Former general manager Dennis Falaschi of the Panoche Water District ended up agreeing to a plea deal last week, acknowledging that he stole some water and falsified some income on a tax return. But upon any objective examination, the deal is far more of a black eye to federal prosecutors than to Falaschi himself because the feds had accused him of stealing $25 million worth of water – more water than some California cities use annually. The government utterly failed to prove anything close to its original case. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


Lake Tahoe full for first time since 2019

“Lake Tahoe is full for the first time in five years. According to the Nevada Water Outlook Supply Report, released by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), this will be the first time Lake Tahoe – the sixth largest lake in the U.S. – will be full since June 2019. The natural rim at Lake Tahoe sits at 6,223 feet, but the maximum legal limit is 6,229.1 feet. On Sunday, the water level was at 6,228.94 feet, just below the maximum legal limit. … ”  Read more from Channel 10.

Forest Service prepares for 2024 fire season

“Across California, fire crews and managers are already preparing for fire season. Despite two years of average to above-average precipitation, USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region Fire Director, Jaime Gamboa, knows just how quickly wildfire season can take off.  “We will not get complacent,” Gamboa said. “Our firefighting crews, equipment, and aircraft form one of the largest, most experienced wildland firefighting forces in the world. We’re ready to respond to whatever the season brings.” Gamboa also stressed the importance of being able to bring in other Federal crews from across the country. “With the Federal system we have, we can call resources from neighboring states and even farther away,” he said. “That means that when California is busy, we are able to not only sustain our staffing numbers, but also enhance them, all without depleting other state resources.” … ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

How this winter’s conditions helped crews catch up on burn piles in Tahoe

“A team of three agencies have caught up on their to-do list when it comes to burn piles on Nevada state lands in the Tahoe Basin, largely thanks to this winter’s conditions.  The burn conditions this winter starkly contrast to the year before. During the 2022-2023 winter, “We had very poor pile burning conditions with piles saturated from early winter rain,” Forester Anna Higgins with the Nevada Division of Forestry says, “and then buried by record amounts of snow.”  Those conditions limited the burn weather window. This, along with drought, and lack of fire crews during wildfire off-season or prescribed fire qualified personnel in past years all contributed to the backlog of burn piles. Higgins burnt piles as old as 15 years. … ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune.


Ross Valley Sanitary District to increase rates over next 5 years

“The Ross Valley Sanitary District will increase service rates over the next five years.  The district’s board unanimously voted to raise the rates at a meeting on May 22. The percentage increase is averaged at 4% over the first three years, 3.8% for the fourth year and 3.5% for the fifth year.  In the upcoming year, the total cost for service at a single-family home in the Ross Valley is estimated at $1,238. At the end of five years, the cost will be $1,440. In the Larkspur area, the cost to homeowners is expected to be $1,773 in the upcoming year. It will be $2,061 after five years.  The last five-year rate schedule was adopted in June 2019. The new rates will go into effect on July 1. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal.


Woodward’s water vision

“The completion of Woodward Reservoir 114 years ago has been a godsend to South San Joaquin Irrigation District as well as the cities of Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy.  It has played a key role as an in-district safety net to help SSJID to weather droughts in much better shape than many other water purveyors in California including Tri-Dam Project partner, the Oakdale Irrigation District.  The reservoir that holds 36,000 acre feet of water or enough for just over three complete districtwide irrigation runs is off stream as opposed to Tri-Dam reservoirs at Goodwin, Tulloch, Beardsley, and Donnells as well as the Bureau of Reclamation’s New Melones Reservior. New Melones  holds up to 600,000 acre feet for OID and SSJID as the result of the original Melones Reservoir built by the two districts  being inundated to build it. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin.

