Blog round-up: Bloggers on the BDCP, Delta science, desalination, the economics of alfalfa and more

water glitter

“Water Glitter”

The case for a BDCP with no tunnels:  In Sunday’s Sacramento Bee, Dr. Jeff Michael makes the case for a BDCP without the tunnels, and follows it up with a few other points over at the Valley Economy blog.  Bottom line, says Dr. Michael:  ” … The BDCP has ignored a number of viable and less costly no-tunnel alternatives.  As today’s op-ed said, a reasonable conclusion from their own studies is that simply removing the tunnels from the current BDCP is almost certainly better than the tunnels plan.  The BDCP study also found that a plan with super extensive modifications to Delta channels is better than the current plan.  In light of this evidence from their own reports, the continued tunnel vision of BDCP is inexcusable.  … ”  Click here for the Sacramento Bee commentary; click here for the Valley Economy blog.

Southern California water agencies make their case for the BDCP to the public in this 16-page insert:  Four Inland Empire water agencies participated in the publication which includes a commentary by John Laird.  Check it out here:  The Bay-Delta: Why it matters to you

The Economist’s Babbage blog wanders through the Delta in a piece that talks about many things, including the levees, likening an earthquake-induced massive levee failure in the Delta to Katrina:  ” … Local interests label all talk of levee failure as scaremongering. There have been numerous major earthquakes over the years, they argue, but no catastrophic collapse of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta’s defenses. They point to seismic testing done on Sherman Island in 2011 that failed to breach a levee and precipitate a flood. Only 100 or so of the delta’s levees have failed since the 1890s.  All true. But the past is no guide. The biggest difference today is climate change, which is already affecting the physical and ecological structure of the delta. Freshwater runoff from precipitation and melted snow is now expected earlier in the season than ever, and in more sporadic and unpredictable quantities than before. … ”  Read more from the Babbage blog here:  Difference Engine: From torrent to trickle

The BDCP answers more questions:  How will the government shutdown affect the release of the documents?  How will the BDCP address climate change in the Delta?  What about upstream reservoirs and ‘dead pool’ conditions and impacts on groundwater in the Delta?  The latest update to the BDCP’s Q&A page answers these questions and more.  Read more here:  Your questions answered

The Public Water News Service’s Burt Wilson lays out the science for the Delta Science Program:  ” … Now, believe-it-or-not, I respect science as long as it maintains its independence and integrity and does not bow down to pressures emanating from the governor’s office, the state NRA or the DSC or the BDCP.   It is in that respect that I will now provide the Independent Science Board with scientific evidence of how the Delta and its habitat became degraded and how it was subsequently restored to a healthy state. And, not so incidentally, they can become the heroes of the Delta.  … ”  Read more from the Public Water News Service here:  Can Delta Science work for the   Delta instead of the BDCP?

What about Southern California and desalination?  The BDCP blog takes a look at why desalination isn’t really an alternative to the BDCP:  ” … Today, MWD provides on average more than 1 million acre-feet of water a year from the State Water Project to cities from Ventura to San Diego. Stripping salt from ocean water takes huge amounts of electricity, and ocean-desalting plants must be located along the coast. To replace half of the water MWD gets each year from the Delta through the State Water Project would require construction of approximately a dozen plants the size of the Carlsbad facility in the MWD territory – about one every 13 miles along the coast from Malibu to San Diego.   To bring potable water from the coast also would require MWD to install pumping plants throughout its territory. The district now distributes water by gravity, with water flowing downhill from east to west toward the coast. … ”  (By the way, what the BDCP blog doesn’t mention is that pipes and infrastructure that distribute the water throughout the urban area get smaller as they deliver the water and approach the coast.  Metropolitan’s Bill Hasencamp said that taking in a large volume of water at the coast would be much like trying to get a blood transfusion through your little toe.)  More from the BDCP blog here:  What about desalination?

The economic impact of one crop:  Recently, a group came together in a field of alfalfa to show the economics of a single crop grown in the San Joaquin Valley:  ” … It was a demonstration on how, without the alfalfa, due to reduced water allocations, there are major impacts on business and humans. The gathering of equipment, suppliers and even cows became an aerial photo, and video that will be publicized on different websites, YouTube and in other print and electronic mediums. “It is our responsibility to tell our story so that this information goes on record in the form of a unique photograph, which we hope to turn into billboard messaging,” said [Westlands Water District’s Gayle] Holman. … ”  More from California Ag Today: Industry Gathers In Alfalfa Field to Show Why We Need Water

“Water conservation ethic” recommended for San Diego:  A task force formed in 2012 to recommend ways to implement San Diego’s 2011 water policy has released their report, which makes several recommendations, including establishing an ongoing program to create a “water conservation ethic” among the general public.  Read more from GrokSurf’s San Diego blog here:  “Water conservation ethic” recommended for San Diego

And lastly …  Have you ever wanted to wander around Machu Picchu?  My favorite photoblogger takes you around in this stunning photo essay on the ancient city.  Check it out here: 

Photo credit:  “Water Glitter” by flickr photographer Crouchy69.

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One comment

  • Robert Pyke

    Re the Economist article: Unfortunately the statement ““the instability of levees and potential of one levee failure to affect others are liable to be major issues for achieving any measure of water-supply reliability or ecosystem rehabilitation” was a throwaway line in an otherwise good report prepared by a panel of scientists on behalf of the National Research Council. The statement is not incorrect in as much as levee stability and saltwater intrusion are issues but it is misleading to the extent that it implies that this is a really significant issue or one that cannot be addressed relatively easily. The truth about the Delta levee system is described in some detail in the Economic Sustainability Plan of the Delta Protection Commission. The levee system is in pretty good shape but at a cost of $2-4 billion it could be further improved to make it very robust in the face of extreme floods and earthquakes and possible climate change. That might seem like a lot of money to some people but it is less than the cost of hosting an Olympic Games, which has only short term economic benefits, or the proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which has no overall economic benefit, whereas a further improved levee system has multiple benefits including protecting water conveyance through the Delta, protecting life and property, preserving Delta agriculture and recreation and the cultural heritage of the Delta, and allowing the creation of semi-continuous shaded riverine habitat which has significant environmental benefits. Perhaps I am biased because I was one of the principal contributors to the Economic Sustainability Plan but the Plan survived independent peer review by a panel selected by the Delta Science program and its findings, while ignored by some, have never been seriously challenged.

    Robert Pyke Ph.D., G.E.

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