Rainfall study contradicts CA water policy

by Wayne Lusvardi | August 16, 2013 8:47 pm

facilities_aquaductIn the mid-1970s, it was common for many Santa Barbara County communities to deny water meters to limit growth and development.  Santa Barbara experienced periodic droughts up until 1991, when it finally built a pipeline connecting to the State Water Project’s California Aqueduct[1].

However, a 2012 climate change study entitled “When It Rains It Pours,”[2] by Environment California’s Research Policy Center, suggests it might be better for California to build new water storage facilities in Santa Barbara than in the Sacramento Delta.  The reason: From 1948 to 2011, extreme storms increased south of the Bay-Delta by 35 percent and decreased north of the Bay-Delta by 26 percent.  Santa Barbara in particular saw a 72 percent increase in extreme storms.

This is a striking finding. It’s one that some might think should affect public policies dramatically, given that polls showing overwhelming public support to address climate change[3]. And this isn’t speculative, based on expectations on what will happen as carbon builds up in the atmosphere. It’s already happened.

Given all the billions of dollars being spent by California in identifying and combating climate change[4], it is inconsistent that state water planners apparently can’t keep up with basic changes in rainfall patterns.  There has been a 60-year shift in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, where there are not enough reservoirs to capture rainfall for statewide needs.

Practical approach on water preferable

But should state water planning be based on this shift in rainfall patterns, which may or may not be a historical fluke? In the larger picture, should state water planning be based on anticipated-but-not-yet-occuring vast changes in weather patterns? And in general, should we make plans that assume an expertise about how the climate works that we don’t necessarily have?

A sober evaluation suggests that practical considerations should matter most — not knee-jerk reactions to new data or abstract theories based on assumptions of near-omniscience about the physical world.

This becomes clear when thinking about the state’s present approach and how it might change if the recent regional rainfall study were considered definitive.

deltaFactsPutting any new water storage in Santa Barbara runs against current planning efforts to undertake a massive $53 billion re-engineering of the Sacramento Delta[5].  State water planners have even named their effort to build new future dams the “North of the Delta Offstream Storage Investigation Project (NODOS).”[6]

After investigating 52 potential new reservoir locations, state and federal planners have focused on five surface water storage sites north of or near the Delta:

  1. connecting to the State Water Project’s California Aqueduct: http://www.countyofsb.org/pwd/water/downloads/StateWaterandBasinMgmtPlans05.pdf
  2. “When It Rains It Pours,”: http://www.environmentcaliforniacenter.org/reports/cae/when-it-rains-it-pours
  3. polls showing overwhelming public support to address climate change: http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2013/07/californians-back-reducing-emissions-fighting-climate-change-poll.html
  4. billions of dollars being spent by California in identifying and combating climate change: http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2011/08/23/the-alarming-cost-of-climate-change-hysteria/
  5. $53 billion re-engineering of the Sacramento Delta: http://calwatchdog.com/2012/07/30/southern-califiornias-new-pact-with-the-delta-water-devil/
  6. North of the Delta Offstream Storage Investigation Project (NODOS).”: http://www.water.ca.gov/storage/northdelta/index.cfm
  7. Sites Reservoir: http://www.water.ca.gov/storage/docs/NODOS%20Project%20Docs/Sites_FAQ.pdf#Question_3
  8. Temperance Flat: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-030910-me-water_dam-g,0,7077891.graphic
  9. San Luis Rey Reservoir in Merced County: http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2013/07/californians-back-reducing-emissions-fighting-climate-change-poll.html
  10. Lake Cachuma: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Cachuma
  11. 50-year rainfall concentration map of Santa Barbara County: http://www.countyofsb.org/uploadedImages/pwd/Water/50%20YR%20Rainfall%20-%202011.jpg
  12. Coastal Branch of the California Aqueduct: http://www.water.ca.gov/recreation/brochures/pdf/Coastal_Branch_Brochure.pdf
  13. Central Coast Branch of the State Water Project: http://www.ccwa.com/docs/History1.pdf
  14. 0.09 percent of the 43.1 million acre-feet of water: http://www.water.ca.gov/swp/watersupply.cfm
  15. Theodore White: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/water_6.html#ut3uTiMEC4HIYAwm.99
  16. entire website: http://www.opr.ca.gov/s_denier.php
  17. “deniers.”: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/california-politics/2012/08/jerry-brown-sets-sights-on-climate-change-denialists.html
  18. 77 percent of Californians back the climate change fight: http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2013/07/californians-back-reducing-emissions-fighting-climate-change-poll.html
  19. “Governor Moonbeam”: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/07/weekinreview/07mckinley.html?_r=0

Source URL: https://calwatchdog.com/2013/08/16/rainfall-study-contradicts-ca-water-policy/