Blog round-up: Urban water conservation regs, environmental water budgets, damn dams, retiring farm acreage, water storage, and more …

Warsaw Filters
Warsaw Water Filters; photo by Bartek Kuzla

Improving mandatory State cutbacks of urban water use for a 5th year of drought: Jay Lund writes, “There is usually great uncertainty about when a drought will end, but certainty that longer droughts bring tougher economic and ecosystem conditions as water in aquifers and reservoirs is further depleted.  Long droughts, like the current one, also bring opportunities to use water more efficiently, based on lessons from the drought so far.  The Governor’s mandatory emergency cutbacks, imposed on April 1, 2015, required the State Water Board to enforce average urban water use reductions of 25 percent.  This was the first such statewide drought emergency mandate, with little opportunity for crafting implementation details, given the drought’s urgency. … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here: Improving mandatory State cutbacks of urban water use for a 5th year of drought

Let’s get the right approach to drought in 2016:  Tim Quinn writes, “There is no question that California is in a drought of epic proportions. By now, the statistics are well known: driest sequence of water years in a millennium; lowest April 1 snowpack in 600 years; hottest temperatures on record.  In early 2015, there was broad agreement that we faced a drought emergency that required statewide action. The State Water Resources Control Board – at the direction of Gov. Jerry Brown – responded by implementing the first-ever mandatory statewide reductions in urban water use.  ACWA member agencies and their customers stepped up with new and innovative ways to cut back on urban water use – particularly outdoors. Collectively, urban water suppliers have exceeded the governor’s 25% conservation mandate for the months of June-October. ... ”  Read more from ACWA’s Voices on Water blog here:  Let’s get the right approach to drought in 2016

California’s water conservation regs and the law of unintended consequences, part 2: Economic impacts:  Marta Weismann writes, “What are the unintended economic impacts of California’s water conservation regulations?  One must only watch the evening news to surmise that unintended consequences are frequently economic in nature. The prices of oil (and therefore, gasoline), coffee or any other tradeable commodity rises and falls according to policy implementation and political decisions.[1] The water industry recently saw this affect when the Cadiz Inc. stock price plunged following a controversial decision by the Bureau of Land Management declaring that the proposed use of a railroad right-of-way for the Cadiz Water Project “does not derive from or further a railroad purpose.” … ”  Read more from the Hydrowonk blog here:  California’s water conservation regs and the law of unintended consequences, part 2

California’s environment needs a water budget:  Jeff Mount and Brian Gray write, “Allocating water for environmental needs has been one of the more controversial, and perhaps most misunderstood, aspects of water management during this drought. The aquatic environment has been particularly hard hit, with many fish species close to extinction.  California needs to change course to prevent extinctions and further declines in our river and wetland ecosystems. Our recent report Allocating Water in California: Directions for Reform calls for modest changes in how we manage water in times of scarcity that could significantly reduce the social, environmental and economic costs of drought. A practical solution to the aquatic ecosystem crisis is to establish “environmental water budgets” (EWBs) for priority watersheds where threats to ecosystem health and native species are high. … ”  Read more from the PPIC blog here:  California’s environment needs a water budget

Damn dams:  Peter Gleick writes, “The history of water development around the world, and especially in the western United States, is really a history of the construction of massive infrastructure, particularly large dams. As populations and economies expanded, the need to control, channel, and manage water grew, and large dams offered a way to provide energy, relief from damaging floods and droughts, irrigation water, and water-based recreation.  There is no doubt the construction of dams played a vital role in the past in supporting our growing economies, and some regions of the world would benefit from the careful development of new dams and related water infrastructure. But along with the benefits of dams came unexpected, understudied, or long-ignored costs above and beyond the narrow economic costs of building them. … ”  Read more at the Pacific Institute here:  Damn dams

Retire uninhabited farmland acreage to minimize human misery: On the Public Record writes, “As groundwater sustainability agencies have to bring irrigated acreage in line with the sustainable yield of the groundwater basin, they will be retiring irrigated lands (Dr. Burt: 1-1.5 million acres; Dr. Lund: up to 2 million acres. I say 3 million acres, because so far everything we’ve predicted for climate change has been an underestimate.)  I have two top priorities for the Central Valley’s farmland. … ”  Find out what they are here:  Retire uninhabited farmland acreage to minimize human misery

Once is not enough:  David Carle writes: “Water is the essence of life, the key to California’s history and its future. Today, water choices are complicated by ignorance about how water reaches faucets and farm fields and by our society’s unwillingness to step away from an historic attitude about water supply that might be characterized as: “Too much will never be enough.”  Must we choose massive twin tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta or expensive new dams that will yield only a small percentage of their constructed reservoir capacities? … ”  Read more from the UC Press blog here:  Once is not enough

