Archive | Water

California State Water Project allocations increased to 5%

The headline is deceptive. State Water Project allocations have not been increased by 5% but rather to 5% from zero. Farmers will get a bare trickle of water this year. Worse, the allocation won’t start until Sept. 1. This means a long, hot, very dry summer for them. Your food prices will be going up.

The State Water Project sends water from the Sacramento Delta to the fertile San Joaquin valley and southern California. It is the primary, and sometimes sole, source of water for Central Valley agriculture.

Regarding the possibility of increasing SWP allocation, Mark Cowin: We will consider the next forecast at the end of April. Frankly I would be very surprised if there’s any additional increase at this point in time.

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California snowpack a mere 32% of average

Sacramento Delta

Recent California rains have helped, but not nearly enough. Statewide California snowpack is 32% of average. For the northern part of the state, the snowpack that feeds water into the Sacramento Delta is just 23%.Central Valley agriculture gets the vast bulk of its water from the Delta. Thus, hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland are expected to be fallowed. Foods prices are sure to rise.

Although 2013 was the driest calendar year on record for much of California, last-minute November and December storms in 2012 – the first year of the current drought – replenished major reservoirs to somewhat mitigate dry conditions. That comfortable reservoir cushion is now gone.

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Marijuana farms in California public areas poison land, steal water


Marijuana plants can use six gallons of water a day each. Growers are illegally siphoning water from streams and turning areas into toxic waste dumps. Streams are drying up, threatening salmon and other wildlife. It’s out of control. In some areas, local juries won’t convict. The simple (and only) solution is to legalize marijuana completely.

At raided sites, authorities have found widespread damage, including miles of irrigation lines, propane tanks, and rat poison and other toxic chemicals that end up in streams.

Bauer said it was common to see marijuana growers driving pickups with water tanks. And he said state officials last summer had chased down reports of trucks with 5,000-gallon tanks siphoning water from already-low rivers

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California Central Valley farmland threatened by saline buildup

California Central Valley

California Central Valley

The current drought is exacerbating decades-long problems that have been ignored in the California Central Valley. Over farming is causing water levels to drop precipitously in aquifers. An impermeable layer of clay prevents minerals and salts in irrigation water from draining away. Over years, it builds up, making farmland less useful. Finally, the dreaded “California snow” appears, a light covering of salt on the soil. When this happens, the land is dead, nothing can grow on it.

One solution is to retire hundreds of thousands of acres of ailing farmland from production and then attempt to rehabilitate or convert to other uses, such as solar farms.

Retiring lands before they reach that point “has just got to be the highest priority for California,” said Tom Stokely, a water policy analyst for California Water Impact Network, an environmental group. “We don’t have the water to be irrigating these poisoned lands. We’re having a hard enough time keeping the good lands in production.”

This isn’t a question of if, but when.

Many experts said if farmers don’t retire the land, nature eventually will do it for them.

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Epic coming battle to stop saltwater intrusion into Sacramento Delta



The Sacramento Delta supplies large amount of water to California. The continuing drought means freshwater flows from rivers will not be able to push back salt water from the San Francisco Bay. If salinity in Delta water increases significantly, “the water will be unusable.” This would be a disaster.

Some 25 million people and 3 million acres of farmland depend on Delta water. The Delta has a $1 billion water-related recreation economy comprised of 8,000 jobs. South of the Delta is a $25 billion annual farm economy.

State officials plan to stop the saline intrusion in an old-school yet effective way. They will build temporary rock dams at three crucial points to stop the water. This was successfully done during the drought of 1976-77. Let’s hope it works again this time.

As usual, California is way behind in enacting its lofty goals.

The estimated cost of a gate as of 2007 was $20.975 million. That is only about 1/1000th of the $18.7 billion in water bonds issued in California since 2000. Despite how critical a saltwater barrier gate would be in a drought, the gate still remains uncompleted.

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Israel meeting its water needs from desalination, recycling

Israel desalination plant

Israel desalination plant

Gosh, an entire country that gets it about water. Israel no longer worries about water shortages because it has four desalination plants and recycles wastewater for use by agriculture. You might think this would be a fine example for California to follow, right? However,NIMBYs, lawsuits, and ponderous regulatory agencies have so far blocked and delayed any possibility of desal on the California coast.

