Blog round-up: Mega-droughts, water surcharges, weakening enviro protections and lessons learned from the drought, plus the BDCP, water bond, groundwater and more …

KayaksCould California weather a mega-drought? Jay Lund writes:  “In the past 1,200 years, California had two droughts lasting 120-200 years. Could the state’s water resources continue to supply enough water to drink, grow crops and provide habitat for fish with such an extreme, prolonged drought?  With careful management, California’s economy in many ways could withstand such a severe drought. That’s not to say some ecosystems and communities wouldn’t suffer catastrophic effects.  The UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences explored this question a few years ago using computer models … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here: Could California weather a mega-drought?

Adding a small statewide surcharge on water use to support regional projects: The PPIC blog notes the success of the state’s Integrated Regional Water Management efforts and writes:  ” … we showed in our study Paying for Water in California, integrated regional water management is on the brink of fiscal failure because state bond funds are running out. Both the legislature and local water agencies have pushed the idea that bonds should continue to provide these dollars, and the major bond proposals under consideration include substantial new funds for this purpose.  But there might be a better way: adding a small statewide surcharge on water use to support regional projects. Local water agencies have often rejected this idea, arguing that if they send money to Sacramento they won’t see it again. But what if the funds go directly to the regions? ... ”  Read more from the PPIC blog here:  Drought Watch: Regional solutions

Weakening environmental protections won’t make it rain, says Kim Delfino:  She writes: “Last week, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced that they are releasing millions of hatchery trout six months earlier than they normally would because river conditions are so low that the trout will die if they wait much longer to release them. This comes on the heels of CDFW biologists’ race to catch and save a federally threatened fish stranded in Uvas Creek, located near Gilroy, about 80 miles south of San Francisco. Uvas Creek is fed from an upstream reservoir that is currently holding only 11 percent of its water capacity. The water flowing downstream is not enough to support the threatened steelhead in this stream, and the creek is quickly drying up. … ”  Continue reading at the Defenders of Wildlife blog here: This Won’t Make it Rain

Lessons Learned from the California Drought:  David Guy at the Water Food Environment blog writes:  “It is not surprising that most drought discussions in the policy arena and the media inevitably focus on areas where water is not available. What is surprising, however, is that we do not pay more attention to the areas that do have reliable water supplies and better understand why these areas have reliable water supplies in the third year of the California drought.  A quick flyover of California’s economic and political centers provides a good illustration: … ”  Read more from the Water Food Environment blog here: Lessons Learned from the California Drought

The Fictional Scenario Behind BDCP Jobs Claims:  Dr. Jeff Michael writes: “The LA Times and now some other sources have quoted me criticizing the BDCP’s claim of a million jobs protected by building the tunnels, because it is based on a “fictional scenario.”  These press reports do not explain why I said it is a fictional scenario, so I will do it here.  The jobs claims from BDCP are divided into 2 parts, as shown in this BDCP infographic.  The first part are those created by the direct spending on implementing the BDCP (building the tunnels and habitat).  This part of the analysis is well-done and estimates 155,090 years of employment, primarily from construction.  The fictional scenario is the second part … ”  Read more from the Valley Economy blog here: The Fictional Scenario Behind BDCP Jobs Claims

The Delta: A highly altered environment:  “Prior to human interference, the Delta existed as a vibrant swath of floodplains, teeming with native flora and fauna. This rich, natural environment has been replaced by a network of man-made leveed channels. While these levees provide benefits to local communities and farms, they have come at a huge cost to the Delta ecosystem.  Native vegetation has been replaced with rock, known as “riprap,” to line the Delta’s waterways and prevent erosion and protect property owners in the floodplain. ... ”  Read more from the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta here: Eye on the Delta: A Highly Altered Environment

CNN reporter’s trip down the San Joaquin: “I’m nearing the end of a three-week kayaking (and walking) trip down the the “most endangered” river in America: California’s San Joaquin. This page collects the tweets from my adventure. The journey started way up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and will end — hopefully — beneath the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on July 4. So far, I’ve seen a wedding and a baptism on the river; met farm workers who are unemployed because the river doesn’t carry enough water for everyone; witnessed the moment the river dries up and becomes nothing but sand; and met readers who have seen my posts about all these things and decided to join me on the path.  … ”  Read more from CNN here:  My trip down the most endangered river in America

Water bond drowns in Legislature:  “A $10.5 billion water bond apparently drowned in the California Senate this past week for the third time since 2010, even though the Central Valley faces a dire drought this summer. But the Legislature still might perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and waive the June 26 deadline for putting the bond on the November ballot. The official name is Senate Bill 848, The Safe Drinking Water Quality and Water Supply Act of 2014.  The Senate vote on the bond was 22 in favor and 9 opposed, mainly with Democrats favoring the bond and Republicans opposed.  But several Democrats abstained from voting and a couple of Republicans voted for the bond. … ”  Read more from the Cal Watchdog blog here: Water bond drowns in Legislature

