Blog round-up: The federal drought rider, the Delta island ‘grab’, coequal Delta science, saving wild salmon, water markets, improving water allocations, water conservation’s dark underbelly, and more …

Richmond San Rafael Bridge by Craig Gibson
The Richmond San Rafael Bridge; photo by Craig Gibson

Drought Rider Jeopardizes California Salmon and other Endangered Species: “A draft drought rider to the omnibus appropriations bill, which was leaked to the press last week, proposes to significantly weaken environmental protections for salmon and other endangered species in California’s Bay-Delta estuary. Numerous provisions of the bill would undermine scientifically justified environmental protections in order to pump even more water from the Delta, threatening the health of the estuary, its native fish and wildlife, and the thousands of fishing jobs in California, Oregon and Washington that depend on healthy salmon runs. It’s a bad idea that will only heighten conflicts over California’s water system and should be soundly rejected. … ”  Read more from the NRDC Switchboard blog here: Drought Rider Jeopardizes California Salmon and other Endangered Species

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Who is behind big, bad Delta island grab?  Harry Cline writes, “Newspapers and television talking heads have been castigating the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) and three Kern County agricultural water agencies for a “water grab” of Northern California Delta islands.  Why are these bad actors trying to buy the five islands totaling 20,000 acres to store roughly 250,000 acre feet of water? To serve their constituents! What other reason is there?  California politicians for decades have ignored the needs of those same constituents, and local water purveyors have no choice but to find water where they can. ... ”  Read more from the Farm Press blog here:  Who is behind big, bad Delta island grab?

We need coequal science for the Bay-Delta’s coequal goals, says Tina Swanson:  She writes, “In California’s San Francisco Bay-Delta system, we have a lot of science–a deep bench of scientific experts, decades of multi-disciplinary research, and impressive monitoring and modeling tools that continuously add to our knowledge and understanding of the estuary and its watershed. And … we have a public, institutional commitment that planning and management will be based our scientific understanding of the system, the problems and the solutions.  But lately I have been really struck by how out of balance our pursuit and application of science is relative to the two coequal goals. Have you noticed that all of the science–both the actual science and the calls for more science–seems to focus on the ecosystem and fish side of the equation? ... ”  Continue reading at the NRDC Switchboard here:  We need coequal goals for coequal science

Saving wild salmon in dry years: Tom Cannon writes, “I support a radical measure for saving wild salmon production in dry years in some Central Valley rivers under special circumstances: capturing wild juvenile salmon in rivers and transporting them to the Bay. This strategy has been employed in dry years on the Columbia River system, and by East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) in the present drought on the lower Mokelumne River. Under existing conditions in dry years, over 80% of Central Valley salmon fry, parr, and smolts are lost between spawning grounds and their San Francisco Bay target summer nursery. Without natural winter and spring pulse flows, few young wild salmon are able to navigate and survive to the Bay. Much of the production is lost in winter at the fry stage, which is the natural stage for Central Valley spring-run and fall-run Chinook to migrate to the Bay. … ”  Read more from the California Fisheries Blog here: Saving wild salmon in dry years

On the Public Record’s questions for new or additional water markets: OtPR writes, “I have distilled my three top questions for new or additional water markets in California.  I would oppose any proposition for new market activity until I had answers I liked to these three questions.  1.  What social goal is the water market trying to achieve?  That goal cannot be “have a real good market”.  Water markets are tools, among other tools like regulation or planning, that can be used to achieve something.  What is that thing for this specific proposed market?  2.  What is the built-in mechanism that ensures that the market is redistributing a fixed amount of water with economic efficiency, rather than efficiently drawing an open-ended amount of water out of the environment, the ground, and rural communities? 3.  What is the built-in mechanism for the Kaldor-Hicks compensation?  … ”  Read more from On the Public Record here:  On the Public Record’s questions for new or additional water markets

Improving water allocation during droughts: Lori Pottinger writes, “The drought has been a stress test for California’s water system. Brian Gray—an adjunct fellow at the PPIC Water Policy Center and professor emeritus at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco—is a coauthor of our new report Allocating California’s Water: Directions for Reform. We talked to him about its findings.  PPIC: How did our water allocation system fare during the drought?  Brian Gray: California is straining to meet a range of demands while also maintaining a healthy environment. Water rights matter most during times of shortage. In fact, their purpose is to define who is entitled to use water when there isn’t enough for all right-holders. … ”  Read more from the PPIC blog here:  Improving water allocation during droughts

Water conservation’s dark underbelly:  John Fleck writes, “I tend to enthusiastically and often uncritically embrace every new water conservation number, as if using less water is an unqualified good. I generally believe that, and you’re going to have a hard time pushing me off that intellectual turf. But there’s a flip side I’m trying to think through. It’s what economists might call the “non-market value” of the green stuff in our cities.  Ben Jones, a recent University of New Mexico economics graduate now doing a postdoc at the University of Oklahoma, presented some data as part of his recent thesis defense about the health and wellbeing values of urban trees. … ”  Read more from the Inkstain blog here:  Water conservation’s dark underbelly

California water priorities in question:  James Poulos writes, “Regulators and officials grappling with California’s ongoing drought face another unceasing problem: a chorus of criticism. From conservation to infrastructure, statewide policies and priorities have come under attack from a broad assortment of adversely affected residents.  Water districts themselves have wound up at the front of the line petitioning for a redress of grievances. Cuts imposed under Gov. Jerry Brown’s watch have led to sharp fiscal challenges for the utilities. “Seven months after state regulators drew up their plan to achieve a statewide reduction in urban water use, Yorba Linda Water District and its counterparts will get their first formal chance to ask for relief,” the Los Angeles Times reported. … ”  Read more from the Cal Watchdog Blog here:  California water priorities in question

2016: A wet or dry year? As we transition to 2016 and start planning for the new water year, the water resources managers in the Sacramento Valley are preparing for both a wet and a dry year. Although the past four years have been dry and we have seen serious reductions in water supplies for cities, rural communities, farms, fish and birds; the Sacramento Valley has faced major flooding in every decade and the water system is designed primarily for flood protection and public safety. … ”  Read more from the NCWA blog here:  2016: A wet or dry year?

