Author Archive for chrismorrow

No, California won’t run out of water in a year

Cattle ranch

Retrieved from LA Times

“State water managers and other experts said Thursday that California is in no danger of running out of water in the next two years, even after an extremely dry January and paltry snowpack. Reservoirs will be replenished by additional snow and rainfall between now and the next rainy season, they said. The state can also draw from other sources, including groundwater supplies, while imposing tougher conservation measures.

“We have been in multiyear droughts and extended dry periods a number of times in the past, and we will be in the future,” said Ted Thomas, a spokesman for the California Department of Water Resources. “In periods like this there will be shortages, of course, but the state as a whole is not going to run dry in a year or two years.”

Read more: LA Times

Lawmakers Get Disturbing Picture Of Status of Groundwater

“Groundwater supplies are at an all-time low in both the Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins. Management of that dwindling supply was the focus of debate at the state Capitol.”

The Legislative Analyst’s Office told lawmakers that without comprehensive statewide regulation of groundwater, management of the state’s water supply will be increasingly difficult. The LAO suggests the state require local water districts to phase in groundwater permitting and keep track of how much water is extracted from all groundwater wells.

“Hydrologist Jay Famiglietti with UC Irvine says in some places water will disappear in a matter of decades.

“The water losses over the past couple of years have been particularly profound,” says Famiglietti. ”They are roughly equal to 12 and a half cubic kilometers per year which is on annual basis more water than all human water use domestic, municipal, urban water use for all Californians.”

“Governor Jerry Brown’s budget proposes almost five million dollars to hire more people to identify, monitor and potentially regulate groundwater basins that are in danger of permanent damage.
You can view the LAO’s report here.

 

 

 

American Aqueduct: The Great California Water Saga


Photo retrieved from: The Atlantic

“Hood, California, is a farming town of 200 souls, crammed up against a levee that protects it from the Sacramento River. The eastern approach from I-5 and the Sacramento suburb of Elk Grove is bucolic. Cows graze. An abandoned railroad track sits atop a narrow embankment. Cross it, and the town comes into view: a fire station, five streets, a tiny park. The last three utility poles on Hood-Franklin Road before it dead-ends into town bear American flags.

“I’ve come here because this little patch of land is the key location in Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed $25 billion plan to fix California’s troubled water transport system. Hood sits at the northern tip of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a network of manmade islands and channels constructed on the ruins of the largest estuary from Patagonia to Alaska. Since the 1950s, the Delta has served as the great hydraulic tie between northern and southern California: a network of rivers, tributaries, and canals deliver runoff from the Sierra Mountain Range’s snowpack to massive pumps at the southern end of the Delta. From there, the water travels through aqueducts to the great farms of the San Joaquin Valley and to the massive coastal cities. The Delta, then, is not only a 700,000-acre place where people live and work, but some of the most important plumbing in the world. Without this crucial nexus point, the current level of agricultural production in the southern San Joaquin Valley could not be sustained, and many cities, including the three largest on the West Coast—Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose—would have to come up with radical new water-supply solutions.”

Ream more: The Atlantic

 

California drought: Feds say farmers won’t get any Central Valley Project water this year

President Barack Obama speaks to the media on California’s drought situation Friday, Feb. 14, 2014 in Los Banos, Calif. Farmers in California’s

Photo retrieved from: SJ Mercury News

“In a crushing reminder of the state’s parched plight, federal officials announced Friday that the Central Valley Project — California’s largest water delivery system — will provide no water this year to Central Valley farmers and only 50 percent of the contracted amount to urban areas such as Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties.

“Farmers had been bracing for the bad news because California received less rain in 2013 than any year since it became a state in 1850. Despite some storms this month, the state is still grappling with low reservoirs and a Sierra Nevada snowpack that’s 25 percent of normal.

“Friday’s announcement will particularly affect San Joaquin Valley farmers who are last in line to get federal water. Many will have to either heavily pump already overburdened wells, or let fields go unplanted this summer.

“California produces almost half of the nation’s fresh fruits and vegetables. And without adequate water in California, food supplies from other states or other countries may be the only option to fill the gap,” said Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition.”

Read more: San Jose Mercury News

 

DWR Drops State Water Project Allocation to Zero, Seeks to Preserve Remaining Supplies

Retrieved from: CADWR

SACRAMENTO – To protect Californians’ health and safety from more severe water shortages in the months ahead, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) today took actions to conserve the state’s precious resources. As a result, everyone – farmers, fish, and people in our cities and towns – will get less water. DWR’s actions are in direct response to Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s drought State of Emergency. In the declaration, the Governor directed DWR and the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to act to modify requirements that hinder conservation of currently stored water and allow flexibility within the state’s water system to maintain operations and meet environmental needs.

“The harsh weather leaves us little choice,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin. “If we are to have any hope of coping with continued dry weather and balancing multiple needs, we must act now to preserve what water remains in our reservoirs.”

“Except for a small amount of carryover water from 2013, customers of the State Water Project (SWP) will get no deliveries in 2014 if current dry conditions persist and deliveries to agricultural districts with long-standing water rights in the Sacramento Valley may be cut 50 percent – the maximum permitted by contract – depending upon future snow survey results. It is important to note that almost all areas served by the SWP have other sources of water, such as groundwater, local reservoirs, and other supplies.

