As the focus on infrastructure retakes center stage in Washington, we hope lawmakers don’t overlook a prime opportunity to invest in Western water and irrigation systems. Here in the West, our dams, irrigation systems, canals and other infrastructure much of it more than a century old are past due for modernization. This is low-hanging fruit for infrastructure repair and it’s a bipartisan political winner, too. The 2018 Farm Bill recognized this opportunity to help prepare producers and watersheds for drought in the West.
Archive for date: May 21st, 2019
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Legislation from State Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, that would help the state manage its water, protecting the precious resource for people and the environment, cleared the full Senate Monday afternoon. “You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” Sen. Dodd said. “Stream gages provide important information in this era of droughts and flooding, driven in part by climate change. This bill is an important step toward managing our water for the long run.” California has one of the nation’s most complex water systems, moving millions of gallons across the state from north to south and east to west. The state’s 39 million residents and $47 billion farming industry — along with diverse wildlife from the Sierra to the sea — rely on that water.
California growers are frustrated by an unusually wet spring that has delayed the planting of some crops like rice and damaged others including strawberries and wine grapes. The state’s wet conditions come as much of the West is experiencing weird weather. Colorado and Wyoming got an unusually late dump of snow this week. Meanwhile temperatures in Phoenix have dropped 15 degrees below normal. Large swaths of California have seen two to five times more precipitation than is normal for this point in May, the National Weather Service said. A series of storms soaked much of Colusa County where rice grower Kurt Richter was forced to wait weeks to seed his land.
Local news reports as of late have included alarming updates on a spate of disputes that have cropped up involving local water agencies. For example, there’s the outrage expressed by the Desert Hot Springs-area’s Mission Springs Water District over what it refers to as the west valley-area Desert Water Agency’s “seizure” of groundwater management. Or perhaps you saw a headline regarding the Imperial Irrigation District’s concern over the recent legislative action taken by local Assemblymember Chad Mayes (right). His Assembly Bill 854 proposed forcing the IID to expand its board of directors from five to 11 members, with the six new members all coming from Riverside County, whose IID electricity customers pay 60 percent of IID’s power-related revenues.
The calendar shows it’s almost Memorial Day — typically beach weather in Southern California — but gray skies are signaling that unusually chilly temperatures and rain will stick around a bit longer during a month that has already broken precipitation records. The forecast this month has been a doozy in California with rain, hail and snow falling across much of the Golden State two months after the end of winter. Large swaths of the state, including parts of Los Angeles, have seen two to five times more precipitation than is normal for this point in May, according to the National Weather Service.
San Jose, California is plagued by both an absence and surplus of water. Until recently, the city suffered from a prolonged period of drought that forced nearly one million residents to cut back their water usage. Like many coastal cities, San Jose is also vulnerable to the growing threat of sea level rise, which has exposed the city to chronic flooding. In 2017, San Jose saw the worst floods to hit the Silicon Valley in a century — the product of an overflowing reservoir that spilled into the local Coyote Creek, trapping hundreds of residents in their homes and forcing more than 14,000 others to evacuate.
After 68 years of litigation and more than a half-century of settlement talks, a dispute between the water district that serves Fallbrook and Camp Pendleton has officially ended. The agreement settles a lawsuit filed in 1951 and lays out how the Fallbrook Public Utility District and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton will share water rights to the Santa Margarita River. A federal judge last month signed off on what is known as the Santa Margarita River Conjunctive Use Project, which will capture locally available water that flows through the river and into the ocean. The settlement, agreed to by both sides in late 2017, creates a local supply that will reduce Fallbrook’s dependence on expensive imported water.