Bloggers on the drought, the BDCP, and more in this week’s very astute blog round-up

"The Portal"

“The Portal”

It’s an action-packed blog round-up today, jam-packed with interesting blogs and bloggers with intriguing and thought-provoking things to say, so off we go …

Bloggers on the drought …

  • So what’s the Governor going to with his drought emergency powers?  On the Public Record blog returns to the blogosphere, commenting on the Governor’s drought declaration:  ” … I am reading a fair amount of talk about the governor’s emergency powers. Messrs Peltier and Santoyo keep bringing them up. After an emergency is declared, they say, the governor could use his emergency powers to weaken environmental laws. I haven’t yet heard anyone speculate about any other emergency powers. Could the governor use emergency powers to choose a couple million acres of land to fallow, allowing the water we do have to go further on the remaining irrigated acreage? Could the governor decide that with what little water we have available, we can’t afford to be irrigating crops that don’t directly provide calories to Californians? Maybe the governor’s emergency powers could rule out irrigating alfalfa or almonds*. Maybe the governor should decide that in these crucial dry years, we must protect what’s left of the Central Valley aquifers by banning groundwater pumping. Maybe the discussion of what the governor’s emergency powers could do shouldn’t begin and end with ‘gut the Endangered Species Act’. … ”  So just what is the goal?  Read more from On the Public Record here:  Manage what, exactly?
  • Congressman Nunes says the drought declaration will accomplish nothing:  ” … The governor’s emergency declaration has sparked victory laps by politicians, plenty of slaps on the back, calls for water bonds, demands to appoint a “federal drought coordinator,” and cries of joy from water districts that refuse to tell farmers and farmworkers what it will really take to end the water crisis. The bottom line is this: the declaration of a drought emergency will accomplish next to nothing. Outside of flood-level rainfall, there are only two ways to get more water this year: get the pumps turned back on, and get more water from the San Joaquin River that will otherwise be flushed into the ocean for the sake of phantom salmon. … ”  Read his full blog post here:  Drought is declared: Governor states the obvious while politicians run victory laps
  • What to expect from the drought:  With California’s variable climate, Peter Gleick says we’ve seen droughts before:  ” … While the definition of “drought” varies from place to place, it is safe to say that California is currently suffering from a severe – and by some measures, unprecedented – drought.  It is not too late for some big storms off the Pacific Ocean to bring relief. But the odds are against it and current meteorological conditions are not encouraging. If the rest of the winter months are dry, or even of average wetness, the state will have much less water than normal, and much less than water users want – from cities to farms to our natural ecosystems.  We’ve had dry periods before – they are a recurring feature of our variable climate. The difficulty, expense, and pain of droughts, however, depend on two things: how severe they are and how we react. The Pacific Institute has spent many years studying the effects of droughts in California and has published several analyses of past impacts and responses (here and here).  Based on past experience, here is (part of) what Californians can expect this year if it remains as dry as it is now. … ”  Read more from Peter Gleick here:  What Californians Can Expect from the Drought
  • On the Public Record goes point by point through the drought declaration:  “I assume you have a copy of the proclamation to hand. I’ll go point by point with my first impression.  1. Calling on Californians to reduce their water usage by twenty percent in one year doesn’t seem like enough when reservoirs are so drastically low. But if they do reduce by that much, after this year Twenty by 20XX will be relatively easy. I know some of the behavioral changes backslide when the drought ends, but this drought will be a big boost to that effort. … ”  Read more from On the Public Record here:  What I see in the drought proclamation (1-5), What I see in the Drought Proclamation (6-10), What I see in the Drought Proclamation (11-20), plus OtPR has some suggested actions for Governor Brown here: Item 20.

