Archive for the 'policy' Category

Water Politics and Immigration Debate Collide

Photo retrieved from: www.palmspringslife.com

“With California in the throes of a historic drought, those issues are converging here in the Coachella Valley, a place best known for its lush resorts and the Coachella Music Festival, but also home to a $600 million dollar agriculture industry.

Many of the farm workers here live off the grid in makeshift mobile home parks that are not connected to the water and sewer systems most Americans take for granted.

Water shortages across California have put a greater strain on groundwater resources in these communities — increasing the concentration of contaminants in the well water that they depend on. But the politics of piping clean water to these homes, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars, are complicated. Many of the families are of mixed status, some legal and some not, sparking debate over the amount of taxpayer funds that should be spent.

Congressman Raul Ruiz, who grew up in this valley as the son of farm workers and became a doctor, said there are serious health issues at stake within these communities, which he and other activists describe as a cornerstone of the U.S. economy.

In the midst of the drought, he said, many of the farm workers who live here must pull more water from the wells: “and these wells already have arsenic, chromium, selenium and other contaminants in the water. What you’re doing is you’re increasing the concentration of these contaminants in the well water that humans are consuming.”

“They live in a completely different reality of water issues than the rest of the state,” Ruiz said. In some areas, he said, “we have six times more than the limit of arsenic that is considered safe for human consumption.”

The congressman and non-profit groups have advocated for public and private dollars to be put toward cleaning up the water in the mobile home parks throughout the Valley. Last year, Ruiz secured more than $7 million worth of U.S. Department of Agriculture grants to help deal with the issue. But he argues it deserves far more attention — which is not a simple matter in the midst of roiling immigration debate.”

Read more: CNN

 

California Farmers Fight for Century-Old Claims to Water

Photo retrieved from: www.seesandchips.com

“The California State Water Resources Control Board in June told holders of claims staked more than a century ago to turn off the spigots or face daily fines of as much as $1,000 and $2,500 per acre-foot. The agency then was hit by at least five lawsuits.

The warnings came as a four-year, record-setting drought squeezed California’s $43 billion agricultural industry and led to mandatory, statewide water restrictions for the first time. Cattle rancher Mario Arnaudo lost the main supply he used to irrigate 700 acres (280 hectares) of alfalfa and pasture grass when his district, which held water rights more than a century old, cut him off after getting a notice.

“That’s all our income,” said Arnaudo, 21, whose family has owned his ranch east of San Francisco since the 1960s. “If this continues, we’ll have to sell off a lot of our herd and start laying off our employees.”

There are about 14,620 so-called senior water right claims, according to Timothy Moran, a water board spokesman. Some predate 1914, when permitting laws were established.

The state has sent notices to holders of about 300 of those claims for whom there’s no water to accommodate them. Fifty-five percent have agreed to comply, Moran said.

Stratified System

California’s hierarchical system for doling out water favors those who hold rights older than 1914. Those with claims after 1914 are typically the first and only group to face curbs in a shortage. They began getting notices in April.

“It does point to the severity of the drought and the fact that we need to get to the next level of water-rights users,” said Doug Parker, director of the California Institute for Water Resources at the University of California. “Some of it’s posturing and putting up a fight and saying, ‘Look, we’re not going to take this easily.”

For Jeff Shields, general manager of the South San Joaquin Irrigation District in Manteca, it seems wrong that the state has told farmers they can no longer take water to which they’ve had access since Millard Fillmore was president. The agency is suing the state.”

Read more: Bloomberg

 

$1.3 Billion L.A. River Habitat Restoration Plan Unanimously Approved in D.C.

Photo retrieved from: www.inhabit.com

“The ongoing efforts to revitalize the L.A. River reached another milestone today, as the $1.3 billion river habitat restoration plan outlined by the city was unanimously approved this morning by the Civil Works Review Board of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Washington D.C.

“Today is the culmination of more than a decade of work and marks an important milestone in our efforts to restore the Los Angeles River,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti in a press release. “Because the Army Corps of Engineers has now given its official blessing, we have an opportunity to transform both the river’s aquatic riparian ecosystem and our city.”

