Even after a very rainy winter in California, the state—and much of the West—is still experiencing drought conditions. To call water a complex issue is an understatement. Tershia D’Elgin has immersed herself in the subject of Western water rights. In her book, The Man Who Thought He Owned Water, the San Diego-based writer and water resources consultant charts the history of her family’s farm, Big Bend Station, on the South Platte River in Colorado through the water it uses.
Archive for date: June 9th, 2017
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Pray for rain. Mega-drought. Winter salmon run nearly extinguished. Sierra snowpack dismal. These were just some of the headlines in California newspapers over the last five years during a historic drought that elevated water security to the top of everyone’s minds. California’s relationship to water is unique in the United States, often becoming a major part of state and local power struggles.
A company’s vision to pump water from the Mojave Desert and sell it to thirsty Southern California cities had looked to some to be a long shot. Cadiz Inc., which owns about 50 square miles atop a major aquifer in the Cadiz Valley, has pushed proposals to tap the water since the 1990s. The latest iteration has been mired for years in a thicket of regulatory and legal hurdles. But a series of developments has invigorated backers of the project, which involves both federal and state jurisdictions.
There’s a time bomb ticking in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, the Delta is a network of some 70 islands protected by more than 1,000 miles of levees. The soil on these islands is some of the richest farmland in the world because it is composed of organic material: decaying plants that accumulated over millennia. But when the levees were built 150 years ago to create farms, this dried out the soil, causing it to oxidize and decompose.
Bob and Andrea Raibert experienced a shock when they moved from a smaller property to their new home in Poway and then got the water bill for last July and August. The existing landscape was mainly Bermuda grass that required a lot of irrigation to keep it green. There were a few bushes planted along the street, and two diseased birch trees needed to be replaced. “With this and the ongoing drought and mandates to cut water use, we wanted to do our part,” Bob said.
San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) staff proposed what would equate to a 3.7 percent rate increase for SDCWA water rates, and on May 25 the CWA board set a June 22 hearing date for the proposed 2018 rates. The cost per acre-foot on a countywide basis will increase from $1,546 to $1,603 for treated water and from $1,256 to $1,303 for untreated supply. The proposed rate changes also include replacing a per-acre annexation cost with a single annexation application fee.
The San Diego County Water Authority fears it could harm ratepayers by opening up meetings that have been held out of the public’s view for decades. A letter this week by the authority’s top lawyer said it’s legal and necessary to hold private, unnoticed and unrecorded gatherings with the agency’s appointed delegates to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, or MWD, a regional agency based in Los Angeles.