Rep. Jeff Denham named to the Subcommittee on Water and Power

Rep. Jeff Denham today expands his influence over the House debate on water issues and his ability to address California’s water crisis by joining the Subcommittee on Water and Power in the House Committee on Natural Resources.  With a seat on the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee in the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure as well, Rep. Denham now has jurisdiction over many programs including the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Bureau of Reclamation.

The unemployment rates are consistently above the national average in the Central Valley. As a long time farmer in the area, Rep. Denham understands the immediacy of the water crisis and will remain committed to bringing water back to the Central Valley in order for farmers to grow crops and put people back to work.

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Don Curlee: Agriculture, urban goals are similar in California

The powerful Westlands Water District recently withdrew its support for the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan, action that might light a fire under other water organizations in the state.

The bold action by Westlands indicates that it is no longer willing to put up with unwanted and unmerited federal interference in the conscientious efforts by water interests in California to make the best use of water.

Westlands’ concerns regarding political interference by the Department of the Interior and its creation of further water restrictions without scientific basis are well-justified. Among other questionable activities, this department has been criticized recently by federal and state legislators for holding secret meetings on its planning process and for manipulating science to support its drilling ban in the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in the loss of 12,000 jobs.

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Water: Upbeat first assessment of year’s supplies



The rainy season isn’t over yet, but California farmers already have reasons to be optimistic about the 2011 harvest.

A torrent of early winter storms and higher-than-expected water left from 2010 prompted federal regulators Tuesday to issue an upbeat first assessment of the year’s water supplies.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the sprawling network of pipes and pumps that bring water to Central Valley farmlands and some urban customers in the Bay Area, expects to deliver as much as 100 percent of the water supplies requested.

“The new year starts with an encouraging water supply forecast, thanks to the precipitation delivered by Mother Nature,” David Hayes, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, said in a statement.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/01/18/BARH1HARF6.DTL#ixzz1Bh1HaBxh

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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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

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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California’s Delta Water Blues

“Complaints are everywhere heard that the public good is disregarded in the conflict of rival parties.”
— James Madison, The Federalist, No. 10

Gilbert Cosio stands with his feet spread, one foot higher than the other, astride a sloping, 100-year-old levee surrounding Bouldin Island, 40 miles due south of Sacramento, Calif. We’re here to take a look at improvements that Cosio, a civil engineer, has made to this levee, part of a serpentine network of flood control infrastructure that was imposed piecemeal over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries on the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

The levee was originally made from dirt that Chinese “coolies” dredged from the swamp to carve out cheap farmland for California’s new white settlers. Today, it and the hundreds of Delta levees like it must do more: They must — as they’ve been doing since the 1850s — keep the water out of the farms, many of which have fallen below sea level because of soil subsidence. But they must also keep San Francisco Bay, contiguous to the Delta’s western edge, from flowing into the Delta. The miles of levees surrounding Delta land also confine the estuary itself, creating a quasi-natural reservoir for freshwater that’s pumped to 28 million people and billions of dollars of croplands, from Silicon Valley to San Diego. And the levees don’t just protect farms and the estuary; they keep cities and suburbs and crucial infrastructure dry.

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California Water Outlook Encouraging

SACRAMENTO —

Continued releases of water from Folsom Resovoir and Nimbus Dam downstream is a sign that there might be adequete water supplies for growers and recreatonal water users in the spring and summer.  Rainfall in the northern Sierra is 180 percent of normal.  Snowfall is 200 percent of normal.

“That’s a great start considering winter is only about a week old,” said David Rizzardo, the snow survey chief with the Department of Water Resouirces.

Six of Nimbus Dam’s 18 gates are releasing water that in turn is being released at Folsom Reservoir upstream. Despite a series of wet winter strorms, the reservoir is only half full raising concerns by some that valuable water is being released.

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State increases water allocation as rainy season storms continue

With California’s rainy season shaping up as an unusually wet one, thanks to recent storms, the California Department of Water Resources is easing up on the spigot.

The department has increased its early projected allocation to cities and farms from 25 percent to 50 percent of the requested water for 2011, pleasing water officials who have seen much lower estimates at this time in previous years.

The early estimates are purposely conservative, and are typically raised as the water outlook becomes clearer, the department said last week.

