BLOG ROUND-UP: California’s internecine water war; the Bay Delta and the ESA; Drought as a weapon of mass destruction; About that 40%; and more …

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Barn along Highway 1; Photo by Anita Ritenour

California’s internecine water war:  Holly Doremus writes:  “If you thought California was immune to the season of political craziness, think again. California Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer were elected to the Senate together in 1992. They are usually on the same side, but not always.  Water is one of the issues on which they often part company. Feinstein is a water hawk who favors robust deliveries to Central Valley agriculture. Boxer, who will retire from the Senate at the end of this session, is an environmentalist who seeks to protect endangered species as well as commercial fishing interests.  Their latest spat comes over an attempt by Feinstein and Bakersfield Congressman (and House Majority Leader) Kevin McCarthy to hijack a bill intended to provide funding for federal water project operations as well as aid to Flint, Michigan, hit hard by lead contamination in its drinking water. … ”  Read more from the Legal Planet here:  California’s internecine water war

California’s Bay Delta and the Endangered Species Act:  John Fleck writes, “Ellen Hanak and colleagues at the Public Policy Institute of California stuck their necks out last week with a scheme to move California’s Bay-Delta water conflict forward. It has a number of elements – I’d like to focus here on its proposal to “manage water for ecosystems, not just endangered species … ”  Read more from the Inkstain blog here:  California’s Bay Delta and the Endangered Species Act

How engineers see the water glass in California:  Jay Lund writes, “Depending on your outlook, the proverbial glass of water is either half full or half empty. Not so for engineers in California. … ”  More from the California Water Blog here:  How engineers see the water glass in California

California’s plan for agricultural water savings falls short:  Ben Chou writes, “For months, California’s state agencies have been building a framework to fulfill Governor Brown’s vision of making water conservation a “way of life.” The governor’s executive order in May aimed to bolster California’s climate and drought resilience long-term.  Earlier this week, the agencies finally released their well-intentioned, albeit flawed, draft plan.  The water use efficiency plan is an effort to push our cities and farms to use our precious water resources more efficiently, and it presents a critical opportunity for Gov. Brown to cement his legacy of moving California toward a more sustainable water future. Yet the plan falls woefully short of achieving the governor’s goal when it comes to agriculture. … ”  Read more from the NRDC here:  California’s plan for agricultural water savings falls short

blog-round-up-previous-editionsWhen drought becomes a weapon of mass destruction:  Todd Fitchette writes, “Anyone who’s spent any time in California or who understands how the seasons work across the state understand the faucet can be immediately turned off, and can just as quickly open and drench the state with more water than one can imagine. The El Nino of ’97-’98 comes to mind when enough rain fell in a few hours to fill Lake Don Pedro east of Modesto and force water to overtop the dam.  While drought is one of the conditions we must live with, plan for and attempt to mitigate here in California it is a bit disturbing to read the press releases and stories that foretell of yet another drought year when we’re just two months into the water year and our rainy season is just getting ramped up. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here:  When drought becomes a weapon of mass destruction

California’s changing headwaters:  Lori Pottinger writes, “Much of the state’s water supply originates in forested headwaters high in the mountains. Yufang Jin is a UC Davis professor specializing in ecosystem change and remote sensing (gathering aerial images of the earth). She is also a member of the PPIC Water Policy Center’s research network. She talked to us about how a warming climate and extreme wildfires are changing these crucial ecosystems.  PPIC: How are large wildfires changing our watersheds?  Yufang Jin: We’re seeing intensifying wildfires in California, especially in the headwater regions where our rivers originate. More intense fires have significantly changed the composition and structure of forest ecosystems, affecting both water quality and quantity—though not always for the worse. … ”  Read more from the PPIC Blog here:  California’s changing headwaters

Obsession with X2:  Tom Cannon writes, “There is a science-management obsession with Fall X2 – the location of the 2 parts-per-thousand salinity location in the Bay-Delta in the autumn.  More specifically, Fall X2 is the average km location of X2 for the months of September-December.  Such an average index seems ridiculous given that X2 varies so much especially in December, or even in a year like 2016 in October-November.  Despite this, resource agencies have been intent on trying to manage the Delta smelt population by manipulating Fall X2 based on the relationship between Fall X2 and the following spring 20-mm survey smelt index shown in Figure 1. ... ”  Read more from the California Fisheries Blog here:  Obsession with X2

Making good decisions, getting results:  The California Farm Water Coalition writes, “During the recent drought, Californians were called to reevaluate how we use, manage, and share water to get through the crisis. Farmers received only small fractions of the surface water they needed to grow food, and strident mandatory cuts were imposed on our cities, forcing us all to ask how to get the most bang for our water buck.  With a renewed focus on improving water use efficiency, communities across the state have been investigating and deploying advancements to ensure we meet our goals of doing more with less. ... ”  Read more from the California Farm Water Coalition blog here:  Making good decisions, getting results

