Many years ago, leaders in our region came together to figure out how to ensure a reliable water supply for the future. They recognized not just the importance of water to our quality of life, but how essential it is for a healthy economy. We were in a vulnerable position, and we knew it. The region relied on imported water for 95 percent of its supply. Carlsbad was 100 percent dependent on imported water.
Archive for date: December 19th, 2016
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Merced elected officials and community members alike gave the State Water Resources Control Board a tongue lashing Monday during a public hearing on the board’s Bay-Delta Plan. Officials called the state board members “the grim reaper,” “the assassin squad” and “domestic terrorists” for their proposal to send 40 percent of Merced River’s water into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to boost salmon populations, which critics have characterized as a “water grab.” “Water is life in this region, and you appear to have no other purpose than to take that life away,” Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, said.
This water year, which stretches from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, is on track to outpace the last two months of 2015. As of Sunday afternoon, the Saugus weather station measured 1.58 cumulative inches of precipitation for the water year, said Bonnie Bartling, specialist for the National Weather Service Oxnard office. Though the Santa Clarita Valley is still below last year’s mark when the station cleared 1.62 inches of rain by the end of Dec. 2015. But, Bartling said the area still has time to clear the hurdle.
The twin 40-foot-diameter, 30-mile-long tunnels would harvest Sacramento River water before it flows through the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary. A vast majority of this water would be sent to Big Ag operations like The Wonderful Company in the Southern San Joaquin Valley. It will destroy the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas. But as the the San Francisco Chronicle recently editorialized, “The tunnel project, now marketed to Californians as WaterFix, lacks community trust and political will and is saddled with a $16 billion (and growing) price tag that appears much larger than water agencies are willing to pay.”
On Tuesday, December 20, Water Deeply will hold its second Water Talk – a monthly lunchtime conversation on hot topics in California water. Senior climate scientist Juliet Christian-Smith of the Union of Concerned Scientists and Max Gomberg, water conservation and climate change manager of the State Water Resources Control Board, will join Water Deeply’s managing editor Tara Lohan to talk about the challenges ahead for California water amid a changing climate. The conversation will cover climate action in California, how climate change is impacting water resources in California and the current political (and ecological) state of climate change.
It was the most powerful storm of the season so far, and now we’re seeing the benefits. A new report card shows an impressive boost to the Bay Area water supply. The San Pablo Reservoir is one of many Bay Area reservoirs that have ballooned with recent rains. Others reservoirs around the state, are also now above their historic averages. The Lexington Reservoir above Los Gatos is one of the reservoirs that, after many years of drought, is finally looking a lot like normal.
The state of California knows its plans to send more water down our rivers into the Delta will cause a lot of pain. In the words of the board’s latest blueprint, it’s “unavoidable.” That’s all: Unavoidable. The state produced a 3,100-page document describing a plan to save salmon – available in virtually every fish restaurant in America and anything but endangered. In all those pages, not a word about mitigating human pain, or easing the economic catastrophe the state is about to wreak. It’s unavoidable. It’s also unacceptable.
A long-term plan for protecting Lake Mead and preventing severe shortages in deliveries of Colorado River water to Arizona and two other states won’t be approved before the Obama administration ends, throwing more uncertainty into the outlook. While the three states keep discussing a drought contingency plan, Arizona water officials say they’ve reached general agreement with water users here for a shorter-term fix for Lake Mead’s chronic declines.
If two water diversion tunnels could help solve California’s water delivery woes, can one tunnel be even better? Over the past decade, state officials have designed a massive plumbing solution for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Known as California WaterFix, it involves building two giant tunnels to divert a portion of the Sacramento River’s flow underneath the estuary and directly to existing diversion pumps and canals near Tracy. The cost is estimated at more than $15 billion.
With no fanfare President Obama signed a massive water infrastructure bill that would take the average person longer to read than Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” given that the average person is more apt to read the famous novel than suffer through the paper dump of such a bill. That said, the water officials I spoke with recently agreed that it’s a necessary first-step for California. If you’re interested, you can read it for yourself, starting at Subtitle J, Section 4001.