Peter Gleick: California’s next one million acre-feet of water

Peter Gleick:

This is a key time for California water: we are coming off of three years of serious drought and growing political conflict over water allocations. The Legislature passed a comprehensive water bill last November. A major water bond was proposed to fund a wide range of interventions, but has now been tabled for at least two years and could be greatly altered or even scrapped altogether. New reviews from around the state are calling for prompt efforts to use infrastructure, markets, and institutional reform to address the state’s water crisis. All parties agree that the state will need a diverse portfolio of solutions for our diverse and complex water problems.

But the argument that we must do everything at once — conservation, new dams, seawater desalination plants, replumbing the Delta, some of this or that — is disingenuous, and wrong. We must do the most critical and effective things first, from a technical, political, and economic perspective.

And the most effective thing, hands down, is improving water-use efficiency. The Pacific Institute has just released a new analysis that recommends a set of specific actions that can annually save a million acre-feet of water quickly and at a lower economic and ecological cost than developing new supplies. These water savings are split 30/70 between the urban and agricultural sectors.

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Californians need to see the real water problems

From Aguanomics:

A guest post from David Schurr:

Many Californians believe there is a water shortage, actually there is a water management shortage fueled by economics.* Studies conclude that water exports are the major stressor to the Delta Ecosystem, which is the most productive estuary on the west coast. Essentially water exports have exceeded what the Delta ecosystem can handle. The result is an interruption in the food chain beginning with losses in zooplankton populations that sent fish populations crashing.

Even though The State Water Board declares that 75% of the state’s water is needed to protect the environment, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) has allowed water contractors to deliver more water. This year environmental protections were overturned by Federal Court Judges to help farmers. Districts that received their water too late in the season simply used the surplus water to flush toxic salt and selenium from their fields, (no kidding) selenium that eventually ends up back in the Delta.

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Comment: Some good points, but the best way to allocate by price is through privatization. 

Some good points. And the best way to allocate a resource by price is to privatize it; which should be done with water.

From Paper to the Real World: Stopping Illegal Water Diversions in California

Elliott Rector, Legal Intern, EDF

On June 29, the California State Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee approved SB 565, an encouraging first step towards reforming the illegal use and diversion of water in California. This important bill will next be taken up in the Appropriations Committee, possibly next week.

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TragerWaterReport Comment: The best way to reduce the diversion of water is to privatize all water. That way, people would guard their supplies. In a similar fashion, people who own their own homes take care of them much better than, say, people forced to live in government housing, such as the infamous Cabrini Green in Chicago.

Keeping California Under Water:

OPED: Consumers get soaked as state agencies try to balance conservation with revenue generation.


Monday, July 19, 2010

What a difference a year makes. One year ago, California faced the third straight year of severe drought. Water rates went up. Cities like Los Angeles implemented draconian watering restrictions. The Schwarzenegger administration released a plan calling for a 20 percent reduction in consumption by 2020.

This year, all’s quiet on the Western front. A wet winter – and ongoing economic troubles – have muted the public outcry over water usage. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has proudly announced that consumption by single-family homes is down almost 30 percent since 2007.

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In a Time of Conservation, a Handful of Water Officials Increase Use

Some 69 other officials who oversee the region’s 24 water retailers — the agencies or cities that sell water to individual homes and businesses — either kept their use steady or cut it. (Their water use totals are public records because they have the power to set rates.)

But a few went in the other direction. Lopez was one of eight elected or appointed officials countywide whose home consumption increased by more than 10 percent between 2006 and 2009. Back in 2006, water conservation wasn’t a common refrain. But by 2009, with the first countywide supply cuts in two decades taking effect, the cause was advertised everywhere — from city buses to radio and television.

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New law strengthens Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency

July 19, 2010, 03:30 AM

By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff
A new law signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last week strengthens a local water agency’s ability to obtain state grants and implement conversation projects.

The Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency will now be able to compete with other water distributors across the state for bond money related to maintaining infrastructure or conservation efforts.
Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City, drafted the legislation, in part, because of Proposition 18, an $11 billion water bond measure on the November ballot.

The bond measure provides financing for a variety of projects, such as the construction of new dams, drought relief, habitat restoration, recycling, groundwater improvements, watershed restoration and infrastructure improvements.

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Glendale Water officials: Be stingy

Beautiful Glendale

With summer temperatures starting to take hold, Glendale Water & Power has seen a slight increase in customer water usage, officials said.

Glendale customers recently logged a 3% increase in water use, worrying some officials that compliance with conservation rules might be waning as summer heat approaches. Irrigation throughout the region is limited to just three days a week. In Glendale, the ordinance led to an overall 18% drop in water usage.

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Water Officials Ask People to Save Water this Summer

PACIFIC GROVE, Calif. – As warmer weather and longer, drier days set in, California American Water and the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District are asking area water users to be particularly careful of how much water they use – especially outdoors.

“Water consumption on the Monterey Peninsula generally reaches its peak in July or August,” said California American Water General Manager Craig E. Anthony. “But, this is the time of year it typically starts to increase dramatically. We’ve recently seen water use jump by approximately 1.6 million gallons per day.

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‘Save Our Water’ Program Educating Public on Year-Round Conservation

The Save Our Water public education program is educating Californians on the importance of conserving water year-round – even in wet years.

At the inaugural California Green Fair today at the state Capitol, volunteers for the program distributed water conservation materials to attendees. Visitors to the Save Our Water exhibit received grab bags with posters, water conservation brochures, landscape guides, and Save Our Water slap bracelets and bumper stickers. The fair was hosted by a coalition of state and local governments and community groups and featured more than 50 green exhibitors and resource-conserving demonstrations.

