From: Alex Breitler, Stockton Record
Stare[sic] and federal officials said Tuesday they will temporarily relax protections for fish in the Delta in order to export more water to drought-ravaged farms and cities, the latest in a series of similar actions.
Normally, in a critically dry year like this, a rule kicks in April 1 requiring the amount of water exported from the Delta to be no greater than the amount of water flowing into the Delta via the San Joaquin River.
The rule aims to protect threatened steelhead from getting sucked into the export pumps, and also benefits other fragile species, such as Chinook salmon.
Coalition response... Times of extraordinary crisis, such as this prolonged drought, demand that regulations demonstrate some flexibility to ensure that human needs aren't overwhelmed by rigid bureaucratic rules.
Regulators have determined that it is a sufficiently low risk to the threatened and endangered species in the Delta, and are permitting human use diversions to be slightly elevated to capture some of the excess storm flows we have seen in recent weeks.
Investing in public infrastructure that can restore the Delta, while stabilizing the water supply of 25 million Californians and almost 4,000 farms growing food and fiber.
From: Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times
Officials announced Tuesday that they are temporarily waiving an endangered species protection to enable water managers to send more Northern California water south.
The move comes as fishery agencies are under increasing political pressure to take advantage of late winter storms and ramp up pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the center of the state's water distribution system.
Coalition response... Contrary to the rhetoric repeated by lawyers of environmental interest groups, there are no endangered or threatened species being sacrificed by improving the storage of water south of the delta. Fish surveys have shown that the species concerned are not near the pumps used to divert water to California's cities and farms at this time.
Improving the water supply being stored south of the delta will help ensure that these farms and cities have the best chance of weathering this dry period, while preparing for the uncertain water supply of next year.
Improvements in the delta diversion facilities to allow better control over where water is diverted in the Delta, such as the BDCP would help eliminate future risk to the species, restore the delta, and protect the water that 25 million Californians and almost 4,000 family farms depend on.
From: Tim Palmer, San Francisco Chronicle
One peril of being human is that we often respond poorly to crises. Because we now face one of the worst droughts in California history, the stage is set to flirt with error on a scale as colossal as the crisis itself.
The House of Representatives, for example, passed HR3964 in February to indiscriminately move additional Northern California water southward, to abandon restoration of the beleaguered San Joaquin River and to hang our imperiled salmon out to dry. For the first time ever, a National Wild and Scenic River designation would be rescinded - the Merced River below Yosemite our unlikely victim. None of this would ease the drought or solve the problems we face, as noted by Gov. Jerry Brown, who called the bill "unwelcome and divisive."
Coalition response... California farms have never been more efficient in their use of water.
The often-repeated, but thoroughly refuted conservation potential from studies by the Pacific Institute is nothing but a mirage. California's leading irrigation researchers from independent universities have critiqued many of their conclusions, with typical academic understatement, as "incorrect."
Researchers at the Center for Irrigation Technology who actually study irrigation have reported recently that the potential for increased water use efficiency in agriculture is about 1 percent, or 300,000 acre-feet. If vast improvements in irrigation efficiency were still possible we wouldn't be seeing almost 1 million acres of farmland idled this year due to water supply shortages.
People appreciate locally grown foods, and nowhere in the world are a greater variety grown in the volumes necessary to feed our growing population. The rural infrastructure that grows, prepares, and moves, this food relies on the stability of the water rights in California. Rights that promote investment in rural communities, and improvements in agricultural efficiency and productivity.
From: Lois Henry, Bakersfield Californian
Groundwater has officially become the "new black" in California. As the drought drags on, it is this season's "must have." Wells are being dropped like mad, people are worried about subsidence and now the state is talking about ginning up legislation to finally gain some oversight of the wild west that is the world of groundwater. It's enough to make your head spin.
But like almost every fashion craze, this one's just another retread. Oh, yeah -- we've been here before, almost exactly.
Coalition response... Federal environmental regulations affecting the ability to deliver water historically delivered through the Delta are the major reason farmers have returned to groundwater. The projects built over half a century ago are not being operated in the way they were designed, which had drastically reduced surface water deliveries to farms, homes and businesses. That is why overdraft will continue to be an increasing problem for California, not the lack of regulatory oversight.
