Blog round-up: Managing tough trade-offs in the Delta, More almonds? Make them prove they have water first, Regulating the drought in California: the drawbacks of the bottom-up approach, and more …

water tree by slan monument
Water Tree by Slan Monument

Managing tough trade-offs in the Delta:  Jeffrey Mount and Ellen Hanak write, “One key source of conflict over the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta is the competition over who gets to use the water. During droughts, this competition becomes acute, especially when it comes to decisions about how much water flows out to sea versus how much gets exported to cities and farms in the San Joaquin Valley, Southern California, and the Bay Area. New data from the 2014 water year illustrate the tough trade-offs California faces.  Those seeking more exports sometimes perceive the water flowing out of the Delta as “wasted to the sea.” But it is important to remember that these outflows, which are counted as water for the environment, serve two distinct purposes ... ”  Continue reading from the PPIC blog here:  Managing tough trade-offs in the Delta

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More almonds? Make them prove they have water first:  “Rabobank predicts that almond acreage will increase by 2.5% to 3% annually for the next ten years, drought or no drought.  If so, almond acreage would increase from 940,000 acres today to 1,200,000 – 1, 260,000 acres in 2025.  We can round down, take the easy number.  That would be an additional ~250,000 acres of almonds, which will peak at an additional million acre-feet of annual demand on our water supplies for the next thirty years.  Or perhaps 250,000 acres of something else will go out of production.  Does the State Board expect that climate change will bring an additional MAF of precip to the state?  Are the growers making planting decisions at this moment counting on reliable surface supplies for every year in the next twenty years?  In this year, a year of bare Sierras, a year of curtailments to senior diverters, you know that they are not. … ”  Read more from On the Public Record here:  More almonds? Make them prove they have water first  See also: A couple thoughts on food security; Links and reactions

Regulating the drought in California: the drawbacks of the bottom-up approach: Ryan Stoa writes, “Much has been written about the ongoing drought in California.  Depending on how you define drought (and that’s easier said than done), the current drought might be the worst in 1200 years or one of many similar dry periods the American West has experienced this millennium.  The difference matters, because if the drought is unique and can therefore be blamed on climate change, there is yet another imperative to do something about it (climate change, that is).  To me the answer matters more for the broader climate change regulation debate than for California’s drought.  Whether or not the drought is typical or exacerbated by human-induced climate change, the supply of freshwater is not meeting the demands of California’s population and economy, and that is creating a socioeconomic drought that requires meaningful regulation. … ”  Continue reading at Ryan Stoa’s blog here (Hat tip to OtPR):  Regulating the drought in California: the drawbacks of the bottom-up approach

Rebutting the NRDC on ways to deal with drought:  Wayne Lusvardi writes, “Ben Chou’s March 31, 2015 column on the Natural Resources Defense Council’s “Switchboard” website, cross posted on April 3 at, requires rebuttal if we are going to deal with the California drought empirically and not ideologically.  First, Chou correctly writes that California’s April 2015 snowpack is indicative of the amount of water that can be carried forward into the hot summer months. Even so, water supplies are measured in California over a 5 and 10-year meteorological cycle. Looking at one year, after three increasingly drier years, doesn’t tell us much that we don’t already know.  Even a broken clock can be right twice a day.  California typically gets one, or sometimes two, wet years about every 5 years (see bar chart of California snowpack from 2005 to 2014 here). The intervening 3 or 4 years are normally dry years called drought. ... ”  Read more at the Hydrowonk blog here:  Rebutting the NRDC on ways to deal with drought

How we talk about the California drought:  Brian Devine writes, “I’m a TA for a class on environment and the media this semester, and I’ve been thinking a lot about our discourse around water issues and how it affects people’s perceptions of complex problems. Nowhere have I seen the simplification and outrage that is prevalent in our treatment of environmental issues more than with the coverage of California’s drought.  Starting with Jay Famiglietti’s sensational op-ed entitled (by the Los Angeles Times editorial board, not by Famiglietti himself) “California has just one year of water left. Will you ration now?” (the op-ed has since been retitled and is available here) the national media have focused their attention on water in the Golden State. A good portion of these media outlets originate on the East Coast and probably don’t generally pay very much attention to Western issues, much less water shortage. It is a golden rule in environmental media studies that coverage of environmental issues is almost invariably by non-specialists. … ”  Continue reading at the Parting the Waters blog here (Hat tip to the Inkstain blog):  How we talk about the California drought

