Blog round-up: The moral hazard of mandatory conservation measures, Solving the mysteries of the Delta islands sale, Fallow 2 million acres?, SGMA and the challenge of groundwater management sustainability; and more …

Trinidad Lighthouse
Lighthouse at Trinidad, photo by Teri Vogel
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The 2016 emergency conservation regulations: The moral hazard of mandatory measures: Mark Lubell writes, “On May 9, 2016 the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) announced new emergency water conservation regulations applicable to urban water suppliers throughout the state. These regulations replace the 2015 rules, which required every urban water supplier to reduce water use by a certain percentage as determined by a SWRCB formula.  Many urban water suppliers complained that the 2015 state targets did not sufficiently account for local water circumstances, and that complaint has grown even louder because the 2015-16 water year brought more precipitation especially to Northern California.  In response, the new 2016 rules require urban water suppliers to “self-certify the level of available water supplies they have assuming three additional dry years, and the level of conservation necessary to assure adequate supply over that time.”   … ”  Read more from Mark Lubell’s blog here:  The 2016 emergency conservation regulations: The moral hazard of mandatory measures

A way of life:  Families Protecting the Valley writes, “We don’t have a problem making conservation a way of life.  Wasting water isn’t ever a good idea.  But, we have to wonder if the drought will ever be over.  Consider that Lake Shasta, the state’s largest reservoir, was so full they had to release flood control water for the first time in five years.  Lake Oroville, the state’s #2 reservoir was also so full that it had its first flood control releases since 2012.  So, our biggest reservoirs are as full as they can get.  We have also let over 8 million acre feet flow out to sea through the Delta since mid December.  State water regulators have chosen not to pump water south to protect the health of the delta and the Delta Smelt.  These are choices water managers make voluntarily.  … ”  Read more from Families Protecting the Valley here:  A way of life

Shallow water: Solving the mysteries of the Delta islands sale:  Restore the Delta writes, “The headline for Water Deeply’s interview this week with Public Policy Institute of California scholar-celebrity Jeff Mount, “The Mysteries of Delta Islands Sale” about the recent Delta islands purchase by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, took us aback for its seeming naïveté from an acknowledged expert on the Delta and California water politics.  To Delta folks, it is obvious what Metropolitan Water District wants by purchasing five islands here (Chipps, Webb, Bouldin, Holland, and Bacon): greater control over the destiny of its export supplies from the Delta. What’s so mysterious about that?  The point about control was succinctly argued in 1960 by an aging water lawyer named Walter Gleason, whom most of us have never heard of. Mr. Gleason toiled in major Central Valley water litigation for most of his near-40-year career. By 1960, he knew from experience the changing landscape of state water policy and law. … ”  Continue reading from Restore the Delta here:  Shallow water: Solving the mysteries of the Delta islands sale

Delta deception: Health of the Delta depends solely on water deliveries:  The State Water Contractors write, “Today’s Delta Deception comes from the editorial, “Must fight Metropolitan Water’s purchase of islands,” written by the East Bay Times editorial board and published in The Mercury News on April 21, 2016:  “Every serious scientific study shows that the Delta’s health is continuing to deteriorate because too much water is already being drawn and sent south.”  Truth be told: Serious scientific studies have consistently concluded that multiple factors affect the health of the Delta – its condition today is not a result of “too much water” being drawn south. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) conducted a review of the factors affecting the health of the Delta, calling into question the credibility of those who focus solely on water operations when “considerable uncertainties” remain surrounding the degree to which flow management affects the survival of listed species. ... ”  Read more from the State Water Contractors here:  Delta deception: Health of the Delta depends solely on water deliveries

Fallow 2 million acres?  Families Protecting the Valley writes, “For years we’ve been told there would be enough water for all of us.  It wasn’t really fish vs. farmers.  They said we could conserve our way out of this, move water around more efficiently.  We’ve had our doubts, but is the article below finally telling us the truth?  Although the article looks to be about watering lawns and hosing off driveways, it’s really more about hosing farmers in the Central and South San Joaquin Valley.  How so?  The article quickly evolves from lawns and driveways to ag water use and those “thirsty nut orchards” that are primarily for “profitable export overseas.”  They throw in the misused 80% figure of ag water use for good measure.  … ”  Read more from Families Protecting the Valley here:  Fallow 2 million acres?

Delta Double Doozy:  Don’t blame the salmon: The State Water Contractors write, “Today’s Double Doozy comes from the column, “Don’t blame the smelt,” written by Robin Abcarian of the Los Angeles Times on May 6, 2016:  “In California’s water wars, it’s hardly worth mentioning that truth is the first casualty. But it should at least be noted that last month’s pumping limits were prompted not by the location of smelt, but of salmon.” Some Facts for the Record: Pumping limits in April were related to inflows on the San Joaquin River. The limits were prompted by Central Valley Steelhead, NOT salmon. The details of this restriction are on page 641 of the full detailing of pumping restrictions related to the federal Endangered Species Act. … ”  Read more from the State Water Contractors here:  Delta Double Doozy:  Don’t blame the salmon

