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06 April 2015

Comments

Russ Steele

It is hard to grasp the significance of California's lack of drought preparedness unless you understand the history of drought in the South West, including California. I highly recommend The West without Water: What Past Floods, Droughts and Other Climatic Clues Tell US about Tomorrow, by B. Lynn Ingram and Francis Malamud-Roam. This is what Amazon has to say about their book:

The West without Water documents the tumultuous climate of the American West over twenty millennia, with tales of past droughts and deluges and predictions about the impacts of future climate change on water resources. Looking at the region’s current water crisis from the perspective of its climate history, the authors ask the central question of what is “normal” climate for the West, and whether the relatively benign climate of the past century will continue into the future.

The West without Water merges climate and paleoclimate research from a wide variety of sources as it introduces readers to key discoveries in cracking the secrets of the region’s climatic past. It demonstrates that extended droughts and catastrophic floods have plagued the West with regularity over the past two millennia and recounts the most disastrous flood in the history of California and the West, which occurred in 1861–62. The authors show that, while the West may have temporarily buffered itself from such harsh climatic swings by creating artificial environments and human landscapes, our modern civilization may be ill-prepared for the future climate changes that are predicted to beset the region. They warn that it is time to face the realities of the past and prepare for a future in which fresh water may be less reliable.

California is much dryer when the Pacific is in a cool phase, which we are now in, with a mild El Niño forming, which will bring some spring and maybe some summer rains. However, the predictions are that this will be a short lived El Niño and we will return to a dry climate again. The last sever drought was in 1967/77, the year the Pacific shifted to a warm phase. The problem is we do not know if this is another short term drought, or a much longer term 20-30 year drought? California is not prepared for the much longer term drought. I have started a drought series at Sierra Foothill Commentary, to cover the history, impacts and some tips on surviving our current drought. I look foreard to the discussion.

George Boardman

I'm surprised you haven't mentioned a tried and true solution for many of our problems, at least according to conservative dogma--a free and unfettered market.

Ag uses 80 percent of the water in California, much of it subsidized. Remove the subsidies and make ag pay market rates for the water is uses. Watch ag water consumption drop.

fish

Posted by: George Boardman | 06 April 2015 at 04:25 PM

Indeed. Of course it would be interesting to see if Uncle Jerrys bony fingers could be pried off the issue sufficiently to allow market solutions to work.

Don Bessee

.... make ag pay.... no that would be the poorest and fixed income retired folks who would feel that pain when food prices soar. Then the lefties will say give them (and the illegals) more food stamps. We the tax payers end up on the wrong end of any of those scenarios. How much water is used by CA illegal aliens? Brown says come on in and 0 is now flying them in to share what we do not have.

Todd Juvinall

GeorgeB, when the free market was allowed to deal in water we saw a bunch of farmers sell their rights to the big city. Everyone won! But it worked too well and all that was forgotten (or removed) by astute politicians and eco nuts.

Regarding the costs. Ag is perhaps the only thing I like a subsidy for. Can you imagine the outrage when a tomato starts costing 10 bucks a piece? Revolution.

Russ Steele

Noted an error in my post above. It should read 1976/77.

Walt

Those "in charge" of the state's water supply really are not great managers, when every year they allow 80% of our fresh water to flow out to sea.

George Rebane

GeorgeB 425pm - The free market proposal for CA's water is in fact included in my cited reference. I did not include it in my arguments because free markets in effect disappear when the govt imposes a byzantine configuration of subsidies and regulations on the production and usage of a resource. What then results is gaming marketplace in which the winners are those who have the resources to discover self-serving provisions in the regulatory labyrinth and have the money to pay for the inevitable litigious trail of tears that follows.

However, you may be right to let whatever market exists determine the price and usage of the water. Most certainly we cannot argue that this would be worse than what the bureaucrats in Sacramento have cobbled together.

Bill  Tozer

Do what most counties do when the well runs dry: building moretoriums coupled with taxing and fining somebody. A win-win for the eco-nut human hating NIYBYs.

Bonnie McGuire

I thought the farm subsidies were to help farmers produce affordable food for all of us. It's probably the most important industry we have. Without food everything else would become insignificant.

Account Deleted

Well - here's one person's view of what we need to do to help solve our drought problem:
http://www.infowars.com/video-un-climate-change-official-says-we-should-make-every-effort-to-depopulate-the-planet/
In fact it will be a world-wide solution. Remember that she uses the term 'everything possible'. Please tell me again about how wonderful the UN is.

Todd Juvinall

All these years the plant in Santa Barbara has been idle apparently. Sea water is right there but the dummies can't even figure things out. Train to no where or water for everywhere. Hmmm.

