Executive Summary for December 29th

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key water developments around the West, including a Water Board report on Nestle’s water extraction on public lands, more dry weather across the West and threats to Arizona’s pine forests.

Published on Dec. 29, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Water Board Report on Nestle

A decision by California’s State Water Resources Control Board could curtail water giant Nestle’s pumping of water from Southern California’s San Bernardino National Forest.

In a report, the Water Board said that Nestle lacks valid permits for millions of gallons of water it extracts from the National Forest and sells as Arrowhead bottled water. The report revealed that Nestle extracts 62 million gallons of water annually from the National Forest but only had rights to 8.5 million gallons, KPCC reported.

Scrutiny of the water bottling operation began in March 2015 when the Desert Sun reported that Nestle was extracting water from public lands with a permit that expired in 1988. Backlash over the expired permit and water pumping during the height of California’s drought has led to a lawsuit and the Water Board’s investigation.

But don’t expect this issue to be resolved any time soon. “The case involves documents going back more than 150 years and legal distinctions between surface water and groundwater, which fall under separate water-rights systems, as well as complex distinctions between different categories of groundwater,” the Desert Sun reported.

Arizona’s Ponderosa Pines Threatened by Dry Weather

Super dry weather and a lack of winter precipitation could severely impact pine forests in Arizona as pine trees become more susceptible to bark beetles and other diseases, according to the AP.

“The latest drought maps show drought and abnormally dry conditions have taken hold of significant portions of the Four Corners region of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah,” the AP reported. “With the exception of Colorado, the other states are worse off now than they were at this same time last year.”

Forest managers have responded by increasing the amount of low-intensity prescribed fires by 50 percent on the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff.

In California, the Forest Service reported that 129 million trees died since 2010 as a result of drought and beetle-induced mortality.

Dry Weather Continues Across the West

Across the Western U.S. states are recording low snowpacks and little winter precipitation, with the Four Corners region an area of growing concern.

Mountain areas in parts of central and southern Utah have recorded the lowest or second lowest snowpack in 30 years, according to AP. The U.S. Drought Monitor shows an area of severe drought in the southern part of the state and about half the state is in moderate drought.

In New Mexico, the state’s largest city has had no precipitation in more than 80 days, and more dry weather is predicted for the coming week. “If the trend holds, forecasters say Albuquerque could finish in the top five longest periods without precipitation since record keeping started more than a century ago,” AP reported. The dry weather is also warmer, with the weather this week expected to be 5F to 15F above average.

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