Suisun Marsh Photo by California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Bloggers on modernizing water management, dam operations, water in restaurants and water for lawns, plus Northstate groundwater, Dianne Fienstein and much more …

Suisun Marsh Photo by California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Suisun Marsh
Photo by California Department of Fish and Wildlife

No drought of blog commentary today …

Drought’s No. 1 lesson: Modernize water management: The California Water Blog writes: “This year’s drought is testing how well California manages water during severe dry periods.  As we head into spring and the major irrigation season, rainfall totals, snowpack, reservoir storage and groundwater levels are all low. Although most larger urban areas have relatively secure water supplies, some small, isolated communities can expect problems. And California will be dealing with significant, painful choices on agricultural land use and environmental flows. ... ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Drought’s No. 1 lesson: Modernize water management

Dam operations and environmental reviews: The Western Water Law blog writes: “The Bureau of Reclamation has always been known for two things: building dams, and harming the environment.  Of course, dam construction inevitably has environmental impacts, and so does dam operation.  The volume and timing of water storage and release affects water quality, recreation, fish and wildlife both above and below the dam.  With these kinds of impacts, one might think that federal dam operations would be subject to environmental reviews under NEPA, just as federal land management activities are.  But in fact, Reclamation rarely does NEPA reviews of “routine” dam operations, despite the serious impacts on downstream rivers. … ”  Read more from the Western Water Law blog here:  Dam operations and environmental reviews

Peter Gleick on how much water is wasted with automatically serving water in a restaurant:California, and much of the southwestern US, is in a severe drought. Again.  And as appropriate, there is growing debate about what we, as citizens, communities, corporations, and governments should do to tackle water shortages and the bigger question of sustainable water policy. … Recently, Don Cheadle (the great actor and producer, anti-genocide activist, and environmental ambassador) tweeted: “Tweeps, next time you’re at a restaurant please inform your waiter that you will ASK for water and not to automatically pour. #noautowater” … ” So how much would that save, really? Find out from Peter Gleick at the Significant Figures blog here:  On the Back of an Envelope: That Glass of Water in a Restaurant?

The Missing of Summer Lawns: It’s Time to End the Wasteful Practice of Irrigating California’s Residential Landscaping With Fresh Water: Richard Frank at the Legal Planet blog writes:  “What a difference a drought makes.  Once upon a time, a fundamental attribute of home ownership in California and the American West was an expansive, verdant lawn surrounding private homes, townhouses and apartment complexes.  Indeed, some communities have historically imposed permit conditions or adopted local ordinances mandating the inclusion and maintenance of lush, healthy lawns as part of residential properties and communities.  But local governments and individual residents are increasingly concluding that this 1950′s model of American living makes little sense in an increasingly dry climate and ever-shrinking water supplies.  My home town of Sacramento, California, provides an apt example. … ”  Read more from Richard Frank at the Legal Planet blog here:  The Missing of Summer Lawns

Northstate Representative Ready to Empty Northstate Groundwater: AquAlliance wants you to see the words of State Senator Jim Nielsen who represents 12 counties: Butte, Colusa, Del Norte, Glenn, Nevada, Placer, Shasta, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity and Yuba (  On Friday, April 11, 2014, KZFR’s news director, Marc Albert, conducted a radio interview with Senator Nielsen who revealed his intention to promote policies that favor subsidized water supplies for the southern, desert agricultural industry at the expense of Northstate communities, groundwater dependent farmers, the environment, and taxpayers. He bemoans “…regulatory prohibitions or inhibitions for us to do what we need to do…” that attempt to preserve farming in the Northstate and Delta and salvage remnant salmon and steelhead trout populations. … “  Continue reading here: AquAlliance

California Drought Snapshot: Lake Oroville Revisited: Dan Brekke writes: “A little more than a year ago, I went car camping to the very nice Loafer Creek Campground at Lake Oroville State Recreation Area. The lake, the main reservoir for the State Water Project and the second-largest California reservoir after Lake Shasta, was about 85 percent full at the time. If you were following the vagaries of the state’s 2012-13 water season, you might have been a little troubled by the fact the rains had virtually ceased after the turn of the new year. What wasn’t apparent during that March 27, 2013, visit to Lake Oroville was that the rains wouldn’t return in the fall either, and that the lake would fall to just one-third full by January — low in any season, but especially alarming in that the reservoir levels here and virtually everywhere else across the state continued to decline at a time when they’d usually be filling up with runoff from fall and early-winter storms. … ”  Read more from KQED here: California Drought Snapshot: Lake Oroville Revisited

California’s drought plan will screw the environment: John Upton at the Daily Grist writes: “California has a radical plan for managing its rivers and reservoirs as drought grips the Golden State for the third consecutive year. It could help the state cling to water that would normally flush through rivers and into the Pacific Ocean — at the expense of wildlife and fishing folk who rely on the health of those rivers.  The seven-and-a-half-month plan, developed in consultation with federal officials, doesn’t increase the amount of water that will be delivered to customers, but it makes major changes to how precious drops remaining in snowpacks, reservoirs, and rivers will be managed. … ”  Read more from the Grist here:  California’s drought plan will screw the environment