Crap detecting 101: Fixing California’s drought on 2 million gallons per day?  No way!  Michael Campana writes, “A few days ago Chris Mooney of the Washington Post published an excellent blog post, Why it’s wrong to use the California drought to attack fracking. He made the case that fracking in California is not a large water user so its elimination is not going to make a huge dent in the drought.  To help make his case, he cited my blog post of last week in which I mentioned that the water used by fracking is a paltry 0.00062% of the state’s annual water use. That percentage is based on a figure of 70 million gallons per year, reported by Reuters. How accurate that figure is I do not know. But the gist of my post was to indicate how that you can use different volume units and time periods to make figures seem better or worse than they are, depending upon your agenda. Seventy million gallons per year sounds a lot worse than 215 acre-feet per year.  … ”  Read more from Water Wired here: Crap Detecting 101: Fixing California’s Drought on 2 Million Gallons Per Day? No Way!

California’s Drought: Whitewashing Government: “In California the Democratic Party, in near monopoly power in the state, have for the past two decades been underfunding big water infrastructure projects and diverting water from farms to fish. They have been taking credit for the moral high ground of allegedly saving a few fish from threatened extinction at the cost of four billion gallons of water per fish.  But now that there is four-year long green drought they want to place blame for it on others.  To keep the political heat off the party in power, the major newspaper media have been projecting blame on farmers, wealthy cities; desert retirement communities; the Republican bastion of San Diego; and anywhere Democrats don’t live. To heck with journalists speaking truth to power, do anything to keep from being blamed for the green-caused water shortage of 2012–2015. … ”  Read more from Master Resource here: California’s Drought: Whitewashing Government

Anti-science policies seen as a factor in California’s drought:  Chris Reed writes, “Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent executive order mandating decreased water use prompted national and international attention. All coverage understandably emphasized the state’s 4-year-old drought; some linked the problem to climate change.  But a California-based journalist who specializes in science reporting based on hard evidence — Hank Campbell, author of “Science Left Behind” and founder of the popular Science 2.0 website — takes a broader view based on the last 50 years of state governance. … ”  Read more from Cal Watchdog here:  Anti-science policies seen as a factor in California’s drought

Who gets water in California?  The Bay Institute writes, “Californians use over 38 billion gallons of fresh water every day. Governor Brown’s April 1 decision to mandate 25% urban water conservation has sparked public debate over exactly who uses that water and how. Currently, 79% of the total is used to irrigate 10 million acres of farmland, and 18% supports municipal and industrial uses (1, 2, 3, 4). Many Californians are now realizing what we’ve known for a long time – that while urban conservation is essential, any major reforms in our state that are aimed at conserving water to support human uses and reduce our water footprint must first and foremost tackle the agricultural sector.    There’s been an effort in recent times–particularly by agricultural interests–to reframe the issue away from how much water Californians use for different purposes and instead toward how much water is used compared to some supposed amount (between 20 and 50%) dedicated to environmental uses by being left in streams and rivers or inundating wetlands. Environmental water is difficult and often less relevant to quantify. … ”  Continue reading from The Bay Institute blog here:  Who gets water in California?

Dollars and drops per California crop: Josue Medellin-Azuara and Jay Lund write, “When it comes to water, California’s irrigated agriculture is always under the public magnifying glass because it is the largest managed water use in the state and the economic base for many rural areas. During a prolonged drought like the current one, however, crop water comes under a microscope.  We have compiled a table to help answer questions on which crops use the most water and which crops provide the most economic “pop per drop.”  The estimates are very broad because California is so diverse in crop varieties, agricultural practices and local water availability. But the numbers are still useful for comparison purposes. … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Dollars and drops per California crop

Dog & pony show: In simple terms, the enviros have already fought for the water while we fight to install the cement: Families Protecting the Valley writes, “Dog and pony show” is a colloquial term which has come to mean a highly promoted, often over-staged performance, presentation, or event designed to sway or convince opinion for political, or less often, commercial ends. Typically, the term is used in a pejorative sense to connote disdain, jocular lack of appreciation, or distrust of the message being presented or the efforts undertaken to present it.  That about sums up the California Water Commission’s meeting in Fresno Wednesday and earlier in the week in Chico. Voters who thought the passage of Prop 1, the Water Bond, last year would mean the construction of projects like Sites and Temperance Flat are finally coming to terms with reality. … ”  Read more from Families Protecting the Valley here:  Dog & pony show