This year, the department originally estimated that it could deliver 5 percent of requested water, and on Friday increased that amount to 50 percent.

While the storms don’t mean the state’s three-year drought is over, they greatly ease concerns about the supply, water officials said.

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Probable Carcinogen Found in Tap Water of 31 U.S. Cities

In 25 of 35 U.S. cities where tap water supplies were tested for hexavalent chromium — deemed likely to cause cancer in humans in a U.S. EPA draft review this year — levels of the chemical exceeded the minimum set by the state of California to protect public health, according to a report released today by an environmental group.

The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) new findings mark a public flare-up in the behind-the-scenes battle over estimating the carcinogenicity of oral exposure to hexavalent chromium, also referred to as chromium-6. The draft EPA assessment released in September could pave the way for a national drinking-water standard for the chemical, best known for polluting groundwater in Hinkley, Calif., where activist Erin Brockovich won a multimillion-dollar settlement for locals and became a household name.

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Perchlorate in drinking water more detrimental to infants than expected: study

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) — Infants who drink water containing low levels of the chemical perchlorate face a greater health risk than previously believed, a new study suggests.

In the study, researchers looked at ground drinking water slightly contaminated with perchlorate in several cities in Southern California, the Press Enterprise said Saturday.

The study shows that infants who drank water slightly contaminated with perchlorate had a 50-percent chance of developing poorly performing thyroid glands, the paper said, quoting Dr. Craig Steinmaus from California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) and lead author of the study.

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SunPower Solar Systems Planned for Two California Water Agencies

SunPower Corp. (Nasdaq: SPWRA, SPWRB) today announced that it is building solar power systems for the Fallbrook Public Utilities District (FPUD) in San Diego County and the San Juan Water District (SJWD) in Placer County. Both systems are using high efficiency SunPower technology to maximize solar power generated on site, and are expected to be operational in the first half of 2011.  

The purchase of the system for FPUD will be financed using low-interest Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (QECBs) available as a result of the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). At the 8-acre site, SunPower is designing and building a 1.1-megawatt ground-mounted solar power system using SunPower solar panels, the most efficient solar panels on the market, with SunPower™ T20 Trackers. The trackers rotate the panels to follow the sun, increasing energy capture by up to 30 percent over conventional fixed-tilt systems, while significantly reducing land use requirements.

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Bay Delta conservation plan loses support

On the heels of the withdrawal of support for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan by Westlands Water District, the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority has voted to suspend continued funding for the plan. 

The authority, which serves 29 member agencies throughout the Bay-Delta, and other public water agencies that rely on water supplies pumped through the Delta, have invested almost $150 million and more than four years toward the plan’s development. It’s estimated it will cost another $100 million to complete the plan, according to the authority. 

According to the agencies, federal regulations have reduced California’s public water supplies by more than a third in the past three years and now the Department of the Interior is proposing even more regulatory restrictions.

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Ontario schools to receive recycled water for landscaping

An agreement with the Ontario-Montclair School District will allow two schools in the Chaffey Joint Union High School District to install an underground pipeline for recycled water for its landscaping needs. 

Ontario-Montclair staff received a request from the Inland Empire Utility Agency to allow the Chaffey district to use land on the Arroyo Elementary School site to install pipelines that will provide recycled water to the Dorothy Gibson and Valley View high school sites. 

“The recycled main service point of connection for the two (schools) is in a cul-de-sac on Corona Avenue so there is no way of making that connection unless they pass through the Arroyo school property,” said Craig Misso, OMSD’s director of facilities planning and operations. 

According to state Education Code, districts are authorized to use other agencies property if it is approved by their board. 

The agreement approved at OMSD’s Nov. 18 board meeting reads OMSD will “provide easement to CJUHSD for the construction, operation and maintenance of underground pipeline for the purpose of conveying recycled water and necessary fixtures and appurtenances …”

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Oceanside hopes to produce more of its own water thru desalination

Plans to make Oceanside less dependent on costly imported water by expanding the city’s desalination program have taken on a new urgency as city officials warn of ongoing water-rate increases. 

A consultant hired by the city three years ago has completed a report recommending that Oceanside proceed with the next step toward expanding its desalination operations with a goal of providing up to half of the city’s water needs from local sources, said water utilities director Cari Dale. 

