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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Massive snowfall in Sierra eases California’s three-year drought

Three years of drought in California could be over if the rest of the winter continues to see at least average snowfall in the Sierra Nevada.

The water content of the snow in the Sierra is as much as 263 percent of the average (Leavitt Meadows) for Dec. 27, according to remote sensor readers for the California Department of Water Resources.

Precipitation in the Truckee River basin is 203 percent of average and 211 percent in the Lake Tahoe basin, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The ski resort Squaw Valley at Lake Tahoe reports about 250 inches of snow in parts of its property, including nine inches of snow added from Sunday’s storms, a spokeswoman says. At this time of the season, the resort has averaged about 130 inches of snow.

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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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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

California issues 25 percent water delivery forecast

California water officials on Monday announced a 25 percent delivery forecast for customers who depend on the State Water Project.

The projection is preliminary, and usually increases over the course of winter. It primarily concerns urban areas in the south San Francisco Bay Area and in the Los Angeles-San Diego metro areas, which depend on the State Water Project for a significant share of their supplies. It has no bearing on the Sacramento area, except as a general guide to statewide precipitation amounts.

The allocation announcement is the first of the year and reflects a conservative approach that is customary for the Department of Water Resources. Even so, it is far better than last year’s initial forecast, which was just 5 percent.

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/11/23/3205512/california-issues-25-percent-water.html#ixzz169U3ReXL

La Niña may reduce California water allocations

Despite an unusually wet October and weekend storms that deposited more than 10 feet of snow in parts of the Sierra Nevada, the state next year expects to deliver about one-quarter of the water requested by agencies that depend on the California Aqueduct, state hydrologists said Monday.

By definition the estimate is preliminary and certain to change as the rainy season wears on. But experts at the Department of Water Resources say that “strong” La Niña conditions are likely to offset this fall’s deluges.

“We’re off to a good start for this year’s precipitation … but La Niña could mean dry conditions later in the (water) year … especially in Southern California,” Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin said in a conference call with reporters.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/11/22/BAP21GFSFK.DTL#ixzz169RXDztC

Researchers Say Strong La Niña Means Dry Winter For California

Climate experts say a strong La Niña means a dry winter for Southern California. Water supply should be fine, but fire danger could increase next year.

Despite rain in October and in the weekend forecast, it looks like dry times for San Diego this winter.

Researchers say a strong La Niña means below normal rainfall for Southern California and a wet fall and dry spring for Northern California.

La Niña is defined as cooler than normal sea-surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean that impact global weather patterns. La Niña conditions happen every few years and can last as long as two years.

That’s what University of Colorado researcher Klaus Wolter is forecasting.

“I believe that the odds are much enhanced that we have a La Niña that goes on and on rather than disappear again,” said Wolter.

Read more… http://www.kpbs.org/news/2010/nov/17/researchers-strong-la-nina-means-dry-winter-southe/

Look to Alaska to solve our water problem

A few years ago while visiting Alaska an article in the Soldotna newspaper about water caught my eye. Soldotna is a city near the mouth of the Kenai River. The Alaskans had offered for a second time to provide the lower 48 with massive amounts of fresh water.

The suggested plan was to sink three giant pipes into the Pacific to carry billions upon billions of gallons of fresh water from the Kenai to Northern California.

The Kenai is a mighty river that drains much of the summer snow and glacial melt of central Alaska into the Cook Inlet where it becomes useless through salination. The pipes would carry the fresh water without pumping as the water inlet would be above sea level and the outlet would be slightly lower just above sea level. California, Arizona and Nevada in particular would have all the fresh water needed. Remove just the California straw from the Colorado and the river would become healthy in short order.

Washington could use some of the touted “stimulus” money to finance a project that could put thousands of Americans to work building the pipe and placing it on the ocean floor. The money would be repaid with interest by the ratepayers in California, Arizona, Nevada and every other state that would benefit by this abundance.

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Some ideas about water are all wet

The local environmental club keeps urging me to stop “wasting water” – to take shorter showers, for instance, and to water my lawn less often. But how is it possible to waste water when it’s constantly being recycled through evaporation and rain?

It’s true: Thanks to the hydrologic cycle, we drink and bathe in the same H2O that rained on the dinosaurs. And, theoretically at least, the Earth has more than enough for all of us: According to Brian Richter, co-director of the Nature Conservancy’s Global Freshwater Program, human activities – agriculture, manufacturing, bathing, drinking and so on – consume only about 10 percent of the planet’s available freshwater supply.

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In the West, it’s always about the water

By Scot Kersgaard 9/28/10 11:07 AM

“We have to get serious about water,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes said during a debate Saturday.

When the Colorado Independent asked Democratic nominee John Hickenlooper on Friday what campaign issue was not getting enough coverage, his answer was “water.” 

And in The New York Times this morning, the water of the Colorado River Basin was one of the lead stories.

