Too Little Too Late: California Rain Unlikely to Alleviate Worsening Drought
Much of California is expected to receive rain over coming days from a series of storms lined up over the Pacific. However, it is unlikely to make a significant contribution to the overall drought situation. California is dependent on the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada to provide water to fill the rivers and reservoirs that we rely on throughout our long, dry summers. The current snowpack remains in a dismal state, as the graph below shows:
The graph shows the amount of water held in the snowpack in the central Sierra. The black line shows what we receive in an average year. The pink line shows the current year—less than 40 percent of normal and equal to the 1976-77 winter, considered one of the driest winters ever. It is also important to note the green line, which shows that the snowpack in 2012-13 was also far below average. And the 2011-12 winter was also disappointing, dramatically compounding this year’s deficit.
Next week, the Department of Water Resources and others will conduct the all-important April 1 snowpack survey. By April 1 of each year, California water managers generally have enough confidence in predictions of how the year’s water supply to determine how much water to allocate to the many water uses in the state, including farms, cities and fish and wildlife. The current series of storms will bump the snowpack up before the survey, but nobody expects a significant improvement to the drought outlook.
Despite hopes for significant rain and snow from the series of Pacific storms, we have seen numerous signs of a worsening situation this week, including those below. American Rivers is working in many ways across California to better prepare for the next drought, which is sure to come sooner than anyone would like. For example, we are trying to restore access for salmon into the upper reaches of rivers in the Sierra Nevada to escape the warmer temperatures in the Central Valley. We are working with water and power agencies in the San Joaquin and Sacramento River basins, as well as key federal and state agencies such as the State Water Board, to improve flows where necessary and restore river and floodplain habitat to help recover salmon populations.
Sacramento’s Water Supply Could Soon Be High and Dry
If the American River—which is the primary source of water for the City of Sacramento—drops another foot and a half below current levels, the pump station that feeds the city water system will be sucking air. As a result, the water department will go before the Sacramento City Council on April 8 to ask for $3 million for rental and installation of submersible pumps pull water out of the river.
Emergency Convoy Trucking Salmon Hatchlings Downriver Toward Pacific
California wildlife officials launched a massive trucking operation on Tuesday to move 30 million Sacramento River salmon toward the sea to help the fish avoid harmful river conditions caused by drought, such as warmer temperatures and greater concentrations of predators. Three climate-controlled tanker trucks transported about 400,000 juvenile salmon from the Coleman National Fish Hatchery near Red Bluff to floating pens in the Sacramento River near Rio Vista, bypassing some 180 miles of the Sacramento River. From there, the three-inch long fish will still have to swim 70 miles to pass through the Golden Gate out to the Pacific. More than 200 truck trips are expected over the next three months from state and federal hatcheries in the Central Valley. The scale of the operation is unprecedented in the state. The $1.4 billion commercial and recreational salmon fishery in California supports more than 22,000 jobs.
Silicon Valley Water Customers Face 20 Percent Cut
The Santa Clara Valley Water District alerted cities and companies last week that it was reducing allocations of treated drinking water by 20 percent through the end of the year, the San Jose Mercury News reported, affecting more than 1.5 million people in seven cities. The cities, including San Jose, will now be forced to make up for the lost water by pumping more groundwater, urging residents to conserve or using other water sources.
Severe GroundwaterOoverdraft Looms Large in San Joaquin Valley
“The 800-pound gorilla in the Kings County water debate is back — what to do about the groundwater overdraft problem that is depleting underground aquifers with no end in sight," reports the Hanford Sentinel. “That unanswered question was front-and-center at the Kings County Water Commission meeting Monday night in Hanford. In some ways, it was a replay of discussion in 2010, after the major 2006-09 drought. Recent satellite measurements indicate that, from 2005 to 2010, the Central Valley lost the equivalent of Nevada’s Lake Mead in overdraft. The state’s response was to direct agencies like Kings River Conservation District to form regional groundwater management plans.”
Some Water Planners Unable to Keep Up With Drought
Recently, three water agencies in the Santa Barbara area—Santa Barbara, Montecito and Solvang—joined forces to place a bid on “surplus” State Water from purveyors in central California to augment their water supplies, according to the Santa Barbara Independent. The three agencies offered what seemed at the time to be an excessive amount: $1,600 an acre-foot. Their bid was not at all competitive. The winning bid weighed in at a staggering $2,200 per acre-foot, and the three thirsty water districts went away empty handed. The Montecito water district managers have warned about “going dry by July.”
The record breaking drought has taken a tremendous toll on the state of California. Below is a stunning photo essay compiled by Earthjustice,
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By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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By Eoin Higgins
Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.
<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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