Wednesday, November 27, 2013

News articles and links from November 27, 2013

Water Supply 
California water woes hit hard in driest year on record
From: Sharon Bernstein, Reuters

To nurture his acres of pistachio trees, Tom Coleman has long relied on water from California's mountain-ringed reservoirs, fed by Sierra streams and water pumped from the massive Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

But the driest year on record has left the reservoirs so depleted - and the delta so fragile - that state water officials say they may be able to provide just 5 percent of the water he and others were expecting for next year.

Coalition response... 
This article does a good job illustrating the challenges facing California during this dry year, but only touches on many of our long-standing water issues.  Our aging infrastructure is sorely in need of updating. Some of the levees protecting much of California's fresh water supply are 100 years old and at risk of failure during an earthquake. Environmental water use, which accounts for 48 percent of California's dedicated supply, currently has no accountability for efficiency standards as urban and agricultural water users do.

Fortunately, efforts are underway to update our water system so that the families and farmers who pay for it receive the water it was designed to deliver. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan will help California meet its water supply reliability needs while restoring the ecosystem.

The reality is that ensuring that water reaches California's families and farms is a challenge not limited to dry years.
San Joaquin River
From: Rene Henery, Fresno Bee

The SalmonFest on Nov. 9 marked more significant milestones on the path to a living San Joaquin River. The highlight for many festival-goers was adult Chinook salmon released to spawn below Friant Dam for the second consecutive year.

But other milestones were in some ways more important: A diverse slice of the local community gathered on the river's banks to celebrate steps toward restoration; the next generation of anglers enjoyed fly-casting lessons and bank fishing; and at least two generations who have never known California as the West Coast salmon hub it was historically witnessed the majestic fish for the first time.

Coalition response... It's nice to think that Mother Nature will take care of bringing life back to the San Joaquin River; that all we need to do is create unimpeded passage, add water and cobbles and voila, salmon! Unfortunately it's going to take a lot more than that and the rosy portrayal of supposed benefits won't be what Rene Henry of Friends of the River would have you believe.

Water transferred from farms to use for the restoration project will create an economic hit to the region if the lost water isn't replaced. Groundwater will only support a limited amount of farming so the region can expect widespread fallowing, not unlike what is currently happening on the Westside. Estimated annual costs due to water supply cuts exceed $260 million and more than 3,000 local jobs. Will returning salmon to the river replace that? Not likely.

Earth Log: U.S. Geological Survey raises quiet buzz about Calif. groundwater law
From: Mark Grossi, Fresno Bee

Federal scientists added another piece of evidence last week in the argument for regulating California's underground water - the San Joaquin Valley's famous sinking landscape is still dropping.

The U.S. Geological Survey study showed a 1,200-square-mile section of the west side in Madera, Fresno and Merced counties has dropped almost 2 feet in just two years.
Subsidence: Is the ground sinking?
From: Staff, KGET TV

One of the effects of a depleting water table is subsidence or the surface soil sinking as a result of water leaving the ground too quickly.

"We're creating a void in the ground where there's no water to support the earth," said Jerry Ezell, General Manager for the Shafter-Wasco Irrigation District. "Once the water is pulled out, the ground can sink." 
The Future of Water
From: Staff, KGET TV

Groundwater is a coveted resource here in the valley but this year that resource is depleting rapidly to some of the lowest levels ever. It's a drop that that could cost not only farmers but you, every time you use your faucet.

For Joey Cardamone, doing household chores like laundry isn't as simple as turning a handle anymore. 

Water Supply  
After drier than dry start, California water officials hopeful winter will have plentiful rain, snow
From: Sarah Rohrs, San Jose Mercury News 
From: Sarah Rohrs, Contra Costa Times

It's not even the end of November, but weather watchers are already calling this year one of the driest on record in California.

"We're really off to a dismal start," said National Weather Service Hydrologist Gary Barbato in the agency's Reno office.
Modesto, Turlock irrigation districts take key step toward new Don Pedro license
From: John Holland, Modesto Bee

A massive set of documents traveled across cyberspace Tuesday morning, laying out plans by the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts to continue using Don Pedro Reservoir.

The districts filed a draft application for a new license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees reservoirs that have hydropower plants.

The filing launches a new round of public debate over Don Pedro, mainly how much water should be released into the lower Tuolumne River to benefit salmon and other fish. Environmentalists would like to see much more than is provided under the current license, issued in 1966. Others note the continuing need for farm and domestic water and for electricity from the reservoir.

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