Storms swept through California in recent weeks, drenching striking teachers and blocking roads with debris flows in recent burn areas, but they weren’t all bad: The state’s reservoirs are healthy and full, a good sign for the water supply. Nearly all California reservoirs are at or above average levels. Overall, 580 billion gallons of water were added across the state since Jan. 1. Some major water sources, such as the San Luis Reservoir in Merced County and Lake Perris in Riverside County, are near capacity.
Archive for date: January 23rd, 2019
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Water issues are notoriously difficult for California governors. Just look at former Gov. Jerry Brown’s floundering tunnels proposal for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Yet two factors suggest that Gov. Gavin Newsom must make water a priority. First, California needs more climate-resistant water supplies. Climate change is making California’s weather more extreme. For the past decade, most years have brought drought or the risk of catastrophic floods. And looking forward, scientists warn that climate change will reduce the water we get from our rivers.
“The judiciary is the safeguard of our liberty and of our property under the Constitution,” said U.S. Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes in Elimra, New York in 1907. That quote exemplifies the reason that five irrigation districts on tributaries to the San Joaquin River as well as the city of San Francisco filed lawsuits recently against the State Water Resources Control Board. They are defending their water rights. In December, ahead of the Water Board hearing, Governor Brown and Governor-elect Newsom both asked the Water Board to hold off and let the districts, the State, and the federal government finalize the voluntary agreements.
Governor Newsom’s first proposed state budget, released earlier this month, addresses several critical water and natural resource management challenges. Here are highlights from his plans to mitigate problems with safe drinking water, improve forest health and reduce the risk of wildfires, and encourage healthy soils to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase drought resilience. The governor’s budget proposal revives last year’s failed legislative proposal to tap urban water customers, agricultural fertilizer users, and dairies to pay for safe drinking water projects in small, disadvantaged communities with water quality challenges.
Authorities say thousands of migrating birds have died at California’s Salton Sea this month from avian cholera. The California Department of Fish and Game says ducks, gulls and other birds were found dead at the south end of the state’s largest lake between Jan. 8 and last Thursday. Testing showed signs of avian cholera, an infectious bacterial disease. It’s spread through direct contact or from contaminated food or water.
Storms that soaked California during the first half of January did more than bring tons of snow to Sierra Nevada ski resorts. They also significantly boosted the state’s water supplies. Over the three weeks from Jan. 1 until this Tuesday, 47 key reservoirs that state water officials closely monitor added 580 billion gallons of water, according to an analysis by this newspaper. That’s as much water as about 9 million people use in a year.