CA water priorities in question

DroughtRegulators and officials grappling with California’s ongoing drought face another unceasing problem: a chorus of criticism. From conservation to infrastructure, statewide policies and priorities have come under attack from a broad assortment of adversely affected residents.

Water districts themselves have wound up at the front of the line petitioning for a redress of grievances. Cuts imposed under Gov. Jerry Brown’s watch have led to sharp fiscal challenges for the utilities. “Seven months after state regulators drew up their plan to achieve a statewide reduction in urban water use, Yorba Linda Water District and its counterparts will get their first formal chance to ask for relief,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

“Under the regulations, water districts with a history of high residential use were told to cut back as much as 36 percent, while other less thirsty cities and towns were required to cut as little as 4 percent. The board and its staff took heat at the time for not considering factors such as climate, population growth and water conservation efforts prior to 2013,” the paper added. Yorba Linda and others have planned to resubmit their request for allowances, appealing to changes like the coming rainy season. With a new desalination plant about to come on line, the San Diego Water Authority has raised its hopes for a reprieve.

Grabbing land

But the water districts themselves have come under intense suspicion by farmers, for whom collective memories of California’s “Chinatown”-era water wars have not faded away. But old ghosts did not discourage the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California — America’s largest drinking water distributor — from snapping up a huge tract of land in the Palo Verde Valley, according to the Associated Press. The play, “along the Arizona line, tapped a deep distrust between farm and city that pervades the West over a river that’s a lifeline for seven states and northern Mexico,” the wire noted.

The stretch of land carries outsized significance because of its prime positioning to receive flows from the Colorado River. Desperate to irrigate their crops, Central Valley farmers have been reduced to using groundwater — utilizing a pumping process that has taken a dramatic toil on the ecology of their own land. “According to Jay Famiglietti, a water scientist at NASA’s jet propulsion lab in Pasadena and a professor at UC Irvine, two-thirds of the lost water has been sucked out of aquifers in the Central Valley, causing parts of the valley to sink,” the Guardian observed. “In some parts of the valley, the land has been dropping by almost 2 inches a month, according to NASA satellite measurements.”

Rainwater over rail

Few have held out hope for across-the-board reform in California’s complex water rights law. In a new study, the Public Policy Institute of California claimed that “the growing demand for water makes it imperative to reform the state’s system of allocating this essential resource,” as KQED noted, calling the state’s water rights system “fragmented, inconsistent and lacking in transparency and clear lines of authority.” But the water rights regulations underlying California’s complex system were unlikely to change any time soon; “since making that change would require legislative action, don’t hold your breath,” the network concluded.

In part for that reason, attention has turned to how the state’s current infrastructure budget has been allocated. One target of opportunity has been California’s high-speed rail endeavor. “A few urban Californians will benefit from high-speed rail, but we all pay the price for inadequate water storage. Since our state’s half-finished and aging water infrastructure was built 50 years ago, our population has doubled,” wrote Board of Equalization vice chair George Runner and state Sen. Bob Huff, R-San Dimas.

“Even with the benefit of El Niño, most of the rain we receive this winter won’t be captured and will end up in the ocean. Many cities need expensive projects to meet federal and state mandates to capture, treat and recycle storm water runoff. But neither Congress nor the Legislature appropriated funds to pay for these projects, anticipated to cost billions,” they cautioned.


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  1. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 7 December, 2015, 17:17

    The eco-nazis dictate that all water be diverted from the farmers and ranchhers to save a stupid 3 inch fish(Delta Smelt)humans no longer matter in the world of Deep Ecology

    Reply this comment
    • Oakland Farmer
      Oakland Farmer 9 December, 2015, 15:53

      Eco-nazis, eh? Way to start out by immediately pigeonholing yourself as a name-caller. Always a good way to keep intelligent people’s attention.

      That “stupid 3 inch fish” as you so eloquently put it, is a bit like a canary in a coal mine. If they die, so do we. Through intelligent land management (mandating living soil, sequestering carbon, cell grazing, etc.) what little water we DO have will go much further in agriculture. By building graywater, rain catchment, fog catchers systems and a myriad of other awesome conservation technology we can use the water we get locally for whatever it’s needed for. Worst case scenario, we move water around intelligently with pipes (sure isn’t a problem with oil!).

      I think our definitions of Deep Ecology are incredibly different. If I weren’t confident that you’d continue with your insulting tone, I’d go into it deeper, but I have a feeling I’d be talking to a wall.

      Reply this comment
  2. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 9 December, 2015, 21:41

    I live in Siskiyou County and were pretty much a agriculteral area and back in 2001 they cut off the water to the Klamath Basin Farmers over two trash fish(Sucker fish)and a salmon(Coho)that can be bought at the supermarket or grocery store and we once had one of those eco-wacko groups in our community(ETNA)and their HQ was a Wooden Building(they disbaned the same year)but their leader is still making pest of himself in oregon and the fact he lived in a Log House and had a second home with a wood burning water heater

    Reply this comment
  3. Oakland Farmer
    Oakland Farmer 9 December, 2015, 21:50

    I spent most of my summer’s growing up in Scott Valley (Ft. Jones) and am well aware of the situation there. Your response to my comment was as expected, going further into irrelevant information without responding to any of my suggested remedies, clearly indicating you’ve made up your mind and have no intention of any semblance of educated discourse, further perpetuating the stigma against Siskiyou County residents as ignorant hicks.

    Reply this comment

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