From: Pete Aiello, San Francisco Chronicle
There has been a lot of finger-pointing as California endures a drought, and much of it seems to be directed toward agriculture. Here's how I see it: Plants need water to grow. When farmers "use" water, we are growing healthy, affordable, local food. It doesn't make sense to criticize farmers for using water to grow our food any more than it does to criticize home builders for using wood to build our homes.
As a California farmer, I can say we farmers are judicious with our water use and we do our best to make every drop count. My family's farm started installing drip irrigation systems (think of a hose with microscopic perforations) in 1985. Drip irrigation allows water to be applied in the amount needed and at the exact time it is needed, so there is less waste and the plants respond better. Local experts estimate that 80 percent of local irrigation is done through low-volume irrigation such as drip tape and micro sprinklers.
From: Jim Carlton, Wall Street Journal
Recent wet weather has failed to break California's worst drought in decades, according to measurements showing the state's snowpack stands at about one-third of its normal average. That could result in higher prices nationally for some produce grown in the state, such as nuts, according to food-industry experts.
California has seen more precipitation since February, and in recent days storms have blanketed the state's mountains in several feet of snow. Still, Tuesday's surveys by the Department of Water Resources showed the water content of the snowpack there at 32% of normal. While that is a big jump from a reading of 12% at the end of January, state officials say that with the wet season about to wind down, it isn't enough to end a drought that has prompted mandatory rationing and water cutbacks to farms and cities.
From: Staff, CBS - LA
Authorities say they are capturing rain falling in the storm lashing California to be used later in what's expected to be a very dry year.
Mark Cowin of the California Department of Water Resources said Tuesday that state and federal officials expect to pump water from the San Joaquin Delta for storage in reservoirs during the next week - or possibly two - depending on the amount of rain that falls.
From: Paul Rogers, Contra Costa Times
The much-welcomed storms that hit California this week and over the past month increased the Sierra Nevada snowpack, a critical source of water for cities and farms.
But they didn't end the drought, experts say. They simply improved a disastrous situation to dismal.
On Tuesday, surveyors for the state Department of Water Resources reported the snowpack is 32 percent of average -- the lowest level on April 1 since 1988, when Sierra Nevada snows were at 29 percent of normal. That was the second year of California's last major drought, which lasted five years.
From: Philip Reese, Sacramento Bee
These are strange days for California water officials. The penultimate snow survey of the season Tuesday found the Sierra Nevada snowpack holding 32 percent of normal water content - a relatively dismal reading - and yet many of them expressed relief.
A few months earlier, those water officials had feared much worse.
From: Michael Gardner, San Diego Union Tribune
Spring storms delivering desperately needed snow to the Sierra still fell far short of the 1991 "Miracle March" that rescued California from one of its worst droughts on record.
The snowpack came in at less than a third of normal Tuesday, prompting state and federal water managers to reiterate that they have no immediate plans to turn the tap back on for some of their largest customers, including the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California that delivers the vast majority of the San Diego region's supplies.
From: Alison Vekshin, BusinessWeek
California's experience with recurrent drought has prompted such wide adoption of conservation methods that the current water shortage will have little impact on the state economy, according to a report by the University of California, Los Angeles.
A study of employment and income tax growth found no correlation with rainfall or its lack from 1969 to 2012, according to the UCLA Anderson Forecast.
From: John Holland, Modesto Bee
Thanks to the early spring storms, the Turlock Irrigation District has postponed the start of 2014 water deliveries until at least April 10. The delay, announced Tuesday, could help farmers stretch a Tuolumne River supply that is expected to be tight because of the drought.
The Modesto Irrigation District, TID's partner on the river, is scheduled to start deliveries Sunday, but that could be moved to a later date based on weather, spokeswoman Melissa Williams said Tuesday.
From: J.N. Sbranti, Modesto Bee
A possible way to reduce groundwater pumping in eastern Stanislaus County's rapidly expanding agricultural region was proposed Tuesday: Start delivering surplus Oakdale Irrigation District water there.
OID's governing board voted to have its staff meet with farmers from Paulsell Valley - in northeast Waterford - to discuss options for supplying them irrigation water.