California’s precipitation paradox | Jefferson Public Radio

California’s precipitation paradox | Jefferson Public Radio

More atmospheric rivers will wash over us this weekend. These are the same types of moist air bands that sweep the state, responsible for dumping 32 trillion gallons of water on the state in January.

But in a bit of irony that Alanis Morissette can appreciate, the coming rain could actually complicate matters in drought-stricken California by melting its snowpack too early.

This latest plume is now forecast to hit northern and central regions of the state late Thursday. And unlike some previous storms, this one — a subtropical Pineapple Express — is expected to be quite warm.

That’s good news for those of us still recovering from our astronomically higher January natural gas bills, sent skyward in part by the unseasonably cold weather.

But it could be bad news for those counting on California’s near-unprecedented snowpack — or for those living downstream.

There could be even more rain in California’s long-term forecast. New estimates from the World Meteorological Organization put the chances good that the Pacific Ocean will break from its three-year La Niña pattern and usher in the return of El Niño. In California, this generally means more rain and landslides, flooding and coastal erosion.

Supported? If coastal erosion in the face of rising seas is a public policy concern, you wouldn’t know it from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget bill. As CalMatters environmental reporter Julie Cart explains, the governor proposes to cut funding for coastal resilience projects by 43% in the face of a deficit of more than $20 billion.

For all the talk of rain and flooding, Californians are still fighting over who has claim to the water flowing through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Environmental groups on Monday urged state water regulators to reverse their controversial decision to weaken the Delta’s flow rules to increase storage in California’s reservoirs.

The petition to the State Water Resources Control Board was submitted by 10 environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Save California Salmon and San Francisco Baykeeper.

The debate centers on last month’s decision to waive basic flow standards for the Delta. The groups said in their petition that the waiver would cause “irreparable environmental damage and loss of fish,” including Chinook salmon and small Delta smelt.

Petition: The order is “arbitrary and capricious, contrary to law and not supported by substantial evidence.” What is at stake?

Water delivered to growers in the Central Valley and cities, primarily in Southern California. Newsom and water agencies have been under pressure to capture more water during storms instead of letting it flow into the ocean through San Francisco Bay. Growers and many elected officials in the Central Valley call this “wastewater.” But state rules require a certain amount of water to flow into the bay to help fish, such as migrating salmon.

Water agency officials told CalMatters they are reviewing the petition, as well as other comments and current conditions, to see if any changes are warranted.

The water board’s executive director, Eileen Sobeck, has acknowledged that the waiver could harm threatened and endangered fish species, but said the potential for a dry winter and spring and the importance of increased reservoir conservation justified the move. . Those worries may be water under the bridge as another powerful storm system threatens to dump so much water that the reservoirs, which were barely a quarter of their capacity in November, are full.

CalMatters is a non-profit, non-partisan media venture that explains California politics and policy.

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