BLOG ROUND-UP: Can the US survive California’s Drought?; What will become of fallowed valley farmland?; CA decides to sacrifice salmon for agribusiness profits; Science & the sacred: the duty of water in the West; and more …

Can the US survive California’s Drought?

Jose Pablo Ortiz Partida writes, “The drought facing the Western United States is bad. Really bad. It’s become worse faster than the last one. As more of the United States suffers from drought conditions and water supplies are diminishing, water demands are rising. Smaller water supplies combined with increasingly unpredictable weather patterns and other effects of climate change pose an enormous threat by creating a feedback loop that exacerbates drought conditions and increases wildfire risk across the United States.  The current drought is a national and international crisis. Considering that California produces more than a third of the vegetables and two-thirds of the fruits and nuts sold in the United States, the drought is affecting more than California and the Southwest. … Nearly the entirety (97 percent) of Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Washington is under Abnormally Dry conditions, and, in many of these states, a quarter or more of their area is experiencing an Exceptional Drought. ... ”  Continue reading at the Union of Concerned Scientists here: Can the US survive California’s Drought?

What will become of fallowed valley farmland?

Jessie Vad writes, “Not all farmland in the San Joaquin Valley will survive in a post-SGMA world.  Estimates are that the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act will force between 500,000 and 1 million acres of farmland out of production to save groundwater.  Which lands and what will become of those lands are major question marks.  If Gov. Newsom’s revised budget is approved as is, those questions could have an extra $500 million to help find answers.  “Land doesn’t have to be in agricultural production to be valuable,” said David Shabazian, director of the California Department of Conservation.  Newsom’s proposed funding for land repurposing would be spent under the state Department of Conservation and Department of Food and Agriculture to map out options for land retirement. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint here: What will become of fallowed valley farmland?

CA decides to sacrifice salmon for agribusiness profits

Doug Obegi with the NRDC writes, “Late Friday the State Water Resources Control Board appeared to tentatively approve a temperature management plan for Shasta Dam that sacrifices salmon and fishing jobs for agribusiness profits this year, violates water quality standards, and leaves California woefully unprepared if next year is also dry.   Specifically, the State Water Board indicated that they would approve a temperature management plan if it achieves 1.25 million acre feet of water in Shasta at the end of September.As the State Water Board knows, allowing storage to drop that low is estimated to kill more than 50% of the endangered winter run Chinook salmon (see slide 5, pasted below) and results in water temperatures in October and November that are so hot that they are likely to kill the vast majority of the fall run Chinook salmon that spawn in the Sacramento River later this year—just like in 2014. What’s more, it means that there will be very little water in storage at the end of the year, so California will be in far worse shape than this year if 2022 is also dry. ... ”  Read more from the NRDC here: CA decides to sacrifice salmon for agribusiness profits

Shasta Trade-Offs – Summer 2021

Tom Cannon writes, “Water levels of the major reservoirs of the Sacramento Valley are low and getting lower, even lower than critical drought years 2014 and 2015. … As of June 1, 2021, the Bureau of Reclamation’s summer plan for Shasta-Trinity-Keswick operation is to release 7000-8000 cfs of Shasta and Trinity water from Keswick Reservoir to the ten-mile salmon spawning reach of the upper Sacramento River near Redding. Target water temperatures are 56ºF for the Keswick release and 57ºF five miles downstream in Redding. The flow and water temperature targets are met by mixing Shasta reservoir (~6000 cfs) and Trinity releases (1000-2000 cfs via the Spring Creek powerhouse) in Keswick Reservoir. ... ”  Read more from the California Fisheries blog here: Shasta Trade-Offs – Summer 2021

Did COVID budget cuts get allocated to the Delta Independent Science Board?

Dierdre Des Jardins writes, “For fiscal years 2017-2020, the Delta Independent Science Board had $2.0 million in funding to pay the Delta Independent Science Board members through contracts, about $670,000 a year. Almost all of this funding was lost In FY 2020-21, when the compensation for the Board members was changed to a $100 per diem salary.  Due to the state’s COVID budget cuts, the Delta Stewardship Council lost $646,000 in general fund funding for FY 2020-21. The cuts seem likely to have been allocated to the Delta Independent Science Board at some point. We could not find further information, because the Delta Stewardship Council staff stopped making any budget reports at the Delta Stewardship Council meetings in FY 2020-21. … ”  Read more from the California Water Research blog here: Did COVID budget cuts get allocated to the Delta Independent Science Board?

