Archive for February, 2009

Feb 27 2009

CA: Drought emergency proclaimed

Published by under California,drought


Arnold Schwartzenegger

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today proclaimed a state of emergency and ordered immediate action to manage the crisis. In the proclamation, the Governor uses his authority to direct all state government agencies to utilize their resources, implement a state emergency plan and provide assistance for people, communities and businesses impacted by the drought.

“Even with the recent rainfall, California faces its third consecutive year of drought and we must prepare for the worst – a fourth, fifth or even sixth year of drought,” Governor Schwarzenegger said. “Last year we experienced the driest spring and summer on record and storage in the state’s reservoir system is near historic lows. This drought is having a devastating impact on our people, our communities, our economy and our environment – making today’s action absolutely necessary. This is a crisis, just as severe as an earthquake or raging wildfire, and we must treat it with the same urgency by upgrading California’s water infrastructure to ensure a clean and reliable water supply for our growing state.”

The governor’s order directs various state departments to engage in activity to provide assistance to people and communities impacted by the drought.

From California Farm Bureau President Doug Mosebar: “By acknowledging that the health of communities and farms is linked to a reliable water supply, the governor’s actions will help ease job and economic losses due to California’s water crisis. By requiring all agencies with jurisdiction over water issues to work together to address supply needs immediately, the governor is streamlining assistance to thirsty communities and farms.”

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Feb 20 2009

Northern California water allocation down

Water supplies in northern California are down and don’t seem to be improving a great deal. And that is having a direct effect on how much water the Bureau of Reclamation is releasing to the region.

Don Glaser, director of the mid-Pacific region for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, was quoted as saying the third dry year in a row is expected, and as many as 40,000 agriculture-related jobs could be lost as a result.

From the Bureau of Reclamation’s statement:

Today, the Bureau of Reclamation announced the initial Water Year (WY) 2009 allocations for the Federal Central Valley Project (CVP) based on the February 1 runoff forecast from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR).

Reclamation prepared two forecasts: a conservative forecast with a 90-percent chance of having runoff greater than forecasted (90-percent probability of exceedence) and a median forecast with a 50-percent chance of having runoff greater than forecasted (50-percent probability of exceedence). In the 90-percent exceedence forecast, the unimpaired water year inflow into Shasta Reservoir is about 2.47 million acre-feet. The Shasta Reservoir unimpaired inflow is a criteria used to determine shortages to settlement contractors and refuges.

Reclamation traditionally expresses the monthly forecast as a percentage (see summary table) of the contract total for each of the contract categories. The official allocation is based on the 90-percent exceedence forecast. The 50-percent exceedence forecast is provided for informational and planning purposes.

The allocation for the Friant Division Contractors will be 25 percent Class 1 water and 0 percent Class 2 water based on the 90-percent exceedence forecast. The New Melones 90-percent exceedence inflow forecast for WY 2009 is 360,000 acre-feet, and as a result, no water supply is available for CVP Eastside Division (Stanislaus River) contractors.

During this critically dry period, Reclamation is closely coordinating with the State of California, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and other Federal, State, and local organizations to fulfill its water supply obligations, which include water quality and the protection of fish and wildlife and associated habitats.

“These are challenging times, and Reclamation will continue to explore all options within our authorities to minimize the impacts to those affected by this water shortage,” stated Donald Glaser, Regional Director for the Mid-Pacific Region.

In the coming months, updates to this forecast will be announced and information will be posted on the Region’s website at Please contact the Public Affairs Office at 916-978-5100 or e-mail for additional information.

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Feb 20 2009

NV: Halfway to stabilization

Published by under Nevada

Troubled Walker Lake in northern Nevada may be halfway to stabilization, thanks to a series of six water right purchases – so far – through efforts of the Nevada System of Higher Education.

Using federal money, that agency hired the private contractor Western Development and Storage to find and purchase water rights to rebuild the lake’s water supply. In all, about 50,000 acre-feet was thought to be needed. Not all of that amount actually would be called, but it would represent diminished draw on the lake.

The work is part of the Walker River Basin Project, which is being undertaken through efforts of the University of Nevada-Reno and the Desert Research Institute.

[see Reno Gazette Journal, February 20]

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Feb 18 2009

UT: Ag or domestic rights preference?

A Utah state House measure (House Bill 241) which would give agriculture use of water a priority higher than that of domestic uses in “times of scarcity” has drawn some sharp opposition.

