Blog round-up: Virtual water versus real water; Legal pot growing would only require 10,000 acres; Delta voluntary cuts challenged; plus almonds and transfers, drought bills, groundwater, river restoration, water markets and more …

"Sky Theatre" Crowley Lake, July 4, 2015  Photo by Sathish J

“Sky Theatre” Crowley Lake, July 4, 2015 Photo by Sathish J

California drought: Virtual water versus real water:  Jay Lund writes, “There has been considerable kvetching during this drought about California exporting agricultural products overseas, with some saying that this implies we are virtually exporting water that we should be using in California.  Those concerned should take comfort with California’s major imports of virtual water. Much of the food consumed here comes from other states and countries, and their production, of course, requires water. ... ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  California drought: Virtual water versus real water

Blog Round Up

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Legal pot growing would only require 10,000 acres:  On the Public Record writes, “I had sort of known that agricultural pot growing would wipe out illegal grows immediately, because it is said to be incredibly easy to grow.  But I hadn’t realized how little land it would require.  Keith Humpheys at the Reality Based Community says it would only require 10,000 acres of land. (I rounded up.)  If it is “thirsty”*, that would be about 40,000af/y.  That’s nothing for ag.  ... ”  Read more here:  Legal pot growing would only require 10,000 acres  Be sure to read the comments.

Restore the Delta on the June 24 State Water Board Workshop: Overly optimistic: Tim Stroshane writes, “Mismanagement of the state and federal water projects in California’s Central Valley during the state’s four-year drought was on full display at a June 24th workshop convened by the State Water Resources Control Board in Sacramento. Extinction of winter- and spring-run Chinook salmon and Delta smelt and the threat of dead pool supplies at Folsom Lake for urban and suburban water users are likely legacies of state and federal drought actions in 2015.  But by gum, the State Water Board will have also ensured exports from the Delta through it all. … ”  Continue reading from Restore the Delta here:  Overly optimistic

Delta voluntary cuts challenged: The latest lawsuit by a water district with senior rights is significantly different from its predecessors.  While the districts all argue that the state’s curtailment of those so-called “pre-1914 rights” are illegal, the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District is the first to challenge the voluntary 25 percent reduction program in which more than 200 Delta growers have reportedly enrolled. … ”  Read more from Alex Breitler’s blog here:  Delta voluntary cuts challenged

North-to-South transfers encourage inefficient use of agricultural water:  Barbara Vlamis and Barbara Hennegan write, “According to the California Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) 2009 CA Water Plan Update, Agricultural Water Use Efficiency (WUE) was presumed to be primarily problems of irrigation technology and crop choice. However, the 2013 Update states that “Improvements in agricultural water use efficiency are expressed as yield improvements for a given unit amount of water, and can be estimated over individual fields or entire regions.”1 California is well-known for its microclimates, and that is certainly true of the Central Valley particularly when comparing production at both ends using orchard water requirements and including supplemental water to facilitate transfers.  ‘Crop per drop’ is the agricultural equivalent of ‘bang for your buck” i.e. pounds of product per applied water. Although, the San Joaquin Valley appears to be more productive than the Sacramento, by water use efficiency standards, it is only 39% as productive. … ”  Read more here:  AlmondsAndTransfersFinal060515

Prior appropriation is a cap-and-trade system:  Brain Devine writes, “I didn’t set out to do this when I started this blog, or when I started my research into the future of water and society in the American West, but I seem to have brought upon myself a debate with the field of water economics.  Water economists like market-derived solutions to our water problems, a voluntary way to connect low-value users who have water entitlements (like legacy farmers) and high-value users who lack them (like burgeoning cities, or growers of permanent crops). In the ideal world for economic theory, water would be used in any particular year by the person or entity most willing to pay for its use.  This is how we govern all sorts of resource problems, of course. ... ”  Read more from the Parting the Waters blog here:  Prior appropriation is a cap-and-trade system

The science of river restoration: The mysteries of the San Joaquin are unfolding: Monty Schmitt writes, “Not unlike an Indiana Jones movie where the mysteries of a lost Incan temple capture our attention, the San Joaquin River – lost for 60 years – has its own fascinating mysteries to reveal.  Earlier this month, the San Joaquin River Restoration Program (SJRRP) convened a two-day science conference in Los Banos, California to share recent findings from research investigations intended to guide one of the largest river restoration efforts in the nation. The Restoration Program’s goal is to restore flows and a Chinook salmon fishery to the upper river while also improving flood protection and water management in the region as a whole. ... ”  Read more from the NRDC Switchboard blog here:  The science of river restoration: The mysteries of the San Joaquin are unfolding