About that 40%:  Alex Breitler writes, “It seems simple enough: The State Water Resources Control Board, arbiter of equitable water use in California, wants to leave 40 percent of the water in three streams feeding the San Joaquin River south of Stockton.  To the surprise of no one who follows this stuff, it’s more complicated than it sounds.  Let’s ignore, for the moment, that the board has actually proposed a range of river flows from 30 percent to 50 percent, starting at 40 percent. I can only handle so much complexity, so we’ll just examine that 40 percent number.  What, exactly, does it mean? … ”  Read more from Alex Breitler’s blog here:  About that 40%

A primer for the incoming Trump Administration: How to extract the most natural resources possible, at a sustained yield, over the long term: Greg Reis writes, “Dear Mr. Trump,  You are into long term gains, right? Passing wealth onto your children? Leaving a legacy? Alright, let’s do this with America’s natural resources! Make America’s ecosystems and ecosystem-based economies great again!  Here’s how.  Don’t you hate stop-and-go traffic on the freeway? Don’t you wish it would be smoother, so it didn’t have to come to a complete stop?  Pushing the envelope to extract as many resources as possible as quickly as possible is like that. … ”  More from the Reis Valley and Mudville blog here:  A primer for the incoming Trump Administration: How to extract the most natural resources possible, at a sustained yield, over the long term

Down and Dirty Water Wars, Part 2:  Eric Caine writes, “When James Madison wrote, “No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause,” he didn’t mean people could or even should stop arguing in their own interests; he just meant it was nearly impossible to achieve justice for all when arguing on one’s own behalf.  So it is with water in California. State proposals for increased flows along our rivers have resulted in impassioned arguments, most of which focus narrowly on one interest or region only. Among these arguments is an opinion piece by Aubrey Bettencourt, Executive Director of the California Water Alliance. Entitled, “State lies about our rivers…to feed its craving for ever more water,” the article is a classic case of stacking the deck. … ”  Read more from The Valley Citizen here:  Down and Dirty Water Wars, Part 2

Down and Dirty Water Wars, Part 3:  Eric Caine writes, “There are a lot of bad arguments against increased flows along Valley rivers. Many pit people against fish. Others use reductionist tactics, citing the dollar costs of saving threatened species but omitting long-term recovery goals. Some rise from merely bad to bizarre.  Oakdale Irrigation District (OID) Manager Steve Knell, for example, has decided increased flows are all about saving “220 nesting pair” of salmon. Not surprisingly, Knell concludes that the costs—$1,000,000 per nesting pair—aren’t worth the effort.  Not content with a merely fanciful mischaracterization of the state’s proposal, Knell goes on to an even more delusional scenario. In Knell’s fully-warped version of motives behind increased flows, it’s all about, “protein on the plate.” … ”  Read more from The Valley Citizen here:  Down and Dirty Water Wars, Part 3

Issues in Delta smelt science:  Tom Cannon writes, “Recently the San Francisco Estuary & Watershed Science journal published a special issue that included a paper on Delta Smelt.  The paper is an excellent summary of the present state of Delta smelt.  The discussion section on p. 18 of the paper provides an excellent description of the whole of Delta Smelt science.  The paper is comprehensive with a litany of scientific references on Delta science and the decline of the Bay-Delta estuary and the Delta Smelt.  It also provides an outlook and prescription for the future, though bleak.  In this post I offer slightly more optimism with focused solutions, based on a somewhat different take on several key issues. ... ”  Read more from the California Fisheries Blog here:  Issues in Delta smelt science

Sacramento Valley is working hard to provide better nourishment for fish:  The NorCal Water Association blog writes, “Sacramento Valley water suppliers and landowners–as part of the ongoing effort to creatively manage water for various beneficial purposes—are working closely with conservation organizations and state and federal agencies to provide immediate nourishment and improved habitat for fisheries in a concerted manner.  As part of the Sacramento Valley Salmon Recovery Program, the partners held a forum in Yuba City last week to explore ways to provide functional flows that will produce more food for fish this fall and winter. The story today in the Marysville Appeal-Democrat captured the enthusiasm and desire to scale up these programs in the Sacramento Valley. … ”  Read more from the Northern California Water Blog here:  Sacramento Valley is working hard to provide better nourishment for fish

From scientists to policymakers: Communicating on climate, scientific integrity, and more:  Peter Gleick writes, “Among the different professional categories, scientists and engineers remain very highly respected by the public, at least compared to politicians, business leaders, the media, and even religious authorities. Part of this is due to the fact that success in the scientific enterprise depends on impartial analysis and independence from political ideology. And yet there are strong connections between science and policy: good policy without good science is difficult; good policy with bad science is impossible. Sure, there is plenty of bad policy made even in the face of contradictory scientific evidence, but that is the result of political failures, or, at times, poor scientific communication. … ”  Read more from the Significant Figures blog here:  From scientists to policymakers: Communicating on climate, scientific integrity, and more

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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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