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Is anyone else tired of the word ‘conservation’?

Author: Brandon Middleton

I know I am. It seems you can’t go a day without being reminded of the need for water conservation in California. Glendale Water & Power, for example, has emphasized conservation since 2008 and “will continue to step up its water conservation message again this summer.” In a recent San Francisco Chronicle op-ed, officials with the California Department of Water Resources and the Association of California Water Agencies wrote that “[n]ow is the time for all Californians to get real about water conservation. We need to take a critical look at our consumption habits and find ways to cut our use, both inside and outside our home.”

The conservation message, however, is preaching to the choir. Even surveys conducted by DWR and ACWA demonstrate that Californians get it: Conservation is important. There is a limited supply of water. We shouldn’t waste it.

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Water’s true price

Water as we know it is not priced for conservation; it’s less expensive than cable, your phone, or a tank of gas….

 recently read two articles: “America’s 10 Thirstiest Cities” and “The Price of Water: A Comparison of Water Rates, Usage in 30 U.S. Cities.” When considered together they provide some insight into what water availability for irrigation might look like in the future, and they offer some education about water rates and water supply philosophy.

First, let’s look at the 10 thirstiest cities: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Antonio, Texas, Honolulu, Bakersfield, Calif.,  Phoenix, Portland, Ore., Sacramento, Calif., Las Vegas and Tucson, Ariz. The rating identified cities that were likely to suffer a water crisis in the next decade. For me, the list wasn’t all that surprising, except for Portland. It’s interesting that Las Vegas, where front lawns have been prohibited since 2003, was ninth on the list; it’s usually the poster child for a city not having enough water. I expected it to be in the top three.

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Californians willing to save water, poll finds

The incessant rain all winter and spring did not convince California residents that there will be enough water to go around in the future, according to a statewide poll released Wednesday.

Most Californians are, in fact, willing to alter their daily habits and drastically cut consumption in an effort to ward off what they expect to be severe, long-term water shortages.

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Wetter winter may not ease water restrictions

The good news is that Sierra snowpack is up, reservoirs are filling, the fire-prone hillsides are moist and, technically, the drought is over.

The bad news is that none of that really matters much.

Water restrictions will continue, a regulatory drought trumps the natural one and no matter how much rain we get, fire season still lurks in the hot and windy future. In fact, a nice wet winter can produce even more grass that dries up in the summer, lights fast and helps fires spread quickly.

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Wetter winter may not ease water restrictions

The good news is that Sierra snowpack is up, reservoirs are filling, the fire-prone hillsides are moist and, technically, the drought is over.

The bad news is that none of that really matters much.

Water restrictions will continue, a regulatory drought trumps the natural one and no matter how much rain we get, fire season still lurks in the hot and windy future. In fact, a nice wet winter can produce even more grass that dries up in the summer, lights fast and helps fires spread quickly.

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Big fines for unreported water use: State Water Board requires regular filing for stream diversions

Landowners and businesses that pump water from California streams now face hundreds of dollars in fines if the use of that water isn’t recorded.

The State Water Resources Control Board, in an effort to better identify the amount of water being used in the state’s watersheds, is now requiring that a statement outlining the amount of water diverted be submitted every three years. Those who haven’t filed a statement must do so by July 1.

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Turning to Water Conservation to Save Energy

SAN FRANCISCO — In the run-up to the Copenhagen climate summit conference last year, water researchers and advocates held a special meeting to address the fact that water issues were absent from the draft negotiating text. This was a major oversight, given the amount of energy that is used to collect, treat, distribute and use water and wastewater.

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$375,000 Available To Stimulate Innovative Conservation Approaches In California

DAVIS, Calif., May 5, 2010 – USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) California State Office announced $375,000 to fund local projects designed to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies through its Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) for fiscal year 2010.

“I want to encourage California’s agriculture community and partners to apply for this funding,” said Ed Burton, NRCS California State Conservationist. “These grants provide funding to demonstrate innovative practices and technologies, which will assist California’s farmers and ranchers.”

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Tiered rates cutting water usage

Steve Robbins has served since 2002 as general manager and chief engineer for the Coachella Valley Water District, a public agency established in 1918 that serves 1,000 square miles in Riverside, Imperial and San Diego counties. It has more than 500 employees and an annual operating budget of nearly $220 million….

QUESTION: Have tiered rates worked as a way to get your customers to conserve water?

ANSWER: Domestic water use in 2009 decreased by more than 8 percent compared to 2008. Because tiered rates were implemented in phases starting in July 2009, it’s hard to determine exactly how much of this decrease can be attributed to tiered rates. However, we do know they the water budget-based structure is encouraging people to become smarter about their water use.

With water budgets and ratings, which appear on monthly bills, customers are able to gauge their water use and identify problems. In response, more and more people are fixing wasteful leaks, turning off sprinklers when it rains and learning proper irrigation scheduling.

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The Growing Water Crisis

Pork Magazine: The current water crisis confronting California is a wake-up call for the nation. Unless we heed the urgent call for water conservation, California’s water strife may roll across the country, state by state….

Livestock operations should all strive to reduce water wastage. Regardless of the operation type, first look for and fix any leaks in facilities, paying close attention to drinkers. “Leaking drinkers are the biggest water wastage problem on hog farms,” says Mike Brumm, Brumm Swine Consultancy, Mankato, Minn. “A drinker leaking at the rate of 90 drips per minute is the equivalent of 7.6 gallons per day.”

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Spring is here…and so is a new campaign for Water-Use It Wisely Arizona

WUIW Arizona is excited to announce the beginning of their spring media campaign buy that is currently running in April through the end of June.

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