Monday, March 31, 2014

News articles and links from March 31, 2014

Water Supply 

From: Staff, Sacramento Bee

Last week's rain notwithstanding, the drought should act to concentrate Californians on water and how to create a reliable water system.
Instead, it is spawning isolated proposals with little attention to cost and who would pay.

In one direction, Gov. Jerry Brown favors a new "conveyance" with his proposed twin tunnels project. The capital cost of the two 40-foot-diameter, 30-mile-long tunnels around or under the Delta is estimated to total $19.9 billion in 2012 dollars. Borne by whom? People benefiting from the project, the water contractors south of the Delta? The comment period on this proposal ends on April 14.

Coalition response... It's important to keeps the facts on the table regarding California water supply planning and cost allocation.

Funding for new water supply projects is based on a "beneficiary pays" principle. Water users are willing and in fact have been paying for all of the planning costs so far for BDCP. When it comes time for construction, water users will pay for the parts that are associated with water supply. The public part of the project, including ecosystem activities, etc., would be funded by a publicly-approved water bond.

Sites reservoir, while not part of the BDCP planning process, is nonetheless an important facility to help California meet water quality and water supply needs into the future. It's encouraging to see Congressmen LaMalfa and Garamendi working together to help push this project forward. California has big challenges and it is going to take multiple, independent efforts like this and others to restore water supply and reliability to our state. Conservation and recycling are important but they're not enough to provide for California's water needs far into the future.

From: Staff, BloombergView

California's northern rivers are so low that young Chinook salmon have to be trucked on their journey to the Pacific Ocean. Yet to listen to some farmers and their political allies, you would think the fish, shielded by environmental law, are doing fine, while the state's $45 billion agricultural economy is being sucked dry by the epic drought.

Their solution: build huge tunnels, expand big dams (federally subsidized, of course) and pipe more water from the relatively wet north to the dry south. But Mother Nature is sending a different message: California can't count on having bounties of water to meet all the claims on it.

Coalition response... Far from minor, the upheaval proposed by this editorial is massive in scale, based on faulty, biased research, and would result in continued destabilization of agricultural production in California. Farmers recognize and appreciate the sacrifices being made by our cities and rural communities to help get through this drought together.

California agricultural water use is not 80% of the state's water claimed, it's not even 80% of the water humans are managing. California allocates 50% of available water (water humans actively manage) to environmental purposes. Agriculture uses 41% to grow food and fiber, and has improved the productivity of the water used by nearly doubling production between 1967 and 2007 while reducing water use by 14%. These are only the readily quantifiable benefits of agricultural water use, and exclude the ecosystem benefits of crops such as rice whose flood irrigation help to sustain migrating birds on the Pacific Flyway.  

Claims that California agriculture can conserve 15% of the water it uses have been widely scorned by professional researchers at California's leading public irrigation research organizations. The Center for Irrigation Technology at CSU Fresno reports the actual conservation potential from California agriculture is about 300,000 acre feet, or about 1 percent of typical applied water.

Past public investments in irrigation infrastructure have brought substantial economic benefit to the people of our state and our nation but changing environmental laws have allowed enough water for 3.5 million people to flow to the ocean this year. That water could have been stored for future use. The preparation of past generations has given us the tools needed to become the ninth largest economy in the world - preparing California for future generations is the challenge we face today.

Water Supply

From: Michael Doyle, McClatchy DC

Seasonal storms have exposed once more some perennial political divisions over California water.

Citing the latest rainfall, seven of the state's lawmakers are urging the Obama administration to free up more irrigation deliveries for San Joaquin Valley farms. The muscular Capitol Hill lineup is noticeable both for who's on it and who's not.

In a telling alliance, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein joined with House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield and four other House Republicans, as well as one House Democrat, in calling for increased deliveries.

From: Cannon Michael, Merced Sun-Star 

It's no secret that our water system is severely broken, but denying water rights and reallocating water is not the answer. And though our voices have been heard by the state Water Resources Control Board, continued action and pressure is still needed to ensure water deliveries to our Central Valley farmers.

Water is the Central Valley's lifeblood. The state water board must understand that withholding water would cause catastrophic consequences, including fallowed farmland, skyrocketing unemployment and an increasingly unstable and costly food supply in our Central Valley, our state and beyond.

Eliminating our water deliveries is not only foolish, it's dangerous.

From: Peter Jensen, Riverside Press-Enterprise

On Tuesday March 25, I was amazed at how poorly informed ex-representative Tom Campbell's recent op-ed regarding California's water problems was. He acts as if the only reason heavily-discounted water is not supplied to Central Valley farmers is because of the little Delta Smelt. The reasons that cheap water is no longer being pumped to these farmers are myriad. We have all been asked to conserve due to a drought.

From: Fred Hogan, Redding Record-Searchlight

PRIORITIES: What is the common sense approach to California's water problems? Should we spend billions on the train to nowhere, or better yet maybe on some much needed water storage? If we put this to a vote which one do you think wins? Remember common sense!


From: Lisa Krieger, San Jose Mercury News

So wet was the San Joaquin Valley of Steve Arthur's childhood that a single 240-foot-deep well could quench the thirst of an arid farm.

Now his massive rig, bucking and belching, must drill 1,200 feet deep in search of ever-more-elusive water to sustain this wheat farm north of Bakersfield. As he drills, his phone rings with three new appeals for help.

"Everybody is starting to panic," said Arthur, whose Fresno-based well-drilling company just bought its ninth rig, off the Wyoming oil fields. "Without water, this valley can't survive."

From: Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News

For nearly 50 years, California has passed sweeping environmental laws that limit private property for the common good -- from the nation's toughest automobile pollution standards to curbs on clear-cutting forests to rules requiring that developers keep beaches open to the public.

However, when it comes to preserving one of the state's most critical and politically divisive resources -- billions of gallons of groundwater that are vital to farms and cities -- California lawmakers and voters have done almost nothing.


From: Dennis Wyatt, Manteca Bulletin

Sticker shock, courtesy of the drought, is coming to a supermarket near you. Seedless watermelon was selling Monday at SaveMart stores in Manteca for $9.99. It is a full $2 over prices from the same time period in 2013.

And while the price reflects the scarcity of watermelon that are now coming out of a specific region in Mexico, it is an indicator of higher food prices that are in store for California and American consumers as a whole thanks to the drought. The assumption by some that fruit and vegetables from elsewhere will replace California crops with minimum impact on prices fails to take into account production issues in other regions of the globe plus worldwide consumer demand.

From: Tom Nassif, Los Angeles Times

It's deceptive to say that agriculture uses 75% of "the water used in the state" without adding "for human use."

According to the California State Water Plan, urban use accounts for 11% and agriculture 41%; environmental use accounts for 48%. This is the developed water supply that can be managed and controlled.

Water Quality 

From: John Holland, Modesto Bee

Farmers are filling out a four-page survey that will help assess how well they are keeping pesticides and fertilizers out of waterways.

The East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition has set a May 1 deadline for completion of the surveys, which involve most of the irrigated land east of the San Joaquin River in Stanislaus, Merced and Madera counties.


From: Staff, Stockton Record

Skeptical Delta landowners heard details Thursday night of a state plan to install four rock barriers in the estuary, an effort to block salinity from San Francisco Bay and allow officials to hold back more water in reservoirs this summer.

Without the barriers, three major reservoirs would sink to "dead pool" levels before the coming dry season ends, the Department of Water Resources' Paul Marshall said at a meeting of the Delta Protection Commission in Stockton.

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