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"Water Shortage - Here We Go Again"… Again


July 25, 2013
California's Boom and Bust weather cycle repeats itself so often and with such regularity that I am able to re-use portions of articles on the topic written less than two-years ago. In 2011, only a year or so after having a very wet year, we were entering a dry year and the ominous articles about possible drought started showing up in the newspapers. The following are excerpts from my article which appeared in December 2011….

"Like so many scenarios in the 'Jekyll & Hyde' world of California water supply, this news (about the possibility of a drought and shortage) likely has the public scratching its collective head. People must think, 'Weren't you the same guys who just had us taking out lawns, catching rain water and taking short showers because there was a drastic shortage, then you told us that the shortage is over and things are back to normal?' Now the public is hearing the soft but audible drum beat (as it is now) that things might not be going so well again with our state's water supply.

At play in these rapid water supply transitions, from "OMG, the sky is falling" to "Relax, everything is good," back to the "OMG, the sky is falling" are a couple of things:

One, of course, is California's weather patterns. History has shown that we can have two, four, or six consecutive dry years followed by a couple of gully washers, followed by several more dry years and so forth. The one thing that is predictable about California and its precipitation pattern is that it's unpredictable.

Second is the fact that the State Water Project….only has….water storage….to supply about two years of normal demand. What this means is that starting this year, when we have very full reservoirs, just two subsequent consecutive dry weather years can deplete our statewide storage to critical levels…."

Guess what….it's 2013 and nothing has changed. This past water year was one of the driest on record and state water officials are now warning of possible supply reductions. There are still sharp regional, political and philosophical divides on how to solve the conflicts between the environment and water diversion in state's water supply hub, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Delta issues robbed us of putting 800,000 acre-feet in storage this last rainy season; water which we will likely need in the months ahead. Polling experts tell us that the Water Bond, which was supposed to have been on the ballot in 2010, was delayed to 2012, and delayed again to 2014, still won't pass because it is too expensive and people don't think our water supply situation is all that bad. Predictably we continue to hear die-hard mantra from the environmental community that all we need is to do more conservation. At what point, I ask, does 'conservation' become 'deprivation' to our economy and quality of life?

The fact remains, if California is to have a stable and reliable long-term water supply for our economy and way of life, we must make the long overdue investments in our water supply system to resolve the conflicts between the environment and water diversions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and more surface storage like the SDCWA's current San Vicente Dam Raise Project and 3 million acre feet that is included in the State Water Bond now scheduled to go to the voters in November of 2014.

Without these investments and soon, California will be held hostage to the roller-coaster ride of boom and bust weather and water supplies.

* * *

Arant is the General Manager of the Valley Center Municipal Water District

  1. print email
    Water Storage
    July 26, 2013 | 12:09 PM

    It is fine for water purveyors located south of the Delta (SOD) to call for more water storage in their watershed, but they must understand that humans are borrowing surplus water from nature. Efforts to maintain ecological balance by following eco-system management policies is not robbing humans of their water...it is attempting to preserve water supply balance by honoring the ecosystems that provide the water. Purveyors in the San Joaquin/Tulare basin are ramping up their demands on Sacramento Valley Watersheds. One of the biggest threats to California's long-term water supply is the backdoor effort to convert the Sacramento Valley aquifer system into a drained reservoir (water bank) that could be replenished when "normal" weather returns. In fact, a drained aquifer causes rivers and streams to leak into the ground. If SOD water districts expect Sac Valley water to flow they better work with us to protect the aquifer system that is the foundation of the surface flow.

    James Brobeck
  2. print email
    Water Supply Investment
    July 27, 2013 | 11:08 PM

    Yes, investments should be made - but in a portfolio of measures to increase water reliability:
    1) Determine how much water the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta can supply, AFTER the environmental and in-Delta uses have been satisfied. (Hint, current science calls for lowered exports from the Delta.)Suspend any exports beyond that sustainable supply.
    2) Improve Delta levees where necessary, to protect export water supply, infrastructure, farms and cities from sea level rise. This can be done for around $4 Billion dollars - a lot less than $54 Billion for tunnels.
    3) Put a state of the art fish screen at the South Delta pumping plants.
    4) Stop farming desert lands with poor drainage. And stop planting permanent crops where water contracts only provide SURPLUS water.
    5) Invest heavily into regional self-sufficiency projects: water redlamation, groundwater recharge, desalination, conservation, etc.

    Southern California cities get no more than 30% of their water from the Delta. They will be asked to pay for a tunnel project which cannot guarantee any more water, because it will have to be operated under the same environmental constraints whch have limited exports in the recent past.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment. Rogene Reynolds, South Delta

    Rogene Reynolds
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