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Executive Summary for January 5th

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key water developments around the West, including the results of the first snow survey, a new trend in marketing untreated drinking water and a plan to increase federal water deliveries for farmers.

Published on Jan. 5, 2018 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Snow Survey Result

The first manual snow survey of the season in California, performed by the Department of Water Resources in Phillips Stations, confirmed a disappointing start to the state’s wet season.

Results showed an average snow depth of 1.3 inches, a water content of 0.4 inches, which is just 3 percent of the long-term average for this time of year. About a mile and a half away at Tamarack Flat, the results were a little better with a snow depth of 6 inches, water content of 1.1 inches, which is 10 percent of average.

In additional to these monthly manual readings, the state also has more than 100 electronic stations that measure snow depth, but Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, said the manual readings on January 3 were in “keeping with the electronic readings we are seeing statewide” and “reflective of that blocking high pressure system” that has been deflecting storms from hitting California, resulting in below average precipitation for the water year so far, and a nearly bone-dry December across the state.

But Gehrke stressed that there is still a lot of winter left and January, February and March could prove to be productive months for precipitation. “Last year’s record season really got started in January and February with atmospheric rivers that are critical to California’s water supply,” said Gehrke.

DWR director Grant Davis said that high-intensity atmospheric river storms often make up half the state’s water supply. “We have to do better job of understanding atmospheric rivers and seasonal forecasting,” he said, so that water managers can make the most of water resources.

Backlash Emerges After ‘Raw’ Water Story

A recent New York Times story about a new trend in drinking “raw,” untreated water, is causing a stir in the water and health world.

The story outlines how companies are marketing, with help from Silicon Valley cash, water that is untreated as a healthier option than treated water. Much of this is sold as bottled water – but a different sort than the bottled spring water that’s usually sold in stores, which has undergone treatment.

“What adherents share is a wariness of tap water, particularly the fluoride added to it and the lead pipes that some of it passes through. They contend that the wrong kind of filtration removes beneficial minerals,” the Times reported. “Even traditional bottled spring water is treated with ultraviolet light or ozone gas and passed through filters to remove algae. That, they say, kills healthful bacteria – ‘probiotics’ in raw-water parlance.”

But water treatment systems also help prevent diseases such as E. coli, Giardia, Hepatitis A, parasites and other toxic and carcinogenic compounds.

“Almost everything conceivable that can make you sick can be found in water,” Bill Marler, a food safety advocate and attorney, told Business Insider.

Trump Administration Moves to Increase Water Pumping

Last week, the Trump administration announced plans to look into increasing water deliveries to Central Valley farmers via the federal Central Valley Project.

The Bureau of Reclamation is tasked with 18-month investigation into how to “maximize water deliveries,” according to the Associated Press.

It’s a move that’s likely to be popular with farmers, but unpopular with fishery advocates and environmental groups, and could create a tangle with state regulators as well.

“The [state] water board, controlled by Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointees, is already holding hearings on proposals that would significantly reduce pumping in order to improve the Delta’s water quality – a move that would fly in the face of Trump’s efforts,” the Sacramento Bee reported.

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