Monday, June 2, 2014

News articles and links from June 2, 2014


From: Matt Weiser, Sacramento Bee

California officials ordered another round of sweeping water diversion cuts Friday to manage limited stream flows during the drought, this time affecting 1,634 water users in the San Joaquin River watershed.

The curtailment order by the State Water Resources Control Board requires so-called "junior" water rights holders to immediately cease drawing water directly from streams. It comes after the agency, on Wednesday, similarly restricted about 2,600 junior water rights holders in the Sacramento River watershed.

Water Storage

From: Matt Weiser, Sacramento Bee

As California struggles through a third year of drought, elected officials from both parties are proposing to spend billions of dollars in public money on new dams and reservoirs. Seven different bills are pending in the Legislature that would use varying amounts of state bond funding to launch a new era of dam construction with the aim of increasing the state's capacity to store precious mountain snowmelt.

The surge of proposals has stoked familiar arguments in California's historic battles over limited water supplies: Water users in many cities and throughout the state's arid central farm belt say new reservoirs are vital to capture snowmelt that would otherwise flow "wasted" to the sea. Environmental groups counter that habitat and wildlife need that water, and call for more sweeping conservation measures and water recycling instead.


From: Staff, Sacramento Bee

This has to be the year that California finally starts to regulate groundwater. It has to be.

Not since the drought of 1977 have water resources been in such dire straits. To cope, the state is taking drastic steps when it comes to surface water. Last week, the State Water Resources Control Board ordered more than 4,200 "junior" water rights holders in the Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds to stop pumping water from streams and warned that, if things got worse, "senior" water rights holders might see restrictions as well.

From: Sasha Khokha, KQED

Steve Arthur practically lives out of his truck these days. But he's not homeless. He runs one of Fresno's busiest well drilling companies.

"It's officially getting crazy. We go and we go but it just seems like we can't go fast enough," he says, sitting behind the steering wheel as he hustles up and down Highway 99 to check on drilling rigs that run 24 hours a day, probing for water. Some days, Arthur doesn't even have time to stop for gas; he's got an extra tank hooked up to the flatbed of his pickup. He says he's lucky if he gets three hours of sleep a night.

From: Mark Grossi, Fresno Bee  

A study last month estimated farm-related drought losses at $1.7 billion this year in California -- a dark prediction but researchers added a little extra downer. "There will be substantial long-term costs of groundwater overdraft that are not reflected in this study," said the study from the University of California at Davis.

In other words, this could get much worse down the line. Think about wells drying up, water quality suffering, pumping costs climbing and the landscape sinking. The U.S. Geological Survey describes the impacts of overdrafting the underground.

From: Staff, Sacramento Bee

A controversial deal to transfer groundwater from Merced County north to farmers in Stanislaus County has people talking about groundwater regulation in the state. California, unlike other states, doesn't have rules governing the use of groundwater, but in the current drought the issue is gaining prominence. Last week's Conversation asked: Should groundwater be regulated by local agencies or by the state? Or, should groundwater remain unregulated?

From: Staff, Modesto Bee

Being first can make you the focus of a lot of attention. That's just one of the reasons Stanislaus County's efforts to deal with water issues are important. We're among the first in the Valley coming to grips with finding and supplying enough water to keep agriculture not just alive but thriving.

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