Tuesday, February 4, 2014

California Drought Updates - February 4 , 2014 - California: Before And After The Drought, And Why It's Only Going To Get Worse ....... California drought: State Water Project will deliver no water this summer -- Key takeaway - "We expect hundreds of thousands of acres of land in the Central Valley to go unplanted," said Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation. "That will cause severe economic problems in our rural regions -- loss of jobs and economic activity, with all the heartache that entails."


California: Before And After The Drought, And Why It's Only Going To Get Worse

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While the Northeast is blanketed by another winter storm, California has its own, quite inverse, climatic problems in the form of a historic drought which as Bloomberg reports, is forcing farmers in the fertile central valley region to fallow thousands of acres of fields and has left 17 rural towns so low on drinking water that the state may need to start trucking in supplies. It is so bad that water reservoirs are at about 60 percent of average, according to state water data, and falling as rainfall remains at record low levels.
Unfortunately for our California readers, it is going to get worse before it gets better because mountain snowpack is about 12 percent of normal for this time of year. The following picture of California from January and a year ago shows just this dramatic difference, which confirms that there is little hope for the parched state.
Here is the WaPo's Reid Wilson explaining the above visual comparison:
The three-year long drought plaguing the western United States is only likely to get worse over the next year, forecasters and climate scientists say, given a dismal snowpack that has officials in many states worried. Despite a snowstorm earlier this week, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains stands at just 12 percent of the average level, the lowest measurement in the half-century records have been kept.

The low snowpack has serious consequences for the summer. Less snow means less summer runoff. Already, California has banned fishing in some drought-prone rivers. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has asked residents to turn off the water while brushing their teeth. Earlier this week, President Obama called Brown to discuss the drought.

Earlier this month, Brown declared a state of emergency, urging residents to conserve water as much as possible. Several state agencies have said they plan to ration water throughout the summer. And already this year, several wildfires have broken out in areas of the state like Humboldt County, which is typically wet enough in the winter to mute any fire activity.
This of course is great news for America's already reeling economy, not to mention its stock markets and earnings growth-less corporations: it means one more excuse can be added to the arsenal of scapegoating, because while the latest snowstorm will come and go, even if it should provide "economists" and "analysts" with another reason to ignore "weaker than expected" February data, the aftereffects of California's drought will linger. And as everyone knows, Californians don't buy houses, cars, iPads, burgers, clothing, and generically, stuff, when there is a drought raging.
So bring on the bad data, and let it all be explained away by California's lack of snow, not to be confused with the overabundance of snow everywhere else.



http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-drought-california-20140203,0,7714989.story#axzz2sKnaXqfk



Editorial

Playing politics with California's drought

Competing interests are working together on water. A House GOP bill would undermine their efforts.

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Drought
Agriculture is an essential California industry, with benefits that are felt far beyond the region where crops grow. California's economy depends on it. But three out of every four raindrops, three out of every four snowflakes, that fall on California and are diverted for human use go to agriculture. (Randall Benton / MCT / April 10, 2013)

As California's drought continues, and more than a dozen rural communities ponder what to do when their drinking water runs out sometime in March, it would be nice if the state's Republican politicians brought some straightforward plans for relief to the table. But what many of them are bringing instead is a tired political tactic barely, and laughably, disguised as a remedy for the lack of rainfall.

The "man-made California drought" is the term House Republicans use to describe the state's current dry condition, as if it were somehow the hand of humankind, environmentalists or, even worse, Democrats that has stopped the snowfall over the Sierra and kept the dams that store water for fields, orchards and homes from being replenished. Funny, isn't it, that folks who question man's ability to affect the global climate are so quick to assign human causes to the drought ?

Most recently, the term "man-made drought" has been used by Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) and David Valadao (R-Hanford) in conjunction with House Bill 3946, a retread of earlier bills that sought to upend years of negotiations and reams of carefully crafted law and policy to protect water rights and balance the needs of the state's many interests and communities.


Of course, they aren't talking about the real drought. If they were, they'd acknowledge that it is actually created by a stubborn high-pressure zone off the Pacific Coast that meteorologists have taken to calling the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge. That mountain of dense air has blocked the winter storms that typically move down from the Gulf of Alaska and east into California, and that blockage has kept rain from falling in the southern part of the state and, more important, snow from falling on the Sierra. We can only guess how many more months, or years, might pass before it dissipates.

What they really mean when they refer to the "drought" are the cuts in water allocations to agricultural interests in the Central Valley, not just in dry years but potentially even in wet ones, as the state works out a plan to distribute water wisely among interests who need, or at least want, more than will ever be available. The proposed House bill would not provide any relief from the real drought but would instead permanently reallocate water for one interest.

In their imagined "people versus fish" scenario, towns are going dry and growers are going out of business because crazy environmentalists are hogging water to protect an obscure fish, the delta smelt. Water that could irrigate fields and keep people working is instead being kept in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and flushed into the ocean.

What they don't like to point out is that without that supposed flush pushing out into the Pacific, seawater would continue to intrude farther into the delta, leaving only useless salty brine to pump into canals and onto fields — and then where would the growers and the rest of us be? Without restoring the dry stretch of the San Joaquin River, there can be no recharging of Central Valley towns' groundwater supplies and no hope that the river will rescue orchards and cities with southern Sierra snowmelt in the event global climate change forever reduces levels of snowfall in the mountains to the north. And as for the smelt, the Endangered Species Act protects not only that fish but all of us, by holding together the fragile environmental web we rely on.


