Monday, December 01, 2008

Water is not important until you are thirsty.

It's been a long time since I posted much about water issues, so this is a reminder that the problems are real, that Mark Twain was right and that we are all being sold a bill of goods starting with Senator Feinstein, flowing through the Delta and ending up in the San Diego like Delta Water.

Click Read more! to get the meat of this.

Some disjointed bits of information which I hope to bring together by the end of this piece.

Fresh Water: Where does it come from?
The availability of fresh water is one of the most important needs of all humans. Much of the fresh water in the world is tied up in ice, either at the North and South Poles, in the Greenland ice sheet or in glaciers. Six of the largest rivers flowing through the most populous countries on earth are fed by glaciers in the Himalayas. These are the Indus, Ghanges (India), Brahmaputra (Banghladesh), Mekong (Cambodia, Vietnam), Yellow and Yangtze (China). Hundreds of millions of people are dependent on these rivers and, during summer, on the glaciers that feed them.

The problem is that these glaciers are melting. In fact, the rate is fast enough that the changes can be observed from space. The dust layers that marked the US and Soviet atomic tests from the 1950's and 1960's are gone.

The potential dislocation of so many people due to a lack of water is a crisis that Obama did not even mention today. For India, the events in Mumbai, as horrific as they were, pale in comparison. Things that happen on climatic time scales do not make good news.

California's Delta is about more than fish.
In California, we are also facing a crisis due to local weather and the potential of a worse crisis due to global warming. I have written a lot about the problems of the California Delta. One reason that I don't cover this more is that the AquaMaven does such a great job at Aquafornia. In fact, I have this as an RSS feed so that I get so see it every day. The reason I said that we are being sold a bill of goods can be seen in this recent post on the status of the Delta. It is from the Stockton Record.
It’s a classic case of too many cooks in the kitchen. More than 200 agencies have some say on what happens in the vast Delta, and the product of their labors doesn’t seem to satisfy anyone, as fish die and the water supply shrinks.

So, what can an individual do other than shower with a friend or let the lawn turn brown. I pay attention to the weather reports. I live where I can see the area's largest reservoir from my family room window. It is below normal levels for this time of year. The Sacramento Bee reported today that we would have normal rainfall this year. Even that may not be enough to restore the reservoir from it's current condition.

While Governor Schwarzenegger has made a lot out of his Delta Vision Task Force, all of those involved knew that the only solution he would accept was a new "conveyance" through or "canal" around the Delta so that more water was made available for Central Valley Agriculture and Southern California suburban lawns.

One organization has managed to pull agricultural interests, some regional developer interests, environmentalist and sportsmen into a coalition for common sense. That is Restore the Delta. Today, they published a set of principles and a platform for 2009. I fully support this approach and reproduce the platform here as it is not yet online at their web site.
Restore the Delta's 2009 Platform

Over the last six months, Restore the Delta staff, board members, and advisors have worked to create a campaign platform that expresses our vision for restoration of the Delta. Below are the principles of this work. The campaign platform will be used as a tool to make our vision known to legislators and for organizing volunteers throughout the year.
To create in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta a world-class region in which productive agriculture and habitat protection are successfully interwoven, Restore the Delta advocates the following principles:

Restore the flow of fresh water by immediately reducing exports to a level compatible with protecting Delta communities. All proposals for long-term Delta management must be based on a firm understanding of Delta freshwater needs and must include strong protection of sufficient flows of water necessary for public health, agriculture, and habitat for native and desirable species. We advocate restoring enough Delta outflow pattern to return the mixing zone of salt water and fresh water to the western part of the Delta near Suisun Bay. We also advocate restoring freshwater flows to the San Joaquin River by retiring drainage-impaired lands loaded with selenium and salt in the Central Valley. Appropriate and sustainable water export reductions must be made before any proposals for alternative export conveyance or diversion are considered.

Protect the Delta from unrealistic water planning strategies and uses. The Delta is a common resource that should provide the same quality freshwater supply to all Delta users. The State Water Project will never develop all the water supplies outside the Delta on which the export program was based. We call on the State to recognize natural limitations on water supply and to enforce Water Code provisions that restrict exports to water not needed in the Delta itself.

Restore proper governance of the Delta.
The State Water Resources Control Board must be empowered to enforce existing water codes regarding water quality and quantity. A fully-funded SWRCB enforcement staff must operate independently of board members charged with creating regulations and water rights decisions.

Adopt flexible strategies for managing water and habitat.
All Delta planning must address increased flood risks, sea level rises, and peak river inflows that are likely to result from climate change as well as address possible seismic events. These plans must allow for incremental responses to ecosystem changes. Any isolated facility for moving water through the Delta is inherently inflexible, and we reject it. We advocate managing the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta as a primarily freshwater estuary. Proposals for facilities such as fish protection diverters, set-back levees, gates, and barriers should be evaluated with a view to the core principles of protecting the flow of fresh water and fisheries while maintaining flexibility of the whole system.

Respect the experience and expertise of Delta landowners.
We advocate creation of a conservancy that will ensure local control of the Delta, prevent forced access to private land, protect the continuity of the Delta, mediate purchases of agricultural land, identify restoration projects and enhance existing public access, and provide funding for levee maintenance. We urge support for Delta landowners who maintain levees for the benefit of the Delta, adjacent communities, and regional infrastructure.

Encourage regional self-sufficiency. We encourage statewide conservation, recycling, reuse, and regional self-sufficiency to generate up to 7 million acre feet annually in areas of need outside the Delta, using as a model measures instituted by the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California urban agencies such as the Metropolitan Water District. We advocate replacing reduced exports and addressing potential flooding with flood plain recapture, ground water replenishment, and demand management initiatives, and we advocate use of recycled urban and agricultural water, ground water desalination, water use efficiency, and urban run-off management.

Ensure emergency readiness to protect the people, property, and infrastructure of the Delta and to provide for a healthy ecosystem.
In consultation with Delta experts, the State must immediately prepare and fully fund a comprehensive flood plan and emergency readiness plan.
The attitude of the San Diego Tribune stands in sharp contrast to the practical goals of Restore the Delta. It is much more of a gimme what want cause I gotta grow approach and places the growth over any ecological concern. Their November 26th editorial is headlined Give 'em the hook and they are not talking about fish. It goes on the verbal attack immediately.
Environmental activists continue to deny Californians more water in the name of saving fish.
How dare they deny us our right to use as much water as we want? Such a difference from Restore the Delta. Their timing was impeccable as another lawsuit was filed Monday, Dec. 1.
Calling it “the biggest lawsuit about the biggest ecological and legal catastrophe in California today,” the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) and the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) filed suit in Sacramento Superior Court Friday, November 28, 2008, to protect Delta public trust resources—including endangered migratory fisheries of salmon and open water fish species—and to end wasteful and unreasonable diversions of water from the Delta by big state and federal water projects.

The suit also asks the court to halt irrigation of several hundred thousand acres of selenium contaminated lands on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, the drainage from which pollutes
wetlands, the San Joaquin River, and the Delta.

Lastly, there are two conferences on Water taking place in San Francisco this week. In one, Corporate Users will learn how to manage towards sustainability. In the other, concerned groups will talk about the privatization of water and how that could deny water rights to individuals in the name of corporate earnings. If you think about the melting glaciers, it is not unusual that one of the organizations protesting privatization has connections to India.

We have already seen examples of failed water privatization in California, especially in Stockton where the city tried to outsource its water department to a private firm.

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