Placing Central Valley’s dairy industry and wetlands in focus

“Wetlands are the Earth’s largest natural source of methane — a potent greenhouse gas roughly 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the atmosphere — according to the Department of Energy’s Larence Berkeley National Laboratory.  Methane is a key point of controversy among dairy producers and the environmental justice community given that dairy and livestock are responsible for over half of California’s methane emissions, according to the California Air Resources Board.  However, a peer-reviewed paper recently published by CABI Biological Sciences argues that the state’s dairy sector can reach climate neutrality in the coming years through aggressive methane mitigation which almost no other sector can achieve.  “If the dairy sector can continue to decrease methane, it can reduce its warming contribution,” Frank Mitloehner, director of the CLEAR Center at UC Davis said. “Other sectors of society can’t do that as easily, but dairy can because the main greenhouse gas it produces is methane. If we reduce that methane, not only can we reach climate neutrality, but we can also chip away at historical emissions, and the sector can become part of a climate solution.” … ”  Read more from the Valley Ag Voice.


As Los Angeles plans to take less water, environmentalists celebrate a win for Mono Lake

“City leaders in Los Angeles have announced plans to take a limited amount of water from creeks that feed Mono Lake this year, a step that environmentalists say will help build on a recent rise in the lake’s level over the last year.  The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said it plans to export 4,500 acre-feet of water from the Mono Basin during the current runoff year, the same amount that was diverted the previous year, and enough to supply about 18,000 households for a year.  Under the current rules, the city could take much more — up to 16,000 acre-feet this year. But environmental advocates had recently urged Mayor Karen Bass not to increase water diversions to help preserve recent gains and begin to boost the long-depleted lake toward healthier levels. They praised the decision by city leaders as an important step. … ”  Read more from the LA Times. | Read via AOL News.


They cut their water bill by 90% and still have a ‘showstopping’ L.A. garden

“Looking out the front windows of their northeast L.A. home, Kyle Anido and Katie Cordeal say their front yard is barely recognizable from a year ago when it was a lawn.  “It’s crazy to see how lively the garden is now,” says Anido, a 37-year-old camera operator. “There is so much bee activity.”  “It has absolutely exploded,” adds Cordeal, 38. “It’s pretty incredible what has happened over the past 12 months. And we haven’t even watered the yard this year.”  The colorful ecosystem, which thrives without sprinklers, amendments, fertilizers, gardeners and gas-powered lawn equipment, is not lost on the couple’s 2½-year-old son, Owen.  “Bees!” he yelled with delight from the front porch, pointing to the pollinators feeding on the native California flowers in his front yard.  “Owen loves bugs,” Anido says of the boy’s vibrant playground. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.


San Diego steps up as Water Authority’s ‘Sugar Daddy’

“When the region’s water importer said it was hurting for cash, the city of San Diego said: I’ll be your sugar daddy.  That’s basically what happened last week after the San Diego County Water Authority – in charge of getting water from the Colorado River and northern California to San Diego – broke the news to its 22 customer water districts that its prices were going up 39 percent over the next two years. Mayor Todd Gloria pushed back on the increase, calling on his board members to find a way to soften the blow on San Diegans.  Then the city, the Water Authority’s largest customer, stepped in and offered to help foot part of the bill by paying a few of its water bills in advance. … ”  Read more from the Voice of San Diego.

County says it found no evidence of increased illness at South Bay Urgent Care tied to sewage spills

“County public health officials say that a two-week investigation showed “no conclusive evidence” of increased gastrointestinal illness at a South Bay health clinic that claimed its patients suffered such symptoms since Tropical Storm Hilary inundated the heavily polluted Tijuana River in August 2023.  Public statements about a rising trend in the incidence of gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting spurred the county to dispatch experts to South Bay Urgent Care from Feb. 5 to Feb. 18 during a period when several inches of rain fell across the region.  A close review of patient charts during that fortnight, said Dr. Mark Beatty, an assistant medical director in the county’s epidemiology and immunization department, did find incidences of gastrointestinal illness, but at rates no greater than were observed at other medical providers in the area. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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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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