A year ago, the plan, known as Alternative 20 of the Los Angeles River Ecosystem Feasibility Study, had been recommended for approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after intense lobbying by Mayor Garcetti, including a conversation with President Obama at the White House. “I think we’re on track for the L.A. River,” the president told the mayor at the time, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The $9.71-million Feasibility Study was initiated in 2006 at the behest of the U.S. Congress. The study initially looked into the 32-mile stretch of the river between San Fernando Valley and the City of Vernon, but its scope is now focused on the 11-mile portion that connects Griffith Park to downtown Los Angeles. Soft-bottomed in some sections, it is the area the Army Corps has determined to have the greatest potential for eco-system restoration.

Alternative 20 is the most comprehensive of all options outlined in the study. It will restore approximately 719 acres of habitat, including adding a side channel behind Ferraro Fields, widening of over 300 feet in Taylor Yard, and tributary restoration on the east side of the Arroyo Seco watershed, extensive work on the Piggyback Yard, restoration of the Verdugo Wash, and the wetlands of the Los Angeles State Historic Park. It is projected to cost $1.3 billion, after a cost increase from the original $1.03 billion.

The project will now be sent to the Army Corps’ chief of engineer for approval by November. If approved, it will then be sent to Congress for authorization and appropriation of funds, after which the city and the Army Corps can begin construction.”

Read more: kcet.org

 

Las Vegas Completing Last Straw to Draw Lake Mead Water

Photo retrieved from: www.abcnews.com

“It took $817 million, two starts, more than six years and one worker’s life to drill a so-called “Third Straw” to make sure glittery casinos and sprawling suburbs of Las Vegas can keep getting drinking water from near the bottom of drought-stricken Lake Mead.

The pipeline, however, won’t drain the largest Colorado River reservoir any faster. It’s designed to ensure that Las Vegas can still get water if the lake surface drops below two existing supply intakes.

“You turn on the tap, you don’t think about it,” said Noah Hoefs, a pipeline project manager for the Las Vegas-based Southern Nevada Water Authority. “These are the things being done in order to live the lifestyle we want in the places we want to live.”

It’s the latest example of ways the parched West is scrambling to deal with 15 years of unprecedented drought.

California is encouraging homeowners to rip out thirsty lawns and asking farmers to turn off spigots. And in New Mexico, a $550 million pipeline project would supply drinking water to several communities that run the risk of having wells go dry within a decade.

Las Vegas started in 1999 to conserve, reuse and replenish supplies. When Lake Mead water levels plummeted in 2002, regional water officials began drawing up plans for the pipeline.

“Unlike California and our other partners on the river, we are almost entirely reliant on Lake Mead,” said John Entsminger, water authority general manager. “We couldn’t afford to wait.”

Sin City gets about 90 percent of its drinking water from the lake behind Hoover Dam, itself an engineering marvel that cost the lives of about 100 workers during five years of construction before it was completed in 1936.

The need for the new pipeline can be seen in the wide white mineral band marking rock canyon walls where lake water has receded and the sun-bleached docks at abandoned marinas, left high and dry.

The water level has dropped almost the equivalent of a 20-story building since Lake Mead last topped the dam’s spillways in 1983.”

Read more: abc News

 

Not just Detroit: residents of nearby Michigan city face $11,000 water bills

Photo retrieved from: www.theguardian.com

“Since last year, the tribulations of neighboring Detroit’s water shutoff program have drawn significant attention worldwide, as tens of thousands of residents faced the threat of the city turning off their tap for owing as little as $150 in overdue water bills.

But Highland Park has endured a water war of its own with daunting, if not more severe, consequences. Thrust into financial insecurity after decades of disinvestment, the city has a problem that residents say they simply cannot afford: Years of dysfunctional service – inconsistent billing, faulty meters, a constantly changing staff – have resulted in some receiving water bills as high as $11,000. (The median income in the city is $19,311.)

Between roughly 2,700 residential and commercial accounts, 129 were assessed water bills of over $10,000, according to Cathy Square, Highland Park city administrator.

“There’s some odd cases where the bills are high,” she says.

Now, residents are being told they have to pay even more for water access – the main item on the agenda for the meeting inside Fogle’s home.

This week, Highland Park’s city council approved rate increases that more than doubled residential bills, a move officials say brings the city back in line with rates it maintained two years ago. For the average household in the city, the quarterly bill will jump from $171 to $376, a 119% increase.

It’s one of several processes in motion to lurch Highland Park forward into the 21st century, officials say. Still, residents say, the cost will keep a necessary resource out of reach for many.”