  • Nobody ever says the Sahara is in a drought:  The Aguanomics blog comments:  “It’s no real surprise, but it’s also a little sad to hear all the usual hang-wringing without much of a discussion of how California needs to change its water management to reflect reality?  I commented on KCBS here (5 min MP3). I suggested that higher prices would be better than restrictions on certain uses (especially if politicians get to send people checks to rebate the excess revenue).[1] I also suggested that farmers need to stop overdrafting groundwater,[2] but it seems that the declaration — which suspends environmental regulations on water use/transfers[3] — may reward farmers’ overdrafting as well as helping them do greater environmental harm by diverting low flows. ... ”    Read more from Aguanomics here:  California’s Official Drought
  • Is it time to regulate economic activity in drought zones?  Dr. Jeff Michael explores the idea on the Valley Economy blog.  He notes that the government has imposed policy changes on flood insurance in an attempt to reduced flood risks, and similar policies and regulations have been brought upon fire hazard zones: “Today, California is facing the prospect of substantial drought impacts on the agriculture economy for the second time in five years.  These severe drought events are predictable, occurring at least once per decade and they have a significant economic and human toll on the areas where drought impacts are most concentrated in California, the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.  And similar to historical policy towards flood zones, historical water policies such as the Central Valley Project have encouraged increased investment and growth of vulnerable populations in areas where the risk of drought are greatest.  Similar to the treatment of floodplains, is it time to think of policy changes to reduce the economic risk and suffering from future droughts? … ”  Read more from the Valley Economy blog here: Should there be regulation of economic activity in drought zones?
  • Sacramento Valley challenged by the dry year:  The Northern California Water Association blog elaborates:  “As we are now seeing throughout the state, 2013 was the driest year on record for California. The convergence of low carryover storage in reservoirs, coupled with minimal inflow into these reservoirs so far this year, has water resources managers in the Sacramento Valley concerned with our ability to serve water for cities and rural communities, farms, birds, fish and recreation. In the Sacramento Valley, water suppliers are facing significantly reduced surface water allocations, including certain parts of the Valley that will receive no surface water. This includes residential supplies in the Sacramento metropolitan area that depend upon water from Folsom Lake, as well as farms and wildlife management areas. … ”  More from the NCWA blog here:  The Sacramento Valley is Challenged by the Dry Year

Bloggers on the BDCP …

  • What Metropolitan is looking for in the BDCP:  General Manager Jeff Kightlinger explains on his blog:  “In 2007, shortly after state and federal agencies started planning toward a comprehensive solution to the ongoing water system/ecosystem crisis in the Delta (an effort now in its seventh year), Met’s Board of Directors set six tests for any  solution that might emerge. Met did not specify a tunnel or a canal or a strengthened levee system. Nor did Met suggest habitat restoration in any particular location. But it was clear back in 2007 that the existing system was not working for either the Delta environment or the communities that depend on this supply (nearly a third of Southern California’s water supply comes through the Delta). And the future system, to truly address the multiple problems, had to perform a whole lot better than today’s system of pumps and aqueducts located in the southern Delta. Hence the idea of creating performance standards that a  comprehensive solution would meet. … ”  Read more from the H2outlook blog here:  BDCP: What Met’s Looking For

