What the heck is this? Probably not what you think ...

Blog round-up: Drought is a politcal time machine, Gleick clarifies discussion on climate change and drought, Legal Planet on lesser known provisions of emergency drought legislation, an old time blog fight and more …

What the heck is this?  Probably not what you think ...
What the heck is this? Probably not what you think …

The California drought is a political time machine:  Mark Lubell writes:  ” … the most interesting aspect of drought politics is how it stimulates political and policy change. According to political scientist John Kingdon, drought is the classic example of a “focusing event” that creates a window of opportunity for policy change. And California politicians have a tradition of using drought as a political tool for pushing favored policies. For example, William Mulholland allegedly used the false threat of drought to raise public support for his Southern California water empire. Now nearly every scientist, commentator, and politician is using drought to make some call for their preferred political change. Regulate groundwater. More storage. Build the twin tunnels. Pass the long-delayed water bond. These cries for change are truly echoes of the 1976-77 and other past severe droughts. There are two key policy questions to ask given this recurrent pattern. ... ”  Continue reading from Mark Lubell’s blog at UC Davis Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior here:  The California Drought is a Political Time Machine

Peter Gleick clarifies the discussion on climate change and California’s drought: The attention the drought has been receiving has been increasing the debate and the confusion about the link between climate change and the drought: “The confusion stems from the failure of some scientists, bloggers, reporters, and others to distinguish among three separate questions. All three questions are scientifically interesting. But the three are different in their nuance, their importance to policy, and their interest to politicians and water managers. Here are the three different questions: Is the California drought caused by climate change? Is the California drought, no matter the cause, influenced or affected by climate changes already occurring? How will climate changes affect future drought risks in California? These questions are not the same thing. … ”  Read more from Peter Gleick at the Significant Figures blog here:  Clarifying the Discussion about California Drought and Climate Change

Legal Planet blog looks at the lesser-known provisions of California’s emergency drought legislation: Richard Frank writes:  ” … I confess I am relatively more intrigued by other, less-publicized provisions of the new legislation that strengthen the state’s water rights enforcement system. Those amendments to California’s Water Code increase substantially the monetary penalties state water regulators and courts can impose in response to illegal water diversions and related offenses. (The previously set statutory fines and penalty levels were almost laughably modest.) To be sure, the enhanced sanctions only apply to conduct occurring in years when California, as in 2014, faces drought conditions. But it’s an improvement over the status quo and, hopefully, will prompt broader reforms to California’s water rights enforcement laws. … ”  Read more from Legal Planet here: California Enacts Emergency Drought Legislation

Using water to grow crops for export:  On the Public Record takes on the California Water Blog in an old-timey blog fight:  “Dr. Lund objects to complaints like mine about exporting water in the form of almonds. He says ‘no no, we also import a lot of water in other forms.’ I have two responses to this. First: I don’t give a sh&t about other places. If they want to wreck their natural resources to sell feed to animals in California, I can’t bring myself to care.  Second, I don’t agree with the underlying assumptions about virtual water and markets. I do not believe that we are working with fungible materials.  When water leaves Shasta Dam, it is public resource that can do things like be a sparkly river and host leaping fish. … ”  Continue reading at On the Public Record here:  Like an old timey blogfight.  Then jump to the next post or return here for the follow-up: Also, it isn’t for any one person to police what is a “serious” conversation about water.

With water, California’s BigFoot is imported:  The Pacific Institute weighs in on the virtual water issue:  “In a recent blog post, UC Davis Professor Jay Lund correctly points out that people taking issue with California’s precious water being devoted to exports should really be taking a closer look at the balance with imports. In fact, our 2012 study found that California imports more than twice as much virtual water as it exports. All the water required to make the food, clothing, electronics, and other products we import amounts to more than 44 million acre feet. That’s more water than would flow unimpaired down all the state’s major rivers in a year, more water than would fill all the state’s reservoirs. (Stay tuned for a new, more comprehensive analysis that examines how California’s virtual water imports and exports have changed over time). So California is a net virtual water importer. But before we call the debate settled, let’s think more broadly about what it has to do with the drought and future water policy for California. ... ”  Read more from the Pacific Institute blog here:  With Water, California’s Bigfoot is Imported

Outcry over outflow:  “Recent storms have boosted the amount of water flowing through the Delta, and San Joaquin Valley farmers expressed frustration today that more of that water isn’t being sent their way, given that more than half a million acres are expected to be fallowed this year.  “As we speak this very moment there’s 25,000 (cubic feet per second) flowing as outflow out to the ocean. At the same time, we’re pumping 4,400 cfs,” said Dan Nelson, head of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, at a drought meeting held at U.C. Merced today. … ”  Read more from Alex Breiter’s blog here: Outcry over outflow

