Wet Winter Builds Strong Sierra Snowpack

California’s near record precipitation this winter has bolstered snowpack water content levels throughout the Sierra Nevada to 185% of the March 1 average, which bodes well for spring and summer run-off this year.

That was the overarching message disseminated Wednesday by officials at the California Department of Water Resources who released snowpack reading data taken both manually and electronically. The manual snow survey taken by DWR at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada revealed a snow water equivalent (SWE) of 43.4 inches, up from February’s 28 inches and January’s 6 inches. The March 1 average at Phillips is 24.3 inches.

Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, conducted the survey at Phillips today.

“It’s not the record, the record being 56.4 (inches), but still a pretty phenomenal snowpack….,” Gehrke said in a written statement. “January and February came in with some really quite phenomenal More…

 

 

State Water Board Hears Input on Emergency Regulation Next Steps

Whether the state should extend the current emergency conservation regulation or let it expire was the focus of a workshop before the State Water Resources Control Board on Jan. 18.

Citing dramatically improved conditions, water agency representatives from throughout the state voiced support for letting the regulation expire in February. They emphasized, however, that urban water suppliers remain committed to helping their customers shift to permanent changes to improve water use efficiency on an ongoing basis.

Water suppliers also reiterated their support for the “stress-test” approach outlined in the current regulation, and many said they would continue monthly water use reporting and data collection if requested by the State Water Board. They encouraged the board to thank the public and shift the focus to the long term.

Their comments followed a presentation in which State Water Board staff recommended that the board extend the current regulation for another 270 days and revisit it in May when the rainy season is largely over and the water supply picture is clear. The staff also recommended that water suppliers update their stress tests to reflect changing conditions.

ACWA and numerous water suppliers said the emergency regulation had served to focus public attention on the drought, but has outlived its purpose. Much progress has been, they noted, and residents have changed how they view and use water. Continuing the emergency regulation could create credibility issues and confuse the public, they said.

“It’s clear that water agencies and Californians have stepped up in a big way in response to the emergency regulation,” ACWA Director of State Regulatory Relations Dave Bolland told State Water Board members. “Continuing to message that we are in a crisis or emergency is problematic for a lot of agencies…. It’s time to move on to the long-term, sustainable practices agencies are now focused on.”

Bolland and others said it would be appropriate for water suppliers to continue submitting monthly reports, but noted that could be done under a different mechanism than the emergency regulation. They also noted that the state will soon consider regulations requiring just that under the long-term conservation framework state agencies are finalizing as directed by Gov. Jerry Brown in his May 2015 executive order.

The State Water Board did not take formal action on the staff recommendation. Board staff indicated proposed regulatory language would likely be released the following week, with action likely at the Feb. 7 meeting.

Several Board members indicated they were interested in continuing the data collection and monthly reporting that has taken place under the emergency regulation.

Prior to the workshop, the State Water Board heard an update on the Save Our Water program’s successful 2016 efforts presented by ACWA Deputy Executive Director for External Affairs and Member Services Jennifer Persike and Department of Water Resources Public Affairs Director Ed Wilson. The program is focusing in 2017 on evergreen messaging and promoting a California lifestyle shift. Board members made several positive comments about the program and its results.

Submitted by Lisa Lien-Mager on Wed, 01/18/2017

U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook

United States Seasonal Drought Outlook Graphic - click on image to enlarge
 
PDF Version of Seasonal Drought Outlook Graphic 
Latest Seasonal Assessment – Although there have been regional changes in intensity, the areas covered by drought have not changed significantly in the past 30 days. There’s been some improvement along the northern tier of New England, in parts of the interior Southeast where extreme to exceptional drought was observed, across eastern Texas and the adjacent lower Mississippi Valley, and through the northern sections of both South Dakota and New Mexico. In contrast, drought expanded or deteriorated in southern New England and the interior mid-Atlantic region, the Ohio Valley, the eastern and southern periphery of the Southeastern drought region, portions of the south-central and western Plains, and some leeward sections of the Hawaii.

The seasonal drought outlook valid from December 15, 2016 to March 31, 2017 largely follows the 3-Month Precipitation Outlook, with adjustments made for climatology, the time of year, and expected conditions during the last half of December. A general pattern of improvement or removal is forecast for the north side of areas experiencing drought, with conditions persisting or worsening farther south.

Most areas of the Northeast are expecting at least limited improvement by the end of March, specifically interior areas that typically accumulate a deeper snowpack, and in areas of D3 (extreme drought) where removal is highly unlikely, but enough precipitation should fall to ease conditions slightly. Farther south, conditions should ease in the Ohio Valley and upper Southeast, but areas farther south, reaching down to the Gulf Coast, drought is expected to persist or worsen. Some expansion is anticipated into eastern Texas and the southernmost Mississippi Valley, as well as across northern Florida and adjacent southeastern Georgia.


Drought is not expected to improve in the central and southern Plains, where this is a drier time of year, but the Black Hills and surrounding areas, in addition to the drought areas in the central and northern Rockies and Intermountain West, should see some improvement. Areas from the southern tier of the West into central California outside the Sierra Nevada can expect persisting or worsening drought conditions, but improvement is anticipated farther north. In the leeward sections of Hawaii, with odds tilting toward a wet 3-month period, improvement or removal is expected.

Forecaster: Rich Tinker

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Water surcharge to be levied second year in a row in Tri-Valley

LIVERMORE — For a second consecutive year, the main water supplier for 220,000 Tri-Valley residents will assess a surcharge amounting to about $5.70 per month per household.

