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‘Significant’ Storm Expected To Bring Steady Rain To Southern California This Week

A storm system moving toward Southern California will bring a “long period” of steady rain across the region this week and could trigger debris flows in recent burn areas, forecasters said. The storm is expected to drop 2 to 4 inches of rain along the coast and in the valleys in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, and 4 to 6 inches in the mountains between Tuesday afternoon and Thursday morning, said Todd Hall, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. South-facing slopes could see up to 8 inches in some areas.

OPINION: Making Los Angeles Completely Water Self-Sufficient Won’t Be Easy Or Cheap. But It Can Be Done

Despite another hot and dry year with less than four inches of rain in the Los Angeles area, we are back to our water-wasting ways. Two years ago, Californians were using 24% less water compared with 2013. This year, we’re hardly conserving at all — just 1%. Clearly, our earlier successes were more behavioral than structural. If lawn removal and new efficient fixtures and appliances had saved all that water, we wouldn’t be seeing this momentous backslide.

Biggest Storm Of The Season Could Bring More Devastation To California Burn Areas

An atmospheric river that forecasters are billing as the biggest storm of the season is expected to drench Southern California beginning Tuesday night and will bring with it the potential for mud flows and widespread flooding, the National Weather Service said. The storm, which is fueled by warm, western Pacific waters, will deliver nonstop rain across much of California and provide some relief to areas that have seen a resurgence in drought conditions.

California Board Debates Lawsuit, Seeks Scrutiny Of Contaminated Flows From Mexico

Members of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board gathered in a closed session on Monday afternoon, debating whether to file a lawsuit against the federal government to stem the cross-border flow of sewage, sediment and other contaminants from Tijuana to San Diego. The deliberations followed a lawsuit filed earlier this month by the cities of Imperial Beach, Chula Vista and the Port of San Diego against the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission, alleging violations of the Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Water Wars: Democrats Block GOP Bid To Speed Shasta Dam Enlargement

Democrats in Congress have stalled an attempt to jump start an expansion of Shasta Dam, California’s largest reservoir and a major water source for the Central Valley. Their objections blocked a Republican gambit to allow the $1.3 billion project to move forward without full up-front funding and despite objections from Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration. A Democratic leadership aide in the House confirmed to the Sacramento Bee on Monday that House Democrats rejected a GOP proposal to speed preparations for the project, by eliminating a requirement on the amount of upfront funding needed for pre-construction.

Worsening Dry Spell Won’t Tip Lake Mead Into Shortage — Yet

An already dry winter for the Colorado River has gotten worse in recent weeks, but it won’t be enough to send Lake Mead to a record low — at least not right away. Despite worsening conditions in the mountains that feed the Colorado, forecasters still expect the reservoir east of Las Vegas to contain just enough water by the end of the year to avoid a first-ever federal shortage declaration. A month ago, the Colorado River Basin was on track for its seventh-driest winter in more than half a century.

California Was In For One Of The Driest Winters On Record. Then March Happened

Heavy rain and snow is in the forecast for California this week including local areas that are at risk of mudslides because of recent wildfires. But there is an upside. All that precipitation is chipping away at a snowpack deficit in the Sierra Nevada mountains – the source of one-third of the state’s drinking water supply. December, January and February were unusually hot and dry. But March has been a different story. Since the beginning of the month, the Sierra snowpack has gone from 23 percent to 48 percent of average in terms of its snow to water equivalent.

Atmospheric River May Dump Up To 4 Feet Of Sierra Snow In What Could Be The Last Big Storm Of The Season

An atmospheric river is predicted to dump more rain on Southern California and the Central Coast than any other storm this year, and is expected to drop up to 4 feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada and 2 inches of rain in Sacramento before dissipating over the weekend. The National Weather Service expects a weak preliminary storm to hit Tuesday afternoon. Light rain and snow above 5,000-6,000 feet elevation is expected before a short break Wednesday morning, followed by a second system’s arrival that afternoon.

Region’s Farms Get Help Boosting Water Efficiency

Agriculture is a rich part of San Diego County’s heritage and foundational piece of the region’s economy, but it’s not easy to make a go of farming here given the hilly terrain, uneven soils and limited natural water supplies.

That’s where the San Diego County Water Authority comes in. The wholesale water agency has funded more than 2,300 free irrigation system evaluations for farmers since 1991 by partnering with the Fallbrook-based Mission Resource Conservation District. Those efforts can save farmers hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year, while stretching the region’s most valuable natural resource and improving crop performance.

And this year, the Water Authority is taking its agricultural assistance program to a new level by leveraging more than $1.5 million from a variety of sources to help improve irrigation efficiency at local farms with an enhanced package of services. By sharing costs with farmers, those funds will be stretched through 2021 to offer additional site evaluations and testing, soil mapping, water conservation planning, soil moisture sensors and technical assistance.

“I don’t think a lot of people really realize how important agriculture is to our economy,” says Michele Shumate, a water resources specialist at the Water Authority. “By improving water efficiency, we’re also supporting a large economy.”

Many Partners Enhance Efficiency Efforts

These dual benefits explain why the Water Authority helped to secure funding for expanded agricultural water efficiency efforts over the next three years. In addition to the Water Authority, the program partners are USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, Mission Resource Conservation District, San Diego County Farm Bureau, and 10 Water Authority member agencies – Carlsbad, Escondido, Fallbrook, Oceanside, Rainbow, Rincon del Diablo, San Dieguito, Vallecitos, Valley Center and Yuima.

“The purpose of the funding is to address three related natural resource issues – water quantity, water quality and soil health,” said Shumate. “Making the most of our water supplies, reducing runoff and enhancing crop productivity benefit farmers and the region at large.”

San Diego County is home to approximately 5,700 farms – more than any other county in the nation – and they benefit from the region’s nearly perfect weather. But they also must contend with intermittent rain, hilly terrain and bedrock that can sit just a few feet below the surface – all of which makes irrigation efficiency both challenging and critical.

Irrigation evaluations typically begin with a conversation about current practices – when farmers irrigate, for how long and how many zones are in the irrigation system. Lance Andersen, who performs farm water-use evaluations as agricultural program director for the conservation district, then measures flow rates at sprinklers and water pressure at the risers. He produces a written report with recommendations for improving irrigation efficiency and offers a follow-up evaluation.

Simple Changes Can Yield Big Results

Easy fixes typically include adjusting water pressure throughout irrigation systems and replacing faulty pressure regulators. Regulating pressure on hilly terrain can be tricky, and Andersen often finds that water pressure in flat areas is too high, which results in overwatering. Ensuring that all emitters are of the same size and type is another easy adjustment for farmers.

It can be more challenging to adjust irrigation rates to account for soil type and depth. “Everybody kind of knows that we don’t have deep soil, but they don’t irrigate that way,” Andersen says.