High and Dry dispatches from the land of little rain

Blog round-up: Sagacity, kvetching, groundwater, smelt, drought-flavored lemonade and more …

High and Dry dispatches from the land of little rain
High and Dry
dispatches from the land of little rain

Welcome to Tuesday’s blog round-up, the post that celebrates the wide range of commentary available on the internet … and today is no exception.

Sagacity – a different way to think about water management: David Guy at the Water Food and Environment blog writes: “History is replete with ideas that were ahead of their time. Sagacity in the context of agricultural water management is one such idea. As California wrestles with this dry period, the relationships between surface water use and both groundwater and surrounding environmental values becomes more acute. I propose that California would be well served by revisiting the concept of sagacity as a tool that better reflects these important relationships.  Sagacity emerged in 1997 when professors from California Polytechnical State University in San Luis Obispo wrote a paper: “Irrigation Sagacity: A Performance Parameter for Reasonable and Beneficial Use.” ... ”  Read more from the Water Food Environment blog here:  Sagacity: A different, innovative and possibly better way to think about water management during these challenging times

The importance of kvetching: The Delta National Park writes: “It’s been interesting to read the responses to Jay Lund’s essay “Virtual Water vs. Real Water in California.” In it, he describes as “kvetching” criticisms that question whether water should be used to export boutique agricultural products to global markets in a time of severe drought.  Professor Lund’s great to read, in large part because he doesn’t feel the need to overly self-edit. This of course gets under the skin of people who are both more knowledgable and better writers than I am. ... ”  Read more from the Delta National Park blog here:  The importance of kvetching

While Some Lawmakers Offer Outdated Ideas for Drought, California Proves Power of Water Efficiency:Frances Beineke at the NRDC Switchboard blog writes:  ” … Water efficiency, recycling, and other local supplies will help California flourish in a drier future. But some lawmakers are stuck in the past.  On Wednesday Congressmen Doc Hastings, Devin Nunes, and other House Republicans will host a field hearing in Fresno. They will complain about NRDC’ court victory last week that put science and health of the water supply ahead of outdated water management ideas.  And they will claim that if we strip away environmental protections for the Bay-Delta, build more reservoirs, and allow the agriculture sector to draw more water, then California can return to wetter days.  The truth is you can’t get more water from reservoirs that are empty. … ” Read more from the NRDC Swtichboard blog here: While Some Lawmakers Offer Outdated Ideas for Drought, California Proves Power of Water Efficiency

Will ripping out lawns conserve water?  The California Watchdog blog writes:  “We can’t stop Mother Nature. But cities now actually are pushing people to rip up their lawns. AccuWeather.com reported, ”Cities across California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Nevada are encouraging residents to replace their grass lawns and spray irrigation systems with native plants, rocks or drip irrigation systems.”  The green grass in front of your home is coming in for the lion’s share of the blame for the drought. For example, according to a study by policy experts Ellen Hanak and Matthew Davis, “[L]andscaping typically accounts for at least half of all residential water use in inland areas.”  However, California is a gigantic state with many different topographies that use water differently. ... ”  Read more from the California Watchdog blog here: Will ripping out home lawns conserve water?

Will the Delta Dialogues send a message?  “The Delta Dialogues entered a period of change with its February gathering, as the facilitation team departed and participants summed up their work and accomplishments in preparation for writing a letter to state leaders and the public.  The change in the Delta Dialogues was apparent from the first minute of the February gathering, at Conaway Ranch in Woodland. Campbell Ingram of the Delta Conservancy stood at the front of the room, instead of facilitators Kristin Cobble and Jeff Conklin, who sat to either side. This would be the last meeting for the facilitators, because the funding to support their work has expired. The dialogues, Ingram explained, would continue along under the direction of the participants themselves.  “We are in transition,” Ingram said. … ”  Read more from the Delta Dialogues here:  Will the Delta Dialogues Send a Message?

