Bloggers on the drought, waiving environmental rules, levee design and prioritization, almonds, Tulloch Lake, oil drilling and water, Kern County sumps, groundwater management and more …

Disneyland’s World of Color

The 2015 Drought so far – March 1:  Jay Lund writes, “Droughts are strange, and this one is becoming scarier.  February began with a nice few stormy days, but has since looked like this January – very dry. And so far, the March forecast is not wet.  At the beginning of March, the Northern Sierra (Sacramento Valley) Precipitation Index was down to 88% of average to date, although it already almost equals total precipitation for all of 2014 (both good and bad news). For the San Joaquin Valley and Tulare basin (where most water use occurs), precipitation is about half of average for this date – slightly wetter than this time last year.  Snowpack is roughly like last year – among the driest on record. ... ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  The 2015 Drought so far – March 1

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Drought Shows Folly of Tunnels, Would be of NO Use this Year, but Would Cost Millions: Restore the Delta writes,Restore the Delta (RTD), opponents of Gov. Brown’s rush to build water export Tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom sustainable farms, salmon and other Pacific fisheries, today responded to federal agencies’ curtailment of water deliveries. “It is lucky for the South of Delta agricultural Central Valley Project contractors (and Kern County Water Agency) that the tunnels were not already built. If so, they would have had to pay hundreds of millions of dollars with no water supply,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of RTD. “The tunnels would not have provided them with any appreciable additional water. With multiple years of no, or very limited water supply, could those water takers afford to keep making their loan payments for the multi-billion dollar tunnels? ... ”  Continue reading at Restore the Delta here: Tunnel Critics: Drought Shows Folly of Tunnels, Would be of NO Use this Year, but Would Cost Millions

Waiving environmental rules causes unreasonable harm to Bay-Delta’s fish and wildlife, says Doug Obegi: He writes, “California’s drought, now in its fourth year, is causing hardships for farmers, rural communities, and fish and wildlife around the state. With so little rain and snow over the past several years (2015 is on track to be yet another “critically dry” water year type), the CVP and SWP announced very low water allocations for farms and cities in 2014, except for agricultural districts on the Sacramento, San Joaquin, Feather, and Stanislaus Rivers who claim senior water rights (most of whom received 75% of their contract amounts in 2014, even as other nearby contractors got zero allocations). Several small rural communities have seen their wells run dry, as nearby farms drill deeper wells and dramatically increase groundwater pumping, leading local governments to truck in water for residential use. … ”  Continue reading at the NRDC Switchboard blog here:  Waiving environmental rules causes unreasonable harm to Bay-Delta’s fish and wildlife

Insanity! Millions of acre feet farmers have had to do without over the past twenty years, yet no improvement to fish populations:  Families Protecting the Valley writes, “The San Jose Mercury News editorial below makes the case that sending water to the Central Valley last year was a disaster for the health of the Delta. Farmers are asking for a small amount of additional pumping during this drought to give them a little relief from the lack of water they’ve been getting.  The editorial writers recommend that farmers come up with “an alternate plan that does not do further damage to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.”  Let us review: … ”  Continue reading at Families Protecting the Valley here:  Insanity!!!

Dutch lessons on levee design and prioritization for California:  Jay Lund writes, “In any lowland, levees define how humans live and how they disrupt native habitats. This is as true for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta as it is for coastal Louisiana, Vietnam and the Netherlands.  Flood safety in the Delta is a statewide concern because the region serves as a hub for delivering water to most Californians and supports native fish.  Like many Dutch lowlands, the Delta became low from the conversion of tidal marsh to farmland. Once diked and drained, peat soils (accumulating over millennia with sea level rise) were exposed to air, decomposed and subsided.  … ”  Read more from California Water Blog here:  Dutch lessons on levee design and prioritization for California

On the Public Record on the Sacramento Bee’s yearlong series on almonds: OtPR writes, “The Sacramento Bee proposes to write a yearlong series on almonds in California. I will be reading that with great interest. I was disappointed, however, by their close in a recent editorial.  [They wrote:] ‘No one can tell farmers what to grow or not grow. The market decides that. We all eat what they produce. But water is a shared necessity. Even if California muddles through this drought, a most basic question lingers: How will it divide water … 20 and 30 years from now?’  This is, of course, wrong.  It is true that we do not currently tell farmers what to grow, that we let farmers assess their chances in a market and accept their profits and losses independently.  In that sense, we do not tell farmers what to grow.  But we could tell them what they may and may not do with the water that belongs to the State as a whole, although we have issued some rights to use it in some conditions to private citizens. … ”  Continue reading from On the Public Record here:  Twelve years is a very short time.  See also follow up: For me? You are too kind. 

Can CEQA save Tulloch Lake? Eric Caine writes, “In 2011, we posted a review of some of the most successful applications of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in the northern San Joaquin Valley. These cases show that CEQA can be an effective planning tool in our region.  Unfortunately, because CEQA almost always involves an understanding of environmental law, attorneys’ fees have too often put CEQA review out of the reach of the public citizens it was intended to serve. ... ”  Continue reading at the Valley Citizen here:  Can CEQA save Tulloch Lake?