“The importance of local supplies is going to be thrust into the forefront,” Dale said. 

The City Council earlier this month put off making a decision on a proposal that would raise combined water and sewer rates for a typical homeowner from $96.30 a month to $104.14 starting in early 2011 and to $112.38 a month in July. The council will reconsider the increases Dec. 8. 

Meanwhile, water officials said more increases are likely to follow because the Metropolitan Water District is raising the price of the water it sells the San Diego Water Authority, the regional agency that in turn sells water to Oceanside and other cities and water agencies.

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La Niña this winter means dry weather

Last winter was a soaker. 

Now water managers worry about drier than usual weather across much of California through March. 

What gives? 

Last winter delivered a strong El Niño, the official designation for the climatic phenomenon typically associated with balmy temperatures and plenty of rain for many parts of the Golden State. This winter is on track to bring a strong La Niña – effectively the opposite phenomenon that can mean cooler, dry conditions, especially in Southern California.

It is the first time in more than three decades that a strong El Niño and strong La Niña occurred in back-to-back winters, according to climate data. The last time the robust “boy” and “girl” arrived in consecutive winters came in the mid-1970s, with an El Niño in 1972-73 and La Niña in 1973-74. The previous switch happened in the mid-1950s.

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Hinkley chromium clean-up could take more than a century

HINKLEY • The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board will be deciding soon if an expansion to the treatment of the chromium 6 water plume in Hinkley will be put into place, but residents probably won’t see the results in their lifetimes.

Pacific Gas and Electric is proposing to expand its current operation of injecting the chromium 6 tainted water with ethanol to convert it to the less dangerous chromium 3. In a feasibility study done by the water board, the ethanol treatment would probably take about 150 years to restore chromium 6 levels to the naturally occurring levels of 3.1 parts per billion.

The feasibility study done by the water board shows that the removal of the chromium 6 tainted groundwater will take more than 100 years, even with the most effective treatment.

PG&E is currently injecting ethanol into the plume in order to convert the chromium 6 into chromium 3, which is much less toxic. The company pumps contaminated water out and sprays it onto alfalfa plants so that it will not be spread through the air. PG&E also injects clean water as part of the program to cleanse the groundwater.

The expanded program will include increased pumping and will occur over a larger area, said Lauri Kemper, assistant executive officer for the Lahontan water board.

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New reservoir to save water from escape to Mexico

Nearly a month after water filled the Warren H. Brock Reservoir near the Arizona-California border for the first time, the project’s builders got the news they wanted: It didn’t leak.

So, they pulled the plug and let all the water out.

Emptying the reservoir, dug out of the sand dunes about 25 miles west of Yuma, was as much a part of the final construction test as filling it and watching for leaks. This reservoir was built to be in motion: Get the water in, wait a few days, get the water out.

The $172 million project is an attempt to seal decades-old leaks in the Colorado River‘s water-delivery system by capturing the dribbles lost downstream to Mexico when farmers in Arizona and California don’t take water they ordered, usually because rain filled the need.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2010/11/28/state/n101810S80.DTL#ixzz16ipr6nxJ

Population, immigration, and the drying of the American Southwest

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The looming water crisis in the American Southwest – and the role of immigration-driven population growth – is the topic of a paper published this month by the Center for Immigration Studies and authored by New Mexico journalist Kathleene Parker.

The paper, “Population, Immigration, and the Drying of the American Southwest,” online at http://cis.org/southwest-water-population-growth, explores the link between the possibility of the potentially catastrophic economic and environmental water crisis and the fact that the Southwest is the fastest-growing region of the world’s fourth-fastest-growing nation – a growth rate earlier cautioned against by various presidential commissions. It also looks at how that growth rate is driven by historically unprecedented immigration – legal and illegal – into the United States, the world’s third-most-populous nation after China and India. Immigration is responsible for more than half of the population growth in the Southwest this past decade, and nearly all of the growth in the largest southwest state, California.

Such high immigration has happened absent discussion or acknowledgement of its impacts on population or limited resources, such as water. Parker presents evidence that indicates there is insufficient water for the region’s current population, much less the larger future populations that will result if immigration continues at its present high rate.

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/11/29/3218296/population-immigration-and-the.html#ixzz16inTPvbZ

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