Posted on Categories WaterTags , , ,

Lake Mendocino water levels trigger curtailments for all water rights in Upper Russian River

MAVEN’S NOTEBOOK

Curtailments likely for Lower Russian River within a week

From the State Water Board:

With California experiencing a historic drought amid worsening climate change impacts, the state is responding urgently to address acute water supply shortfalls in affected areas. Water in Lake Mendocino is below minimum storage levels and dropping at an alarming rate, threatening supplies for drinking water and endangered fisheries.

In response, the State Water Resources Control Board issued curtailment orders today to all 861 water right holders in the Upper Russian River. The orders make it illegal to draw or divert water from the Upper Russian River, except as needed to ensure human health and safety.

The State Water Board also released an analysis of the Lower Russian River demonstrating that approximately 222 right holders need to be curtailed to meet demands on the river. The board anticipates issuing orders to these right holders next week.

To maintain flows in the Upper Russian River, water is released from Lake Mendocino, a reservoir north of Ukiah. The supplemental water protects multiple fish species and municipal and agricultural uses, and during drought, accounts for all the water in the river. Currently, about 200 acre-feet is released from the lake into the river each day, enough to meet the needs of 400 households per year.

“The lake is declining much faster than anticipated,” said Erik Ekdahl, Deputy Director for the Division of Water Rights. “If the depletions continue at this rate, the 20,000 acre-feet, end-of-season minimum storage level could be reached almost six weeks ahead of schedule. The lake could be entirely empty by the end of the year, putting both people and wildlife in harm’s way.”
Continue reading “Lake Mendocino water levels trigger curtailments for all water rights in Upper Russian River”

Posted on Categories WaterTags , ,

Op-Ed: As river dries up, saving water is pivotal

Brenda Adelman, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Months ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom, facing a recall campaign while managing extraordinary wildfires COVID-19 and worsening drought, called for a voluntary water conservation effort that initially targeted only Sonoma and Mendocino counties. Not too much later, as the greatest reservoirs in the state came closer to reaching their lowest levels, Newsom asked the entire state to voluntarily reduce water usage by 15%, while never calling for mandatory savings. In the meantime, water levels went down, down, down.

As conditions became much worse, local reductions became mandatory. Most cities and counties had followed orders to save water with short showers messages, restricted garden watering, full dishwashers and clothes washers, etc. Yet the situation continued to become worse.

Of the past seven years, at least five have seen much lower than normal rainfall, a trend that might not end next winter if La Niña causes another water-short year. Combined with precedent-setting heat waves and record-setting firestorms, scientists are viewing this as further proof of a global warming syndrome.

To make matters worse, Sonoma Water’s “Schedule of Actual Water Deliveries in Acre Feet” indicates a significant increase in water use. The prime contractors (plus Marin Municipal Water District) purchased 6,117.8 acre-feet more water in the 12 months ending June 30 than they had in the previous year, a 9% increase in water sales. Marin Municipal is not a regular contractor, but it used 2,351.3 acre-feet more during the same period. Santa Rosa used 28 acre-feet less and was the only contractors with a reduction.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/opinion/close-to-home-as-river-dries-up-saving-water-is-pivotal/

Posted on Categories WaterTags , , , , , ,

Friends of Gualala River launch new lawsuit targeting logging on North Fork

Chris McManus, INDEPENDENT COAST OBSERVER

As part of its Salmonid and Watershed Restoration Project, Friends of Gualala River has launched a new lawsuit, this one focused on the Gualala River’s North Fork in the watershed’s northwest corner, the only hydrologic area of the watershed that is not temperature impaired.

The suit was filed last Wednesday in Alameda Superior Court against the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, the State Water Resources Control Board and Gualala Redwood Timber, LLC, seeking to stop Gualala Redwood Timber’s “Far North” timber harvest plan, No. 1-20-00150 MEN.

The new suit comes as FoGR is continuing to fight Gualala Redwood Timber’s “Dogwood III” THP. Judge James Donato on Tuesday issued a 14-day temporary restraining order on that timber harvest plan while he continues to consider a longer restraining order in the federal case brought by FoGR and the Center for Biological Diversity.

The newest lawsuit against the water boards is part of systemic reform FoGR is seeking to hold state agencies involved in the review of timber harvest plans accountable for their roles in the process. Previous lawsuits have targeted CalFire, the final reviewer and approver of timber harvest plans in California.