Agriculture is an essential California industry, with benefits that are felt far beyond the region where crops grow. California's economy depends on it. But three out of every four raindrops, three out of every four snowflakes, that fall on California and are diverted for human use go to agriculture. It is part of a network of water users that must conserve more and do a better job of planning for the future.
California has a plan — the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan — that has brought together representatives of the competing interests who recognize that they must work together to sustain one another with limited supplies of water. The Republican bill would undermine that effort by demonstrating that any agreement can be broken at any time by legislation. The state's water users — all of us — need laws that support, not subvert, efforts to balance our water use.



http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_25036892/california-drought-state-water-project-will-deliver-no



California drought: State Water Project will deliver no water this summer

By Paul Rogers progers@mercurynews.com
POSTED:   01/31/2014 01:11:09 PM PST | UPDATED:   3 DAYS AGO

At Folsom Lake,  the boat ramp is several hundred yards from the water’s edge, January 2014.
At Folsom Lake, the boat ramp is several hundred yards from the water's edge, January 2014. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP file)
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For the first time in its 54-year history, the State Water Project, a backbone of California's water system, will provide no water to urban residents or farmers this year because of the severe drought, state officials said Friday.
The announcement does not mean that communities will have no water this summer. But it does mean that every region is largely on its own now and will have to rely on water stored in local reservoirs, pumped from underground wells, recycled water and conservation to satisfy demand.
Silicon Valley and parts of the East Bay -- particularly residents of Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin, who receive 80 percent of their water each year from the State Water Project -- will feel the impact the most in the Bay Area.
Hardest hit, however, will be the state's huge agriculture industry.
"We expect hundreds of thousands of acres of land in the Central Valley to go unplanted," said Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation. "That will cause severe economic problems in our rural regions -- loss of jobs and economic activity, with all the heartache that entails."
The state's decision to turn off its main spigot will be re-evaluated every month and could change if California sees significant rainfall in February, March and April, state water officials said at a Friday morning news conference.
Still, the news highlighted how California is in uncharted territory this year. Last year was the driest in the state's recorded history back to 1850. The Sierra Nevada snowpack is at 15 percent of normal, even after a storm this week. And January set more records for lack of rainfall.
"Today's action is a stark reminder that California's drought is real," said Gov. Jerry Brown. "We're taking every possible step to prepare the state for the continuing dry conditions we face."
Bay Area impact
The State Water Project, approved by voters in 1960 and a key legacy of former Gov. Pat Brown, the governor's late father, is a massive system of 21 dams and 701 miles of pipes and canals that moves water from Northern California to the south. It essentially takes melting snow from the Sierra Nevada, captures it and transports it from Lake Oroville in Butte County through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta all the way to San Diego. In doing so, it provides drinking water for 23 million people from Silicon Valley to the Los Angeles basin and irrigates about 750,000 acres of farmland.
In November, because of the drought, officials at the state Department of Water Resources announced that summer water deliveries from the project would be only 5 percent of the amount that the farms and cities who buy water from the project have under contract. By comparison, the project allocated 35 percent last year and 65 percent in 2012.
But even that proved to be too optimistic.
"Simply put, there's not enough water in the system right now for customers to expect any water this season from the project," said Mark Cowin, the department's director.
There are 29 water districts in California that receive allocations from the State Water Project, including the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the Metropolitan Water District in Los Angeles and the Alameda County Water District.
"We anticipated this was a distinct possibility," said Marty Grimes, a spokesman for the Santa Clara Valley Water District. "It makes a challenging year even more challenging."
The Santa Clara Valley Water District board voted this week to ask its 1.8 million customers to cut their water use by 10 percent voluntarily. The district has a year's supply of water stored in underground aquifers in Santa Clara County, nearly another year's supply banked underground near Bakersfield, and a $50 million recycled water plant under construction in Alviso to provide up to 10 percent of the county's water demand when it is finished in May. It also has 10 local reservoirs that are 32 percent full.
The roughly 200,000 residents of Livermore, Pleasanton, Dublin and part of San Ramon who are under the authority of the Zone 7 Water Agency will take a bigger hit.
By pumping more groundwater, the district will have sufficient water to meet basic health and safety needs, said board President Bill Stevens. But reductions for other purposes may be necessary, he said. The agency accelerated plans to build two new wells, and owners of some vineyards in the area are concerned that water shortages could damage their crops.
Another 330,000 residents of Fremont, Newark and Union City receive 40 percent of their water from the State Water Project.
"It's a big deal," said Robert Shaver, assistant general manager of the Alameda County Water District. "Our planning is based on 1977, which had been the worst year ever. This year is worse."
Shaver said the district will pump more groundwater, buy more water from the Hetch Hetchy system and already has asked residents for 20 percent conservation, as has Zone 7.
Other Bay Area communities are not affected because they receive no State Water Project water. They include Marin County, Santa Cruz County and customers of the East Bay Municipal Utility District and the Contra Costa Water District. Also not affected are the 2.6 million residents served by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Alameda counties, who receive Hetch Hetchy water.
OTHER TOUGH ACTIONS
Meanwhile Friday, state and federal officials also announced they will withhold water from three reservoirs in Northern California that normally would be released to provide fresh water for salmon, smelt and other fish in the Delta.
The release of that fresh water also helps reduce salinity in the Delta, ensuring better quality drinking water for the Bay Area and other regions. The reservoirs -- Oroville, Shasta and Folsom -- are now releasing a combined 5,050 cubic feet per second for fish and drinking water quality. They will continue doing that, but will not release an additional 2,000 cubic feet per second as had been planned.
State officials also announced Friday that they will curtail 5,800 junior water rights holders in the Central Valley -- nearly all farmers -- from diverting water from streams. In many cases, they can pump groundwater to make up the difference.
Federal officials who run the state's other large water system, the Central Valley Project, have not yet made an allocation announcement, but are expected to by mid-February, and that number also will be very low, further impacting farmers and some cities.