Don Bessee

Todd is on point about the dummies but its the eco-freaks who file endless lawsuits against any logical project like desal plants. I wonder when some enterprising attorney sues them for damages on behalf of some poor people and bleed the eco's in court for years like they do. Saw recently that one of the few new desal plants endured 6 different eco lawsuits and still has one more hurdle before they can switch on for San Diego. 1 plant will provide 7% of San Diego's current use. The economics of these plants is very dependent on cheep energy sources as its an energy hungry process. With so called renewable green energy being so expensive and oil likely to go up it makes for profit investors skittish. Train no - desal plants yes. That would give Brown a legacy project but we all know he is too tight with the eco's to even try.

Walt

Not to mention every dam project has been done in by the ECO clan. Auburn dam anyone?
The white water rafters claimed to be more important.

Bill  Tozer

I am confused. The desal plant in Santa Barbara went on line ironically the same day the Governor officially declared the end of the last drought. Remember that clearly. So, why is the Santa Barbara desal plant off line/idle? Somebody help me out.

Desals are energy hogs (gas guzzlers if you prefer). Just like making ethanol, they consume mega energy. Not very Eco-friendly and no friend of the greenies nor dirt and crystal worshipers. No offense directled towards Mr. Walt. Looks like showering with a buddy is coming back in vogue.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/102563014

Bill  Tozer

Well, if desal, sewage water, and turning off all the sprinklers is not enough, then there will be not enough bathing, cooking, and drinking water in two years down south. No more Scotch and Water. Hold the water, thankyou.

http://www.npr.org/2015/04/05/397659871/will-turning-seawater-into-drinking-water-help-drought-hit-california

Brad C.

Todd, here you go,

http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-santa-barbara-desal-20150303-story.html

Todd Juvinall

Looks like it was offline.

Walt

That's OK Bill,, I'm pretty sure no one has ever "worshiped" me. But plenty have prayed that I be put under it.

But yes, Desal is vary costly.
Some saw this day coming.Now life is imitating art. ( growing corn for fuel,, or food)

Remember? some smart guy decided that a big percentage of electricity for Ca. needs to
be from "renewable". ( hydroelectric counts) Well,, no water to spin the magnets.
No water to grow the corn... Yup,, we'er "F"ed...

George Rebane

We might consider perhaps the most serious roadblock to desalinization - California's electricity costs rank right up there with the highest in the country.
http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_5_6_a

joe smith

GR 0949-
California's electricity might be among the most expensive in the country, but the water delivered via the CVP and the SWP is among the cleanest, least recycled and least expensive (to the end user) in the world. Allow water to sell at true market rates and then, only then, will we see a significant change. Desal will not look so expensive when water costs what it's worth.

George Rebane

joes 1046am - Agreed, but where of where can we implement "true market rates"? Are such rates the same as free market rates?

I submit were that unattainable to become attainable, then southern California as we know it would cease to exist. In an open market prices are set by mutual agreement between a buyer and a seller, not agents whose personal fortunes are immune from such transactions. In our case, who owns the water, who sells it, who agrees to buy it, and who finally pays for it?

Finally, water to any jurisdiction is supplied by an oligopoly of bureaucrats, none of whom are concerned with actual costs and end-user affordability. Nevertheless, we can still dream.

Todd Juvinall

If the South Cal Ed people kept the San Onofre and used the power to desal then I see a win win. But the plant is on its way to scrap.

joe smith

TJ 14:30 RR "drought"
Todd - When water is diverted from the Sacramento River into a rice field the allocation is based on the water rights of said rice grower. Right? Can we agree that this is an "agricultural" water allocation?

At the end of the rice season the rice water is drained back into the Sacramento River. What used to be ag water now becomes available for use as "environmental" water for, say, endangered species. Maybe YOU don't like the "environmental" name, call it anything you like, but this is what DWR calls it.

The same thing happens every time you flush your toilet into a sewage system, treated and sent out the other end. It stops being a "municipal" allocation and is re-allocated according on the next water right's holder downstream. And to answer your question, yes, the same gallon of water can be re allocated many times; the black and white stats from DWR can be very confusing to someone of your intellect and education. That's why water law is a thriving industry. That's why California's annual water allotment is several fold that of what falls from the sky.

George Rebane

joes 849pm - Is there some formula that credits the rice grower for returning the water (minus absorption and evaporation) that he bought, and is the stipulated return figured into the price the grower paid for the water? Is it possible for the grower to sell his allocated water to other buyers than the state? I'm not sure that I'm asking the right questions, but I'm trying to find out the disposition of ownership and exchange of monies as the water changes hands.