Steering toward sustainability: How California’s new groundwater law can keep us from driving off a cliff:  Juliet Christian Smith writes, “According to new research by NASA, many of the world’s biggest aquifers are being depleted at a much faster rate than they can be replenished, and California’s Central Valley is among the worst. As we all know, California is in the fourth year of an exceptional drought. When surface water supplies are scarce, we turn to groundwater. Unfortunately, our combined groundwater uses have led to chronic overdraft in many places. Like a bank account, overdraft means we are withdrawing more than we are replacing. Together, this exceptional drought along with the undesirable condition of many groundwater basins, led California to pass the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act last year. The Act is a big deal since it represents the first statewide effort to comprehensively measure and manage groundwater. … ”  Read more from The Equation blog here:  Steering toward sustainability: How California’s new groundwater law can keep us from driving off a cliff

Employing nature to replenish groundwater supplies:  “The hidden groundwater supply under our feet has extraordinary importance to California’s economy and our quality of life. It’s become the savings account that we’ve been drawing on to get us through this period of drought.  Under normal circumstances, about 35 percent of the state’s water supply comes from groundwater sources; today this has increased to 64 percent. Sadly, this means many of our groundwater reserves are being quickly depleted.  It is unfortunate but true that many local land use decision makers have been and continue to be unaware that the decisions they make have been contributing to the overdraft problem, making the situation even more serious than it needs to be. It is time to take a hard look at this. … ”  Read more from the California Economic Summit blog here:  Employing nature to replenish groundwater supplies

Drought bills: Small changes, big impacts: Henry McCann and Caitrin Chapelle write, “As Californians continue to cope with the impacts of the ongoing drought, actions to improve the way we manage water are being taken at all levels of government. Last week Governor Brown signed into law Drought Trailer bill (SB 88) and Resources Budget Trailer bill (SB 83). These bills will improve the way we respond to the current drought and better prepare us for future droughts. Here are three ways they will do this ... ”  Read more from the PPIC Blog here:  Drought bills: Small changes, big impacts

Creeks that cool down as summer heats up: Summer has just begun and conditions on many of California’s drought-stricken rivers and streams are already looking grim for cold-water fish.  Endangered winter-run salmon may not survive a repeat of last summer’s nearly total loss of eggs and fry from an over-heated Sacramento River. Low and warm flows in the Russian River watershed are threatening coho salmon and steelhead, prompting emergency water restrictions. And, last week, the state began evacuating rainbow and brown trout at the American River and Nimbus hatcheries to prevent die-offs over the summer.  However, not every California stream will turn perilous. In fact, some spring-fed streams are likely to become more hospitable during the dog days of summer. … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Creeks that cool down as summer heats up

Resilient Lands and Waters Designation: A call to action for all who depend on healthy headwaters:Last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, and the California Natural Resources Agency announced the designation of the California Headwaters Partnership Region as one of seven Resilient Lands and Waters Regions throughout the country — and it couldn’t have come at a better time.   The California Headwaters Region includes the watersheds of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountains that drain into the Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valleys. These watersheds are the source of water for more than 25 million people and provide the majority of the water for irrigated agriculture in California, but they are also facing a variety of challenges from the ongoing drought, a changing climate, and an increase in large, damaging wildfires.  … ”  Read more from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy here: Resilient Lands and Waters Designation: A call to action for all who depend on healthy headwaters

Saving California’s beaches: As California’s beach goers and residents well know, erosion and climate change are already impacting the California coastline. Eighty percent of California’s coast is actively eroding, and the latest science projects that sea levels may rise up to 5 additional feet along much of the coast by the end of this century. Higher sea levels threaten coastal communities with increased risk of flooding, in­undation, storm damage, and erosion.  With 85 percent of Californians living or working in areas affected by sea level rise, it comes as no surprise that many property owners and government entities are interested in “armoring” the shoreline with hard-engineered structures such as seawalls and rock revetments to protect existing properties and infrastructure. … ”  Read more from the Legal Planet here:  Saving California’s beaches

