California water wars focus on Salton Sea, Colorado River pact

HOLTVILLE, Calif.

The evaporating Salton Sea is the flashpoint for the latest dispute in California’s water wars, testing an uneasy alliance of farmers and city dwellers to wean the state from reliance on Colorado River water.

California officials agreed in 2003 to stop taking more than its share from the Colorado, ensuring that Arizona and Nevada don’t get shortchanged. The plan’s centerpiece called for shifting enough water from the agricultural Imperial Valley to serve nearly 600,000 San Diego area homes.

The huge farm-to-city water transfer threatened California’s largest lake . More than 200 feet below sea level, the Salton Sea survives on water that seeps through the soil of Imperial Valley farms.

For seven years, the solution has been to pump enough water into the Salton Sea to offset what was lost to San Diego. The 350-square-mile lake is evaporating at a rate of roughly 450 million gallons a year, but the thinking was to prevent the San Diego transfer from hastening its demise.

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New Report Targets Unreasonable Water Use in California

Delta Watermaster Craig Wilson will present a highly anticipated report to the State Water Resources Control Board on January 19 suggesting that a particularly contentious area of California water law, the California Constitution’s “Reasonable and Beneficial Use Doctrine,” be applied more broadly.

In his report, Wilson recommends that the State Board employ this doctrine to promote agricultural water use efficiency. The doctrine states a water right does not include the right to waste water and mandates that “the water resources of the state be put to beneficial use,” according to the Planning and Conservation League Insider (http://www.pcl.org).

A small percentage of increased agricultural water use efficiency adds up to significant water savings in California, according to Wilson. The report recommends that the State Board convene a “Reasonable Use Summit” to develop specific actions to improve efficiency and create a “Reasonable Use Unit” within the Division of Water Rights.

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Cold water cracks aging water pipes in downtown Sacramento

Two downtown office buildings were closed and hundreds of workers were sent home Wednesday because a nearly 100-year-old water main cracked in the cold weather.

It was at least the 15th broken water main that the city Department of Utilities has responded to in downtown Sacramento in the past week, department spokeswoman Jessica Hess said.

Stretches of cold like the one the city has experienced over the past week put a strain on aging pipes in the downtown and midtown areas, Hess said.

“It’s pretty typical that we have a week or so where we’ve got an increased number of main breaks,” she said.

“It’s just the age of the pipes combined with the type of material and the cold that led to this.”

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/01/13/3320505/pipes.html#ixzz1B26YSP1Z

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Comment: So much for “global warming,” just as the state government begins imposing AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. The state government is more out of touch than usual.

Expert urges agriculture water use changes

An expert says small changes in agricultural irrigation practices could eliminate wasteful water use.

Delta Watermaster Craig Wilson says in a report being presented to the State Water Resources Control Board next week that California should crack down and aggressively enforce the state’s ban on wasteful water use.

The Los Angeles Times reports Tuesday that Wilson proposes broader enforcement of the state Constitution’s “reasonable use” doctrine rather than current case-by-case enforcement.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2011/01/11/state/n054733S81.DTL#ixzz1AkUIlw4h

Heavy Sierra snowfall translates to happy skiers, replenished reservoirs

TRUCKEE – For weeks, the storms kept coming, one after another.

Now that the sky has cleared, Sierra Nevada residents are digging out to discover one of the most majestic and impressive debuts by winter in recent memory.

“The snow is just wonderful,” said Elizabeth Carmel, a professional photographer and co-owner of the Carmel Gallery in Truckee. “To have all that we’ve had at this time of year, it’s definitely a winter to treasure.”

From Sequoia and Yosemite national parks to Lake Tahoe, the mountain range is draped in a shimmering blanket of snow up to 18 feet deep in some places. The bounty of moisture is expected to yield lush wildflower blooms, healthier forests and fuller-than-normal reservoirs this year.

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/01/10/3311858/heavy-sierra-snowfall-translates.html#ixzz1AgTJUKjz

The continuing fight for Sacramento Delta water

1,300 miles of ancient, earthen levees protect and encircle the Sacramento Delta.  Some say this leaves the area, and its crucial water supply vulnerable to an earthquake. Others opine that the levees are sturdy enough. That something seemingly as simple as agreement over the safety of levees can’t be reached is a telling indication of how politically contentious the Delta is. It’s been this way for decades too.

It’s all about the water, and who will control it and where will it go. Delta residents and environmentalists have somewhat overlapping interests. They want most of the water to stay in the Delta so the wildlife, fish, and birds will be protected and the area remains a natural resource. In opposition to them, but hardly allies, are farming interests in the Central Valley and the Los Angeles / San Diego water-devouring monsters to the South.  Everyone wants that water, and more than a few of the players are politically connected with major financial resources. Add to that a multiplicity of federal, state, and local agencies with regulatory power over the Delta and you get a rather complicated game indeed, and one which is played using brass knuckles. The politics of water in California has always been a barely disguised street fight.

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Klamath River cleanup wins federal approval

The federal government has approved a state plan that calls for significant reductions in pollution from agricultural runoff and dam operations on the Klamath River, setting the stage for a long-awaited cleanup of one of California’s major salmon rivers.

The new water quality standards are intended to help restore a river once home to bountiful salmon runs but more recently known as a polluted, water-starved battleground for farmers, tribes and salmon fishermen.

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