Harnessing the storms:  Ellen Hanak and Jeff Mount write in the PPIC blog: “Southern California got a thorough soaking in late February and early March, with intense storms that caused localized urban and coastal flooding. Northern California also received some much needed rain and snow. As officials pointed out during and after this wet interlude, it helped, but it was not a drought buster.  So where did all that rain go and did we miss an opportunity to improve our water supplies? … ”  Read more from the PPIC blog here:  Drought Watch: Harnessing the Storms

What’s the best way to save water and energy:  “It is being widely touted in the media that water conservation obviously not only saves water but also saves energy.  Water is free, but the cost to capture, convey and treat it is not.  It’s worth asking, and answering: Which sector has the greatest potential for water energy conservation? Municipal water; Agricultural water; or Environmental water. ... ”  The Cal Watchdog blog takes a look here:  Drought: What’s the best way to save water and energy?

A flood of ideas to deal with drought:  “On February 1st, the Planning and Conservation League’s annual Symposium focused on an environmental issue that’s divided and eluded Californians from the state’s beginning: water.  The day-long event, held at UC Davis’ School of Law, drew over 200 people from across the state, including elected officials, environmental leaders, law experts and water agency representatives who came to discuss the many challenges facing California’s water supply, distribution and public policy.  Bruce Reznik, Executive Director of the Planning and Conservation League, pointed out that the drought can be viewed in two ways: “We are at a crisis, or an opportunity, that is unprecedented in California.” Ultimately, however, it is how policymakers and scientists respond to the water shortage that will define what the drought becomes. … ”  Read more from the PCL’s Green Roots blog here:  A flood of ideas to deal with drought

What the drought means for rice country: The full extent of the drought’s impact on the number of acres of rice planted this year is unknowable at this time. There are simply too many factors left to play out before our last fields are planted for anyone to know the final outcome.  The things that rice farmers are looking at include: how much surface water is available; can I pump groundwater; are prices going to be enough to offset increased pumping costs? Finally, will it rain more between now and the middle of May? (We certainly hope so!)  By early June, the crop will be planted and we will know the answer to the rice supply question. Until then each day will bring new information – both good and not as good, that will help California rice farmers and the communities they live in absorb the realities that the Sacramento Valley will be facing. There are, however, some key impacts that go beyond rice farms that will unfold this year. ... ”  Read more from the Northern California Water Association blog here:  What the Drought will mean in Rice Country

New Temperance Flat Feasibility Study claims salmon benefits and Delta earthquake risk reduction justify the new dam and a big taxpayer subsidy, says the Valley Economy blog: Jeff Michael writes: “I spent a good part of the afternoon reviewing the new feasibility study for the Temperance Flat dam and compared it to the one released in 2008.  The Bureau of Reclamation’s claimed benefit-cost ratio in the new feasibility study is much higher than the one from 2008 that infamously found a B-C ratio of 1.0 to 1.06 despite the fact that the estimated water yield is lower. … ”  He shares his observations here:   New Temperance Flat Feasibility Study Claims Salmon Benefits and Delta Earthquake Risk Reduction Justify the New Dam and a Big Taxpayer Subsidy

Second look at San Joaquin River Restoration?  What took so long, says Families Protecting the Valley:  “Is it possible that Senator Dianne Feinstein is starting to see the San Joaquin River Restoration project as the unrealistic dream that it really is? We don’t have to tell long-time readers of our newsletter how we feel about the restoration project. Environmental advocates said it would cost $250-million while farmers on-the-ground knew it would be at least a billion. The editorial below calls it 2-billion. There is no money, no promise of funding. Yet, water has needlessly been sent down the river instead of to farms. Thousands of acre feet could have been saved just in the past few months, but the restoration was ‘off the table’ for re-negotiation according to Senator Feinstein.  … ”  Read more from Families Protecting the Valley here:  Second look at Restoration? What took so long?

