“The Salton Sea is a disaster in the making. California isn’t doing anything about it,” states a Los Angeles Times Editorial. The announcement of California’s 10-Year Plan was made with great fanfare in 2017. Two years later, one-fifth into the 10-year plan, planned projects have not started. Nothing has happened. The environmental and public health tab from continued inaction compounds.
The long-term, sustained decline of the Salton Sea is a conundrum. Under the terms of the historic long-term water conservation and transfer agreement between the Imperial Irrigation District and the San Diego County Water Authority, the impact of the transfer through 2017 was fully mitigated. As I reported in my earlier blog post, no one in the Salton Sea crowd has an explanation for the precipitous decline in the elevation of the Salton Sea.
Southern California has a problem. Its base water supply is at risk due to aging infrastructure and declining conditions in the Delta that make it increasingly difficult to convey water through the Delta. A Saturday outing to Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge, California led to an unexpected opportunity to hear why the Southern California Water Committee (“SWSC”) sees California WaterFix as the solution.
Looking at the current reservoir conditions from the California Data Exchange Center, it is clear to see that the conditions in California are much different than from a year ago. Nine of the state’s major reservoirs that serve both the Central Valley and State Water Projects have over 100% of their historic averages for this date. The state’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Shasta and Lake Oroville are at 96% and 84% full respectively. The San Francisco Chronicle published a series of before and after photos of reservoirs in the state to show the stunning change in hydrologic conditions in just one year. For example, in August 2016, the San Luis Reservoir outside of Los Banos was at 10% of capacity. Fast forward to today, and the reservoir is completely full. The much-improved hydrologic conditions prompted Governor Jerry Brown on April 7thto issue an executive order that lifts the drought emergency in all California counties except Kings, Tulare, Fresno and Tuolumne. The drought emergency he rescinded had been in place since April 25, 2014. Continue reading →
The exceptional rain in California and over much of the western United States this winter was both an asset and a liability to the state. Clearly the precipitation as both rain and snow helped to “bust the drought” in California, and in a very short period of time. As the most recent US Drought Monitor statistics show, at the start of the water year (September 27, 2016), 100% of the state was in some form of drought. Further, 42.8% of the state had either extreme or exceptional drought. Fast forward to today and the severity of the drought has completely turned around. Currently (see map below) 76.54% of the state has no drought conditions, and only 1.06% of the state’s land mass has severe drought. No areas of extreme or exceptional drought remain. Further, reservoirs across the western US have been the recipients of above-average flows. According to the US Bureau of Reclamation, the elevation of Lake Mead has increased from 1,075.23 feet in September 2016 to 1,087.08 feet as of April 10th. Finally, according to the California Data Exchange Center, 9 major California reservoirs in either the State Water Project or Central Valley Project systems currently have above 100% of average storage levels. Continue reading →