Adam Gray’s water woes:  Eric Caine writes, “Adam Gray’s dismissal from the state’s Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee has given him near-martyr status, at least locally. Gray tried to argue against reducing water allotments in the San Joaquin Valley. When he was removed from the Committee after a small initial success, the dismissal brought about what’s become a default water rant throughout the San Joaquin Valley. The theme? Blame the state. Subtext? Blame the “enviros.”  “Yes,” say Valley leaders and media, “if not for the state and the enviros, we’d be able to fulfill our mission of feeding the nation.”  … ”  Read more from The Valley Citizen here:  Adam Gray’s water woes

The dismissal of Assemblyman Adam Gray:  Families Protecting the Valley writes, “The day after Assembly Bill 1242 barely passed a committee vote, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins dismissed the bill’s sponsor, Adam Gray, from the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.   The Modesto Bee Editorial asks the question: “Is the dismissal of Adam Gray from the…committee the petty, vindictive, purely political maneuver it appears, or is there something deeper happening?  The bill deals with how much water would be available for fish and as the editorial says “would require the state to recognize any harm its decision does to our region – the birthplace of irrigated agriculture in the West – and take steps to mitigate that damage.”  Imagine, a bill that would help protect the farmer’s rights to water versus the fish and actually making it out of a committee. ... ”  Read more from Families Protecting the Valley here:  The dismissal of Assemblyman Adam Gray

Aguanomics David Zetland with his favorite Questions & Answers from Reddit’s Ask Me Anything:  “My third “ask me anything” on Reddit was the most popular so far. There were 2,700+ comments (300+ from me) on a range of topics. Many were directed at silver bullet solutions (“reduce demand through vegetarianism!” or “increase supply with desalination!”), many were “what can I do?” or “how screwed are we?”, and a good number came from people wanted to work on water issues. About 20-30 percent were about water issues in other countries (India, Saudi, Brazil, Mexico, et al.)  As usual, it was a fun but exhausting 6-7 hours of give and take. I am VERY happy that an AMA-bot has collected and formatted the popular questions and my answers, but these were my favorites ... ”  Continue reading from Aguanomics here: Thoughts on my Reddit AMA on drought and shortage

The Delta Stewardship Council’s dilemma: Burt Wilson writes, “At the bottom of each message issued by the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) is the following information: “The Delta Stewardship Council was created in legislation to achieve the state mandated coequal goals for the Delta. ‘Coequal goals’ means the two goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem. The coequal goals shall be achieved in a manner that protects and enhances the unique cultural, recreational, natural resource, and agricultural values of the Delta as an evolving place.'” (CA Water Code Para. 85054) This means, practically, that the “coequal goals” are state law and nothing can be approved for inclusion into the “Delta Plan” (adopted in 2011) if it does not meet those goals.  A lot of people don’t understand this. … ”  Read more from the Public Water News Service here:  The Delta Stewardship Council’s dilemma

Rural rebellion in Northern California:  Stephen Bliss writes, “Rural folk from four Northern California counties came in mid-April to a magical juncture where the life-giving Russian River empties into the majestic Pacific Ocean. Though the small, unincorporated village of Jenner is a popular recreational destination, pleasure was not the intention.  Our mission was to preserve agrarian lifestyles and environments from further colonization by industrial wineries. Large corporate wineries–owned mainly by outside investors–were the main target.  Water and California’s worsening drought were discussed. Some reported that wells had gone dry after large wineries dug as much as 1000 feet into the ground to extract precious, limited water for their factories. … ”  Read more from Counterpunch here:  Rural rebellion in Northern California

Managing water in the Sacramento Valley for multiple benefits in 2015:  David Guy writes, “With California enduring its fourth consecutive dry year, every drop of water counts and must be stretched as far as possible. In the Sacramento Valley, water resources managers have been working closely with state and federal agencies and our conservation partners to stretch available supplies in creative ways to benefit multiple uses. Water supplies in the Sacramento Valley have all been reduced significantly this year due to the fourth consecutive year of scant rainfall and snowpack in the state, although the December and February storms in Northern California have led to storage in certain reservoirs that is higher than 2014. Throughout the Sacramento Valley, it is important during this dry year that water will be used for multiple purposes, including cities and rural communities, farms, fish, birds and recreation. ... ”  Read more from the NCWA blog here:  Managing water in the Sacramento Valley for multiple benefits in 2015