Todd Juvinall

I see Joe Smith still has not read the charts I supplied the links for from the State Water Board. Seems pretty simple. So many acre feet fall on the state, so much is stored and the rest is used. Wow!

joe smith

GR 21:50
Rice growers ARE selling water to other water districts. I don't know the answers to the rest of those questions. I do know there is some sort of kick back if the growers provide habitat for the threatened giant garter snake that lives up in the Richvale area. I think they need to keep the checks vegetated or something.

An interesting rumor running through the ag community is the fear that Northern California tribes will become recognized by the Feds. If that happens, senior water rights would likely be given to the tribes. This would simply be another allocation at the top of the food chain and the tribes would be able to wheel and deal their water. It is only rumor as far as I know, but it sounds logical.

Steven Frisch

I am going to take a crack and answering one of George's questions because it is important to a real discussion of water policy. Hopefully thus will not degenerate into personal tangential attacks.

Joe already answered the question about water rights holders selling water downstream...yes it is allowed and MWD is looking for water right now that can be delivered into the SWP and paying about $2000 per acre foot.

George asked, "Is there some formula that credits the rice grower for returning the water (minus absorption and evaporation) that he bought, and is the stipulated return figured into the price the grower paid for the water?"

The answer is that there are private markets that pay rice growers for water delivered back into the system after use, if it is dedicated to specific purposes, for example in-stream flow that can then be allocated downstream for other uses. The price is not figured into the price they pay for water from water districts or state water contractors, but is paid by third parties for downstream use. The California Rice Commission manages a working lands program that offers landowners an incentive payment for a practice or an installation that offers certain environmental benefits. These might include activities that benefit wildlife, water quality, air quality or soil erosion. Some private water agencies offer the same such program for in-stream flow or allocated water savings to urban supply.

George Rebane

StevenF 803am - since water is fungible and the channels of returning the water from a rice field are limited (one?), does the rice farmer just get credit for the type of sale that he effected after he delivers his water into a presumably common pool from which different buyers can draw what they bought? I hope this is a clear question.

Steven Frisch

Posted by: George Rebane | 09 April 2015 at 08:14 AM

I think I get your question....usually what they do is establish a baseline use based on water rights, then measure the change based on new management practices, and get credit for what they return to the common pool, which then may be used for either environmental purposes, conjunctive uses like groundwater recharge, or urban water supply.

They could achieve these savings by either changing watering practices for existing crops, or changing varieties of rice grown to use less water.

It is important to note that this is only one way rice farmers can get credit for changing practices. Under the states Cap and Trade program a new protocol is being developed to give farmers credit for terrestrial carbon sequestration as well, meaning changing tillage practices to trap more carbon in the soil could get credits.

In addition there are straight environmental market incentives for changing practices that improve species habitat and contribute to ecosystem restoration.

Here is an example: http://www.edf.org/sites/default/files/crwfs_connectivityreport.pdf

The general idea is to find ways to compensate farmers for practices and create incentive based rather than regulatory based improvements.

Steven Frisch

Posted by: George Rebane | 09 April 2015 at 08:14 AM

Oh, and there is a caveat to all of this theoretical stuff. The water has to be 'wet' water, that is water that farmers actually have a history of using, and they have to have the infrastructure in place to deliver the water into the system, which can be a challenge.

Here is a good overview: http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/report/r_1112ehr.pdf


George Rebane

StevenF 910am - Steve, under the current regime or in the transition to these new incentive-based conservation programs, do you know/believe that it would be possible for a farmer (rice grower?) to game the system so that he can make a net profit from configuring certain water transfer/sale transactions?

Steven Frisch

Good question George, and I suspect that the system theoretically could provide more net benefit to the farmer (who is also the water rights holder) than their standard farming practices do, but then under the current law, if they are the water rights holder, and the water is going for a beneficial purpose, and they can sell water for more than they can make if they grow rice, shouldn't they have the right to use their water right for a beneficial purpose, and should't they (and thus the market) determine what that beneficial purpose is?

I think we are going to run into a lot of these thorny issues with changing values for natural resources in the future.

Think of a piece of land as a bundle of values (akin to the bundle of property rights). Each 'value' either has an established market (rice, wood, etc) or it does not. Once we begin to establish markets for currently unvalued assets and layer those values on a piece of land by monetizing a broader suite of uses, the value of the land changes, and may lay beyond production.

Think of a layer cake where the first layer may be crops, but there are layers for water, habitat, carbon sequestration, recreation, aesthetics, fixing nitrogen, etc. The aggregate value for water, carbon and habitat may be higher than the crop production value of the land. We are already running into this issue in forestland in the Sierra Nevada, There are definitely places where the value derived from land management for water, habitat, carbon cycling, and recreation are higher than the commodity value of crops.