The bill has cleared the House 52-18, and is awaiting Senate committee action.

In committee sessions, backers of the bill – including Mike Styler, Director Department of Natural Resources, and Todd Bingham, Utah Farm Bureau – faced off against Fred Finlinson, Utah Water Coalition; Pat Casaday, Sandy City; Scott Ruppe, Uintah Water Conservancy District; Jodi Hoffman, Utah League of Cities and Towns; and Craig Smith, a lawyer representing several public water suppliers.

The bill’s supporters said that a measure (House Bill 51) passed in 2008 gave some advantage to city water right holders, and this year have approved (awaiting the governor’s signature) an extension on those provisions.

Urban advocates warned of the risk of residents losing their drinking water.

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Feb 18 2009

FL: Seeking a mining permit

The mining company New Birmingham Resources has filed for well-operation permits, drawing water up to 300 gallons per minute, in support of its planned mining efforts in northeast Florida. The well would be located near Queen City, and not far from its own well.

The proposal goes next to the Neches and Trinity Valleys Groundwater Conservation District governing board.

One local official was quoted as saying, “Their well is fairly close to the city’s well, so there was some concern that it might impact the city’s water, but I think the two have worked out a solution so it won’t be a problem. I believe New Birmingham is going to run their well into the Queen City Aquifer, while the city goes down deeper into the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer. If they both operate in different aquifers they should have no impact on each other.”

[see the Jacksonville Progress, February 18]

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Feb 13 2009

Report: Colorado River supply low

Colorado river

Colorado River

The British Broadcasting Corporation has taken an extended look at water supplies in the Colorado River basin, which it concludes are beginning to run dangerously low – both in historical context and in terms of increases in demand.

The report said that “Since 2000, the Colorado River – which provides water for seven US states in the region – has carried less water than at any time in recorded history. And while the drought is worsening, the demand for water in this booming part of the country is increasing.
The states dependent on the Colorado River for their water are seeking solutions to their water shortage, with some suggesting that importing water from far-flung states – or even towing icebergs down from the Arctic – could solve the problems.”

The report also checked in on ideas for additional water supply which have come from time to time but never gained traction, from moving icebergs from the Arctic to massive interbasin transfers. It did not indicate they had gained additional traction, though it did suggest water officials in the area do see a growing problem.

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Feb 12 2009

Report: Great Lakes not enough

Published by under Canada,Great Lakes

A new report in Science magazine, primarily focused on the use of water bodies as indicators of climate change, also suggests that even the vast amount of water in the Great Lakes would not be enough to supply North America if water usage continues running too high.

An article in the Montreal Gazette quoted University of Alberta biologist David Schindler as saying, “I think we have to stop considering the Great Lakes as the thing that’s going to irrigate the Red River Valley and supply water to the dry American southwest . . . It’s like our big bank account with a low interest rate. In the case of Lake Superior, that water is only renewed at a rate of about two-tenths of a per cent a year on average. That’s the sustainable water we have to work with, not the whole lake basin, if we want to continue to have a good lake for future generations.”

Schindler was one of three co-authors of the report.

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Feb 11 2009

Forbes: The value of salty groundwater

Gradually diminishing costs for desalinization are prompting a push for more use of groundwater in areas where it has historically been avoided as too salty, according to news reports.

They said that in the areas around Albuquerque and Santa Fe, about 325,000 acre feet of groundwater, traditionally unwanted because of poor quality, have been the subject of filings with the state engineer’s office just within the past year. Less than a tenth as much had been pursued in the many years prior. A similar pattern obtained in several other areas of the state, including Las Cruces.

The water apparently is intended for treatment and then use to service the rapidly-growing parts of the state.

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Feb 11 2009

CO: City and developer compete for ditch water

The city of Aurora has gotten a competitor for water coming out of the Columbine Ditch and put up for – in effect – auction by the city of Pueblo: A company seeking to use it to build a resort.

That is the Ginn Company, based in Florida, which is interested in constructing a golf course and vacation resort at Battle Mountain.

Both the city and the resort developer submitted bids to the <strong>Pueblo Board of Water Works just sufficient to meet the city’s minimum requirement for sale. The board plans to consider the proposal at its next meeting on February 17.

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Feb 10 2009

OR/CA: Klamath water right continues

The Oregon Supreme Court has agreed to undertake a review of some of the water right claims in the dramatically changing Klamath River basin near the Oregon-California line.

The Center for Progressive Reform offers an extended look back at water rights developments in the basin.

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