And bloggers on other things …

  • Water financing is not that complicated, says On the Public Record:  So what about talk of new financing mechanisms and alternative revenue sources: ” … Look, y’all. This is not that complicated. The revenue sources are the wallets of the people of the state. If we aren’t using bonds to transfer the costs to future people, there are two financing mechanisms. There are taxes, where someone with authority takes an amount in a way that isn’t directly linked to a water bill, or there are fees, where someone with authority takes an amount in a way that is directly linked to a water bill. That’s it. That is the whole range of options. … ”  Continue reading at On the Public Record here:  Couple backlogged thoughts on water financing.
  • Groundwater policy is ‘insanity’, says expert Vance Kennedy:  The Valley Citizen interviews the award-winning USGS scientist about groundwater: ” … These days, Kennedy’s major concern is our widespread misunderstanding of groundwater. The big problem is we have the wrong picture in our heads.  “When people think of groundwater,” says Kennedy, “they think of the ‘cone of depression.’ But that’s not really the correct image.”  According to Kennedy, groundwater travels along an underground network very much like streets and highways in “three dimensions.” There’s often lots of horizontal flow, which explains why it’s easy to draw water from a neighbor, even one who’s thousands of feet away.  It also explains why so much groundwater is present near rivers, lakes and reservoirs. It’s the result of horizontal permeability. Kennedy says it’s crucial to understand the science of groundwater because our current “picture” has led to abuse of a precious resource. … ”  Read more from the Valley Citizen here:  Award-Winning Scientist: Our Water Policy is “Insanity”
  • Addictive behaviors in the Delta:  Maven just stumbled upon this blog from Charles Gardiner over at the Delta Vision Foundation website, who is in the middle of a series titled “Healing the Delta”.  This is part 7:  “Previous parts of the treatment plan for California water and ecosystem management have highlighted unhealthy behaviors that call for a leaner, healthier diet.  A closer examination reveals that these behaviors are more serious than just poor diet.  The patient is showing some classic signs of addiction.  How many of the following signs of addiction do you see in the water community—water users controlling use or expanding demand; regulators pursuing more regulation; non-governmental organizations fanning the flames of crisis; landowners wanting more independence; and lawyers and consultants prolonging the problems and conflicts?  Addictions are destructive behavior, and they will ultimately kill the patient. … ”  Read more from Charles Gardiner at the Delta Vision Foundation here:  Addictive behaviors: Necessary interventions  (Note: links to previous installments are included at the bottom of the post.)
  • Competition in water conservation:  “Maybe it’s our competitive nature.  Or maybe it’s our guilty conscience.  Either way, on the heels of the driest calendar year on record, officials think they’ve found a cheap new way to get people to conserve water.  And it’s pretty simple: Tell them how they’re doing, compared with their neighbors.  The California Water Foundation and the East Bay Municipal Utility District have finished a pilot study in which mailers were sent out to 10,000 East Bay MUD customers. … ”  Read more from Alex Brietler’s blog here:  Would you conserve if everyone else did?
  • How San Francisco saved its sewer system with poop jokes:  When faced when an expensive but critically needed upgrade to its aging sewer infrastructure, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission tried something different:  “…”With the sewer system, we’ve always been playing with the problem of: how do we make a hidden system visible to people?” he explains. “We knew a traditional boring public PSA wouldn’t resonate. It hasn’t resonated with people. If we wanted to spark interest, conversation, and to drive participation … to rebuild and update this system, we had to take a different approach.”  So they began brainstorming. In October, with the help of an external PR firm, the small SFPUC communications team launched a multi-tiered, $65,000 campaign that would combine edgier public service advertising with an engaged social media presence in order to get people to recognize and engage with the sewer’s importance. And yes, that meant poop jokes. … ”  Read more from Fast Company here:  How San Francisco Used Poop Jokes To Save Its Sewer System
  • Reservoir levels in Lake Powell are projected to recover while Lake Mead’s is projected to deteriorate: The Hydrowonk investigates: “There is an interesting trend in the Bureau of Reclamation’s 24-Month studies projecting future elevations of Lake Powell and Lake Mead:  The Bureau projects recovering elevations in Lake Powell and continued deteriorating elevations in Lake Mead.  Actual Lake Powell elevations in 2013 generally ran below levels forecasted by the Bureau in January 2013.  January 2014 forecasts, which are generally unchanged from the December 2013 forecasts, were lower than the January 2013 forecasts.  However, all three forecasts (January 2013, December 2013 and January 2014) project a turnaround in Lake Powell elevations in March 2014. … ”  Read more from the Hydrowonk here:  A Tale of Two Colorado River Basins

Blog honorable mentions … So many blogs to choose from this week!  I can’t possibly fit them all:  California droughts precipitate innovation from the California Water Blog, Water policy is no one thing from the Inkstain Blog, Great Valley or New Dustbowl? from the Valley Citizen blog, and Tales from a drought, from Alex Breitler’s blog

And lastly …

I think this should be the new “MavenMobile”, don’t you?

Photo credit:  “The Portal” by flickr phootgrapher Neil Carey.


The Blog Round-Up is a compilation of relevant and sometimes irrelevant commentary from around the part of the internet known as the ‘blogosphere’.  You’ll find a wide range of views here; items are chosen for their relevance, and sometimes entertainment value.  No warranty is expressed or implied regarding the blogs posted here, so use your own judgement. Please note that the views expressed in these posts are of the authors themselves; inclusion in the round-up should not be construed as an endorsement by Maven or Maven’s Notebook.  If you have an item of interest you’d like to submit for the round-up, send it here.

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