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Delta-Mendota Canal reverse pumping

California water districts forced to reverse canal flow

Delta-Mendota Canal reverse pumping

Several water districts in the California Central Valley, as usual, stored water in the San Luis Reservoir, assuming they could swap that water for water coming from the Delta-Mendota Canal this summer. However, this year, because of the drought, there is no incoming canal water. The water districts are installing pumps to reverse water flow in the canals and pump the stored reservoir water uphill for 62 miles back to where it came from, lifting it 18 feet along the way. Fuel for the pumps will cost $500,000 a month. It’s either that or orchards and crops die.

In a desperate move to keep six Northern California water districts from going dry, the Delta-Mendota Canal will carry water uphill for the first time in its history.

Nine giant pumps are being installed in three locations to lift canal water a total of 18 feet along a 62-mile stretch from the San Luis Reservoir in Merced County to the city of Tracy in San Joaquin County.

Although the project is expensive, Martin said there was no alternative.

“The situation is so dire that if our districts don’t get this water, they lose their orchards,” Martin said. “If they lose their orchards, it’s a billion dollars worth of loss.

These are real farmers with real families. Whether orchards should even have been planted in the Central Valley is indeed a valid question. However, the orchards are there, and they need water or the trees die. If that happens on a mass scale, the economic impact will be devastating.

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Homer Simpson

Mountain House CA water shortage due to dimbulb local govt

Homer Simpson

Mountain House CA, a planned community of 12,000, had ample warning in 1994 it should have a backup water supply and ignored it. Today, its sole source of water has been shut off by California due to the drought and Mountain House is forced to buy expensive water on the open market. This is a clear example of how incompetent governance combines with greedhead developers makes drought much worse than it should have been.

Mountain House gets water from the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District, which has usually unassailable senior water rights. Except when it doesn’t. Rather than get a backup supply, and knowing Byron-Bethany has its supply cut back during an earlier drought, Mountain House chose to ignore all that, and is now in deep, mostly self-inflicted trouble.

But there was at least some concern about that water supply in 1994, when the Mountain House environmental impact report warned that Byron-Bethany’s supply “may be diminished by future federal and/or state regulatory actions.”

There was precedent for that statement. Byron-Bethany had been among those senior water users curtailed during the 1970s.

The environmental report also called for “adequate raw water storage” to make sure the town would have at least some water on hand if its supply was cut off. Today, Mountain House has tanks that can store about a week’s worth of water for its more than 14,000 residents.

The irrigation district is taking legal action to stop California from curtailing its water. Bizarrely, Mountain View is now buying water from another irrigation district, perhaps showing just how screwy and dysfunctional California’s water delivery system is. Instead of a bewildering patchwork of local water boards and districts, there needs to be serious central planning, and it needs to be enforceable.

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The Water Knife

Eat leaden death, junior rights water thief!

The Water Knife

The Water Knife. Ripped from tomorrow’s headlines! In a near-future when water wars are more than legal and political, screw with Las Vegas water and you will get killed,

The opening scene involves the general counsel for the Southern Nevada Water Authority winning a court curtailment order against an Arizona community whose junior water right use is apparently interfering with Las Vegas’s senior supply. The lawyer hands off the paperwork to the SNWA water rights enforcement team, which takes to the sky in a squadron of armed helicopters and blows up the junior users’ water treatment plant. This assures that water is not taken out of priority.

Water nerds are gonna love this book.

I will definitely be reading it.

Of course the plot is just fanciful speculation. Oh wait…

Arizona says California might want to steal its stockpiled water.

ADWR fully supports the statements made by Governor Ducey. California has put themselves into a dire situation and we anticipate that the federal government will want to help California, which could come at Arizona’s expense. As the governor stated, Arizona should not be punished for doing the right thing.”

Arizona has a point. Why should Arizona be forced to deliver water it has carefully stockpiled over the years to satisfy the gaping maw of California, whose water policy is a pathetic joke compared to Arizona and Nevada. Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Tucson have made huge strides in recycling, reusing, and reclaiming water. California, unlike other western states, still doesn’t regulate groundwater pumping and water usage reporting is mostly voluntary. Yeah, that’ll be effective.

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Senior water rights curtailed in parts of California

This is a big deal. Under arcane and archaic California water law, those with the oldest rights have highest priority. The State Water Board just took the highly unusual step of curtailing senior water rights in the San Joaquin and Sacramento watersheds and Sacramento Delta with a priority date of 1903 or later. This has only happened once before, in the 1970’s, and was not as extensive.

