At Los Amigos Park in Santa Monica, 11-year-old Pony League baseball players wearing Padres and Dodgers uniforms huddled with their coaches after a recent game. Standing atop a grassy area next to the baseball diamond, many may not have been aware of what lay underneath: a 53,000-gallon storage tank for stormwater runoff. Built in 2017, the project was designed to divert some 550,000 gallons of water from a nearby storm drain each year, reducing the pollution that flows into Santa Monica Bay.
Archive for month: April, 2018
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The Delta is described in many ways. When extolling the Delta as a tourist destination, it is described as a place of bucolic beauty; islands of productive farmland are threaded by meandering channels of sparkling water, a place to boat, fish, view wildlife, and grow cherries and pears. But when its future is discussed, especially in relation to big water projects, this heavenly place is often portrayed as being on its way to an aquatic Hellscape. The Sacramento Bee recently (April 8, 2008) published a reasonable editorial advocating a holistic approach to solving Delta problems.
The San Joaquin Valley – California’s largest agricultural region – has been in a state of perpetual water stress that can only be partly attributed to the latest drought. Decades of unchecked pumping have resulted in a chronic groundwater deficit averaging nearly 2 million acre-feet per year – equivalent to about two Folsom reservoirs. The clock is ticking for overdrawn basins to comply with the state’s 2014 groundwater law and get their water supply and use into balance. One strategy that can help make a substantial dent in this deficit is to encourage more storage in the valley’s depleted aquifers.
Fearsome gusts of desert wind routinely kicked up swirling clouds of choking dust over Owens Lake on the east side of the Sierra Nevada after 1913, when its treasured snowmelt and spring water was first diverted into the Los Angeles Aqueduct. It was not until 2001, and under a court order, that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power began transforming the lake’s grim heritage, flooding portions where toxic, powder-fine dust exceeded federal pollution standards. In what is now hailed as an astonishing environmental success, nature quickly responded.
The next huge natural catastrophe to strike California might not be an earthquake. New research suggests that a major flood could inundate large swaths of California in the next few decades. The last “200-year flood” was more than 150 years ago, and climate change is jacking up the odds of a repeat sooner rather than later. In order to prepare, state water officials must rethink whether big, costly dams really are the best investment of limited resources.
California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is vital to water supplies for 25 million people and 4 million acres of farmland. It is linked to the Pacific Ocean via San Francisco Bay, which makes this water supply uniquely vulnerable to sea level rise. Yet understanding sea level rise in the Delta is complicated. The largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, it consists of some 70 islands and more than 1,000 miles of levees. It is also fed by California’s two largest rivers, which drain the Sierra Nevada range.
For the last 18 years, California regulators have shaped energy policy largely based on fear. They wanted to avoid repeating the disastrous experience that followed the deregulation of the energy market, which left the state vulnerable to manipulation by the energy traders and caused a power crisis that led to soaring electricity prices and blackouts. In response, they approved new power plants — more than the state could even use. They expanded the network of power lines with billions of dollars. They developed a system of trading electricity throughout the West.
Many of my Central Valley legislative colleagues are furious that the staff at Governor Jerry Brown’s Water Commission have rigged the system so the recently announced proposed funding for Temperance Flat Reservoir is just that – flat. It’s not surprising that environmentally-oriented staff at the California Water Commission (and other state agencies such as the State Water Resources Control Board or the multitude of regional water boards) would come down in favor of fish over people.
California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is vital to water supplies for 25 million people and 4 million acres of farmland. It is linked to the Pacific Ocean via San Francisco Bay, which makes this water supply uniquely vulnerable to sea level rise.