That can be seen by some as 'gaming' the system, but if markets reflect societal values (even if we at time disagree with those societal values) and the landowner can derive more benefit from a different et of societal values, isn;t this just the free market at work?

fish

That can be seen by some as 'gaming' the system, but if markets reflect societal values (even if we at time disagree with those societal values) and the landowner can derive more benefit from a different et of societal values, isn;t this just the free market at work?

Not if those "increased values" are a result of outbidding market value with the deep pockets of the government.

Sounds like "system gaming" is built in.

George Rebane

StevenF 1021am - Thanks Steve. While I do understand the concepts you outlined, I did not mean to imply that legally 'gaming the system' reflects badly on the gamer. In my mind a system (of, say, regulations, codes, laws, ...) is gamed when it is used or operated for purposes other/beyond for what it was originally designed. You may recall that one of RR's longstanding shibboleths about capitalism is 'The good part of capitalism is that it will game the system, and the bad part of capitalism is that it will game the system.'

However, gaming any public policy (system) has a political dimension (e.g. closing tax 'loop holes') which often negates the benefits of gaming to both the gamer and the public. But that is another discussion.

Here I'm interested in the disposition of CA's water under the labyrinth of current and anticipated new rules.

Steven Frisch

Well, back to the same place, all public policy is a reflection of public values and processes, for good or bad, and there is no such thing as a true free market. The government is actually the largest 'player' in the economy, and when it values one thing over another it taxes and spends to achieve the goal, which is by definition assigning societal value to a good or service. That could be M1A1 tanks, widgets, or water.


Thus, when we create a system that creates crops at below the market value of the resources that go into the costs of production--like water--then say it is gaming the system to assign different societal values to something else, like water for urban purposes, we are picking the crop over the urban use and the system is 'gamed.' Now I don't necessary have a problem with that, producing food at reasonable prices is a societal good I support.

But really one mans definition of gaming the system for bad is another mans definition of gaming it for good. That is, as you say George, what capitalism does.

Re: water markets, I think it is pretty clear that we are going to see a lot more acquisitions of water for urban uses, and the price will go up, both in the short term, and the long term. If indeed we just enjoyed the wettest century of the last 20 in California, as much of the science points to, then the value of the commodity will rise and uses will change. But clearly the first step is actually getting a handle on what we actually have and how it is allocated, which we don't even have agreement on yet. DWR says 70 million maf per year of precipitation; a lot of science says that is too optimistic and it may really historically be more like 50 maf. We don't have a really clear picture of the relationship between surface water and groundwater, or how much groundwater we really have left, partly because we don't measure how much we are taking. We are in new territory and people rights are going to change as the biggest player in the market, the government, assign societal values.

fish

The government is actually the largest 'player' in the economy, and when it values one thing over another it taxes and spends to achieve the goal, which is by definition assigning societal value to a good or service. That could be M1A1 tanks, widgets, or water.

...or Bullet Trains over water storage projects.

All a matter of priorities.

Steven Frisch

Government is by nature the setting of priorities.

fish

Government is by nature the setting of priorities.

Well wake me when they get to the "putting the fiscal house in order" line item.

Bill  Tozer

Another water story:

http://www.ecorazzi.com/2015/04/09/the-onions-hilarious-spin-on-seaworld-and-the-california-drought/

joe smith

174,000 people or 6 fish

http://www.familiesprotectingthevalley.com/topstory.php?ax=v&n=10&id=10&nid=10947

It will be interesting to watch the knee jerk vs the real story.

Todd Juvinall

I attended the tribute to Lowell Robinson tonight and Congressman McClintock spoke of the 15,000 acre feet of water released for the 6 trout. What a travesty and what a fine example the government bureaucracy has shown us all who are trying to conserve.

joe smith

Yep. Thank you Todd for the first knee "jerk". It was either gonna be you or Walt.

Todd Juvinall

Well Joe I guess you are unable to read? two and one half lines above you here. The Congressman stated that fact ion his speech last night. I doubt he was a knee jerker. Jeeze, you libs will believe anything that wrecks the country and love it.

Todd Juvinall

Here Smithie, check this out and get back to us

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/04/12/california-delta-water-mysteriously-missing-amid-severe-drought/?intcmp=latestnews

Todd Juvinall

The state is investigating farmers t see if they stole their own water. Amazing!

joe smith

Buried in Today's Manteca Bulletin (same paper that announced the BS in the first place): http://www.mantecabulletin.com/section/1/article/122775/

Again, there is always a gullible knee jerk who swallows a ridiculously distorted claim and then there are the facts.