DiFi says DIe FIsh and federal and state agencies comply:  Jon Rosenfeld writes: “In the last month, federal and state agencies that are charged with protecting our environment, its endangered species, and our clean water have caved in to political pressure from elected officials – including, most prominently, Senator Dianne Feinstein — to provide more subsidized water to a small group of wealthy farmers. The damage to our fish and wildlife, including six endangered species that rely on freshwater flow into and through our San Francisco Bay Estuary could be catastrophic. All of this is being accomplished under the cover of a drought panic, even though it is now understood and accepted that human health and safety water needs will be met this year. ... ”  Read more from the H2O to Headwaters blog here:  DiFi says DIe FIsh and federal and state agencies comply

But is DiFi really helping the farmers?  Families Protecting the Valley thinks otherwise:  “An article in the San Francisco Chronicle is headliined “Feinstein pressure helps farms over fish.” We wish it were true. According to the article, “In an urgent letter to the Cabinet secretaries, Feinstein…called for capturing “the maximum amount of water from this week’s storm.”  … The reaction from environmental groups has been fierce. More than 40 groups warned of potential extinctions, with the water diversions coming at a time when migrating salmon, steelhead, green sturgeon, longfin smelt and delta smelt are already in dire straits from the drought.  So, Feinstein is helping farmers and environmental groups are outraged?  … ”  Read more from Families Protecting the Valley here:  Is Dianne Feinstein Finally Helping Farmers?

Bob Pyke’s Fix California Water website:  “Our reservoirs are empty.  The drought continues to worsen, but politicians just talk without offering real solutions. FIX CA WATER is devoted to advocating for the water needs of all Californians.  Our mission is to work with nature rather than fighting it.  We promote more intelligent use of our most vital resource – water.  Help educate your neighbors as to the real facts.   Let’s FIX CA WATER NOW!” Find out about the Western Delta Intakes Concept and more here:

Climate Preparedness Task Force Should Use Water Infrastructure Funding to Protect Communities from Climate Risks: NRDC’s Ben Chou writes about floods and droughts:  ” …These types of events are likely to only grow more dangerous and more costly as climate change drives temperatures higher, makes precipitation more extreme, raises sea levels, and increases the power of storms. These escalating climate risks threaten public health, affect water availability and quality, and put homes and infrastructure at risk. Fortunately, there are solutions we can put into place to better protect our communities and critical infrastructure systems from these threats. ... ”  Read more from the NRDC Switchboard blog here: Climate Preparedness Task Force Should Use Water Infrastructure Funding to Protect Communities from Climate Risks

Burt Wilson ‘exposes’ the oxymoronic tunnels plan:  “With the filing of the third draft of their Environmental Impact Report and Statement, the BDCP has laid itself open to all of the vagaries connected with such a large, ambitious effort. This has caused the BDCP to open up a Pandora’s Box of questionable tactics designed to justify the efficacy of the notorious twin tunnels project for the Delta.  The unforeseen consequences of trying to force such a demanding project on such a frail area as the Delta are there for all to see, yet the BDCP is apparently casting a blind eye on these troubles and, instead, going about collecting them under the banner of “Uncertainties” to be dumped into a bucket labeled “Adaptive Management” which means “we’ll deal with those as they occur.” … ”  Read more from Burt Wilson at the Public Water News Service here:  Exposing the Oxymoronic BDCP Delta Tunnels Plan!

Water serving triple duty in the Sacramento Valley:  The Northern California Water Association blog writes:  “Despite recent rainfall in March, there will be significant surface water cutbacks in the Sacramento Valley during the third consecutive year of drought. Reduced water use by farms and wildlife refuges will directly impact wildlife habitat, rural communities and our economy.  For areas where surface water is available for use this year, the water resources will be managed so that every drop will serve multiple uses…. ”  Find out more here:  Water Serves Triple Duty in the Sacramento Valley

San Joaquin River poised for a comeback: “Today, American Rivers released their 2014 list of the 10 most endangered rivers in the country.  The San Joaquin River sits at the very top of this list and unquestionably deserves this unfortunate distinction.  Diversion of over 70% of the San Joaquin River system’s natural flow has resulted in drying up over 60 miles of the upper river and reducing or altogether eliminating historic salmon runs.  Diminished flows have degraded downstream water quality for farms and communities.  The region’s flood management system is in need of major repairs and its levees have straightjacketed the river and contributed to the loss of over 95% of the region’s historic wetland and riparian habitats.  More than a dozen major dams have altered flows and blocked access to hundreds of miles of fish habitat in the upper watersheds.  These statistics paint a bleak picture of a river that is arguably one of the most altered in the nation. … ”  Read more from the NRDC Switchboard blog here:  The San Joaquin: One of America’s most endangered rivers poised for a come-back

Mono Basin’s snowpack the highest in the state:  “We have good news, and we have bad news. The good news is that for the Mono Basin, this year’s snowpack could have been worse. The bad news is that it is a another dry year—and in the Mono Basin, 2012–2014 looks like it will be the driest 3 consecutive years on record. … ”  Read more from the Mono-Logue here:  Mono Basin snowpack is the highest in the state

The National Environmental Policy Act in western water: The National Environmental Policy Act – NEPA – is a weird bird. It’s one of the earliest of a suite of U.S. environmental laws that took shape in the 1960s and ’70s as environmental values grew into a substantive element of our nation’s politics.  It doesn’t actually protect anything, but it does require the U.S. government to analyze the environmental impacts of the actions it takes before it takes them. It’s a sort of “eyes open” statute … ”  Read more from the Inkstain blog here:  The National Environmental Policy Act in western water

Photo credit:  Photo of Suisun Marsh by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  See more on flickr here.

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