Quoting the NYT:

“A once unthinkable day is looming on the Colorado River.

“Barring a sudden end to the Southwest’s 11-year drought, the distribution of the river’s dwindling bounty is likely to be reordered as early as next year because the flow of water cannot keep pace with the region’s demands.”

The good news for the Lower Basin states, apparently, is that Colorado and other Upper Basin states are not using their full allotment. Even so, Lake Powell is within inches of reaching an all-time low level, set in 1956.

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Water Use in Southwest Heads for a Day of Reckoning

LAKE MEAD NATIONAL RECREATION AREA, Nev. — A once-unthinkable day is looming on the Colorado River.

Barring a sudden end to the Southwest’s 11-year drought, the distribution of the river’s dwindling bounty is likely to be reordered as early as next year because the flow of water cannot keep pace with the region’s demands.

For the first time, federal estimates issued in August indicate that Lake Mead, the heart of the lower Colorado basin’s water system — irrigating lettuce, onions and wheat in reclaimed corners of the Sonoran Desert, and lawns and golf courses from Las Vegas to Los Angeles — could drop below a crucial demarcation line of 1,075 feet.

If it does, that will set in motion a temporary distribution plan approved in 2007 by the seven states with claims to the river and by the federal Bureau of Reclamation, and water deliveries to Arizona and Nevada would be reduced.

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Water from a Southern California/Sacramento Perspective

By Tom Philip

And now for something completely different–a look at your water problems from a Southern California perspective.

I work for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Up until three years ago, my paycheck had come from a Northern California newspaper. But I went over to The Wet Side. Now the Chronicle has asked me to share a different vantage point on our not-so-little water problems of the day.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/tphilp/detail?entry_id=72900#ixzz10UZdLP86

Would curbing desert dust help the Colorado River?

The dark dust thrown up by human activity in the deserts of the southwestern United States hastens the melting of Rocky Mountain snow and ultimately reduces the amount of water flowing into the upper Colorado River by around 5%, scientists reported Monday.

The lost water amounts to more than 250 billion gallons — enough to supply the Los Angeles region for 18 months, said study leader Thomas H. Painter, a snow hydrologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. “That’s a lot of water,” said Painter, whose study was published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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The Dry Garden: Predictions of La Niña winter

Autumn and early winter are traditionally considered planting season in Southern California because nature can be expected to cooperate. As days shorten and rains come, seeds germinate, newly transplanted saplings deepen their roots and established plants awaken from dormancy.

Yet not all years are created equal, and this coming planting season has all the hallmarks of a tricky one.

National Weather Service predictions for a La Niña cycle are becoming less tentative and more ominous. That means ocean temperature trends in the equatorial Pacific have shifted to the opposite of last winter —  a way that augurs drought.

How dry our rainy season might be is unknowable; this brooding La Niña might even produce a wet year, but the odds are stacked sharply against that. According to Jet Propulsion Laboratory climatologist Bill Patzert, 82% of the La Niñas since 1949 have had below-average rainfall. “Some are way below average,” he said. “This is a strong La Niña. It really tilts the scale. It’s an 80% to 90% probability of a dry winter.”

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California water crisis over?

A little over a year ago, farmers, farm workers and local politicians were marching arm-in-arm across the San Joaquin Valley begging for water for agriculture and jobs.

About the same time, politicians in Sacramento were behind closed doors making pork-and-bean deals to get an $11-billion bond issue on the November 2010 ballot.

Today the hardest hit farmers on the West Side of the San Joaquin Valley want to sell surplus water to Los Angeles and the water bond will very likely be postponed until 2012.

What happened?

It rained and snowed in California.

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Climategate whitewash. We’re shocked!

Some so-called “investigations” have concluded and the buddies found their buddies innocent of wrongdoing in the ongoing Climategate and related scandals.

Sort of like the fox conducting an inquiry into what went wrong in the hen house. “Innocent!” the fox sputtered, feathers flittering from his mouth.

We will deal with these “investigations” in more depth in coming weeks in a column. But for now, some highlights (lowlights?):

This is what Patrick Michaels at the Wall Street Journal says of investigations into scientific professional misconduct, data manipulation and jiggering of both the scientific literature and climatic data to paint what scientist Keith Briffa called “a nice, tidy story” of climate history

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Water Shortage!

According to a new report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council, more than one-third of all counties in the lower 48 states will likely be facing very serious water shortages by 2050.  That is just 40 years away.  As water becomes more scarce and as big global corporations lock up available supplies, the price of water is almost certainly going to skyrocket.  This will put even more economic pressure on average Americans.

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Study: County’s water supply at risk

Riverside County is at “extreme” risk for water supply shortages by mid-century as a result of global warming, a new study found.

Riverside County is at “extreme” risk for water supply shortages by mid-century as a result of global warming, a new study found.

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Keeping California Under Water:

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

By TIM DeROCHE

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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