BDCP presentations from the League of Women Voters BDCP forum now available:  “On March 1, the meeting room at Martin Luther King Library was crowded with over 100 attendees, estimated by a show of hands to be 80% League of Women Voters members and 20% non-members. The presenters were excellent, offering a wide range of views.  It was refreshing to hear them debate each other’s arguments. As one presenter said in apres-event chit-chat, “If you don’t hear speakers contradicting each other, you know something is wrong, you haven’t pulled together a broad enough set of points of view.”  Five presenters have shared their slides with the LWV. … ”  See them here:  BDCP Forum Highlights & Presentation Links

A Water Poll, a False Choice – and Some Hidden Good News for BDCP: Richard Atwater at the Southern California Water Committee blog writes: “The Natural Resources Defense Council recently released a poll by FM3 tapping the sentiment of California voters about water. NRDC says, “By a margin of 74 percent to 17 percent, Californians think the best way to deal with the drought is to develop local supplies of water rather than expand water imports.”  If this were the true water choice facing California, this result may have some real-world meaning. But this isn’t the choice. Nobody is talking about expanding water imports. California water managers are talking about developing local supplies AND shoring up the reliability (not increasing supply) of imports from Northern California. Yet despite this false framing of our true water issues, there is a ray of hope. Most respondents support reinvesting in the statewide water system so that water can be safely diverted and transported from (and under) the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, even though the issues in this one poll unfortunately were not framed for them properly. … ”  Read more here:  A Water Poll, a False Choice – and Some Hidden Good News for BDCP

Who benefits from the BDCP?  Follow the money, says Burt Wilson:  “The biographers of Thomas Paine, Revolutionary Patriot and superb theologian, write that when he was making his rounds as a tax collector in England he discovered that a revolt against the reign of George III (“Mad King George”) was gaining momentum among the lower classes who hated George’s stringent tax policies. This incipient revolution was also known to George’s ministers who immediately looked for ways to quash it before it became a problem. What they did was release gin, which then was the drink of the aristocracy, into the common pubs where it instantly became available to the masses. Within a week, whole families were falling down drunk in the streets. No revolution.  What does this have to do with the Bay Delta Conservation Plan? It is said that successful political tactics have been collected for ages and put in a big black book that has been passed down for centuries to help kings, princes and presidents to keep people from really knowing what’s going on so the state is able to keep things under control. … ”  Read more here:  Who benefits the most from the twin tunnels–Follow the money!

Yurok stewardship of Klamath’s Blue Creek bodes well for fish:  Peter Moyle writes: “Last summer I had the privilege of camping overnight with members of the Yurok Tribe on Blue Creek, one of California’s loveliest streams and an important cold-water refuge for migrating salmon and steelhead.  The creek tumbles down the misty Siskiyou Mountains not far from Redwood National Park. I hiked its banks and snorkelled its pools for a close look at young coho and Chinook salmon. At dusk we sat at the stream’s edge eating fresh salmon smoked Yurok style, on redwood stakes circling an open alder wood fire. Our campsite was once a Yurok village.  The gathering called for tradition: we were celebrating the impending return of both the village site and the entire lower Blue Creek watershed to the Yurok people. … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Yurok stewardship of Klamath’s Blue Creek bodes well for fish

The failure of groundwater and committees:  The Valley Citizen blog notes that the recent headlines about dramatic subsidence in the Central Valley surprised everyone, but it really shouldn’t have:  ” … The recent explosive expansion of almond orchards on Stanislaus County’s east side also caught people by surprise. Virtually all those thousands of acres of trees are dependent on groundwater. As the orchards began drawing down more and more groundwater, nearby wells began running dry. When the magnitude of the drawdown began to be fully understood, alarm bells rang throughout the region.  Now, a twenty-one member Stanislaus County Groundwater Advisory Committee has been formed to search for a solution to what looks like a looming disaster. The Committee has gotten off to an inauspicious start, in part because Stanislaus County Supervisor Jim DeMartini left shortly after it was formed, calling it “a waste of time.”  On the surface, it may look like DeMartini is indulging in pessimism. But anyone who knows about groundwater and committees in California hasn’t much reason to be optimistic. ... ”  Read more from the Valley Citizen blog here:  Why Should Stanislaus County Groundwater Be Different?

Climate change in the West is not just all about more or less rain, says the Inkstain blog: “Ben Cook at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies has a new paper that offers a reminder of why the impact of climate change on our ecosystems and water supplies involves more than “will it rain less”?  In some sense this is an old and obvious point, which I link here just to repeat said old and obvious point. Drought is a combination of how much rain and snow falls from the sky and then what happens once it hits the ground. If it’s warmer, more evaporates, and it’s the net left behind after the puts and takes that defines our available water supply and drought or lack thereof. .. ”  Read more from the Inkstain blog here:  Climate change in the West: it’s not just about more or less rain

Photo credit:  Picture of Aqua, a downtown Chicago skyscraper, by flickr photographer Satosphere.

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