Read more: The Guardian

 

 

WINNEMEM WINTU AND ALLIES TO PROTEST EXCLUSION OF CALIFORNIA INDIANS FROM GOV. BROWN’S CALIFORNIA WATER SUMMIT

Photo retrieved from: www.nativenewsonline.net

“The Winnemem Wintu tribe, allies and other tribal representatives will be rallying and waving signs outside the 2nd California Water Summit this Monday, June 29, at the Westin Sacramento to protest Gov. Jerry Brown’s efforts to exclude California tribes, environmentalists and other important stakeholders in this public meeting about massive state water infrastructure projects.

The summit is being advertised by the Brown administration as a conference to discuss the “latest developments including project selection for the $7.5 billion water bond” that is now available after the passage of the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Act of 2014.

Registration for the summit is nearly an astounding $1,500 per person, and there have been no efforts to include tribal representatives, environmentalists or anyone who is advocating for sound water policy that will benefit future generations, local ecosystems and salmon and other fisheries.

No mention of tribal water rights is listed on the agenda, and it seems the only people attending will be water districts’ staff, government scientists, corporate representatives and other advocates for Governor Brown’s pet water projects like the Shasta Dam raise and the twin Delta Tunnels, both of which would be devastating for salmon and tribal cultural resources and sacred sites.”

“MOST OF THE CALIFORNIA INDIANS WHO ARE WORKING ON TRIBAL WATER RIGHTS AND FOR HEALTHIER RIVERS CAN’T AFFORD A $1,500 REGISTRATION FEE,” SAID WINNEMEM WINTU CHIEF AND SPIRITUAL LEADER CALEEN SISK.  “THIS IS CLEARLY AN EFFORT BY GOVERNOR BROWN TO EXCLUDE THE TRIBAL VOICE, SHOVE OUT ANYONE WHO DISAGREES WITH HIS DESTRUCTIVE WATER PLANS AND PROVIDE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR GOVERNMENT AND THE BIG WATER POWER BROKERS TO COLLUDE BEHIND CLOSED DOORS.”

Read more: Native News Online

 

The Price of Thirst: How Millionaires Buy Up Farmland And Hoard All Our Water

Photo retrieved from: www.alternet.org

“Where I grew up, the city of Los Angeles diverted water away from Owens Lake, slowly draining it starting in 1913. It took more than ten years for the lake to dry up and turn into a toxic dust bowl, when naturally occurring heavy metals like aluminum and cadmium that had concentrated in the salt lake over centuries became airborne. This dust has been shown to cause cancer and respiratory failure, among other ailments. I grew up experiencing water inequity in my own body.

So when I saw Sean Hannity on Fox News broadcasting from another California valley allegedly drained of its water, I must admit I became curious. In September 2009, Hannity broadcast from Huron, California, in a weeklong special titled “The Valley Hope Forgot.” He was broadcasting from the poorest congressional district in the nation, in California’s San Joaquin Valley. According to the 2009 U.S. Census, 39 percent of Huron’s close to eight thousand residents live below the poverty line. It is a migrant labor town, a cotton-picker town, and is 98.6 percent Latino/a. Huron has no medical services, no high school, and no voting booth during elections, because most of the residents are undocumented. Some 80 percent of Huron residents have not finished high school, and children who are born there have more birth defects than children anywhere else in the country—most likely due to pesticide exposure.

One resident of Huron said she shut the windows when the wind blew. “What good is the wind?” she asked. “It’s all poison.” The water quality is no better, ranking 490 out of 502 cities in California, with fecal coliform bacteria, E. coli, and nitrates found in dangerous levels. The water system is built and run by Tri-City Engineering and owned by a former manager of Bechtel.

I could certainly see why Hannity would call it “The Valley Hope Forgot.” Ironically, these were not the problems that Hannity had come to discuss. According to Fox News, Huron had only one problem: “environmental extremists” had turned off the water to save a “two-inch fish” in the Bay Area. According to Hannity, both the winter-run Chinook salmon and the delta smelt had been listed as endangered species in 1994, an event that wreaked havoc on local farms. It had been determined that water pumped for farming in the San Joaquin Valley was destroying the fishes’ habitat up north. In an area known simply as “the Delta,” an ecologically unique inland estuary exists between San Francisco and Sacramento. Through this Delta, much of the state’s water supply passes, as do its endangered fish species. It turned out they were all competing for water.”