Water bond fiasco to be settled this week:  Burt Wilson at the Public Water News Service blog writes:  “The state Legislature goes on vacation on July 3rd, so it is expected that the details of the new Water Bond proposal will be settled by then. There is a deadline, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done past the deadline date–this has happened before.  A little water bond history:  The Water Bond was originally part of the comprehensive water legislation that passed the state legislature in November of 2009 and was signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger. ... ”  Read more from Burt Wilson here:  2014 Water bond fiasco will be settled this week:

Water and rail in the Central Valley: The Fox and Hounds blog writes:  “California’s Central Valley has been the focus of two big issues that have grabbed legislative attention – water and the high-speed rail. Is it possible that the two could come together in a political mix?  Hovering over the debate about replacing the water bond that is slated for the November ballot is the question: Will the people vote for the current bond? General consensus coming out of Sacramento is “no.”  ... ”  Read more from Fox & Hounds here:  Water and rail in the Central Valley

Can a State Withhold Water From the National Security Administration? California Is About to Find Out: Apparently there’s been another water bill winding its way through the legislature that we haven’t been focusing on: “The plan to cut off the National Security Administration’s water supply is trickling ever closer to becoming a reality in California, where it was just passed out of the state assembly’s Public Safety Committee. It’s a nice little jab at the government snoops, but can the bill actually do anything?  We first saw the OffNow campaign’s legislation back in February, when its leader, Michael Boldin, convinced eight Maryland Republicans to sponsor a similar measure. The bill proposed cutting water and electric support to any federal government agency that conducts unwarranted surveillance. It didn’t go anywhere in Maryland, where the NSA is headquartered, but it did pass California’s Senate, and now it seems like it’ll face a vote in the full assembly. … ”  Read more from Motherboard here: Can a State Withhold Water From the NSA? California Is About to Find Out

Just below the surface: The hidden effects of Triclosan: Kristi Pullen at the NRDC Switchboard blog writes:  “I have always had what one might call a love/hate relationship with bacteria.  On the one hand, bacteria can be really scary.  No one invites Yersinia pestis (AKA the plague) over for a play date.  On the other hand, there are bacteria that can be your BFF.  ‘More lactobacillus with your frozen yogurt? Yes, please!’   The complex interaction I have with bacteria is amusing to my friends and family,  ‘Can I borrow your pen, Kristi? Only if you can prove to me that your hands are clean.’ and makes studying a complicated chemical like triclosan really exciting.  Triclosan, an antimicrobial chemical, can be found in a variety of household items, including toothpaste, cutting boards, and antibacterial clothing.  It is also widely used in antibacterial cleaning products like hand soaps.  … ”  Read more from the NRDC Switchboard blog here:  Just below the surface: The hidden effects of Triclosan

The Water Wired blog exposes another mis-infographic on groundwater:  “This infographic was Tweeted to me a few days ago. Who sent it to me is immaterial; the source of the infographic is GOOD.  So what is wrong with the infographic? It is hard to to see but the water drop at the top center shows the breakdown of Earth’s freshwater: about 70% polar icecaps; 30% lies underground; less than 1% is surface water. No problem, right?  Wrong!  ... ”  Read more from the Water Wired blog here: (Mis)Infographic: More Groundwater Garbage – Dissing Our Largest Unfrozen Freshwater Resource

NRDC Beach Water Quality Report Shows The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly at California’s Beaches: “Rain, rain go away…” might be popular as a nursery rhyme, but it’s a hugely unpopular sentiment right now in California, as this epic drought puts increasing strain on communities throughout the state. And even though stormwater remains a leading cause of pollution at California’s beaches, hoping for less rain is not a long-term solution.  Finding a way to reduce pollution is absolutely critical for California’s thriving beach and coastal economy. According to NRDC’s annual beach water report, Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches, released today, 9 percent of water quality samples collected last year at California beaches contained bacteria levels that failed to meet the most protective threshold for swimmer safety set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – putting California, sadly, on par with a 10 percent failure rate for the country’s beaches overall. ... ”  Read more from the NRDC Switchboard blog here: NRDC Beach Water Quality Report Shows The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly at California’s Beaches

Fresno taxpayers submit signatures for water rate referendum: The Cal Watchdog blog writes: “A group of Fresno taxpayers, who’ve been thwarted at every turn by city leaders, is expected today to submit thousands of signatures to qualify a water rate referendum for the November ballot.  This morning, shortly after 10:30 a.m., the group Citizens of Lower Water Bills — Yes on Measure W will turn in thousands of signed petitions — nearly four weeks before the deadline — calling for a public vote to overturn the city’s controversial water rate hikes. … ”  Read more from the Cal Watchdog blog here: Fresno taxpayers submit signatures for water rate referendum