Feinstein: Then and Now: Families Protecting the Valley writes, “Dianne Feinstein, October 1994 – expressed her unequivocal opposition to “any effort to take water from Friant Dam for the purpose of restoring a long gone fishery on the San Joaquin River.” Such a water diversion, she said, would have proved devastating to “10,000 small, family farms.”  Dianne Feinstein, 2009 – Ms. Feinstein’s views had reversed … ” Read more from Families Protecting the Valley here: Feinstein: Then and Now

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The race for $2.7 billion: Setting the competition guidelines for water storage: Next week the California Water Commission will begin the formal rule making process on how funds from Proposition 1 (the $7.5 billion water bond approved by voters last fall) will be allocated for water storage projects in California. Proposition 1 provides $2.7 billion for infrastructure projects with water storage components through the Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP). Although there are specific eligibility requirements for water storage projects written into Proposition 1 (50% matching costs, measurable benefits to the Delta, cost-effectiveness, and maximized public benefits), eligible project types include surface water storage, conjunctive management, and groundwater storage.  … ”  Read more from Melissa Rhode’s blog here:  The race for $2.7 billion: Setting the competition guidelines for water storage

California depends upon rivers – in the air: Climate change could bring both bigger rains and longer droughts to California. What do the bigger rains mean for the state’s water management? We talked to Mike Dettinger—a research hydrologist with the US Geological Survey and a PPIC Water Policy Center research partner—about the weather phenomenon known as “atmospheric rivers.”  PPIC: What are atmospheric rivers?  Mike Dettinger: They are long pathways that transport water across the atmosphere. Typically they’re at least 1,200 miles long; the biggest can be five times that. They tend to evolve as they cross the Pacific. Those that manage to reach the West Coast meet a more-or-less abrupt end when they hit the mountains, dumping rain and snow in the process. … ”  Read more from the PPIC blog here:  California depends upon rivers – in the air

California’s golden opportunity to create a sustainable future:  Anna Wearn writes, “”The Drought” has been a topic of constant conversation in California. In fact, more than 75% of Californian’s perceive the state’s water shortage as an extremely serious problem, according to recent polls. And with good reason. Water is our most vital resource; it sustains all life. When it is in short supply, people and ecosystems feel the strain. This stress also applies political pressure, forcing us to tackle the shortcomings in our water management practices. … ”  Read more from the NRDC Switchboard blog here:  California’s golden opportunity to create a sustainable future

Where’s the runoff? Coming … maybe … Alex Brietler writes: “My wife and I have vacationed in Guerneville for the better part of 10 years, and I’ve never seen this creek — a seasonal tributary to the Russian River — dry in early December.  “Wow,” I said last week, when we first laid eyes on it.  True, it hasn’t rained much in Sonoma County. At the time this photo was taken last Friday, nearby Santa Rosa had received about 3.4 inches of rain this year — only about half of normal.  Still, in December you’d expect at least a little flow in this creek. I’ve seen it run bank-to-bank before Christmas, and in wet years the churning, angry creek has climbed to the point where homeowners perched high above start getting a little nervous. … ”  Read more from Alex Breitler’s blog here:  Where’s the runoff? Coming … maybe …

New paper clarifies what satellite data is telling us about Colorado River Basin groundwater pumping: A paper out yesterday adds new detail to the picture provided by satellite groundwater observations of the Colorado River Basin, arguing that groundwater depletions from human pumping are not as large as suggested by previous research.  The paper, Hydrologic implications of GRACE satellite data in the Colorado River Basin published in Water Resources Research (behind paywall, sorry), points to large changes in soil moisture as a result of drought, rather than human groundwater pumping, as the explanation for a significant portion of water losses identified by NASA GRACE satellite observations. This is especially true in the Upper Colorado River Basin. In the Lower Basin, the picture is more complex, with some groundwater losses in parts of rural Arizona, balanced by stable or rising aquifers in the state’s heavily populated and heavily farmed central valleys. … ”  Read more from the Inkstain blog here:  New paper clarifies what satellite data is telling us about Colorado River Basin groundwater pumping

Is the Colorado Basin half empty or half full? John Fleck writes, “Preparing to moderate a panel at next week’s Colorado River Water Users Association annual meeting, I’m struck by the mix of good news and bad news on the river. 2015 water use across some major user groups is at record lows for the modern era, something that I don’t think gets enough attention. But Lake Mead keeps dropping. Being the optimist, I’ll start with the good news. ... ”  Read more from the Inkstain blog here:  Is the Colorado Basin half empty or half full?

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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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