So much for a “drought-busting” El Niño winter in California. While the warming of the equatorial Pacific waters (known as the Oceanic Niño Index or ONI) was one of the strongest on record, California unfortunately did not enjoy the plentiful rains that many expected. Atmospheric conditions steered storms to the Pacific Northwest and away from Southern California, much to the surprise of many meteorologists. As a result, Seattle officially experienced its wettest winter in recorded history. In California, tests conducted last week showed that the state’s overall snowpack was less than average. While the 2016 spring survey was markedly better than one year ago, (Governor Jerry Brown stood on a bare meadow exactly one year ago – it was the first and only time since 1950 that there was no snow at the Phillips Station site on this date) snow at the site totaled 58.4 inches, just 97% of average. Statewide snow totals average just 87% of average for this date. The snow totals in the state decrease the further south you go. While the Northern Sierra has a 97% of average snowpack, the Central Sierra has 88% and the Southern Sierra only 72%. Continue reading
On February 2nd, the California State Water Resources Control Board revised and extended the mandatory urban water conservation regulations through October. While the newly-adopted revisions make marginal changes on some issues of fairness, which will be covered in a later post, environmental impacts remain.
The environmental impacts of the mandatory conservation regulations are tied to residential landscaping—or more specifically, the absence or reduction of watering that occurs when residents allow lawns to go brown or replace them altogether.
California received some good preliminary news last week following the initial snow surveys for water year 2016. Unlike last spring’s snow survey at which Governor Jerry Brown stood on a bare field, this year’s first survey showed more promise. The survey found 54.7 inches of snow at the Phillips Station plot, about 16 inches more than the average depth measured there since 1965. The snow had 16.3 inches of water content, 136% of the average for that site. However, while the initial snow survey represents a good start, state water officials warned that we are still facing drought conditions, and the precipitation during the remainder of the winter will determine if the drought will break. Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program said, “Clearly, this is much better that it was last year at this time, but we haven’t had the full effect of the El Niño yet. If we believe the forecasts, then El Niño is supposed to kick in as we move through the rest of the winter. That will be critical when it comes to looking at reservoir storage.” Continue reading
What are the unintended economic impacts of California’s water conservation regulations?
One must only watch the evening news to surmise that unintended consequences are frequently economic in nature. The prices of oil (and therefore, gasoline), coffee or any other tradeable commodity rises and falls according to policy implementation and political decisions. The water industry recently saw this affect when the Cadiz Inc. stock price plunged following a controversial decision by the Bureau of Land Management declaring that the proposed use of a railroad right-of-way for the Cadiz Water Project “does not derive from or further a railroad purpose.”
When it comes to California’s state-imposed conservation, the unintended economic impacts are those things that affect the pocketbooks of residents and businesses and the viability and vibrancy of communities.