Mike Connor and Dan Beard are wrong about the Bureau of Reclamation and replumbing the West: John Fleck writes, “In a weekend New York Times story Beard, who headed the Bureau during the Clinton administration, renews his call for the agency’s elimination … It’s an argument Beard lays out in his appropriately titled new book Deadbeat Dams: Why We Should Abolish the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Tear Down Glen Canyon Dam. It’s an important book, raising challenging arguments that you need to wrestle with if you’re thinking about water in the western United States. But I disagree with Beard on this central point. ... ”  Continue reading from the Inkstain blog here: Mike Connor and Dan Beard are wrong about the Bureau of Reclamation and replumbing the West

Expect increases in Modesto water rates:  “Between 1999 and 2003, the public works department repeatedly told the Modesto City Council that the city needn’t worry about water supplies for many years. In fact, water managers worried that if we didn’t use more surface water, we could lose water rights by state edict. Yet, Modesto citizens have been on water rationing since the late 1980’s, with restrictions on landscape watering. … ”  Read more from the Valley Citizen here:  Expect increases in Modesto water rates

The WSA: Bringing imaginary water to LA’s big projects: David Coffin writes, ” … By now most of the public is well aware that there is a water shortage and that the DWP has been furiously trying to reduce the city’s residential per capita consumption by bombarding the media with accounts of shortages, imposing emergency drought restrictions, ‘drought shaming’ residents into using as little water as possible, and even paying them to tear out lawns and substitute it with drought landscaping.  What the public is not aware of is that the LADWP puts on a very different face when it comes to assessing demand and assuring water supply for large new projects that consume the equivalent of 500 units or more in its Water Supply Assessments also known as WSA’s. Performing a water supply assessment is required by state law for very large projects and the department has produced more than seventy of them since 2005. ... ”  Read more from the Drought Math blog here:  The WSA: Bringing imaginary water to LA’s big projects

Some thoughts on the bathtub ring and Lake Mead’s historic drop below 1075: I’ve had my head down the last ten days reading and writing about 1940s and ’50s-era Los Angeles water management, and I look up to see that Lake Mead last week dropped below elevation 1,075, a level freighted with meaning. But what meaning, exactly? Drew Beckwith at Western Resource Advocates, in Caitlin McGlade’s story, wins for quotability:  “This is the check-engine light,” Beckwith said.  I agree. But rather than start with the usual imagery of the bathtub ring, let’s start with some engine diagnostics, courtesy of a talk the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Terry Fulp gave today as part of an on line series organized by the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science: … ”  Read more from the Inkstain blog here:  Some thoughts on the bathtub ring and Lake Mead’s historic drop below 1075

Does the California drought have lessons for the “real” West? Reed D. Benson writes, “The relentless, punishing California drought has gained a lot of attention from politicians and the media, as the Golden State struggles to deal with a set of problems that only get worse as the warm, dry conditions persist. The State of California has been forced to take unprecedented regulatory actions in an effort to reduce water use, more or less across the board: surface and ground water, agricultural and urban uses. Drought elsewhere in the West has gotten less attention, partly because other western states are not quite as dry (although Nevada and the Northwest are in tough shape), and partly because they are not California. But given that California is often seen as very different from the other states, is California’s experience with drought relevant for the rest of the West? In the big picture, it clearly is. … ”  Read more from the Western River Law blog here:  Does the California drought have lessons for the “real” West?

Three investment ideas to sustain water in the American West:  “The crippling drought in the American West is now making headlines daily and the stories are raising a collective awareness of the unfolding crisis – as The New Yorker did recently when it chronicled the plight of the Colorado in Where the River Runs Dry.  If there’s a silver lining to the Western water crisis, it’s that governors, state legislators and federal policymakers are finally taking action to ensure a reliable water supply. … ”  Read more from EDF Voices here:  Three investment ideas to sustain water in the American West

Water Wired reviews the book, “Groundwater in the 21st Century: A primer for citizens of Planet Earth:  Michael Campana writes, “John A. Conners, fellow New Yorker (Syracuse area) has done us all a great service: he’s written a general-purpose groundwater book, Groundwater for the 21st Century: A Primer for Citizens of Planet Earth, without differential equations! In other words, it’s a book for the great unwashed (a joke, gentle readers) who are not hydrogeologists or groundwater professionals but who want or need to know a little bit about groundwater.  Writing such a book is indeed a daunting task that few have attempted, especially on this scale. ... ”  Read more from Water Wired here: My Ten Cents – Book Review: ‘Groundwater for the 21st Century: A Primer for Citizens of Planet Earth’

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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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