Executive Summary for June 17th

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key developments in the California drought, including the state’s quickly diminishing snowpack. We also look at the battle over predatory fish and trouble with groundwater.

Published on June 17, 2016 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

It’s Getting Hot in Here

Southern California is expected to get a short-lived but intense heat wave this weekend, with triple-digit temperatures on the way. But high temperatures across the state earlier in the spring have also resulted in a quickly melting snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.

By Monday, Los Angeles could see temperatures as high as 102 F (39 C) and Pasadena 106 F (41 C). As hot as that is, it’s nothing compared to Arizona, which is expected to see temperatures in the record-breaking 115 F (46 C) to 120 F (49 C) range.

Across the state, snowpack is at only 6 percent of normal for this time of year. On the bright side, there actually was some snowpack to melt this year, and several key reservoirs are now pretty full.

However, as Discover Magazine reports, this kind of “premature melt-out” is exactly what we can expect more of in the future with the likely impacts of climate change in California.

Battle Over Predatory Fish

A coalition of agriculture groups and water districts wants California’s Fish and Game Commission to address issues concerning certain predatory fish in an effort to aid struggling salmon populations.

Capital Press reported that ag groups and others want to see restrictions on fishing for some non-native species such as striped bass and black bass removed or loosened. This is in the hope that driving down the population of those fish will help protect threatened runs of salmon, and therefore ease restrictions on water exports out of the Delta.

A bill introduced by Rep. Jeff Denham, Save Our Salmon (H.R. 4582), also seeks to address this issue of curbing non-native fish like striped bass for protection of salmon. The bill was voted out of the House Natural Resources Committee and will go to the House floor for a vote.

However, recent scientific findings do not support the reasoning that limiting numbers of striped bass or other similar predatory fish will aid salmon recovery. “Any time you mess with an ecosystem and remove one predator, there’s going to be a response in the system, and it may or may not be a response that you like,” fisheries scientist Peter Moyle told Water Deeply recently. “In the case of striped bass, there are so many other predators out there that, if striped bass are diminished, the others will just go up.”

Bad News on Groundwater

A new report on groundwater levels in San Joaquin County contains some bad news, as the aquifer levels are down again in a region with a severe overdrafting problem.

“Routine surveys of hundreds of wells across the county revealed water levels had dropped about two feet on average – not as severe as the three-foot drop seen the previous spring, but still a decline,” reported Alex Breitler at the Stockton Record. A few areas showed an increase in levels, but many areas dropped, one as severely as 28 feet in just a year.

This news comes after Capital Public Radio did a two-part series on the difficulties that San Luis Obispo County is having in implementing the first steps in the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Law.

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