George Boardman: NID needs to ‘mine’ more of California’s real gold |

George Boardman: NID needs to ‘mine’ more of California’s real gold

In most of the United Sates, people take water for granted. In the West, we take it from somebody else.

While gold and silver may have triggered the great migration West, how and where we live and work today is determined by who has been able to seize and control our most valuable resource, water. The battle continues today.

Conservationists are currently arguing with the Federal Bureau of Reclamation over how to manage water flow from Shasta Lake into the Sacramento River, spawning grounds for Chinook salmon and the main water source for Central Valley farms.

The argument is over how much water to release. If the bureau releases too much water to irrigation districts, the river level could drop low enough and become warm enough to kill off 50 percent of the eggs of winter run salmon. If too little water is released, some of the most valuable ag land in the world will be useless.

Meanwhile, San Francisco is suing the California Water Resources Control Board because of a plan for the Tuolumne River the city claims would practically deplete the city’s water supply in a drought, endangering 2.8 million customers served by the Hetch Hetchy water system.

All of this is playing out against the background of one of California’s worst droughts in decades. We are barely past Memorial Day, but only 44% of the state’s 190 reservoirs were full on that date, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

Nevada County is blessed to have the ability to source and control its own water, but that doesn’t mean we’re free of the state’s water woes. How the Nevada Irrigation District copes with climate change while adjusting to growth, and the demands of the state and federal governments will play a big role in determining the county’s future.

Much of NID’s challenge is laid out in a draft of the five-year update of its Urban Water Management Report currently available for public comment.

NID’s water comes from diverting snow-melt runoff and capturing runoff flows in the foothills and mountains. To ensure a consistent source of water from year-to-year, NID carries over storage in its reservoirs.

The system works fine so long as rain and snow fall are abundant and consistent, but our rain and snow have been neither in recent years. Seasonal precipitation at Bowman Lake was 51% of average, which means runoff has tapered off as well.

NID estimates its carryover storage this year will be the lowest since 2001 in its third driest year since 1900. This can be mitigated by the purchase of excess water from PG&E. This year, it’s 16,000 acre feet for $600,000. But as NID points out in the draft report, this source is “unreliable” during dry years.

Meanwhile, NID projects demand to increase at least 18% by 2040, and possibly as much as 50%, depending on the requirements of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission when it grants NID’s new license.

That’s why NID has been pushing for creation of the Centennial Dam, a controversial project that wasn’t helped by the tone deaf, arrogant approach of former General Manager Rem Scherzinger and the board that blessed his actions.

NID’s board now has a new majority and the district has a new general manager, Jennifer Hanson, tasked with getting the dam over the finish line.

The board said it was impressed by Hanson’s fiscal experience, which will be much needed when it comes to financing the Centennial Dam. But she will also need considerable public relations skills her predecessor lacked if this is ever to become a reality.


A group of hospital systems that includes Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital is launching a company to sell access to anonymous data on their millions of patients for uses including research and drug development.

The 14 backers of Truveta Inc. include CommonSpirit Health, created in 2019 through the merger of Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives. Sierra Nevada is an affiliate of Dignity Health.

The jointly owned company will offer access to medical data that encompasses 13% of the clinical care provided in the United States, according to a spokesman, representing records for many millions of patients across 40 states.

The demand for such information has grown in recent years as technology companies, insurers, drug makers and others try to create new tools and treatments.

“Instead of just farming off all of our data to a technology company somewhere, we’ve formed our own,” said Rod Hochman, chief executive of Providence, one of the hospital chains backing the venture.

Terry Myerson, CEO of Truveta, said the data will be made available for “all ethical research” and fees will vary depending on the type of entity seeking access. Combining the data from so many hospitals creates a valuable business opportunity, according to Chas Roades, of medical consulting firm Fist Healthcare. “It’s a really valuable data asset,” he said. “These systems are moving to monetize in a way that is going to be very beneficial for them.”

The hospitals are just acknowledging that data is king these days. Data that provides detailed profiles of who uses Google and Facebook has made the two companies the valuable assets they are today. The 25 million “custom” data points Facebook collects every week makes it possible to aim advertising at prospective customers with greater precision than ever possible before.

The reality today is that practically everybody you interact with — especially “smart” devices — is trying to collect your personal data. Take Tesla, the sexy mode of personal transportation of the future. Those sleek-looking cars include eight surround cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors and radar supporting its Autopilot driver-assistance system. Tesla’s Model 3 and Model Y vehicles also have a camera installed above the rearview mirror.

Diagnostic data the vehicles collect “may” be transmitted to the company’s servers, Tesla said, to improve its driver-assistance systems. However, owners must opt in for camera recordings to be shared. You can bet that other auto manufacturers ramping up to enter the electric car market are paying close attention.

Naturally, the companies behind Truveta are assuring us that every patient’s data will be properly protected. The data won’t contain information identifying individual patients, and, “We are going to take every precaution necessary to be sure this is done correctly, and there are no privacy issues,” said Michael Dowling, chief executive of Northwell` Health, one of the backers of Truveta.

In case you’re wondering, disclosure documents you have signed already allow for the sharing of your data with Truveta.

George Boardman lives in Nevada City. His column is published biweekly on Tuesdays by The Union. Write him at

Observations from the center strip: Not cool edition

THERE’S NOTHING cool about rap music with lyrics straight out of Compton serenading little kids while they’re kicking balls around Pioneer Park…JUST IN time for Father’s Day: The old Northridge restaurant property in south county is being turned into a 62-unit “hobby condo,” a combination man cave and storage unit for his toys…THIS IS the time of the year you usually see articles about how hard it is for teens to get summer jobs. That won’t be a problem this year…WE DID something recently we haven’t done in a long time: Buy toilet paper…AT LEAST three of the defendants charged in the Capitol insurrection now say they were led down a dark hole by right-wing conspiracy theories. When are the rest going to admit it?…

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