George Rebane

joes 1126am - the "facts" in the reference you cite do nothing to recommend pulse flow releases from existing reservoirs. Even the casual reader will note that the caveat of their working to support contracted water deliveries is based entirely on the rest of the markets fulfilling their government mandated conservation quotas, something that has yet to happen in this drought. Without others doing with less water, the pulse flows are yet another means of releasing more fresh water into the Pacific for the claimed benefit of some fish.

Steven Frisch

I am wondering just how low flow can go in rivers before some here would object? Should we allow rivers to go entirely dry? Are we willing to bear the incredible cost that comes with that kind of ecosystem collapse? Are you ready to pay for a barrier across the Carquinez narrows to stop salt water intrusion? How about paying the cost of eliminating shipping from the Delta to the ports of Sacramento and Stockton?

I hope everyone here realizes that when we talk about 40% of flow going to 'environmental' purposes that does not necessarily mean water is not used again downstream. Water in the Stan flows to the San Joaquin and then to the Delta, where the water is used again....it becomes part of the flow managed there.

I hope you guys also realize that 40% means 40% of actual flow. I looked at the water gauges this morning and there is barely a river in the San Joaquin watershed that is not at about 30% of its 'normal' flow, which means the environment gets 40% of that, not 40% of the average, which is already 30% of the mean, the 'environment' is getting about 10% of its mean.

The entire fish versus people meme is a canard.

joe smith

At the current volume of the San Joaquin River, a significant portion of the pulse releases will end up in Old River or Middle River which lead directly into the California Aqueduct pumping stations. That, with the chain of levee pumps between Oakdale and Antioch will leave little if any Stanislaus River pulse to empty into the Pacific. This year most of the water reaching the ocean comes from the Sacramento River.

Bill  Tozer

What we have here is a finite amount of water and a seemingly infinite number of creatures great and small (including our furry friends, our flora, and our scaly gilled underwater pals and their buddies the bugs and Blue Shelled Hairless Orange Tipped Fresh Water Crabs) all vying for a drop of water on their outstretched tongues. Boy, who is first in the water line and who is last? Who gets to get sprayed by the fire hydrant this summer and whose kids can't play with the Slip and Slide during the August dogday afternoons? Will Camp Chewmachucka open for young adolences this year? Who owns the water, who delivers the water, and who sells the water? Who has promised the end users that the check is in the mail? BTY, the Mercedes is indeed still in the shop and let's do lunch sometime.

Finger pointing time, oh goodie. I quit bathing and brushing my teeth to conserve water resources. What is your excuse?

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-water-usage-drought-san-juan-capistrano-20150412-story.html

Steven Frisch

I find it amazing but I am agreeing with what I think Bill Tozer is saying, fingerprinting will get us nowhere.

And I think Jon Smith is correct, I would be shocked icon drop of the pulse water reaches the Bay.

There are multiple competing uses and hard choices will need to be made.

Steven Frisch

That may be identified as another Freudian slip...it should of course read 'finger pointing'. :)

Don Bessee

The April 2015 Fish and Wildlife survey of the delta found 1 delta smelt. The only place there are smelt in numbers is in UC Davis aquariums. So we flush 800,000 acre feet of water for 1 fish! That's enough for 20,000,000 tons of grapes or to produce crops on 200,000 acres according to Fresno Farm Press. Time to call it a day and use the water to the benefit of society. Here is the attitude we face- UC Davis fish biologist Peter Moyle claims "Its the policy of the People of the United States to not let one species go extinct." Sounds like he is saying at any cost to the people. Grand statement for a cloistered academic who is paid by the government taxes on the real people of the United States. Water to the People!

George Rebane

DonB 235pm - Well said Don. Before we started keeping track, nature wiped out hundreds (thousands?) of species annually, as it gave rise to new ones. Today wrapped in their idiotic hubris, the self-anointed econuts nominate a few species to "save" from the greedy farmers, developers, hunters, hikers, vacationers, fishermen, ... (we'll just call them taxpayers) without a thought that their impact on promoting biodiversity is essentially nil. However, their impact on getting us closer to a command & control economy is considerable. Stack'n pack baby! Stack'n pack!

Todd Juvinall

The Feds and State Eco employees are now murdering the Barrett Owl because it eats the Spotted Owl for lunch. Same species just a different branch of the owl tree. Can we hire some more insane people? Sheesh!

Don Bessee

Does anyone see the irony of the fact that the enlightened progressives who beat up people of faith with Darwinism are the same ones who want to short circuit the natural process?

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