State Water Board gives undeserved A’s on drought ‘stress test’
The California State Water Resources Control Board today released an analysis of the self-certifications of water agencies across the state, focusing on compliance and reported mandatory conservation targets.
In May, the Board put their faith in the hands of California water suppliers when it adopted a new framework for emergency conservation regulations that allows water suppliers — the same ones that have been arguing against conservation mandates — to determine their own water conservation targets based on local supply conditions and historical demand.
Conservation plans were due in July, and not surprisingly, virtually every water agency in California justified its position that there would be no need for any mandatory conservation, even though drought conditions remain severe over most of the state. This was due in part to a self-certification framework that did not require water suppliers to use realistic supply projections or even follow their own internal water management or operational policies and guidelines.
At least one agency, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, had included overly optimistic and unprecedented supply projections without sufficient documentation that demonstrated its ability to get the volumes that it was reporting. In fact, some of the water it said it would receive is also being projected for use by Coachella Valley Water District and the Desert Water Agency.
Following is a statement from Tracy Quinn, senior water policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council:
“There are clear deficiencies in the State Water Resources Control Board’s self-certification framework. A water supplier could chart a course of usage that would deplete every last drop of water — including emergency supplies — and still not be required to implement mandatory conservation.
“At least one agency, the Metropolitan Water District, included overly optimistic and unprecedented supply projections when performing a state-required ‘stress test’ to model water conditions over the next three years. And the Board accepted this projection at face value – even though that water is also being projected for use by other agencies. So supplies are being double counted in at least one very big instance — by the largest water supplier in the state.
“The Board is letting water suppliers double dip and chart a perpetually parched path for California. Its history of lax enforcement is resulting in a lack of respect from some water agencies and encouraging them to cut corners and avoid meeting the intent of the regulation. NRDC remains concerned that these issues are pervasive and that many local water managers did not take this exercise seriously.”
- MWD Rolls the Dice with Our Water Supplies During Drought, Aug. 2016
- State Board Lets Water Suppliers Set Their Own Conservation Targets, May 2016
- Making Water Conservation a Way of Life in California, May 2016
- How a California State Agency Is Dropping the Ball on Water Efficiency During an Epic Drought, Aug. 2015
UC Davis study proves government-caused drought far worse than drought caused by Mother Nature
From the Westlands Water District and the San Luis-Delta Mendota Water Authority:
Responding to a recently-released UC Davis study, the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority and the Westlands Water District stated the study proves that failed government policies, not a lack of rainfall and snowpack, are responsible for the widespread water shortages and the fallowing of hundreds of thousands of acres of land.
“Contrary to some mistaken interpretations, the report did not conclude that the water crisis is easing, rather it exposed the terribly broken California water system that is creating long-term consequences for many California communities,” said Johnny Amaral, Deputy General Manager at Westlands Water District. “Even though the report found that 78,000 acres of prime farmland were taken out of production due to drought conditions, hundreds of thousands of acres are being fallowed due to government mismanagement of the state water system. Mother Nature’s effect pales in comparison to government’s water supply policies.”
Unfortunately, the academic study leaves the impression that conditions have improved for farmers, farmworkers, and farm communities, but the reality is quite different. Some irrigation districts are reporting higher numbers of total land fallowed in 2016, with one district alone fallowing more than 200,000 acres. In the U.C. Davis blog comment section, the author of the study clarified to reader comments that without the drought there would be approximately 1.2 million acres fallowed because of crop rotation and government restrictions, confirming that government decisions are responsible for reducing food production, eliminating jobs, and harming local communities.
According to the Robert Wood Foundation, Fresno and Tulare Counties’ quality of life ranking dropped from 2015 levels to dead last in the state in 2016. While the drought impacts on unemployment may have eased, government impacts have devastated many families; people remain unemployed and some have left the job market altogether.
It’s time for honesty in the very worthwhile public debate over how California’s water supply is being managed.
Are Harmful Algal Blooms Affecting Our Waters?
From the California Water Quality Monitoring Council:
“Are harmful algal blooms affecting our waters?” is one of the many questions that the latest update to California’s innovative My Water Quality website will answer. The California Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) Portal is a new tool that presents information on the health and environmental effects of HABs in California’s lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and marine waters. The goal is to provide timely information in an easy-to-understand manner for the public, environmental organizations, and water resource and public health professionals. View the new California Harmful Algal Blooms Portal from the My Water Quality website, www.MyWaterQuality.ca.gov.
Harmful algal blooms have been increasingly in the news as of late. Warm temperatures, increased nutrients, and low water flows aggravated by drought conditions and climate change are favoring toxin-producing cyanobacteria and algae; and a number of lakes, reservoirs, and river systems are suffering blooms as a result. Toxic blooms are threatening drinking water supplies and causing wildlife and domestic animal deaths. In humans they can cause a wide range of symptoms, from rashes and allergic reactions to liver damage and even death. Persistent blooms in Clear Lake, the Klamath watershed, Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, East San Francisco Bay Area lakes, Pinto Lake and others present serious challenges to recreational uses, water supply providers, and water body managers.
The California Cyanobacteria and Harmful Algal Bloom (CCHAB) Network was established in 2006 to provide a forum for coordination of HAB response efforts by agencies, organizations, and tribes dealing with these blooms. The CCHAB Network developed and is now updating guidance on voluntary posting of water bodies experiencing blooms, and has taken responsibility for developing a web data portal on the California Water Quality Monitoring Council’s My Water Qualitywebsite. A key partner in this effort is the Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP) of the State Water Resources Control Board, which is helping to coordinate HABs monitoring and response actions statewide.
“We are pleased to collaborate with our state partners in developing the California Harmful Algal Bloom Portal,” said Steven Moore, Member of the State Water Resources Control Board. “Supporting better decision making with timely and accessible information is vital to the protection of public health and California’s natural resources.”
Formed in 2007 by the California Environmental Protection Agency and the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Water Quality Monitoring Council brings together water quality and ecosystem health information from a variety of organizations with special expertise and data relating to swimming safety, the safety of eating fish and shellfish from our waters, aquatic ecosystem health, and now HABs.
- California Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) Portal: www.mywaterquality.ca.gov/habs/
- More information on the California Water Quality Monitoring Council: www.mywaterquality.ca.gov/monitoring_council/
- More information on the California Cyanobacteria and Harmful Algal Bloom (CCHAB) Network: www.mywaterquality.ca.gov/monitoring_council/cyanohab_network/
- More information on the Water Boards’ Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP): www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/swamp/
NOAA launches America’s first national water forecast model
New tool hailed as a game changer for predicting floods, informing water-related decisions
From the NOAA:
NOAA and its partners have developed a new forecasting tool to simulate how water moves throughout the nation’s rivers and streams, paving the way for the biggest improvement in flood forecasting the country has ever seen. Launched today and run on NOAA’s powerful new Cray XC40 supercomputer, the National Water Model uses data from more than 8,000 U.S. Geological Survey gauges to simulate conditions for 2.7 million locations in the contiguous United States. The model generates hourly forecasts for the entire river network. Previously, NOAA was only able to forecast streamflow for 4,000 locations every few hours.
The model also improves NOAA’s ability to meet the needs of its stakeholders — such as emergency managers, reservoir operators, first responders, recreationists, farmers, barge operators, and ecosystem and floodplain managers — with more accurate, detailed, frequent and expanded water information.
The nation has experienced a number of disastrous floods in recent years, including the ongoing flooding this week in Louisiana, accentuating the importance of more detailed water forecasts to help people prepare.
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About News Worth Noting: News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations. News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms. If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.