Pacific Swell

Southern California environment news and trends

California Drought News: Workers leaving, water pumping, and desalinating

53080 full
53080 full

Friday's news is wondering whether Slip 'N Slides are kosher under urban water use restrictions. But first, let's head out of the city for a little while.

  • In a long read out today, Diana Marcum reports on the Central Valley town of Huron and the impact a drought has on a place where no crops means no jobs:
Even in years when rain falls and the Sierra mountains hold a snowpack that will water almonds and onions, cattle and cantaloupes, Huron's population swells and withers with the season. These days in Huron — and Mendota and Wasco and Firebagh and all the other farmworker communities on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley — even the permanent populations are packing up. (Los Angeles Times)

Several stories about developments that impact some water rights holders and not others point to the inequities in a system that can't quite ask everyone to conserve.

  • The Associated Press looked at senior water rights and found that pre-1914 appropriative water rights holders are rolling in it during this drought. "[J]ust 24 of the  rights holders reported using more than twice the volume of water that California's vast system of state and federal dams and aqueducts ships to cities and farms in an average year."
The water board does not require monitoring or meters for users whose rights date back a century or more, or who have rights to draw from a waterway adjoining their land. Rights holders have successfully defeated legal and legislative efforts to strengthen California's oversight, said Andy Sawyer, an attorney with the [State Water Resources Control] board. (Associated Press)
  • Piggybacking off the AP story, UC Davis water resources professor Jay Lund talks with NPR's David Greene about water rights, and how it is that these pre-1914 rights holders can use water so freely. (NPR/Morning Edition)
  • Curtailment: Matt Weiser reports that water users along the Sacramento River and its tributaries — like the Yuba, Feather and American rivers — have been told not to pump, a dramatic response to drought that hasn't happened since 1977. (Sacramento Bee)
  • Assemblyman Mike Gatto's water conservation bill is moving forward. It would create a revolving account that would offer infrastructure loans to private entities for water savings, so that private companies could build in water efficiency from the start of a project. (via release)
  • The Merc's Paul Rogers visits the nation's largest ocean desalination plant in Carlsbad. For Poseidon, the plant's owners, the stakes are high:
For the plant to be a success and copied in other parts of the state, Poseidon will have to deliver high-quality drinking water at the price promised — and not cause unexpected impacts to the environment such as fish die-offs. "It's a test case," said Ron Davis, executive director of Cal Desal, an industry advocacy group. "We like to tease them: Only the entire future of desal is riding on this project. No pressure." (San Jose Mercury News)

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