Read more: AlterNet

 

Can We Forecast Where Water Conflicts Are Likely to Occur?

Photo retrieved from: www.newsecuritybeat.org

“The scientific literature on international water politics offers a wealth of case studies on individual river basins, but also an increasing number of larger-scale comparisons of many international freshwater catchments.

The latter work in particular offers a reasonably good basis for moving one step further, that is, from explanations of international water conflict in the past to predictions about which areas of the world are most prone to water conflicts in the future.

Basins at Risks

Building on new data on international river basins and conflict events, we revisited earlier research on the basins at risk of conflict and developed a prediction and forecasting approach for international river basin conflicts.

Whereas an earlier study by Yoffe, Wolf, and colleagues identified 29 basins at risk, our work, recently published in Global Environmental Politics, identifies 44 such river basins (see map). Only six basins simultaneously appear in the earlier and the new list: the Asi/Orontes, Cross, Han, Indus, Ob, and Tigris-Euphrates.

Note, however, that none of the river basins identified are likely to experience a “water war,” in the sense of an armed conflict over water. Instead, we expect conflicts to materialize primarily in the form of political tensions.”

Read more: New Security Beat

 

Stanford historian unearths greed-drenched origins of Mexico’s groundwater crisis

Photo retrieved from Stanford News

“A historic three-year drought has left California bone dry. But the state, along with much of the Southwest, is not alone in its water crisis. Mexico, too, is facing a severe water shortage, and Stanford scholar Mikael Wolfe says the Mexican version was decades in the making, and probably preventable.

Wolfe, an assistant professor of Latin American and environmental history, has brought to light the shady story of groundwater pumping in 20th-century Mexico. As Mexico’s water problem is now described as a matter of national security, Wolfe’s research is especially timely. He found that today’s groundwater crisis can be traced back to the 1920s, in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution (1910-20), much earlier than most water scholars and policymakers have assumed. His research draws heavily from the Historical Water Archive in Mexico City. The only collection of its kind in Latin America, the archive contains tens of thousands of documents produced by hydraulic engineers, landowners and peasants, from the 19th century to the present.

“Although the Revolution happened a century ago,” Wolfe says, “decisions about groundwater extraction continue to impact water quality and supply issues in Mexico today.”

Even more surprising, Wolfe found evidence that the Mexican government was warned about the overuse of groundwater resources in the 1930s. Mexican agriculturalists – by far the biggest groundwater users – were paving the way toward environmental disaster.

Within a decade after the Revolution, Mexico already showed signs of groundwater shortage. As Wolfe’s research demonstrates, the engineering elite was responsible for building canal networks, dam projects and groundwater pumps to distribute and maximize access to water. Wolfe found a confidential 1944 U.S. consular report predicting that ecological “disaster lies ahead” for Mexico – despite, or perhaps because of, the burgeoning water infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the insatiable demand for water, fueled by developmental imperatives, “persistently trumped concerns for conservation,” Wolfe said, adding, “it’s a pattern that persists to this day.”"

Read more at: Stanford News

LOS ANGELES MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI URGES CONSERVATION IN DROUGHT

Photo retrieved from: www.latimes.com

“Use less water and spend less for the water that is used. That’s the gist of a new directive from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Standing outside the Department of Water and Power’s downtown headquarters, the mayor signed the executive directive Tuesday, calling for big changes in water use. He says he wants the city to lead by example.

“The ongoing drought has created a water crisis second to none,” Garcetti said. “We need bold action, and that is what I am delivering today.”

The mayor wants the city to cut its water use by 20 percent over five years, ordering city departments to cut lawn watering to two days a week.

He also wants more drought tolerant plants. The DWP will now pay $3.75 a square foot to remove your lawn. DWP’s headquarters in downtown L.A. is having new water friendly landscaping installed.

“You can replace turf, if you can install appliances, water saving devices in your home, please reach out and have that discussion with us,” Marcie Edwards of the LADWP said. “The more money we save, it frees up money for us to put into our infrastructure, which is another critical priority.”

The mayor also wants a 50 percent cut in the amount of imported water purchased by the DWP. With the drought, Los Angeles is importing about 80 percent of its water, much which comes from Northern California.

He says, if there is an earthquake, that supply could be cut off for years. He wants to build the city’s local water supply, including treating groundwater, capturing and storing storm water and using recycled water.”

Read more: abc7