With four plants currently in operation, all built since 2005, and a fifth slated to go into service this year, Israel is meeting much of its water needs by purifying seawater from the Mediterranean. Some 80 percent of domestic water use in Israeli cities comes from desalinated water, according to Israeli officials.

The country treats and recycles more than 80 percent of its wastewater, using it primarily for agriculture, making it a world leader in that field.

Their desalination plants are privately funded, not subsidized, and have long term agreements to sell the water. Desal does have potential downsides. It uses large amounts of electricity and salt is dumped back into the ocean. It’s expensive, with unclear environmental consequences.

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California Imperial Valley has plentiful water during drought

Imperial Dam (Credit:

Imperial Dam (Credit:

The Imperial Valley borders Mexico, has no water resources of its own, yet is an agricultural powerhouse with lots of water. How can this be, especially when the Central Valley of California is facing zero water allocations? It’s because the Imperial valley gets all its water from the Colorado River and has senior water rights that trump everyone else. It gets about 20% of all water from the Colorado. Welcome to the convoluted system of water rights in the Southwest and California. Under this antiquated system, Arizona and Nevada will have their water rationed before the Imperial Valley does.

We recognize we live in an area that is blessed to have strong, senior rights on the Colorado River,” said Linsey Dale, executive director of the county Farm Bureau. “We are aware that other areas are desperate for the water we have.”

San Diego and Los Angles look thirstily upon that water. There have already been serious battles over the water. A while back, the feds forced the Imperial Valley to sell water to the cities. Expect more of this as the drought continues, especially from Nevada and Arizona.

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Colorado River Delta about to get infusion of water

Colorado River Delta

Colorado River Delta

The long-neglected Colorado River Delta will get a one-time massive delivery of water starting March 23, lasting for eight weeks. Delta wetlands in Baja California have shrunk to a fraction of their usual size due to practically no water reaching it. Now, 105,000 acre feet of water will be sent to the Delta, hopefully revitalizing it.

The release is part of a landmark agreement between the United States and Mexico negotiated through the U.S. and Mexican sections of the International Boundary and Water Commission and signed in November 2012 under the auspices of the Colorado River treaty signed in 1944.

Journalist and water wonk John Fleck visited the Delta in 2010 and is looking forward to being there when the water comes flowing down.

If all goes well, at the end of this month I’ll be standing on Morelos Dam watching the Colorado River flow back down that sandy wash. I am very much looking forward to this.

The environmental “pulse flow” beginning this month is an experiment on many levels. At a scientific level, it is an experiment in determining how the parched ecosystem of the once-lush Colorado River Delta responds to the return of water.

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California court blocks Sacramento Delta tunnel plan

Suisun Marsh Salinity Control Gates near Collinsville. Credit:

Suisun Marsh Salinity Control Gates near Collinsville. Credit:

California may not enter private land to do environmental and soil tests for the proposed Sacramento Delta big tunnels unless it plans to exercise eminent domain to seize the land, ruled an appeals court. The decision effectively blocks preliminary work on the tunnels from proceeding. California wants to enter that private land so they can drill test wells (then fill them with concrete), trap animals, take soil samples, and basically do whatever they want. The state is certain to appeal the decision. However, for now, this dreadful project is dead in the water.

The Twin Tunnels would shunt water around the Sacramento Delta, sending it southward to Big Ag in the San Joaquin Valley and to southern California. A state “environmental review”, or perhaps it should be called a “pre-determined agenda” actually said with a straight face the already stressed Delta would greatly benefit from far less water flowing into it.

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Calif will dam Sacramento Delta sloughs due to drought

False River, where a temporary barrier will be built

False River, where a temporary barrier will be built

California will temporarily fill three channels with rocks to prevent saline water intrusion into the Sacramento Delta area. Two sloughs will be blocked near Courtland to prevent Sacramento River water from flowing into them. The False River slough near Oakley will be blocked to stop saline water from entering the central Delta. All three dams are needed because the flow of freshwater is greatly diminished due to the drought.

The Sacramento Delta area is the junction of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. It is where most of the water for the Central Valley and southern California comes from. It is also home to immensely productive farmland and salmon runs. It is Ground Zero for California water battles.

It really creates all kinds of problems if we let the Delta get too salty,” Holderman said. “I would say it’s about a 95 percent chance we are going to put the barriers in. It’s just a matter of when.”

Delta and Central Valley farmers are concerned their access to water (which they have rights to) which be even more reduced by the barriers.

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