Blog round-up: The Governor’s revised Delta fix, rationing, drought, the righteousness of almonds, water markets, and more, plus California Water Crisis: The Board Game

Water Dance by Kelly Hunter

Water Dance, by Kelly Hunter

Governor Brown attempts to justify the $15+ billion construction cost of the Delta tunnels. “Yes, this costs money, but compared to what? A stadium? (Water) is the basis of human existence.”:  Jeff Michael writes, ““Compared to what?” That's actually a good framework for thinking about the wisdom of investing tens of billions of dollars in the Delta Tunnels.  But the Governor needs to define the real trade-offs instead of creating false choices – neither stadiums, civilization or the “fabric of modern California” is at stake – all of which he referenced in yesterday's news conference.  What are valid comparisons? ... ”  Read more from the Valley Economy blog here:  Governor Brown attempts to justify the $15+ billion construction cost of the Delta tunnels. “Yes, this costs money, but compared to what? A stadium? (Water) is the basis of human existence.”

A fix or a farce: Bob Pyke writes, “The Governor’s decision to split the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) in two parts, the California Water Fix, and California Eco Restore, make some sense. The 70,000 acres of “habitat restoration” that has been dropped in going from the BDCP to California Eco Restore is no loss because it would not have done any good anyway, and getting on with some restoration projects that have been stalled forever but are required under various existing agreements is not a bad thing. But, the California Water Fix is a farce. One of the principal points of my written comments, and those of others, on the EIR/EIS for the BDCP, was that an adequate study of alternatives had never been conducted, even under the limited rules for studying alternatives under CEQA. … ”  Continue reading here:  An open letter on the California Water Fix

California may use Prop 1 money to buy environmental water during drought: Wayne Lusvardi writes, “In the midst of a grueling four-year drought in agriculture, state officials say some $287.5 million in borrowed cash is available to purchase water for smelt and salmon runs and other wildlife.  The funds come from California’s $7.5 billion Proposition 1 Water Bond, approved by the voters last year.  Although it is unlikely that all of the $287.5 million will be used for water purchases to benefit the environment, the Wildlife Conservation Board and the Department of Fish and Wildlife still have yet to determine what they will do with their respective $200 million and $87.5 million bond funding allocations.  The last time California tried a pilot program of purchases of environmental water, it didn’t work out so well. … ”  Read more from the Cal Watchdog blog here:  California may use Prop 1 money to buy environmental water during drought

Water rationing and California's drought:  Jay Lund writes, “California cities and water utilities will be stressed to meet the state’s aggressive urban conservation mandates in this fourth year of drought.  Following Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive order, the State Water Resources Control Board developed specific reduction targets for each major urban water supplier, ranging from 8 percent to 36 percent of per-capita water use in 2013. The proposed “emergency” cutbacks would take effect as early as June 1 and last nine months, to Feb. 28. … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Water rationing and California’s drought

Who actually gets water in the agricultural sector?  “In the wake of Governor Brown’s order for cities to conserve 25% of water supply compared to last year’s use, everybody’s talking about whether “California Agriculture” is being let off the hook or whether farmers are the biggest victims of the drought. Answering that question requires asking another one. We all know by now that about 80% of the water used by humans in California goes to agriculture. But, is all “agriculture” treated the same in the way California allocates water to different agricultural users?  It’s true that some agricultural water users are receiving little or none of their contracted supplies in this fourth drought year. This fact is cited over and over by pundits and reporters to suggest that all agriculture in the state is suffering from the drought. But what they don’t explain is  … ”  Continue reading at The Bay Institute here:  Who actually gets water in the agricultural sector

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On the Public Record on the righteousness of almonds:  Responding to a quote from Mark Arax, ‘So the almond has become – I mean, this is all about whose draw of water is more righteous than the other.', OtPR writes:  ” … This makes me wish intensely for explicit decision criteria. Righteous by what standards? I’m busy reducing types of water use to ridiculous little symbols, but even I know that people’s preferences depend on their priorities. I wish people expressed those more clearly, from the lofty to the self-serving. With those out on the table, we would stop hearing stupid [stuff] like “stop demonizing almonds”. I am not demonizing almonds themselves. I recognize that they are an inert and tasty nut. … ”  Continue reading from On the Public Record here:  Mark Arax on Fresh Air.  Related:  On the Public Record donates some verbiage to the State Water Board: I wrote this for you, State Board.

Jobs per drop irrigating California crops:  “Some of the most popular drought stories lately have been on the amount of what water needed to produce food from California, as a consumer sees it — a single almond, a head of lettuce or a glass of wine. The stories are often illustrated with pictures of common fruits, nuts and vegetables in one column and icons of gallon water jugs representing their water usage in the other.  But there are more than two columns to this story. The amount of water applied to crops also translates into dollars and jobs — the main reasons for agriculture’s existence in California.  ... ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Jobs per drop irrigating California crops

Water rights curtailments: How deep will the cuts be in 2015?  Jeff Simonetti writes, “Since Governor Jerry Brown announced sweeping new mandatory water reductions in an executive order in early April, the news media and blogging communities have been quick to point the finger at many different types of water users as the “culprit” and “poster child” of the drought. As I mentioned in my last post, new land development is now in the crosshairs of water issues in the state. In addition, articles have pointed the finger at everything from swimming pools, green lawns, almonds, rice, bottled water and breweries in the Golden State, saying that they all have been a contributor to the State’s declining water supplies.  In times of drought (and if there is one thing that the news media can agree on, it is that we certainly are in a period of drought), there are not enough water supplies to fulfill the needs of every water user. ... ”  Read more from the Hydrowonk blog here:  Water rights curtailments: How deep will the cuts be in 2015?