Oil Drilling and Water Supply in California: Missteps and the Challenges that Lie Ahead: Jeff Simonetti writes, ” … California faces a serious drought crisis that is in its fourth year. Every drop of water in the state is precious and we must do everything we can to be prudent with our water supplies. In this context, it is understandable that issues such as potential pollution from fracking can cause a stir among concerned citizens and environmental groups. In this piece, I will explore why California authorities missed the potential problems that might come from produced water injection wells and what new regulations might come out of this mix-up. ... ”  Read more from the Hydrowonk blog here: Oil Drilling and Water Supply in California: Missteps and the Challenges that Lie Ahead

LA Times gets it wrong – again – on the sumps in Kern County, says Catherine Reheis-Boyd:  She writes, “Thursday, the Los Angeles Times published an article about a number of sumps – or ponds – that exist in oil production regions in the lower San Joaquin Valley.  It’s an important issue but certainly not the scandal portrayed in the Time’s inaccurate report.  The members of the Western States Petroleum Association are aware the Regional Water Quality Control Board is evaluating oilfield operations in the San Joaquin Valley in conjunction with the Board’s basin planning efforts, including the use of sumps, or ponds, to capture fluids used in the oil production process.  This is an issue that was identified as needing attention as early as December of 2013 and has been on ongoing collaboration between the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, the petroleum industry and others since then.  WSPA members have been cooperating fully with this effort and are committed to working with the Regional Water Quality Control Board to ensure the region’s groundwater resources are fully protected. … ”  Read more from the Western States Petroleum Association blog here:  LA Times gets it wrong – again – on sumps issue

Water workshop finds only ‘miracle’ can end drought:  ““Dismal, poor, horrible, abysmal” are the current snowpack and water runoff conditions in California, according to Jeanine Jones, the Interstate Resources Manager for the California Department of Water Resources. The “dismal” snowpack means that when it melts, water will only trickle down the slopes, causing severe shortages in lowland areas.  She spoke at the Feb. 25-26 Drought Response Workshop, which attended. It was sponsored by the DWR, the Southern California Water Committee and the National Water Resource Institute. It was held at the Atrium Hotel in Irvine for about 180 high-level water managers and consultants. ... ”  Read more from the Cal Watchdog blog here:  Water workshop finds only ‘miracle’ can end drought

80 years of successful groundwater management in Orange County:  The Orange County Water District writes, “When it comes to creating a working solution for groundwater sustainability, Orange County Water District can say “been there, done that.” The District has successfully managed its basin for more than 80 years without resorting to adjudication. They offer hope to water regions that are in the process of meeting the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act that the rewards of good water management are achievable. ... ”  Read more from the Groundwater Act Blog here:  80 years of successful groundwater management in Orange County

Accelerating Cost-Effective Green Stormwater Infrastructure: Learning from Local Implementation:  A new Berkeley Law report: Nell Green Nylen writes, “California decision makers focused on responding to the current drought might question whether stormwater deserves a slice of their attention right now. Although it might be tempting to relegate stormwater planning, management decisions, and infrastructure improvements to a back burner until drought concerns cool off, doing so would be counterproductive.  Below, I explain why stormwater management is relevant during a drought and provide some brief background on green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) before introducing our report. … ”  Continue reading at the Legal Planet here:  Accelerating Cost-Effective Green Stormwater Infrastructure: Learning from Local Implementation:  A new Berkeley Law report

Progressive Water Management: A Look at a Local Water Agency: “Water agencies throughout the Sacramento Valley have been leaders in progressive water management and environmental stewardship—managing water for farms, birds and fish. Western Canal Water District just south of Chico was recently featured in the ACWA News with a detailed story on how Western Canal has pursued an ethic of environmental stewardship. Through its leadership and water management actions over the past decade, Western Canal provides high quality water for ricelands and other managed wetlands that serve as essential Pacific Flyway habitat. … ”  Continue reading from the Northern California Water Association blog here: Progressive Water Management: A Look at a Local Water Agency

Thoughts on the financial structure of water projects:  Rodney Smith writes, “Two recent transactions in western water (San Diego County Water Authority’s Carlsbad Desalination Plant and San Antonio Water System’s Vista Ridge Project) provide an opportunity to discuss the economics of the structure of debt and equity payments to project developers.  For long-lived projects, a finance plan that matches the term of debt structure to the project’s life, makes both debt and equity payments subject to inflationary adjustments and deferred payments at the end of the payment period provides the best economic incentives for customers to conserve water and project operators to fulfill their contractual obligations ... ”  Read more from the Hydrowonk blog here:  Thoughts on the financial structure of water projects

Equilibrium in the Colorado River basin: John Fleck writes, “I was standing at a pullout on the Arizona side of Hoover Dam late this afternoon, taking pictures of the big empty, when a Japanese family got out of their car and walked up to the edge. One of the men pointed down at the big empty, then made a broad gesture at the “bathtub ring”, the white mineral deposits on the opposite wall of black canyon that starkly mark the great emptiness of Lake Mead. He spoke words I understood despite not sharing a language. It was a version of the same comments I heard over and over this week as people came upon the great emptiness of Lake Mead.  I was shooting into the sun, so this picture doesn’t quite do it justice, but you get the idea. It’s the physical manifestation of a system that, to borrow the language of one of the people I talked to at length this week, is not in “equilibrium”. All you have to do is get out of your car and look down. ... ”  Read more from the Inkstain blog here:  Equilibrium in the Colorado River basin

Water and money: The Supreme Court on remedies in interstate water cases: Reed D. Benson writes, “Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Kansas v. Nebraska, a dispute over the waters of the Republican River. The Republican flows from Nebraska into Kansas, and for most of the last 17 years the two states have been fighting over whether Nebraska is taking more than its legal share of the water. (Kind of fitting, I think, that these two red states are squabbling over whether they are getting enough of the Republican.) By the time this case reached the Supreme Court, the parties had accepted that Nebraska took too much water in 2005-06; the key issues were about remedies for Nebraska’s excessive use, and what the Court said on those issues is potentially important for future interstate water cases. ... ”  Continue reading at Western River Law blog here:  Water and money: The Supreme Court on remedies in interstate water cases

Photo credit: Disneyland’s World Of Color photograph by Peter Lee.

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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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