“It is our duty to give State Water Project customers a realistic understanding of how much water they will receive from the Project,” said Director Cowin. “Simply put, there’s not enough water in the system right now for customers to expect any water this season from the project.”

Read more: California Department of Water Resources

California snowpack hits record low

Frank Gehrke

Retrieved from: latimes.com

“Even with the first significant storm in nearly two months dropping snow on the Sierra Nevada, Thursday’s mountain snowpack measurements were the lowest for the date in more than a half-century of record keeping.

“At 12% of average for this time of year, the dismal statewide snowpack underscored the severity of a drought that is threatening community water supplies and leaving farm fields in many parts of California barren.

“As snow survey crews worked, Gov. Jerry Brown met with Southern California water leaders as part of a series of drought meetings he is holding around the state.

“Every day this drought goes on, we’re going to have to tighten the screws on what people are doing,” Brown said in brief remarks before the private meeting with regional water managers at the downtown Los Angeles headquarters of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.”

Read more: Los Angeles Times

 

Rain and snow comes to dry Northern California, but not enough to ease drought

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Retrieved from: Foxnews.com

“Northern California is finally getting wet weather after some areas have gone without measurable rain for weeks. But the precipitation won’t help much to ease the drought that plagued the region.

“The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website predicted just 0.1 inch of rain in San Francisco on Wednesday and Thursday. But more than 2 inches were expected in parts of Sacramento and as much as 2 feet of snow at higher elevations in the northern Sierra, where snow was falling on Thursday morning and drivers were required to have chains on their vehicles.

“The San Francisco Bay Area has had only about 10-20 percent of the precipitation that it usually gets this time of year, said National Weather Service forecaster Diana Henderson.”

Read more: Foxnews

 

California may start huge water project before knowing if it’ll work

The Sacramento River in Sacramento. Delta restoration plans call for building three large intakes on the river that would feed into two 35-mile tunnels.

The Sacramento River. Retrieved from: LA Times

“One thing stood out in the pile of documents released Thursday detailing state plans to replumb California’s water hub: Construction could start on the massive project before water managers know whether it will work as intended.

“The still-evolving proposal, backed by Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration and the federal government, is designed to partially restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta environment and halt reductions in delta water exports.

“But uncertainty over the volume of future water deliveries is likely to linger for years as government scientists try to nail down how much water imperiled salmon and smelt need in the delta.

“This plan does not include any guarantees for water supply deliveries,” said Mark Cowin, director of the state Department of Water Resources.

“Proponents also don’t know whether restoring about 100,000 acres of habitat in the much-altered delta will produce the desired effect of bolstering fish and wildlife populations.

“But state officials argue that doing nothing will guarantee the continued deterioration of the delta ecosystem, and with it, additional cuts to southbound water deliveries.”

Read more: LA Times

 

 

The Problem Is Clear: The Water Is Filthy

Retrieved from: New York Times

“SEVILLE, Calif. — Like most children, the students at Stone Corral Elementary School here rejoice when the bell rings for recess and delight in christening a classroom pet.

“But while growing up in this impoverished agricultural community of numbered roads and lush citrus orchards, young people have learned a harsh life lesson: “No tomes el agua!” — “Don’t drink the water!”

“Seville, with a population of about 300, is one of dozens of predominantly Latino unincorporated communities in the Central Valley plagued for decades by contaminated drinking water. It is the grim result of more than half a century in which chemical fertilizers, animal wastes, pesticides and other substances have infiltrated aquifers, seeping into the groundwater and eventually into the tap. An estimated 20 percent of small public water systems in Tulare County are unable to meet safe nitrate levels, according to a United Nations representative.

“In farmworker communities like Seville, a place of rusty rural mailboxes and backyard roosters where the average yearly income is $14,000, residents like Rebecca Quintana pay double for water: for the tap water they use to shower and wash clothes, and for the five-gallon bottles they must buy weekly for drinking, cooking and brushing their teeth.

“It is a life teeming with worry: about children accidentally sipping contaminated water while cooling off with a garden hose, about not having enough clean water for an elderly parent’s medications, about finding a rock while cleaning the feeding tube of a severely disabled daughter, as Lorie Nieto did. She vowed never to use tap water again.”

Read More: New York Times

Drought stretches across America, threatens crops

The Department of Agriculture said 1,016 counties in 26 states are natural disaster areas.

Retrieved from: CNN

“A dry and mild spring led Don Villwock, like all of Indiana’s corn and soybean farmers, to plant two weeks early this year. He was hopeful for a bountiful Labor Day harvest.

“But the rain didn’t fall and June brought blistering heat.

“Now, as punishing drought grips the Midwest, Villwock, 61, walks his hard-hit 4,000 acres in southwest Indiana in utter dismay.

“Where there should have been tall, dark green, leafy plants, there now stand corn stalks that are waist high or, at best, chest high. They are pale in color and spindly. Fragile. Tired.

Pull back an ear’s husk and you find no kernels, he says. With temperatures rising above 95 degrees, the pollen starts to die.

“It’s emotionally draining,” he said. “The crop got out of the ground very well. We were so optimistic. But maybe a few of us were counting our eggs before they were hatched.”

“The costs of America’s worst drought in 24 years is obvious to Villwock, who has been farming for four decades. They are not so apparent to American consumers — at least, not yet.”

Read more: CNN