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

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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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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

Desalination still on back burner for Marin after votes

Not coming to a tap near you soon: desalinated water. 

Despite voters’ approval this month of Marin Municipal Water District incumbent candidates who supported studying desalination, and a ballot measure to allow that study to happen, the reality of taking bay water and de-salting it for domestic use in Marin remains murky. 

“What we said from the beginning of the campaign is that desalination is not on the table because of current demand patterns,” said David Behar, the water board president who won reelection. “That has not changed.”

In April the water board voted to suspend further investigation of a desalination plant until it can get a better handle on declining water demand. 

Water usage in the county continues to stay low: it has dropped 15 percent in the past two years. An extended rainy season, combined with conservation, have helped lessen the demand.

The struggling economy also means less office space is being used and fewer homes are occupied, which has led to a high number of water accounts that show zero water use.

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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

REGION: Inland leaders explore remedies for uncertain water supplies

Twenty-eight years ago, Northern California voters killed a bond issue that would have paid for a canal to carry water from the big rivers in the north to fast-growing Southern California.

The Peripheral Canal, as it was called, is still being debated, and now officials are talking instead about building tunnels to carry the water more than 40 miles underground at a cost that could top $14 billion. The tunnels would carry supplies under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the pumps that feed the California Aqueduct.

The Delta may be hundreds of miles from Inland water taps, but its aging levees, declining fish populations and water pumping limitations have Southern California water purveyors again looking for a big fix.

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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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