Read more at https://gualalariver.org/press/friends-of-gualala-river-launch-new-lawsuit-targeting-logging-on-north-fork/

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, WaterTags , ,

Thieves are stealing California’s scarce water. Where’s it going? Illegal marijuana farms

Julie Cart, CALMATTERS

In Mendocino County, the thefts from rivers and streams are compromising already depleted Russian River waterways. In one water district there, thefts from hydrants could compromise a limited water supply for fighting fires, which is why they have put locks on hydrants.

One day last spring, water pressure in pipelines suddenly crashed In the Antelope Valley, setting off alarms. Demand had inexplicably spiked, swelling to three and half times normal. Water mains broke open, and storage tanks were drawn down to dangerous levels.

The emergency was so dire in the water-stressed desert area of Hi Vista, between Los Angeles and Mojave, that county health officials considered ordering residents to boil their tap water before drinking it.

“We said, ‘Holy cow, what’s happening?’” said Anish Saraiya, public works deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

It took a while for officials to figure out where all that water was going: Water thieves — likely working for illicit marijuana operations — had pulled water from remote filling stations and tapped into fire hydrants, improperly shutting off valves and triggering a chain reaction that threatened the water supply of nearly 300 homes.

Read more at https://calmatters.org/environment/2021/07/illegal-marijuana-growers-steal-california-water/

Posted on Categories WaterTags , ,

Could Healdsburg place a moratorium on new water hookups?

Katherine Minkiewicz-Martine, SOCONEWS

As the drought wears on and lawns continue to brown in Healdsburg, where water restrictions are the most stringent, some residents are left wondering whether the city can issue a moratorium on new water hookups, however, the idea is more complicated than it seems.

At the June 21 Healdsburg City Council Meeting, Councilmember Skylaer Palacios, as well as some Healdsburg residents, asked if water hookups could be halted for new developments and housing.

The topic was also broached in a letter to the editor to SoCoNews.

In a letter to the editor from Brigette Mansell, Mansell asked the city to direct the city attorney to research and compose an emergency moratorium on water hookups for new and future development.

“I implore you to halt all new water hook ups in the city of Healdsburg until we have a viable plan to provide basic water for our city. This is prudent, not unrealistic,” Mansell wrote in the letter to the editor.

Read more at https://soconews.org/scn_healdsburg/news/could-healdsburg-place-a-moratorium-on-new-water-hookups/

Posted on Categories WaterTags , , ,

Russian River guardian Chris Brokate marks end of watch in Sonoma County

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

It’s hard to fathom what 1.5 million pounds of trash might look like — and more troubling still to see that much litter wash downstream in the Russian River to the Pacific Ocean.

Standing in the way to make sure that doesn’t happen has been Chris Brokate, who in 2015 decided one day he no longer could watch as the watershed was transformed into a dumping ground, with litter and debris swept out to sea amid winter rains.

Since that pivotal day, Brokate, founder of the Clean River Alliance, has spearheaded the removal of about 750 tons of garbage and abandoned wreckage from the Russian River watershed through trash collection events and special projects.

It’s a worthy legacy to consider — one acknowledged by numerous awards and accolades — as Brokate, 56, outgoing Clean Team program director for the Russian Riverkeeper, prepares to leave Sonoma County and build a new semiretired life in Ecuador.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/russian-river-guardian-chris-brokate-marks-end-of-watch-in-sonoma-county/

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, WaterTags , , , , ,

Russian River on the brink: Lifeblood of North Coast imperiled by deepening drought

Mary Callahan, PRESS DEMOCRAT

Two winters ago, the Russian River was a swollen, chocolate-brown mass, full from bank to bank as it surged toward the Pacific Ocean, gathering runoff from sodden hillsides and frothing creeks amid torrential rains.

The floods of late February 2019 were the worst in two decades. They sent roiling water into communities along the river’s lower reaches in Sonoma County. Thousands of residents were displaced, restaurants were damaged and inns shuttered mere months before the summer tourist season. The losses would amount to tens of millions of dollars.

Now, shriveled by another historic drought, the same river cuts a languid, narrow path through a parched landscape — a slender ribbon of water stretching from inland Mendocino County to Healdsburg, where it is widened with a shot of cool reservoir water from Dry Creek before winding west to the sea.