California has a real water market – it's just not that liquid:  Nathanael Johnson writes,  “When I started reporting on California’s drought I heard a lot of people complaining that farmers were growing crops that would simply be prohibitively expensive if they had to buy and sell their water at a fair market price.  That seemed like a big problem. I wrote:  ‘The best fix would be a comprehensive overhaul of the laws to make the price of water clear and responsive to scarcity. If the price of water moved according to the laws of supply and demand, ecological limits would provoke change.' But then I learned that, actually, California already has a water market. Farmers can buy and sell water. In theory, this market should distribute water to where it’s needed most. That is, if there are people who can make more money growing food on their land than I can on mine, they’d buy my water. … ”  Read more from Grist here:  California has a real water market – it’s just not that liquid

Schwarzenegger calls for 2016 water infrastructure bond: “California is short of water, but it’s flooded with headlines about the drought,” former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said kicking off USC’s Schwarzenegger Institute and the Public Policy Institute of California program on the state’s drought. The goal of the program was to look at the truth behind the headlines and find some answers to deal with the drought.  Many solutions were suggested but one that seemed to dominate during the long afternoon program was the expectation that market forces would compel the moves necessary to deal with the drought.   ... ”  Read more from Cal Watchdog here:  Schwarzenegger calls for 2016 water infrastructure bond

Once more around the bowl, comrades!:  On the Public Record writes, “In my advanced blogging years, I find that I have no new thoughts.  Worse, when I think that I do have new ideas, I search my blog and find that I wrote them up fully years ago.  My only real hope is that you, my loyal readers, have the memory span of goldfish and don’t mind that I say the same things over and over.  As I react to a few different articles today with my usual thoughts, I’ll link to the post where I discussed them before.  USC wrote about their own conference that included former Governor Schwarzenegger.  My first thought was that Schwarzenegger isn’t in a position to be critiquing anyone else on water policy, since he was utterly craven during the drought on his watch.  Then Schwarzenegger went on to say … ”  Continue reading from the On the Public Record blog here:  Once more around the bowl, comrades!

Celebrating California's multiple beneficial uses of water:  “In California we are blessed with a stunning geography and 39 million people who depend on and enjoy this landscape every day. This geography depends upon water to support every part of the state. The attached info-graphic shows how water is used in California during an average year. Importantly, we dedicate water in California to all of these important purposes, with nearly 49 percent for the aquatic environment, 41 percent to produce food and clothing that are an integral part of our everyday life, and about 10 percent for our amazing cities and urban landscapes. ... ”  Read more from the NCWA blog here:  Celebrating California’s multiple beneficial uses of water

Ancient traditions revitalize Sierra watersheds; increase water: Patricia McBroom writes, “In the mountains above Fresno, a slim, beautiful wild plum has taken root in a newly cleared meadow. No one planted the tree. It simply sprouted on its own, once the overgrowth was pushed out by Native Americans working to revitalize the forest.  The blooming presence of this sapling stands as testimony to what can be done to not only restore a meadow but to thin the forest and thereby bring more water down from the Sierra Nevada mountain range.  Experts have been talking for years about thinning California's forests to enhance the water supply downstream. No one knows exactly how much more water the Sierras could produce if the dense undergrowth was removed, but it's a lot – two, three, up to 16 percent (p.2) or more, of current yield. ... ”  Read more from the California Spigot blog here:  Ancient traditions revitalize Sierra watersheds; increase water

Dr. Kennedy on water and drought in the Valley:  “The immediate problem posed by the drought is to know a lot more about the distribution of groundwater, its chemistry, the amount being pumped by large wells, the interaction of surface and groundwater, and the effect of pumping on the water table of neighbors. Though it is now legally restricted, all such information should be publicly available.  Pinning down the harm to a neighbor’s water supply will not be easy. Nevertheless, knowledge of the porosity of the geologic column and an estimate of the specific yield at each well site should allow reasonable estimates of the effect of a well on nearby groundwater supply. ... ”  Read more from The Valley Citizen here:  Dr. Kennedy on water and drought in the Valley

Why Lake Mead could drop an extra 15 feet next year, and shortage could be more likely than we expect: John Fleck writes, “While we’ve all been obsessing over the elevation of Lake Mead, there’s a second looming lake elevation problem that could really complicate Colorado River management and increases the risk of a 2016 Arizona shortage declaration beyond the current estimates. Depending on how things play out over the next couple of months, this second problem could leave Lake Mead 15 feet or more lower by the end of next year than the current forecasts would suggest.  All eyes right now are on the 1,075 feet Lake Mead elevation level that is the magic threshold.  Here’s the second number to think about: 3,575 elevation at Lake Powell.  … ”  Read more from the Inkstain Blog here: Why Lake Mead could drop an extra 15 feet next year, and shortage could be more likely than we expect

And lastly … California Water Crisis: The Board Game:Can you solve the drought?  California Water Crisis is an educational game about California water politics.  Take the role of one of California's three main regions (NorCal, SoCal, and the Central Valley) and try to find a solution to the fundamental cause of California's drought: there's more water demand than there's water. Based on extensive research on California water history and current conditions, California Water Crisis will expose you to real world challenges such as special interest groups, groundwater depletion, and population growth.  Availability subject to seasonal fluctuations!”  Click here for more information.

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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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