California’s groundwater: basics, laws, and beyond: I recap the groundwater seminar series held earlier this year at the California Water Blog:  “Groundwater has been receiving a lot of attention lately, and for good reason. California is the heaviest groundwater user in the nation, and our use is increasing after recent, multiple dry years.  The Sustainable Groundwater Supply Act of 2014 set a fundamentally new state water policy to manage and monitor the state’s groundwater supply.  The effects will be far-reaching: groundwater accounts for about 40 percent of the state’s average annual water supply – about 16.5 million acre-feet, or roughly four full Lake Shastas every year.  … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  California’s groundwater: Basics, laws, and beyond

Dr. Vance Kennedy on (ground)water subsidies: Recently, the Modesto Bee estimated that the Modesto Irrigation District (MID) has been subsidizing farmers who use flood irrigation by about $100 million dollars over an unspecified period of time. The figure is a gross misrepresentation.  Over the last ten years, total value of farm production in Stanislaus County was a little over $28 billion, and over twenty years, about $42 billion. Let’s assume twenty percent of production used MID water, or $5.6 billion for ten years and $8.4 billion for twenty years. ... ”  Continue reading at the Valley Citizen blog here:  Dr. Vance Kennedy on (ground)water subsidies

Diving into LA’s pools: A while back, I remember reading a Bob Pool story in the L.A. Times about researchers who used satellite imagery to spot all of the pools in the L.A. County basin. They totaled up just over 43,000, but left out large swaths of the county by focusing solely on one part of town.  That project came to mind again when I was browsing the L.A. County Assessor’s data and noticed a flag indicating the presence of a pool. A little more research shows that there’s a use code specifically for a single family home with a pool.  First off: there are a lot more than 43,000 pools. Counting up all of the pools in the county, there are just over 250,000. And most of them, 96%, are in single-family homes. However, only about 18% of homes in L.A. have a pool. … ”  Read more from Schwanskta here:  Diving into LA’s pools

Shopping for bottled water: Do you know where it comes from?  Jeff Simonetti writes, “After Thanksgiving wrapped up last week, Americans headed out to a time-honored tradition – “Black Friday” shopping. As unfortunately is usual for this season, some shoppers got a bit rowdy as they fought over flat screen TVs, electronics and other on-sale items. Video footage from stores in Texas and Kentucky showed a few unruly store patrons throwing fists over discounted electronics and items on their holiday wish lists. So what do brawls over Black Friday deals and a water blog have in common? In this post, I will discuss an item that you may buy every week, but is in some areas fought over – bottled water. The impacts of the drought have put an increased focus on the uses for our limited water supplies, and the bottled water industry has not been immune to the discussions over whether bottling water in drought-stricken areas is appropriate. I will discuss the sometimes surprising places where bottled water comes from, provide a few examples of communities where there is debate over the appropriateness of bottling water from municipal sources, and potential policy implications for the industry going forward. ... ”  Read more from the Hydrowonk blog here:  Shopping for bottled water: Do you know where it comes from?

UTSA architecture professor imagines a new water future for California and the continental United States: California is in the midst of a record-breaking drought that becomes direr with each passing year. It’s no surprise then that architects and urban designers like Ian Caine, an assistant professor of architecture with the UTSA College of Architecture, Construction and Planning, are beginning to wonder what the future of the country might look like if these water issues worsen.  Caine and his colleague Derek Hoeferlin of Washington University, recently partnered with students – Emily Chen, Tiffin Thompson and Pablo Chavez (UTSA M.Arch ’16 candidate) – to develop a speculative policy-focused proposal titled The Continental Compact. The proposal challenges the practice of water conveyance, which is common practice across the country, while envisioning a radically different urban future for the United States. … ”  Read more from UTSA here:  UTSA architecture professor imagines a new water future for California and the continental United States

And lastly … Friends of Vast Industrial Concrete Kafkaesque Structures: This is not a new site; it’s not even a blog, but it’s one of my longtime favorite websites out there, and it served as the inspiration for my many slideshows that track water infrastructure from beginning to end.  From the FOVICKS site: “This is my photo journal of industrial photographs I’ve taken of the Los Angeles River flood control channel. As an amateur ‘Industrial Archaeologist’, I love the LA River as a bizarre curiosity. Many groups have formed in attempt to beautify or revert the “river” to a previous state. But I like it the way it is; a weird, massive concrete flood control channel. This unusual structure is testimony to the local geology, seasonal rains, and the vast urbanization of the LA area. It is mainly the urbanization in the 20’s and 30’s which severely modified the drainage of the Los Angeles basin and San Fernando Valley, creating the immediate need for the necessarily large, ominous flood control system that we see today. … ” Check out the Friends of Vast Industrial Concrete Kafkaesque Structures (or FOVICKS) site here: Friends of Vast Industrial Concrete Kafkaesque Structures

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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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