Governor Brown and the legislature push groundwater legislation: The California Watchdog blog writes:  “Due to the current compound drought and water storage shortage, California legislators are considering enacting groundwater regulation over the entire Central Valley aquifer. …However, as of 2000, the aquifer had 390 years of remaining water storage left and is depleting at a rate of only 0.25 percent per year, according to a 2012 study conducted under the sponsorship of the National Academy of Sciences. Additionally, the study concluded that nearly the entire threat of depletion is isolated in the Tulare Basin. … ”  Read more from the California Watchdog blog here: Gov. Brown, Legislature push groundwater regulation  Then read the follow-up post:  What groundwater regulation will bring

Why is Paso Robles failing to self-regulate their groundwater?  The Inkstain blog writes:  “As California struggles against the problems posed by its current drought, there has been a great deal of attention paid to the lack of groundwater regulation. Melody Gutierrez has a great example today, from Paso Robles: [quote]  ‘How scant has the crucial underground water supply become around the San Luis Obispo County city? Sue Luft can tell you anecdotally. The water levels in wells that feed homes and wineries around her 10-acre property just south of Paso Robles have dropped 80 feet in some areas, leaving many with no choice but to take out loans to drill farther down. Luft calls it a “race to the bottom.”’  Why are they racing? Because they can, I guess … ”  Read more from the Inkstain blog here:  Why is Paso Robles failing to self-regulate groundwater?

Kern Water Bank ruling: are people ready to take their water back? The Valley Citizen blog writes: “On March 6, in what was called “a victory for environmentalists, sport fishers, Delta farmers and State Water Project taxpayers,” a judge ruled that the state Department of Water Resources provided an insufficient environmental review of impacts of the Kern Water Bank.  Though it’s gotten little local attention, the short history of the Kern Water Bank (KWB)  recounts one of the biggest water scandals in recent times. In essence, the KWB was privatized, in large part because of the political clout of Stuart Resnick and few others who were the chief beneficiaries of what amounted to a clandestine giveaway of a public resource. … ”  Read more from the Valley Citizen here:  Are the People Ready to Take Their Water Back?

The #$% Smelt!!!: Families Protecting the Valley writes:The argument over the Delta Smelt boils down to the environmentalists belief that giving the fish more water is necessary to their well-being. Federal Judge Oliver Wanger’s 2011 decision was that they failed to prove their case. That’s what was appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 3-judge panel voted 2-1 to overturn Wanger’s ruling. What’s frustrating is that in ruling in favor of the fish, the 2 majority judges said the regulations (called the biological opinion) were a “jumble of disjointed facts and analyses,” and “a ponderous, chaotic document, overwhelming in size, and without the kinds of signposts and roadmaps that even trained, intelligent readers need in order to follow the agency’s reasoning.” That was written by the 2 judges ruling in favor of the fish. … ”  Read more from Families Protecting the Valley here:  The #$% Smelt!!!

Funding water services in California: The California Water Blog writes:  “The current drought has brought renewed calls for more conservation, reservoirs, recycled water use, stormwater capture and desalination plants. But more than calls to action are needed to make these things happen.  As we document in a Public Policy Institute of California report released today, the state’s rigid legal constraints on public funding jeopardize local agencies’ ability to maintain reliable water supply service in the face of increasing water scarcity, climate change and population growth. … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Funding water services in California

The new PPIC Report and the cost of water from the tunnels: The Valley Economy blog writes: “After a quick initial read, my impression of the new PPIC report, Paying For Water, is mostly positive.  It provides a good overview of funding options and challenges in key areas.  Of course, I am always interested in what the PPIC has to say about the Delta tunnels.  There is only a brief discussion of the tunnels on page 26-27, and it correctly focuses on the major challenge of agricultural users affording the tunnels without endorsing or rejecting the tunnel proposal.  However, I do not believe it accurately characterizes the cost of water through the tunnels, and it incorrectly attributes a per acre foot cost estimate to Dr. Rodney Smith (of Hydrowonk fame). … ”  Read more from the Valley Economy blog here:  New PPIC Report on the Cost of Water From the Tunnels

Air pollution could stop the twin tunnels cold:  Burt Wilson of the Public Water News Service blog writes: “A Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) paid consultant from ICF International may have inadvertently slipped a monkey wrench into the BDCP’s plan to construct twin tunnels in the Delta.  First, some background:  Chapter 22 of the BDCP’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) , titled “Air Quality and Greenhouse Gases, details the pollution problems that will be faced by a Delta workforce during tunnel construction.” It states “Construction…would generate emissions of criteria pollutants (ROG, NOX, CO, PM10, PM2.5) and Greenhouse Gases (CO2, CH4, N20 and SF6) that would result in short term effects on ambient air quality…” It goes on to state that “these emissions would be temporary, i.e. limited to the construction period.” ... ”  Air pollution problem may stop Delta twin tunnels cold!

