In January 2014, acting after two successive dry years, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. declared a State of Emergency for the entire state of California. He cited the extreme and prolonged drought. Seven executive orders followed from April 2014 to May and California remains to the present day in a state of what amounts to marshal law with respect to its water supply.
Archive for date: February 21st, 2017
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After six years of drought and a few months of flooding, California’s decades-long political commitment to ideology of being either for the environment or against progress has endangered the state’s water supply system and is threatening public safety, environmental health and economic stability. Rather than upgrade California’s water collection and delivery systems, for 50 years state bureaucrats, political appointees and many elected officials focused their priorities on an onslaught of environmental standards, regulations, projects and programs committed to their rose-colored-glasses vision of California.
State government leaders are making a push to turn recycled toilet, shower and other treated wastewater into the newest source of drinking water for Arizona residents. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is planning to lift a 2001 prohibition. If it happens, some residents could be drinking recycled wastewater water from their tap by the end of the year if a state regulatory council signs off on the changes. The agency prohibited the practice for years as being unsanitary but water technology has improved, said Chuck Graf, principal hydrogeologist at the environmental agency.
Last May, Donald Trump stood in an arena full of farmers from California’s desiccated Central Valley and said words many yearned to hear: “If I win, believe me, we’re going to start opening up the water.” The audience, waving FARMERS FOR TRUMP signs, hollered their approval. “I just met with a lot of the farmers,” he said. “They have farms up here and they don’t get water. I said, ‘Oh, that’s too bad. Is it a drought?’ ‘No, we have plenty of water.’ I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ ‘Well, we shove it out to sea.’ And I said ‘Why?’”
Creeks and rivers topped their banks, hundreds of homes were evacuated and several thousand people found themselves trapped in a rural hamlet as Northern California emerged Tuesday from yet another winter storm. The atmospheric river of moisture that has saturated drought-parched ground with a series of drenching storms in recent weeks returned with a vengeance to the north on Monday after briefly focusing its fury on Southern California. The downpours swelled watercourses that already teetered near or above flood levels and left about half the state under flood, wind and snow advisories.
The San Francisco Bay area can take a load off. There are four months left in what meteorologists call the “water year,” but already the city of ferryboats and suspension bridges has received more rain than in an entire normal year. Overachievers. We weather nerds made up the water year because the rainy season tends to be winter, which spans two calendar years. Shifting the water year by six months means we can look back at the year and see what a full winter was like, instead of portions of two different winters.
The state water board has egg—or should I say mud—all over its collective face. Earlier this month, board members refused to lift the drought restrictions on Californians. By keeping them in place until the traditional review time in April, they ignored pleas from water agencies to eliminate the restrictions now. Board members refused to lift the restrictions despite January rains and snows at near record levels. This month’s deluges pushed levels to records.
The water level behind the troubled dam at Lake Oroville is rising for the first time since authorities ordered an emergency evacuation more than a week ago. But officials said Tuesday that the lake still has plenty of room to take in heavy recent rainfall. Department of Water Resources Director Bill Croyle says the water level at Lake Oroville is expected to peak 45 feet below capacity by early Wednesday before the level begins dropping once again.
Just because nature allows a delay of many years while officials dither over a catastrophe in the making doesn’t make that disaster any easier to handle when it finally strikes. This is one major lesson of the Oroville Dam spillway crisis that saw the sudden evacuation of almost 200,000 people from their homes due to the threat of the dam’s emergency spillway crumbling under the force of millions of gallons of fast-moving water.
Late last month, a list of infrastructure projects purportedly prioritized by the Trump administration sparked headlines across the country. Several of the projects aim to swell water supplies in the West, including a controversial plan to capture groundwater beneath California’s Cadiz Valley, a venture to pipe water out of an aquifer in New Mexico, and a proposed desalination plant perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, in Huntington Beach, California. The nearly $1 billion desalination plant could be operating as soon as 2020, according to Poseidon Water, the company behind the project.