Most of the affected rights holders are agricultural and livestock, so food availability and prices may be impacted. However, enforcement of water law is spotty at best in California, as it relies on a voluntary system of reporting. A big operation facing millions in losses is going to report every drop it uses. Right.

Plus, for those with deep pockets, they can simply pump more groundwater or drill more wells, as doing so is barely regulated in California. Yes, there is a nasty drought. However at least some of California’s problems are of its own making because of its lax water law.

Today’s action is based on reported diversion demands, estimates of natural flows and actual stream flows. Conditions in these and other watersheds continue to be monitored, and curtailment notices for other watersheds and for more senior water right holders in these watersheds may be imminent.

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Islamic State continues gains. Obama Administration clueless


The Obama Administration is willfully and deliberately ignorant about the situation in Iraq and Syria, desperately trying to convince itself and the public that IS hasn’t seized large amounts of territory and weapons. Yet IS has, and the response from DC has been more of the same, bomb them, just bomb them, hoping this time will somehow be different and tactics that have repeatedly failed will somehow prove victorious.

The only way any of this makes sense is to assume the US has an out-of-control war machine whose gaping maw must be fed, regardless of consequence. And liberals, please stop babbling about how this is somehow the fault of Dubya Bush. The truth is both parties own it.

Americans blame Obama and Bush equally for Iraq

The new survey shows that Americans blame his military policy about as much as they blame the Iraqi army (40 percent to 38 percent) for the problems, and a new CNN/ORC poll finds that Americans blame Obama (44 percent) about as much as George W. Bush (43 percent) for Iraq’s problems.

Water as a weapon. Both the US and Iraqi said retaking Ramdi would be simple enough yet, as usual, the propaganda falls way short of the reality.

Islamic State has shut down all the gates of a dam in the recently-seized Iraqi city of Ramadi causing widespread concerns of an impending humanitarian crisis.

Anbar provincial council chief Sabah Karhout told AFP that the IS move lowered the level of the Euphrates River and cut water supplies to government-held areas of Khaldiyah and Habbaniyah to the east.

Gosh, the more weaponry we lose there, the more we must send. I’m guessing profits for defense contractors are soaring.

Dude, where’s my Humvee? Iraq losing equipment to Islamic State at staggering rate

Iraqi security forces lost 2,300 Humvee armored vehicles when Islamic State overran the northern city of Mosul in June 2014, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Sunday in an interview with Iraqiya state television. Coupled with previous losses of American weapons, the conclusion is simple: The United States is effectively supplying Islamic State with tools of war the militant group cannot otherwise hope to acquire from its patrons.

Maybe ISIS isn’t as religious as we think.

ISIS forces controlling Ramadi are ex-Baathist Saddam loyalists

ISIS’s roots in Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party are deep — many of the group’s most devoted commanders, advisers and fighters started out as Baathists. The ex-Baathists essentially run ISIS, and their past is evident in the tactics they are using now.

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Drought barrier. Sacramento Delta

Emergency salinity barrier in Sacramento Delta

Drought barrier. Sacramento Delta

The California drought is so severe there isn’t enough fresh water flowing into the Sacramento Delta to prevent saline water intruding from San Francisco Bay. Thus, a rock barrier has been installed in a crucial area to prevent this. Fresh water from the Delta is pumped southward to the Central Valley and southern California and used by big agriculture and millions of people. It would be catastrophic if the water became saline.

Typically when saltwater threatens to encroach deeper into the Delta, water project operators repel it either by slowing the pumping of water from the Delta or increasing the amount of water flowing into the Delta from upstream reservoirs. In this fourth year of drought, Delta pumping by the state and federal water projects is already negligible, and it takes three to five days for fresh water released from Lake Oroville or Shasta Lake to reach the Delta.

The emergency barrier is an additional tool to help limit salinity intrusion should high winds or another unexpected event push salt farther east than expected this summer.

The barrier will be removed by mid-November, when the rains usually start. This year, with a powerful El Nino building, the rains could be substantial.

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California drought cropland

California mandating water cuts for those with senior rights

California water law is a convoluted mess of senior and junior rights, special exemptions, and insanely, voluntary reporting of water use coupled with no regulation at all of groundwater pumping. The drought is now so severe that for the first time in decades, California is mandating senior water rights (pre-1914). This won’t help as much as you might expect because these  water users may well just pump more groundwater and then report voluntarily on how much they use. Aquifers will become further depleted.

