Blog round-up: Bloggers on the drought and water transfers, the economy, pollution, and more plus Peter Gleick asks, is climate change easier to solve than Western Water?
Farmers are being told by Feinstein and Boxer that transfers would be a good thing for them,but it isn't necessarily so, says Families Protecting the Valley: ” … Monday the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation notified the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors that they will receive only 40% of their water allocation so that the state can use the water “for public health and safety purposes” just in case the drought situation doesn't improve. “Public health and safety purposes” means people and cities are first in line. We have no problem with this because we believe people are more important than farms, just like we believe farms are more important than smelt. The problem is that environmental policies have reduced available water supplies to exceedingly low levels, levels that might leave some cities without water. To avoid that, the Bureau has announced that federally contracted farm water that has always been available to the Exchange Contractors will now be available to the state if “health and safety” are at stake. So, while farmers were being told by Feinstein and Boxer that transfers would be a good thing for them, it isn't necessarily so. In essense, farm water will be ‘transferred' away from farms. … ” Read more from Families Protecting the Valley here: State May ‘Transfer’ Farm Water to Cities
Peter Gleick: Is climate change easier to solve than Western water issues? “We’ve entered a new era: politicians can now talk loud and clear about the reality of human-induced climate change and the growing threats to humanity. With strong, unambiguous statements by President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and a growing chorus of other top-level voices, the wholesale denial of climate science is increasingly relegated to a tiny group of industry-funded voices and their followers (directly mirroring the tobacco story decades ago); confused or ignorant politicians; and those who hope to avoid the difficult policy discussions by pretending the science is bad. This positive change in the public discussion can only help to lead to the long-overdue policy debate about how to address worsening climate risks. The same isn’t true for water issues in the western United States. Debates over water policy still skirt around the fundamental issues. Politicians are still unwilling to accept the hydrological realities of peak water limits, buck powerful vested interests, or propose long-term fixes. … ” Continue reading at the Significant Figures blog here: Is Climate Change an Easier Problem to Solve than Western Water?
Drought: A conversation with business leaders: Ellen Hanak writes at the PPIC blog: “I recently had the opportunity to talk about the economic impact of California’s ongoing drought with two of California’s leading business representatives: Allan Zaremberg, president of the California Chamber of Commerce, and Dave Puglia, senior vice-president of Western Growers—a group that represents the state’s producers of fresh fruits and vegetables, who supply much of the nation and many overseas markets with high-quality, high-value produce. The conversation was wide-ranging, touching on the extent of the drought, its likely economic impact, and the steps that can be taken to help California avoid economic harm from future droughts. … ” Read more from the PPIC blog here: Drought Watch: A Conversation with Business Leaders
Drought rates missing from most drought plans: Ed Osann at the NRDC Switchboard blog writes: “Today they’re short of water. Tomorrow they’ll be short of cash. As water supplies dwindle in the face of the driest year in California’s history, most of the state’s urban water utilities face 2014 financially flatfooted. Customers have been asked to conserve water, but when they do, water utility revenues will decline. Eventually this zinger will be sent – “Thank you for conserving. Now your bill has to go up to make up for our revenue shortfall.” The perception will be that consumers who conserve are being punished, and the adoption of a general rate increase to make up for the drought’s revenue shortfall means that this perception is probably true. ... ” Read more from the NRDC Switchboard blog here: Drought Rates Missing from Most Local Drought Plans in California
Avoiding pollution, drought's evil twin: Emily Green at the Chance of Rain blog writes: “Drought means changing not only our outdoor water use, but also the way we tend our gardens, parks and schools. If you are a facilities manager, homeowner or invested tenant accustomed to fertilizing lawn and roses every spring, don’t do it this year. The chemicals, salts and nitrogen will concentrate in your garden, in the street-side gutters, in the storm drains, in our already impaired rivers, wetlands and beaches. The reason? They will have no dilution in the form of heavy winter storms sweeping the basin clean. At the rate we’re going, they won’t even have sprinkles. Joining fertilizer and pesticides in the Do Not Touch category should be leaf blowers, which will drive dry soil, mold and contaminants into the atmosphere and, count on it, into our lungs. Most gravely at risk will be gardeners, closely followed by children, the elderly, pets and wildlife. … ” Read more from the Chance of Rain blog here: Avoiding pollution, drought’s evil twin
How effective will the drought aid packages be? “In the last week, President Barrack Obama and Jerry Brown have rolled out drought relief packages. Pundits have expressed their opinions both for and against these packages, and they have also used these proposals as a venue to opine on everything from the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to Climate Change. Both packages try to address both short-term and long-term issues related to the drought, but will they be successful towards these goals? In this piece I will address the details of both of these measures and how effective I believe they will be towards curbing the drought that California faces. Let’s start first with the President’s proposal. … ” Find out what Hydrowonk thinks here: Will the Aid Packages for California Help to Dampen the Impact of the Drought?
Why wasn't this discussed last September? Alex Breitler reports from the State Water Board workshop: ” … Why did we wait until the drought was an emergency before taking action? “We’ve had 12 or 13 months it hasn’t rained,” [South Delta water attorney John] Herrick told the State Water Resources Control Board, which held a workshop to gather public comments on the changes, but only after those changes had already been made. “At what point did the Bureau (of Reclamation) and DWR (the Department of Water Resources) say, ‘We might be in trouble come Jan. 1?’… ” Read more from Alex Breitler's blog here: ‘Why wasn’t this discussed last September?’