Drought bill, take 3:  Families Protecting the Valley writes, “The Senate Drought Bill, now in its third year without results, is continuing the slow process that might finally yield results by the time the drought is over.  It would appear that the very real problem in putting something together is that there are environmental Democrats who resist any attempt to guarantee farmers in the Central Valley any more water than they are currently getting.  When it gets right down to it they would like to give us even less.  In the Senate’s latest incarnation of a drought bill, they don’t guarantee the Central Valley anything. … ”  Read more from Families Protecting the Valley here:  Drought bill, take 3

Classic foes join forces to make Delta levees ‘better than ever’:  Patricia McBroom writes, “On a sunny morning in April, civil engineer Dominick Gulli was out checking the levees in a critical area of the Sacramento/San Joaquin delta where fresh water gets diverted to Southern California. The levees had recently been strongly reinforced to guard against seepage, overtopping, and collapse from various stresses including earthquakes. Gulli is out there two or three times a week to check them out, year after year.  “Uh-oh,” he said, slowing the pickup truck as he noticed a large puddle of water down on the slope. “Oh, well, it’s evaporating,” he added, pointing to the drying patches around the puddle. “Must be from the recent rains.”  Gulli, whose company, Green Mountain Engineering, is one of three or four local firms who manage this crucial Delta infrastructure, the viability of which is absolutely necessary for the health and welfare of the great majority of Californians. … ”  Read more from the California Spigot blog here:  Classic foes join forces to make Delta levees ‘better than ever’

SGMA and the challenge of groundwater management sustainability:  Bill Blomquist writes, “It isn’t just the groundwater that has to be sustainable; it’s the management too.  That’s why the title of this post shifts from the more familiar “sustainable groundwater management” to “groundwater management sustainability.” This perspective doesn’t come from the world of hydrologic or climate or environmental science, but from political science and other disciplines focused on human institutions and behavior.  Along with the development and use of information, the greatest challenge in groundwater sustainability is governance and decision making. … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  SGMA and the challenge of groundwater management sustainability

Can we see real progress at the Salton Sea?  Michael Cohen writes, “In Salt Dreams, Bill DeBuys writes, “In low places consequences collect.” Southern California’s Salton Sea collects and manifests the hydrologic consequences of intensive agriculture in the Colorado River basin, the leaching of salts and selenium from ancient sea-beds now elevated high in the Colorado Plateau, as well as the fertilizers and pesticides running off of the fields in the Imperial, Coachella, and Mexicali valleys. The Sea also reflects the consequences of political and economic decisions and deals in the basin and in Southern California. By 2018, the Salton Sea will begin to reflect the consequences of the nation’s largest agriculture-to-urban water transfer, a long-term deal that has helped San Diego and the urban coast survive California’s persistent drought but that will soon cause the Sea’s surface to drop by 20 feet and its salinity to triple. ... ”  Read more from the Pacific Insitute’s Insights blog here:  Can we see real progress at the Salton Sea?

Selling the Colorado River deal back home: Imperial, the Salton Sea and California’s hard road: John Fleck writes, “For those following efforts to cobble together an expanded Colorado River water conservation deal (that’s all of you, right?) there are a couple of important issues to unpack in Ian James’ excellent interview published yesterday with Kevin Kelley, general manager of the Imperial Irrigation District. Imperial, the largest single water using agency on the Colorado, is farming 369,000 acres of desert land this year (source pdf) and is forecast to use 2.55 million acre feet of water in 2016 (source pdf). That is nearly four times the Colorado River water use currently forecast for metropolitan Southern California this year. … ”  Read more from the Inkstain blog here:  Selling the Colorado River deal back home: Imperial, the Salton Sea and California’s hard road

The California code:Even toward the end of a blistering four-year drought in California, it was sometimes hard to tell much was amiss. Dirt-lined canals in northern California were filled to the brim with water destined to irrigate thousands of hectares of rice, sunflowers, peaches, corn, soybeans, and all manner of California’s agricultural cornucopia. Unlike in the southern reaches of the Central Valley, there were no signs of the empty spaces of brown dirt where tomato fields lay fallow, or where laser-leveled orchards had been ripped out under duress. Quite the contrary, bullet-straight two-lane highways passed by new orchards under cultivation, the roots of each infant tree politely dressed in swirls of drip irrigation line and saluted by the short, red plastic stake of a single spray irrigator. More surprising were the throngs of sunburned bathers and Jet Ski operators enjoying the deep, cooling depths of two blue and bountiful manmade lakes that flank Highway 162, the primary route to climb the Sierra foothills to Oroville Dam, the source of all this water. … ” Read more from BOOM here: The California code

Global droughts: A bad year:  Peter Gleick writes, “Populations around the world face many severe water challenges, from scarcity to contamination, from political or violent conflict to economic disruption. As populations and economies grow, peak water pressures on existing renewable water resources also tend to grow up to the point that natural scarcity begins to constrain the options of water planners and managers. At this point, the effects of natural fluctuations in water availability in the form of extreme weather events become even more potentially disruptive than normal. In particular, droughts begin to bite deeply into human well-being.  This has been a bad few years for people exposed to droughts around the world.  … ”  Read more from the Pacific Institute here:  Global droughts: A bad year

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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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