Tag Archive for 'San Joaquin River'

Disinformation Floods Delta Water War

Photo retrieved from: www.calwatchdog.com

“Gov. Jerry Brown declared the “drought” over in 2011. Yet water rates have risen anyway across the state as a result of the bogus “drought.”

In the Feb. 6 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle, NRDC attorney Doug Obegi said there are three “facts” and three “myths” about the Sacramento Delta.  Like any slick attorney, he is working on you as if you were on a jury to make sure you are persuaded of his case.

The Delta is where most of the water runoff from the snowpack of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range ends up.  California depends on the Delta for most of its water for farms and cites, as well as fishing and water recreation.

To understand the big issues with the upcoming Delta Plan of the State legislature’s Delta Stewardship Council and the proposed $11.1 billion Water Bond on the November ballot, it is important not to be distracted by small facts and alleged irrelevant myths.

The NRDC’s device for distracting you from the water issues of the Sacramento Delta is a purported checklist of so-called “facts” and “myths” about California’s water system.  Let’s look at them without being diverted from the larger issues.”

Read more: Cal Watchdog


California’s Delta Ecosystem Is Healthier, For Now

Photo retrieved from: www.nytimes.com

“High flows of water from the melting of deep snow in the Sierra provided enough for both the tiny fish known as the delta smelt, long considered on the brink of extinction, and for the farming communities that have chafed under legal rulings requiring them to give up water to keep the smelt and its ecosystem going.

Mike Taugher reported in The Contra Costa Times that an index reflecting the smelt’s abundance had seen a 10-fold increase, from a score of 29 in 2010 to 343 in 2011. The index was at its highest level in a decade, though still less than a quarter of the levelsrecorded in 1970 and 1980.

The high water levels were not necessarily the main or the only cause of the rebound — a representative of the Natural Resources Defense Council said that changes they had pushed for in the management of the estuary could also be responsible. But there was no question that the populations of fish besides the smelt — particularly the striped bass population — also did well, although shad did not.”

Read more: New York Times


Suit seeks to stop alleged pollution by CA farmers

Photo retrieved from: www.greenscene.com

“California fishing and conservation groups filed a lawsuit Wednesday in federal court, accusing farmers of illegally discharging polluted groundwater into tributaries of the San Joaquin River.

The suit is the latest move in a decades-long battle over selenium-tainted farmland and agricultural drainage problems on the western side of the San Joaquin Valley.

The suit claims the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority allowed contaminated groundwater to co-mingle with irrigation drain water.

The mixture was then discharged without a federal wastewater permit into a canal and a slough that feed to the San Joaquin River and San Francisco Bay-Delta, the lawsuit states.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman Lynnette Wirth declined to comment on the litigation.

In a press release, officials with the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority said the lawsuit wastes taxpayers’ money and fails to recognize the benefits of a federal water project that’s used to manage agricultural drainage.

Any facility that discharges wastewater directly to surface water must obtain a wastewater discharge permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the state. While irrigation drain water is exempt from the permitting process, polluted groundwater isn’t.”

Read more: Sacramento Bee


California Coalition Seeks Suit Over Water Pollution

Photo retrieved from: www.lakescientist.com

“The district, located in San Joaquin Valley, receives an estimated five inches of rain per year, according to the Columbia University blog State of the Planet. Such little rainfall would not be adequate to transport noxious levels of selenium, boron, and chromium, which are found naturally in the soil.

However, the agricultural runoff caused from pumping more than one million acre-feet of water annually for irrigation carries high levels of the chemicals into the San Joaquin River and its secondary waterways.

In limited doses, the three chemicals are beneficial. For example, boron aids in construction of sturdy bones and muscles. The highest level of boron human adults can ingest without negative effects is 20 mg, according to Medline Plus. Higher dosages can cause impotency headaches, tremors, and diarrhea.

High levels of the chemicals have had an adverse effect on animals as well. During the 1970s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began receiving reports of deceased and malformed birds and fish. In 1983, birds at the Kesterson Wildlife Refuge perished in droves due to selenium poisoning, according to the Napa Valley Register.”

Read more: Lake Scientist


Water Supplies In Western U.S. Threatened By Climate Change: Interior Department Report

Photo retrieved from: www.huffingtonpost.com

“A report released Monday by the Interior Department said annual flows in three prominent river basins – the Colorado, Rio Grande and San Joaquin – could decline by as much 8 percent to 14 percent over the next four decades. The three rivers provide water to eight states, from Wyoming to Texas and California, as well as to parts of Mexico.

The declining water supply comes as the West and Southwest, already among the fastest-growing parts of the country, continue to gain population.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called water the region’s “lifeblood” and said small changes in snowpack and rainfall levels could have a major effect on tens of millions of people.

The report will help officials understand the long-term effects of climate change on Western water supplies, Salazar said, and will be the foundation for efforts to develop strategies for sustainable water resource management.

The report notes that projected changes in temperature and precipitation are likely to alter the timing and quantity of stream flows in all Western river basins, with increased flooding possible in the winter due to early snowmelt and water shortages in the summer due to reductions in spring and summer runoffs. Changes in climate could affect water supplies to a range of users, from farms and cities to hydropower plants, fish, wildlife and recreation, the report said.”

Read more: Huffington Post


Effort Falters on San Francisco Bay Delta

Photo retrieved from: www.nytimes.com

“The Bay Delta Conservation Plan, a federal and state initiative, would re-engineer the delta to make it safe for native species and would establish a framework for water distribution for the next 50 years. The delta, where California’s two largest rivers come together, supplies about one-quarter of the freshwater used by about 23 million Californians.

The goals of the plan are to keep vegetables and fruit trees growing in the Central Valley, taps running in Southern California and native fish swimming in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and in the briny western reaches of the delta, which the rivers feed and give it its formal name.

But the Westlands Water District, which serves some of the wealthiest and most powerful agricultural interests, has pulled out of the negotiations, saying it doubts it will get the water deliveries it had expected.

“The original purpose was to restore our water supply,” said Tom Birmingham, the general manager of the district, which snakes along the western edge of the Central Valley and serves 600 farms, according to its Web site.

The route the water takes is not without risks. Because of 160 years of farming and the construction of 1,100 miles of levees, delta lands have sunk and are now 3 to 20 feet below sea level. Mindful of how Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, planners are also focusing on the possibility that a big earthquake or storm could break crucial levees and allow saltwater from the bay to inundate the delta, which could shut off a large source of the freshwater supply for months.

Among the proposed solutions to the environmental and engineering issues is a $13 billion tunnel that would tap into the Sacramento River farther upstream and divert water around the delta. The tunnel, which could be 33 feet in diameter and 33 miles long, would be designed to be more resilient to earthquakes. It could also eliminate the springtime problem of newly hatched young smelt being sucked into giant pumps south of the delta that pull the river water into the distribution system.”

Read more: New York Times

Peter Gleik: Water infrastructure, but for whose benefit?

“the debate comes down to the best way to spend our limited public money to improve our water system. And spending $3.3 billion to help a very small number of farmers use water they cannot afford is not the best way. It won’t solve agriculture’s more fundamental challenges. It won’t restore our Delta ecosystems. It won’t satisfy new urban demands. In the end, the massive new infrastructure proposed for public financing would be an expensive distraction from real solutions.”

Read more: sfgate