Metropolitan Water District puts water in the bank:  In this second of a two-part post from the Groundwater Act Blog:  “In his first Q&A post, MWD Senior Engineer Bob Harding discussed the history of MWD water management strategy and how it moved into the 21st Century. In Part Two, Harding explains how conservation and groundwater management have become key components of Southern California water supply.  Q:Southern California has been a leader in conservation. How does per capita use compare today to 10, 20 and 30 years ago? A:In 1985, our use was about 205 gallons per capita per day.  In 1995, about 170 gallons per day; In 2005, about 175 gallons per day; And in 2015, 158 gallons per day.  the 1987-92 drought had a huge impact in increasing conservation.  Metropolitan really jumped into the conservation business and started looking at ways to manage our demands.  In those days we called it active and passive conservation.  … ”  Read more from the Groundwater Act Blog here:  MWD puts water in the bank

Land development: The next target in the crosshairs of drought?  Jeff Simonetti writes, “Since California Governor Jerry Brown issued an Executive Order mandating water reductions amid the state’s relentless drought, two things have interested me. First, the finger-pointing between water interests began almost immediately. Former Hewlett Packard CEO and Senate Candidate Carly Fiorina called the current situation “The Man-Made Water Shortage in California.” Other articles such as a piece in the LA Times argue that Governor Brown’s Executive Order went too easy on agricultural interests. (In my opinion, however, this argument does not hold water. Governor Brown ordered a 25% mandatory water reduction aimed mostly at municipal users. The order does not specifically order reductions in agricultural water use … ”  Read more from the Hydrowonk blog here:  Land development: The next target in the crosshairs of drought?

Southern California chafes under water squeeze:  James Poulos writes, “Despite a long track record of conserving water, Southern California has had to scramble to find new ways to scale back even further. Gov. Jerry Brown’s statewide decree of a 25 percent cut in municipal water use has triggered a wave of fresh constraints and new complaints in the Southland, with no end in sight.  In Los Angeles, for example, public utility officers have sought in vain for leniency from Sacramento. “We have voiced concern that we’re not getting credit for our track record,” Marty Adams, director of water operations at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, told Al Jazeera America. “Whatever the state water board decides in early May will not change the fact that the Metropolitan Water District, southern California’s water supplier, plans to vote next week to ration water it sells to 26 cities, including Los Angeles,” it reported. … ”  Read more from the Cal Watchdog blog here:  Southern California chafes under water squeeze

UCLA Study: 35% water reduction order in Palm Springs may backfire: Wayne Lusvardi writes, “Gov. Jerry Brown’s recently announced Executive Order B-29-15, mandating statewide water use reductions will hit the Palm Springs area of California the hardest with 35 percent cuts in water usage. But a new UCLA study of outdoor watering restrictions in the similar high desert of Reno, Nevada, found that such restrictions have an unintended consequence: “Customers who adhere to the prescribed schedule use more water than those following a more flexible irrigation pattern.”  The results of the UCLA study, “Free to Choose: Promoting Conservation by Relaxing Outdoor Water Restrictions,” were surprising to the researchers.  The study, sponsored by the National Bureau of Economic Research, analyzed a sizable statistical sample: 20,000 water customers measured by 1.9 million daily meter readings during different hours of the day to measure temperature and wind effects. The study was conducted in 2008 in an economic boom period and again in 2010 in a depressed period. ... ”  Read more from Cal Watchdog here: UCLA Study: 35% water reduction order in Palm Springs may backfire

Dissecting L.A.’s paper water:  “One prominent member of the City of Los Angeles’s ‘paper water’ portfolio is recycled water. Like L.A.’s groundwater supply, its Urban Water Management Plans between 1990 and 2005 had projected rapidly growing recycled water supplies that would never be realized.  The chart at the right plots the huge gap between the actual recycled water supply the city had access to and the anticipated supplies that each UWMP projected. The gap between the two is the paper water that would be used to as evidence that medium and high density projects going through the planning process would have sufficient water when in fact they didn’t. … ”  Read more from the Drought Math blog here:  Dissecting L.A.’s paper water

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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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