How to rig the water game:  The Valley Citizen blog writes:  “Last Wednesday, the Stanislaus Water Advisory Committee (SWAC) finally figured out there’s groundwater on the west side of the county as well as the east. Committee members then realized there’s no representation on the committee from west side farmers.  What the committee hasn’t yet realized, and will never want to face, is there is no representation from groundwater users in the city of Modesto*, no representation from fisherman, no representation from recreational users of our reservoirs and rivers, and no representation from the countless other people who are adversely affected when water is diverted away from them. … ”  Read more from the Valley Citizen blog here: How to Rig the Water Game

The City of Modesto’s drinking water:  “Last week, City of Modesto water users received notice that, “water allocation deliveries from MID will be decreased from an average of 30 million gallons to 17 million gallons.” City residents will receive groundwater “to supplement the reduction.”  “Customers may notice that the water at their taps contains more minerals than usual,” said the city. What the city didn’t say is that we’ve now joined the mad rush to drain one of the Valley’s last great aquifers. … ”  Read more from the Valley Citizen blog here:  The City of Modesto’s drinking water

Mono Lake’s feathered babies:  “Last weekend’s summer solstice marks a time of new life at Mono Lake. Late spring/early summer heralds the fledging (first flight) of many birds that nest in the Mono Basin. Some crowd the nest entrance, just about ready for that first leap of faith; some hatch as downy chicks that swim well but won’t develop the feathers necessary for flight for some time yet; and others have already taken that first flight but still rely on their parents for supplemental feedings as they learn to fend for themselves. … ”  Read more from the Mono-Logue here: Mono Lake’s feathered babies

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Reflecting on groundwater from the Owens Valley watershed: Ceal Klinger writes: “Sometimes we hunt for the trappings of a thing rather than the thing itself. Near the surface, desert groundwater leaves unmistakable tracks: Sky-blue tiger beetles stab their long jaws into the wet clay in March; pink and yellow shooting stars bloom in the 100-plus degree heat of early June; red-and-black desert blister beetles helicopter from bloom to bloom on white-flowered rabbitbrush in September, whether or not rain fell that year. Underground water has no regard for weather. When it’s nearby, plants and animals spring up above it as regularly as carved cuckoos from clockwork.  If you’re born in the high desert, you learn at an early age that water doesn’t just fall out of the sky. … ”  Read more from High Country News’ GOAT blog here: Reflecting on groundwater from the Owens Valley Watershed

Ruminations on drought by a hiker on Hoover Dam’s Rail Road Trail: The Remote Leigh blog writes: “This is Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir. A drought stricken south west and a flow stunted Colorado River have shrunk Lake Mead to its lowest level in generations.  My heart broke upon seeing the white bath tub line around Lake Mead a few months ago. A two day visit to Lake Mead left me with more questions than answers. Hiking the Historic Rail Road trail to Hoover Dam I wanted to understand how our government leaders, corporations, private land owners, media outlets, education institutions and society has failed to adequately address the drought and the long term sustainability of agriculture in the south west. … ”  Read more from the Remote Leigh blog here:  Drowning in drought

Lake Mead’s coming record low: The Inkstain blog recalls how four years ago, he stood on Hoover Dam and watched as Lake Mead hit its record low, and writes: “We’re about to do this again. In April, the surface elevation of Lake Mead dropped below the level for April 2010, and with each successive day, we set a new record for this point in the water year. By some time next month, Mead is forecast to drop below the 2010 record of 1081.85, set Nov. 27, 2010. I like to make graphs to help me visualize data: … ”  Read more from the Inkstain blog here:  Lake Mead’s coming low

The Colorado’s problems: if you’re not talking about alfalfa, you’re not being serious:  The Inkstain blog writes: “Let’s revisit regulated deficit irrigation and the analysis Mike Cohen did last year of the problems and opportunities associated with forage crops in the Colorado River Basin, shall we?  Golf and the Bellagio Fountain are easy targets. But if you’re not talking about alfalfa, you’re not being serious. Here’s Cohen et al.:  ‘Irrigated pasture and forage crops, used primarily to feed beef and dairy cattle and horses, cover about two million acres (60 percent) of the irrigated land in the Colorado River basin. In Nevada and in Wyoming, pasture and forage account for almost all irrigated acreage; in Colorado and in Utah, more than 85 percent of irrigated acreage in the basin is in pasture or forage. We estimate that irrigated pasture and forage in the basin consumes more than five million acre-feet of water each year.’  That’s more than golf. … ”  Read more from the Inkstain blog here: The Colorado’s problems: if you’re not talking about alfalfa, you’re not being serious

Photo credit:  Kayaks at Shelter Island in San Diego by flickr photographer Bill Gracie.


About the Blog Round-up: The Blog Round-up is a weekly journey through the wild and varied tapestry of blog commentary, incorporating the good, the bad, the ugly, and sometimes just plain bizarre viewpoints existing on the internet.  Viewpoints expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily my own; inclusion of items here does not imply my endorsement of their positions. Items are chosen to express a wide range of viewpoints, and are added at the editor’s discretion. While posts with obvious factual errors are excluded, please note that no attempt is made on my part to verify or fact check the information bloggers present, so caveat emptor – let the buyer beware.

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