In California environmental management, signs of hope

California sprang to action in its fourth year of deep drought because water management professionals and state leaders recognized that California’s water-scarce condition could be the new norm. They accepted the scientific consensus that it could get considerably worse. The way out of the trouble was to convince state residents of the need for collective …

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Selling the Colorado River deal back home: Imperial, the Salton Sea and California’s hard road

For those following efforts to cobble together an expanded Colorado River water conservation deal (that’s all of you, right?) there are a couple of important issues to unpack in Ian James’ excellent interview published yesterday with Kevin Kelley, general manager of the Imperial Irrigation District. Imperial, the largest single water using agency on the Colorado, …

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The inevitable decline of irrigated acreage in California’s central valley

It’s a relatively straightforward point: when there is less water to irrigate farmland, there will be less irrigated farmland. For example, OtPR last year: As groundwater sustainability agencies have to bring irrigated acreage in line with the sustainable yield of the groundwater basin, they will be retiring irrigated lands (Dr. Burt: 1-1.5 million acres; Dr. Lund: …

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Is the Colorado River community nearing a water-saving deal?

A flurry of public discussion over the last week about a possible water conservation deal on the Lower Colorado River illustrates the central dilemma in the river basin’s water use problems. tl;dr This is a very important agreement. Modeling suggests that, if implemented, it could slow the steep decline in Lake Mead. The water conservation …

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Delta smelt, culture wars icon

Fiorina told delegates at the state Republican Party convention here that protections for the threatened Delta smelt were a product of the “tyranny of the left, the tyranny of environmentalists.” I fear discussions of the Delta smelt and environmental costs and benefits of moving California’s water from north to south have passed the point of …

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A new favorite in the “cracked mud journalism” genre

As a connoisseur of cracked mud and journalism of the drought apocalypse, I tip my hat to the folks at Sports Illustrated for this: “The Pacifics want to do their part to call attention to California’s drought conditions and so we won’t wash our uniforms for games after we draw 500 fans,” vice president of …

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San Diego’s great water use decoupling

The San Diego County Water Authority’s use peaked in 2002 at 732k acre feet. Last year it was down to 522kaf, a 29 percent drop even as population has risen by 12 percent. This is one of many examples of “decoupling” between growth and water use. As we adapt to conditions of increasing water scarcity …

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More cuts, sooner, under Lower Colorado deal taking shape

Looks like significant progress toward an Arizona-California deal to slow Lake Mead’s decline, according to a story from the Arizona Daily Star’s Tony Davis: Arizona, California and Nevada negotiators are moving toward a major agreement triggering cuts in Colorado River water deliveries to Southern and Central Arizona to avert much more severe cuts in the …

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the water conservation ratchet

While there is much water policy Sturm und Drang in California over the extent to which water conservation mandates should or should not be extended now that weather has provide some drought relief, the reality is that the rules may not matter: The state of California ordered San Juan to reduce water usage by 33% …

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The costs of getting California’s Central Valley groundwater house in order

Groundwater overdraft, especially at the pace and scale now underway in the southern part of California’s Central Valley, has substantial costs – in terms of lost water availability and ground subsidence. But the discussion of those costs often occurs in a vacuum, without a discussion of the very real costs incurred by fixing the problem. …

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