What a difference a year makes. In a series of posts that I authored in late 2015 and early 2016, I wrote about how the potential “Godzilla” El Niño had the possibility to wipe out at least some of the drought conditions, provided that the drought-relieving storms tracked in a direction that would hit California. Unfortunately for California, the “drought-busting” rains did not come to alleviate the drought. Instead, atmospheric conditions pushed storms largely to the north, providing a deluge to Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. In fact, Seattle recorded the wettest period from October 1 to March 1 on record, receiving 38.22 inches of rain during that time. Parts of northern California received decent amounts of rainfall, but the majority of the Central Valley and southern California remained dry. However, since then, weather patterns have changed in a way that may favor a wetter winter for California. Continue reading
How does 21% sound, which would be a 40% increase over the current 15% allocation declared by the Department of Water Resources? While “more is better”, Californians cannot rejoice. Due to the natural variability in precipitation, there is a 9% chance that the final SWP Allocation may be zero!
No, Hydrowonk is not using an Ouija board. Instead, these forecasts are based on a study of the historic record of SWP final allocations. This year’s version is slightly different than the model used last year to forecast SWP Final Allocations for 2014. Continue reading
The drought gripping the Western United States has changed many things. Up until this year, we never had a zero percent allocation for the State Water Project. The media attention on the subject of water in California, including this week’s 60 Minutes segment on groundwater in the Central Valley, brings the issues we are facing in this state to the forefront of the general public. Despite these changes, a few things remain certain. Despite the recent rains, in the short-term, there is not enough water to satisfy all the demands of California’s water users. As such, citizens, business leaders and elected officials have to make the hard choices over which users should get limited water supplies.
As I mentioned in my Post last week, one of the most contentious debates over water allocation centers around the amount of water that we use for endangered species mitigation. Last week, I focused on the measures that the California Department of Fish and Game is taking to save the salmon populations in the state. This week, I will take a look at the smaller but no less contentious Delta smelt. This finger-sized fish has been the source of a series of contentious court battles and has affected the amount of water we can move through the Delta. In this piece, I will discuss the reasons behind the Delta smelt’s decline, the species’ effect on pumping in the Delta, and some recent court cases related to the fish. Continue reading
Just how bad has the drought gotten in California? A few interesting articles last week crossed the wires about how water thefts are happening in places where you would least expect it. In Poway, the Volunteer Fire Department allegedly stole 10,000 gallons of water from Poway fire hydrants to fill up dry tanks that a Fire Department Board of Directors’ friend owned. In Los Gatos, the police removed a pipeline that regulators say a nudist colony was illegally using to divert water from the protected Hendry’s Creek. Both of these stories show just how desperate citizens, businesses and farmers are getting for water supplies. However, as California fights through the worst drought in recent history, water supply will continue to face more restrictions as the state plans to adopt the newly-passed groundwater legislation that Governor Brown just signed. There is a lot of speculation as to how the new groundwater legislation will be implemented and what will happen to groundwater supplies before the groundwater sustainability plans go into effect in 2020. In this wrap-up piece, I will look at how the legislation will be implemented, and the potential implications this legislation has for end users going forward. Continue reading