Alameda County Zone 7 Water Agency’s board on Wednesday approved the extension of the surcharge to help cover reduced sale revenues as a result of people saving water during the drought.

The agency will collect the surcharge another year, starting Jan. 1, from the four wholesale agencies it sells to water to: the cities of Pleasanton and Livermore, the Dublin San Ramon Services District, and the California Water Service Co.,  a private water company serving part of Livermore.

Zone 7 doesn’t bill households directly, but its charges are typically passed onto consumers by the local water retailers in the Tri-Valley.

Source: Water surcharge to be levied second year in a row in Tri-Valley

A closer look at the EPA’s WaterSense program

From Emily Schappacher’s article in Landscape Management magazine, see link below

The EPA’s WaterSense program has placed the topic of water conservation on the forefront for 10 years and counting.

In its 10 years, WaterSense, a partnership program sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has helped save 1.5 trillion gallons of water and $32.6 billion in water and energy bills for consumers across the country.

The program has established partnerships with 1,700 manufacturers, retailers, distributors, state and local governments, utility agencies, home builders and trade organizations that have an interest in efficient water use. It has certified 2,200 irrigation professionals to design, install and maintain efficient irrigation systems. Perhaps most importantly, the program has placed the topic of water conservation on the forefront and has inspired irrigation contractors to make long-term changes toward sustainable water use.

“Very few people were taking about water conservation 10 years ago and a great many are talking about it now,” says John Taylor, president and CEO of Taylor Irrigation Service in Houston. “The WaterSense program has raised the bar and has created the momentum and synergy to allow the right people to put water conservation on their shoulders and carry it forward.”

The WaterSense program, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in June, was established by the EPA in 2006 with a mission to protect the future of the nation’s water supply by offering simple ways to use less water. Through water-efficient products, homes and services, the program helps consumers make smart water choices, which save money and maintain high environmental standards without compromising performance. The WaterSense label appears on products and services certified to be at least 20 percent more efficient than their traditional counterparts. Many people compare it to the EPA’s Energy Star label, which identifies energy-efficient products, homes and buildings

“I’m proud that the WaterSense label has become an international symbol that consumers and businesses can rely on for superior performing water efficiency products,” writes Joel Beauvais, deputy assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water, in a recent blog post on the EPA’s website. “Through the power of partnerships, the WaterSense program has transformed the marketplace for products that save water, save Americans money and protect the environment.”

An EPA official could not be reached for comment for this story.

WaterSense offers programs and online resources for contractors looking to practice sustainable irrigation, including WaterSense certification programs. Contractors can be certified in three areas: irrigation system design, system installation and maintenance, and system auditing. WaterSense certification programs are offered by regional and national certifying bodies throughout the country, such as the California Landscape Contractors Association, the Texas A&M School of Irrigation and the Irrigation Association (IA).

“I think it has been a healthy and collaborative partnership,” says Brent Mecham, industry development director for the IA. The association was recognized as a WaterSense Partner of the Year award two years in a row.

Taylor, whose $1.2-million company offers 60 percent irrigation to an 80-percent residential clientele, was selected as the WaterSense Partner of the Year in 2013. The company was recognized for moving its entire business model away from traditional irrigation system installations and toward efficient systems and smart technology.

“If we are serious about water conservation we needed to stop offering systems that waste water,” Taylor says. “We were selected for having the vision and the courage to lead by example and to move forward doing the right thing, even if that meant changing the way we do business.”

The biggest challenge was learning how to sell these more efficient, more expensive systems. The company previously considered smart systems to be the top-of-the-line option. When homeowners were given the choice, Taylor says they would typically choose the mid-level option that was cheaper to install but more costly to operate in the long term. He had to focus on selling the return on investment to get homeowners to understand the benefits of the more efficient systems.

“We had to reevaluate how we sell and promote irrigation,” Taylor says. “One of the mistakes we were making was we were banking on people wanting to go green and care for environment. And I think people do, but the money speaks a lot louder than the green movement.”

Drastically changing the company’s direction seemed like a risk, but the company has since carved out a reputation for being water-conscious. It uses the educational programs and resources available on the WaterSense website, displays the recognizable WaterSense logo on the Taylor Irrigation Service website and has been a panelist during a WaterSense webinar. Taylor says the decision has been “beyond worth it.”

“Being associated with the EPA certainly adds to your reputation and validates you as a professional,” he says. “The WaterSense wave has pushed us forward. Without it we wouldn’t have the brand or the identity we have now. Our focus on water conservation and management not only sets us apart but makes us a well-respected company in our market.”

WaterSense has been very successful with its indoor water saving efforts, with products like WaterSense-labeled toilets, faucets and shower heads. So in 2016, WaterSense has taken its focus outdoors. The program has a new “Find a Pro” directory of certified irrigation professionals. It’s also drafting a WaterSense specification for pressure-regulating sprinkler bodies. “The impact of WaterSense has been helpful in creating a demand in the marketplace for better quality irrigation controllers that are capable of improving system efficiency,” Mecham says. “The market was going that way, but the EPA has been able to push it more.”

The IA works closely with WaterSense to develop protocols for how water-saving products are tested, and Mecham says that, as long as contractors embrace the new technology and commit to selling it, there is a lot of potential for contractors to make a big difference in water conservation efforts.

“We couldn’t have accomplished our successes without the strong partnership we have built with our network of partners representing all sectors of the economy,” says Beauvais. “Working hand-in-hand with these partners helps this nation protect our water supply and meet the challenges of climate change.”

Source: A closer look at the EPA’s WaterSense program : Landscape Management