Time to rethink hatchery management:  California Trout writes:  “The Central Valley is the only place on Earth with four distinct runs of Chinook salmon (fall, late-fall, winter, and spring).  Each run was adapted for different conditions and had multiple independent populations that spawned in different valley tributaries.   The damming of virtually every Sacramento and San Joaquin tributary resulted in catastrophic losses of spawning habitat…100% of winter run, 90% of spring run, and 60% of fall run (the only run that relies primarily on the valley floor) spawning habitat is above dams.  The pre-dam, Central Valley “diversified portfolio” of runs reached upwards of 2 million spawning fish per year. … ”  Read more here from California Trout:  Time to Re-Think Central Valley Hatchery Management

The Trout Underground is mixing up some drought-flavored lemonade:  Having survived the Respiratory Virus of Doom (RVoD for you medical types), the Trout Underground is plotting the next fly fishing trip:   … “When the universe hands you drought, you’re basically left to make drought-flavored lemonade.So Older Bro and I — aware that California’s record drought has only been dented by the recent rains — are making plans for opening day that involve maps of remote, alpine destinations. If there’s no snow, there won’t be much water in a lot of small streams in late summer and fall. That’s bad news.  The good news is some of those remote, inaccessible-due-to-snow streams are suddenly within reach very early in the year. … ”  Read more from the Trout Underground here: [Cough, Cough] What To Do When Drought [Cough] Is On The [Cough] Menu

Water extremes: too little, too much, too slow, too fast: Desert Dispatches writes:  “The marks of water, and its absence shape the story of human presence in the desert. I have lived in the desert for more than forty years, having been converted to desiccation.  In the desert I suffer from “rain hunger” nearly all the time. When a moisture-laden front makes it over the mountains, it is a gift from the gods, a time for a celebratory walk through puddles. In the Iranian desert, the Sarhad, where my Peace Corps site of Khash is located, it rained once in two years while I was there. It was not much but all the children had umbrellas, which immediately appeared for the short downpour. ... ”  Read more from the Desert Dispatches blog here:  Water extremes: too little, too much, too slow, too fast

Viewing Yosemite’s Half Dome from the Central Valley:  Yes, it is true, says the Geotripper blog, with pictures to prove it:  “Once or twice a year the air clears in the Great Valley. Our valley as great as it is, is a closed basin. The Sierra Nevada and Coast Ranges make it hard for air pollution and dust to move out of the region, and as such the cities of the San Joaquin Valley (south of Stocton) often appear on the top ten “most polluted air” lists. On those few clear days, my eyes drift east towards the Sierra Nevada, and if I am on the way to Turlock, I stop on Hickman Road just south of the Keyes Road intersection and see if Half Dome is visible. For the last two days, it’s been visible. … ”  Read more from GeoTripper here:  Viewing Half Dome from the Great Valley

Moreles Dam, Minute 319, and replumbing the Delta:  “When I give talks about western water and the Colorado River they usually end, or sometimes start, at Morelos Dam. Built from 1948-50, it spans the river between Baja California Norte and Arizona, scooping up the last of the great river and diverting it west, to the farmlands of the Mexicali Valley.  Visiting the Lower Colorado River region a few years back, one of my hosts at the Bureau of Reclamation’s Yuma Area Office suggested a drive down the levee on the river’s east bank from Yuma past Morelos Dam to San Luis. It’s probably rhetorical excess to say that drive changed my life, but it sure as hell makes a great storytelling device. … ”  Read more from the Inkstain blog here:  Morelos Dam, Minute 319 and replumbing the Colorado River Delta

High & Dry: Dispatches from the land of little rain:  Part fascinating photography, part storytelling blog, there’s plenty to dig through here:  “High & Dry is an ongoing project to document the many faces of the California’s magnificent deserts. With images and words, we will take stock of the current landscape, focusing on its relationship to human activity and exploring remnants of past enterprise to inform our future uses. With regular ‘Dispatches’ we hope to engage you in conversation at a time when a surge to develop renewable energies will, for good or bad, indelibly transform this valuable public resource.”  Click here to check it out:  High & Dry: Desert Dispatches website

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