The lifeblood of Sonoma, Mendocino and northern Marin counties, the river provides drinking water for more than 600,000 people. It is a refuge for imperiled fish and supports a thriving recreational economy. Much of the region’s $12-plus billion wine industry wouldn’t be here without it.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/russian-river-on-the-brink-lifeblood-of-north-coast-imperiled-by-deepening/

Posted on Categories WaterTags , , , , ,

Limbo for Mendocino County water transfer clouds outlook for key Russian River source

Mary Callahan, PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Russian River’s sprawling, manmade delivery system for drinking and irrigation water has for decades relied on a share of the flow in the Eel River, miles to the north in Lake County.

In years past, up to 22 million gallons have been siphoned from the Eel through a system of pumps, pipes and reservoirs and sent south into the East Fork of the Russian River through a mile-and-a-half tunnel blasted into a mountain more than a century ago.

But the future of that cog in the Russian River machine, long seen as critical for farmers, ranchers and rural residents reliant on the river in Mendocino County and northern Sonoma County, is now in limbo.

The water transfer also has generated hydroelectricity as it passed through a small powerhouse in rural Potter Valley and on into Lake Mendocino near Ukiah.

Efforts by federal fisheries regulators to bolster declining salmon and steelhead runs in the Eel River have slashed those diversions in half since 2007. And the drought cut those diversions by another fifth this year, as water regulators seek to maintain supplies in Lake Pillsbury, formed by a dam across the Eel River.

They may be eliminated permanently in the future as a result of PG&E’s decision not to renew its license for the 113-year-old Potter Valley powerhouse when it expires next year, leaving the state of all water transfers from the Eel River uncertain.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/limbo-for-mendocino-county-water-transfer-clouds-outlook-for-key-russian-ri/

Posted on Categories WaterTags , , , ,

How is California’s landmark groundwater law impacting Sonoma County?

Glen Martin, PRESS DEMOCRAT

The drought is intensifying efforts to conserve all of Sonoma County’s water resources, including a supply that has eluded oversight until recently: groundwater. But even as plans for groundwater monitoring and sustainable use proceed, tensions are building over its management.

The authority to evaluate and regulate groundwater comes from a 2014 law crafted in the middle of the state’s last drought. It authorized government regulation for certain groundwater basins through the establishment of local agencies, with the goal of “sustainable” management – that is, no significant drop in groundwater tables year-to-year – by 2042.

Three of Sonoma County’s 14 groundwater basins are subject to such oversight: Sonoma Valley, the Santa Rosa Plain and Petaluma Valley. The location of these basins corresponds to both high population density and major groundwater demands.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/specialsections/how-is-californias-landmark-groundwater-law-impacting-sonoma-county/?artslide=1

Posted on Categories WaterTags , , ,

Petaluma River cleanup plan approved

Will Carruthers, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN

On May 10, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quietly signed off on a plan meant to reduce pollution in the 146-square-mile Petaluma River Watershed.

That’s right. Although the problem is rarely discussed, the Petaluma River has been listed as “impaired” by excessive levels of bacteria since 1975.

The bureaucratic document approved by the EPA is known as a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). It sets levels of acceptable waste discharge from various sources in an attempt to lower the levels of fecal bacteria found in the watershed until the water is deemed clean.

While preparing the TMDL, scientists from the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board tested water from throughout the watershed for Fecal Indicator Bacteria to determine the amount of waste from warm-blooded mammals that has seeped into the water. Although indicator bacteria themselves are not dangerous, scientists use the strains to detect potentially dangerous levels of contamination in the water.

In a report accompanying the TMDL, water board staff identified 12 sources of pollution, which they then lumped into three general categories: human waste, animal waste and municipal stormwater runoff. In tests conducted between 2015 and 2016, water board scientists found bacteria tied to humans, horses, cows and dogs throughout the Petaluma River and its tributaries.

When asked in late 2019 about the levels of E. coli discovered in the Petaluma River, Farhad Ghodrati, an environmental scientist with the San Francisco Bay board, said the test results showed “some of the highest concentrations we have seen in the region.”

At the same time, Dr. Celeste Philips, who then served as Sonoma County’s Health Officer, warned Petaluma River users against drinking the river water or using the water for cooking due to the levels of E. coli. “Adults and children should wash hands/shower and towel dry after swimming; rinse off pets after they come into contact with the water,” Philips added.

Read more at https://bohemian.com/petaluma-river-cleanup-plan-approved/