The Earthjustice blog travels to a Delta pear farm: ” … The Bay Delta’s source waters—the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers—are dammed and diverted, its sloughs crisscrossed with drawbridges, and its marshes drained and planted with orchards and vineyards. Yet the Bay Delta, the largest estuary on the west coast of the Americas, still retains a wildness to its character, serving as home to hundreds of species of plants and animals; some, like the Delta smelt, found nowhere else on Earth. We were hunting for stories about the people who would be directly impacted by a Republican-backed House plan to pump massive amounts of freshwater out of the Delta to farms in the southern Central Valley. The bill, whitewashed as a drought relief plan, favors the powerful and heavily subsidized agriculture sector—which already consumes 80 percent of the state’s water supply—while throwing out environmental protections, sacrificing wildlife, imperiling local economies and potentially jeopardizing the drinking water supply of many Northern Californians. … ” Read more from the Earthjustice blog here: A Pear Farm On The Frontlines of California’s Water Wars
Rural water systems struggle in good times and bad: The Pacific Institute's Insights blog writes: “The current drought is shaping up to be particularly damaging to small and rural communities. In mid-February, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced that 17 rural communities face the prospect of running out of water within 60-100 days. These water systems serve populations ranging from 39 to 11,000 Californians. The CDPH is extending its assistance to these communities in an effort to both reduce water use and locate alternative sources, stressing the need for conservation and creativity. However, water systems in rural communities have been underfunded for years, something that has impacted their ability to maintain and upgrade infrastructure. … ” Read more here: Rural Water Systems Struggle in the Good Times and the Bad
California’s Cap-and-Trade Water Proposal: A Planner’s ‘Market’:From the Master Resource blog: “With implications for the huge hydropower and natural gas powered market in California, on Feb. 11, 2014, a team of water experts associated with University of California at Davis, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), and the University of California and Stanford law schools, called for the creation of a “special water market.” Their proposal calls for the creation of a “drought environmental water market” to generate “revenues that would help support fish and wildlife recovery” to alleviate the California drought. Their paper, posted at the U.C. Davis Center for Watershed Sciences website, is titled “Why Give Away Fish Flows for Free During a Drought?” Although the proponents of this new water market don’t use these terms, what they are proposing is a version of a cap and trade market for Wildlife Refuge Water. … ” Read more from the Master Resource blog here: California’s Cap-and-Trade Water Proposal: A Planner’s ‘Market’ (Part I)
Water crisis is becoming a beer crisis: Now this is becoming serious … “Along with California’s water supplies and public health, the ongoing drought in the state may have yet another victim to claim: beer. Lagunitas Brewing Company — one of California’s biggest craft breweries — told NPR last week that the drought is threatening the Russian River, where they get the water for their beer. Such sources play a key role in the brewing process — as NPR notes, producers like Coors and Cold Spring Brewing Co. tout their use of water from the Rockies and a Minnesota natural spring, respectively. But if the drought forces Lagunitas to switch from the river to groundwater for its supplies, the heavy minerals in the latter won’t go well with the beer. “It would be like brewing with Alka-Seltzer,” Jeremy Marshall, Lagunitas’ head brewer, told NPR. … ” Read more from Think Progress here: California’s Water Crisis Is Becoming A Beer Crisis
Diving into the Bay Delta Conservation Plan: Blogger Chuq von Rospach tries to sort it all out: ” … Water is a major issue in the state. Want to start a fight between northern and southern california? mention water. The northern half of the state looks at what southern california did to the Owens Valley and says “over my dead body”. The southern half of the state looks at the water and mutters “damn hippies….”. The farmers don’t care what happens to anything else as long as they get their water. The people who depend on the fishing industries that depend on the delta fish populations look at the farmers and think “chum….”. It’s an incredibly complicated problem. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been digging into it, especially with the tunnel plan. I wanted to get a sense of how all of this was going to affect the birds and refuges, and whether the tunnel project was necessary, and if it was possible, and if it was a good idea. … ” Read more here: Diving into the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (warning, water politics neepery)
Burt Wilson wants you to vote no on the water bond: He writes: “When Teddy Roosevelt was president he wanted to send the U. S. Navy around the world in order to show off the might of the United States. However he was told by his aides that there was not enough money in the treasury for such a proposal. “How far can we send them with the money we have?” asked the president. “Only about half-way,” he was told. “OK,” said Teddy, “we'll send them half-way around the world and let them find their own way back!” This story contains the underlying theme of the testimony of Laura King Moon, Chief Deputy Director of the Dept. of Water Resources and den mother to the BDCP before the Legislative Analysis Committee. … ” Read more from Burt Wilson here: Why you should vote NO on the November Water Bond
And lastly … artificial gills to breathe underwater? “James Bond fans everywhere took notice when a Korean design student delivered a blueprint for a device that allows you to breathe underwater. According to the Smithsonian, the artificial gills, named Triton, capture oxygen gas in water, storing it in a tiny compressed air tank. The creator, Jeabyun Yeon, calls Triton a future product ... ” Read more here: Artificial Gills, Breath Underwater Like James Bond
Photo credit: “Drought in the droplets” by flickr photographer Eileen McFall.