Sunday, April 23, 2017

California’s Wasted Winter Rains: The drought is over but the greens keep sending the water out to sea

From the WSJ.
"Hydrologic records indicate that this year could be the wettest on record in California."

"Most of the major reservoirs in the north are full, and some are releasing hundreds of billions of gallons of water to prevent flooding and make room for the melting snowpack this spring.

While farmers and communities downstream can capture some of the discharges, millions of acre-feet will invariably flow into the ocean due to lack of storage capacity and rules to protect endangered fish species. One problem is that while the state population has increased 70% since 1979, storage hasn’t expanded."

"five proposed reservoirs could add four million acre-feet of storage capacity at a cost of $9 billion. Yet environmentalists have opposed every significant surface storage project for three decades. The state is even razing four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River that green groups complain impede fish migration.

Ah, the fish. Regulations intended to protect smelt and salmon have limited pumping at the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. As a result, some seven million acre-feet of water that was once available for Central Valley farmers and Southern California is flushed into San Francisco Bay each year.

Meanwhile, a 60-mile dry riverbed on the San Joaquin River that hasn’t borne fish since the 1940s is being restored at a cost of $1.7 billion to farmers and state and federal taxpayers. The river restoration is expected to divert an additional 170,000 acre-feet each year, but it could be more since the Chinook salmon that environmentalists want to revive require cool temperatures—meaning more water—to spawn and survive."

"While the state board’s plan would cause more farmland to be removed from production, the main casualties would be low-income and Hispanic communities like Merced that rely on groundwater recharged by the tributaries."

"Communities and farmers have drilled deeper wells and pumped more groundwater to compensate for reduced imports from the delta, leading to severe land subsidence."

"San Joaquin Valley is sinking at a rate of nearly two inches per month in some areas."

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