CWR attorney: “No legal basis” for 90% pay reduction for Delta Independent Science Board members

Deirdre Des Jardins writes, “On April 15, 2021, the Delta Independent Science Board Chair, Susan Tatayon, sent a letter to Delta Independent Science Board members, which stated:  “I am writing to provide information regarding the recent reclassification of Delta Independent Science Board (Delta ISB) members to being employees of the State of California compensated at $100 per diem, rather than independent contractors as had been the method of compensation prior to 2020… This change was initiated in 2020, when a routine review of Council contracts and further analysis identified that pursuant to California law, members of a state board should be classified as state employees, as described in more detail below.”  When California Water Research’s attorney, Gwynne Pratt, reviewed the legal arguments in the letter, she found that there was no legal basis for the reclassification. … ”  Continue reading at the California Water Research blog here:  CWR attorney: “No legal basis” for 90% pay reduction for Delta Independent Science Board members

Ecosystem Restoration and Water Management

Jennifer Cribbs writes, “Restoration implies returning to a prior state. A broken cup carefully glued, might appear nearly as whole as the original, but will always differ from the original.  Ecosystem restoration attempts to return an evolving web of interconnected species and physical processes to a prior state. This endeavor raises complex questions: what prior state should be the restoration target? How do ecosystem needs and human values interact in determining the restoration goal? Is it most important to restore physical processes (process-based restoration) or populations of critical species (species-based restoration)? The following collection of art explores these questions and the connections between restoration and water management. ... ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Ecosystem Restoration and Water Management

Longfin Smelt 2021 – Another Poor Year

The Bay-Delta longfin smelt population, listed as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act, is having another poor year because of the Bay-Delta habitat conditions in critically dry year 2021. Winter spawning and early rearing habitat conditions were poor due to low Delta outflow. Spring conditions have been similarly poor, with low Delta outflows and high water temperatures. Summer conditions will be even worse. ... ”  Read more from the California Fisheries blog here:  Longfin Smelt 2021 – Another Poor Year

Coming to terms with the reality of the Lower Colorado River Basin’s future water use

Tom McCann writes, “As we struggle with a long term management plan for water use in the Lower Colorado River Basin, we must recognize two important realities: Most important, there needs to be a new “normal”—the U.S. lower basin states get something less than 7.5 maf each year (6.5? 6.8?), and only get 7.5 when reservoirs are high; and this problem can’t be solved on the back of Arizona’s junior status, by simply rolling back the amount of water permitted to flow down the Central Arizona Project canal. If there is any hope of consensus, then everyone will need to make reductions.  We’ve long known that the structural deficit in the Lower Basin is unsustainable. ... ”  Read more from the Inkstain blog here: Coming to terms with the reality of the Lower Colorado River Basin’s future water use

Science & the sacred: the duty of water in the West

Ken Neubecker writes, “The multitude of studies and reports about the impacts of climate change on western water and the Colorado River Basin increasingly come to parallel, if not precisely the same, conclusions: the future will be warmer and drier, with less water. The studies also show that the process of warming and aridification is happening faster than anticipated.  In 2008, Science Magazine published a short article claiming that the concept of “stationarity” in water management was dead. Stationarity—a fundamental concept in water resource management and planning— is the “idea that natural systems fluctuate within an unchanging envelope of variability”. The envelope of variability, however, is definitely changing. … ”  Read more from the American Rivers blog here: Science & the sacred: the duty of water in the West

Invest in farm water conservation to curtail buy and dry

David E. Rosenburg writes, “The term buy-and-dry plays to the fears of farm and ranch communities. Wealthy urban water providers buy up water rights, dry out farms and ranches, encourage people to retire to Hawaii or other locales, and export the purchased water out of basin to growing cities. As more farmers and ranchers sell their water rights, local businesses—irrigation,  farm equipment, seed, and other agricultural firms—contract. Those contractions encourage more farmers and ranchers to sell their water rights and farms. And a negative feedback loop gains momentum and propels a tragedy where the commons—a functioning local agricultural community—disappears. Deep-pocketed public urban water providers can initiate the perverse cycle of buy and dry and so can private Wall Street investment bankers (Howe, 2021). … ”  Read more from the Inkstain blog here: Invest in farm water conservation to curtail buy and dry

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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