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El Nino was a non-event in Southern California. Expect water wars

discussing water rights

Northern California got a considerable amount of rain this winter, and some reservoirs are full. However, southern California got little so that means Socal wants a (big) share of that northern water. Not surprisingly Norcal resists this. We can expect a festive number of water wars this Spring and Summer, because the drought is nowhere near being over, as well as casting of runes to decide who gets water and how much they get. Remember, much of the water for the Central Valley and southern California is via aqueducts from the north. And they really don’t like any water being used to help those stupid Delta smelt and salmon. Really, they don’t. Screw the fish and send us the water is their cry!

Sharing doesn’t come naturally in the contentious world of California water, and the mandatory water cuts that have hit communities such as Sacramento particularly hard have sharpened the traditional geographical schisms. The north-south tensions have put state water officials on the spot, as they wrestle with the consequences of a glass-half-empty winter that did little to alleviate drought conditions south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

As for the casting of runes to decide supply, this means farmers may or may not be able to plant, based on where they are.

Agricultural areas south of the Delta that rely on the Central Valley Project for supplies will face another meager year – the US Bureau of Reclamation announced on April 1st that while CVP contractors north of the Delta will receive 100% of their allocations, agricultural water service contractors south of the Delta will receive just 5% of their allocation. CVP contractors that rely on the New Melones Reservoir (which currently sits at 26% of total capacity) will again receive no CVP water in 2016.

The critical questions in my mind going forward are: Can we save the wild Delta smelt population with the current paltry numbers researchers are finding? If they can be saved, how much water does the species need to survive? How much water (if any) can be diverted safely south? And most importantly, what is the balancing point between the water needs of endangered species and humans? If these questions are not answered, I am afraid that we will add one more line to this already very long song.

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