Executive Summary for February 24th

In this weekly roundup we analyze key water developments in California, including flood damage, a website tracking clean water access and optimistic forecasts for Lake Mead and the Colorado River.

Published on Feb. 24, 2017 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Flood Damage

Heavy rainstorms during the past week have resulted in more flood-related damages and evacuations, with the biggest being 14,000 people who were forced to leave their homes in San Jose.

The Mercury News reported that “This week’s flooding in San Jose has been caused by the overflowing Anderson Reservoir near Morgan Hill. Coyote Creek, which flows from the reservoir, was expected to surpass the highest flow rates ever recorded since 1950, when Anderson Dam was built.”

To make matters worse, county health officials warned that floodwater contained dangerous contaminants including raw sewage, bacteria and chemicals.

Heavy rains also caused landslides in Big Sur, resulting in the closure of a Highway 1 bridge that will take six months to be rebuilt.

In Manteca a temporary levee breach forced an evacuation order for more than 300 people.

At Lake Oroville, with its damaged spillways, water continued to be discharged from the main spillway and during storms at the beginning of the week water levels began to rise, but they are expected to go back down soon with dry weather forecast ahead.

Human Right to Water Portal Launched

The State Water Resources Control Board has launched a website, the Human Right to Water Portal, to address the issue of access to clean water for all Californians and to help make it easier to understand the impacts of water quality in communities.

In 2012 the state became the first in the country to recognize the human right to water with the signing of Assembly Bill 685 and the Water Board adopted a resolution on February 16, 2016 making the human right to water a key priority in its actions.

“This new website will serve as a valuable resource for the general public seeking drinking water compliance data on the state’s regulated water systems,” said Darrin Polhemus, deputy director for the State Water Board’s Division of Drinking Water. “Here the public will be able to see what types of contamination issues water systems are facing and what they are doing to return to compliance.”

Individuals can search the website for water systems and see which are out of compliance with water standards. Currently 292 public water systems in California do not meet federal regulations for drinking water standards, according to the Water Board.

Drought Continues in Colorado River Basin

After 16 years of drought in the Colorado River Basin, the region is getting some relief this winter as high levels of snow are accumulating in the Rocky Mountains and the chances of a water shortage at Lake Mead next year have fallen.

Lower basin states have been preparing for a possible shortage in Lake Mead by 2018, but the wet winter has improved the outlook. The Los Angeles Times reported that in January the Bureau of Reclamation estimated there was a 50 percent chance of a shortage but that number has now fallen to 34 percent.

“By the end of this year, it expects Lake Mead to be at least 3ft [0.9m] above the threshold at which an official ‘shortage’ would be declared,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “Still, no one is declaring this the end of a drought that has fallowed farm fields, depleted groundwater and even inspired a dystopian novel, ‘The Water Knife,’ from 2015, which imagines the Southwest descending into crime and chaos as people fight over the shrinking Colorado.”

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