California regulates water using a system that encourages selfishness to the point that it hurts everyone. It needs to create a system where the common good comes first and where, among other things, groundwater pumping is regulated, something all other western states already do.

Under California’s system, the cuts are based on seniority. Those who have younger claims have to stop taking water from rivers and streams so there is enough flow left to satisfy the demand of those with older claims.

The most senior rights holders in California are a mix of farmers, irrigation districts, utilities with hydropower stations, and cities, including San Francisco.

In yet another twist in the state’s convoluted water system, some large irrigation districts with senior rights have long-standing agreements with the big government projects and would not be subject to the curtailments.

So, senior water rights will be cut, except when they aren’t. Right.

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Los Angeles Aquedect Cascades, where Owens Valley water is deleivered to L.A.

Water supplies being halted due to California drought

Los Angeles Aqueduct Cascades, where Owens Valley water is delivered to L.A.

Los Angeles Aqueduct Cascades, where Owens Valley water is delivered to L.A.

Water supplies to Los Angeles as well as Fresno agriculture are being seriously reduced and in some cases completely halted due to the drought.

L.A. getting no Owens Valley runoff for first time since 1913

As severe drought continues to grip California, the DWP confirmed Thursday that it had dammed the aqueduct at Owens Lake in order to conserve meager Eastern Sierra snow runoff.

“Basically, we will not be exporting any water from the Eastern Sierra runoff to Los Angeles this year until November, and when we do it will be only 15% of what Los Angeles would typically receive during an average year,” Parsons said. Usually, the aqueduct supplies Los Angeles with a third of its water.

Fresno Irrigation District farmers to get no water for first time in a century

Fresno Irrigation District farmer Gene Branch said that while the news was not unexpected, it was still sobering. “It is devastating,” Branch said. “But what are you going to do, but turn on your pump and hopefully there will be a sufficient amount of groundwater to get us through.”

Branch, the former general manager of Consolidated Irrigation District in Selma, said he understands the tough decisions districts make in times of drought. “You can’t release water you don’t have,” Branch said.

Water theft becomes common consequence of ongoing California drought.

Huge amounts of water went missing from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and a state investigation was launched.

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El Nino has arrived and could be ginormous


Read this and hope, California. “A majority of the global atmosphere ocean models are currently suggesting the potential for an [El Nino] event rivaling the strongest event in the historical record.” Whoa. This could mean deluges of rain will be coming in the Fall and Winter. Yes, sometimes the models are wrong and sometimes El Nino fizzles out, so let’s not get giddy quite yet. However, lots of hard data is coming in indicating warm water areas in the Pacific have moved and are now providing the engine for El Nino. In fact, the West Coast already is in a weak El Nino, and it’s building strength.

I grew up in New England where thunderstorms are common. They roll in, they roll out. No biggie. El Ninos are different from that. I experienced them while living in Los Angeles. Storms line up in the Pacific heading for California and when they hit shore, dump prodigious amounts of rain. Such conditions are also conducive to storms being sucked in from the Gulf of Mexico by hot air rising from deserts in Nevada and Arizona. This would be a very good thing indeed, especially since I live in Vegas.

But first California and the southwest need to get past the coming summer of drought. Fire danger will be extremely high in California, (not so much in Vegas because in desert areas outside cities, there just isn’t much that can burn.) But the Santa Monica mountains in Los Angeles will have tinder-dry brush along the trails, which is often well above the heads of hikers. Fires there are scary. (And I’ve seen a few of those too.) You can’t outrun them, they move way too fast for that.

So, all California and the Southwest need to do is get past summer without drying up or burning up, and hope that the Mother of all El Ninos is coming.

Posted in Water


Hello xeriscaping, goodbye evil grass

xeriscaped yard

We just xeriscaped the yard in the house we recently bought in Las Vegas. Water is expensive here, and rates are tiered, so the more you use, the more expensive it gets per unit. When we bought the house late last year, as you can see for the lower photo, there were two big fan palms right smack against the house, grass in the yard, and boring water-sucking plants.

Now we have Version 1.0 of the xeriscaped yard. Roses (which are amazingly hardy and can take freezing weather as well as 115 degree heat) are next the house, with cactus and succulents in the yard. Sue has a real gift for this, and once the plants grow, the yard will look even better.

This should probably pay for itself in 3-4 years due to the hugely reduced water bill. Grass in the yard this size as well as a little grass in the back (which is also going away) can easily cost $75-100 a month to water in the summer in Vegas. And it’s completely not needed.



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