Tuesday, June 3, 2014

News articles and links from June 3, 2014


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.

Coalition response... Farmers and water districts around the state acknowledge that new groundwater management practices are necessary. The Association of California Water Agencies recently released its Recommendations for Achieving Groundwater Sustainability. Nine of the 14 members of the committee that developed the recommendations represent agricultural water suppliers. ACWA's recommendations are very similar to those issued at about the same time by the California Water Foundation, an independent water policy think-tank. The agricultural community is also working actively with both Sen. Fran Pavley and Assm. Roger Dickinson on their respective bills to improve groundwater management in California. In fact, the Valley Ag Water Coalition was actually the FIRST organization to propose language that would allow local government to impose fees on groundwater pumping to fund local improvements with dollars coming from groundwater pumping activities.

It is also important to realize that groundwater overdraft is not a new occurrence in California. The State and federal water projects were originally constructed, in part, to overcome long-term groundwater overdraft. And the projects were successful in achieving that until 1992 when project water began to be repurposed to meet new environmental objectives. That has had a significant effect on water users to the point that we are delivering less water to farms, homes and businesses this year than we did in 1977, the driest year on record. An entire agricultural economy in the San Joaquin Valley was developed based on federal and state water contracts. Farmers invested billions of dollars in both water supply infrastructure and on-farm irrigation system improvements based on these contractual obligations. Greater reliance on groundwater has always been a drought-year strategy. We should not be surprised that it is being relied on now to produce food for Californians and other consumers throughout the world.


From: Dale Yurong, KFSN 30

Growers in the Fresno Irrigation District are relieved to see irrigation water finally being delivered to their farms.

In a normal year, farmers would see water delivered for six months in the Fresno Irrigation District. This year, they're getting a fraction of that but that still beats the zero allocation some growers are getting.

From: Staff, KOVR 13

Families in areas hardest hit by California's drought are getting some much-needed help as part of the state's $687 million drought relief bill. Yolo County is able to put some of that money to use by feeding families in need. "Most of us here in town, they work on the fields, and they depend on the season," said Claudia Covorrubias.

But she says this season, the drought is taking its toll, and her husband is out of his usual farm work. It's a familiar story in Yolo County. "We need the water," she said. "If there's no water, there's no planting. So if there's no planting, there's no food."


From: Alex Breitler, Stockton Record   

Ten years ago this morning, a levee on Jones Tract west of Stockton abruptly crumbled, unleashing a flood of water and worry. The water went away, eventually. The worry never did.

A decade later, the perceived fragile nature of Delta levees remains a concern across California, where millions of people depend on water funneled through the estuary. And yet, since Jones Tract, those much-maligned levees have held firm. There has been no major Delta flood since that sunny day when the Jones Tract levee gave way and 12,000 acres of farmland became a lake.

Water Storage

From: William Palazzini, Sacramento Bee

Re "Are dams the answer?" (Page A1, June 1): Dams are built for flood control, power generation, water storage and recreation. Using only the average year water storage available for release really distorts the cost of dams.

Flood control in wet years saves millions of feet of water from ending up in the ocean while stopping or mitigating flooding. Revenue from power generation mitigates the cost of the dam and water storage, especially water saved during wet year supplies needed for irrigation and use by thirsty cities. Lastly, it provides recreational use for millions of people.

From: Bill Jurkovich, Sacramento Bee

Re "Are dams the answer?"(Page A1, June 1): The look for a silver bullet to solve California's water problems has led to paralysis in providing solutions. There is no single answer, but the combination of efficient use, reuse, storage, distribution and desalination. The paralysis is exasperated by regional self-interest, gross over allocation and greed.

From: Bill Gardner, Sacramento Bee

Re "Are dams the answer?" (Page A1, June 1): It may take a master negotiator, but it is time to work with the Great Northwest states to tap into water from the Columbia River basin.

Water canals along Idaho, Washington, and Oregon can be built and diverted to Northern California's dead seas and along to the Owens Valley to provide an infusion of new water resources to meet California's agricultural needs.

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