The Chronicles of the Hydraulic Brotherhood
Lloyd G. Carter, former UPI and Fresno Bee reporter, has been writing about California water issues for more than 35 years. He is President of the California Save Our Streams Council. He is also a board member of the Underground Gardens Conservancy and host of a monthly radio show on KFCF, 88.1 FM in Fresno. This is his personal blog site and contains archives of his news career as well as current articles, radio commentaries, and random thoughts.

A little California water rights history

California Water Rights Law Reaches Milestone: 100 Years and Counting From the State Water Resources Control Board In the long and contentious history of water rights in California, one date stands out: Dec. 19, 1914, exactly 100 years ago.

That year brought order and structure to California’s previously often chaotic and litigious water rights landscape. It also marks a dividing line in the hierarchy of water rights – an appropriative right is either “Pre-1914” or “Post-1914.” To appropriative water right holders, which side of 1914 their right falls on makes a big difference in how the right is administered and the security of the right, especially in a drought situation. In the years before 1914, California water claims could be initiated simply by diverting and using the water, and battles over water rights were decided in courts, if not in more violent venues.  READ MORE »

Only 11 trillion gallons more needed to break California drought

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – It will take about 11 trillion gallons of water (42 cubic kilometers) — around 1.5 times the maximum volume of the largest U.S. reservoir — to recover from California’s continuing drought, according to a new analysis of NASA satellite data. The finding was part of a sobering update on the state’s drought made possible by space and airborne measurements and presented by NASA scientists Dec. 16 at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. Such data are giving scientists an unprecedented ability to identify key features of droughts, data that can be used to inform water management decisions. A team of scientists led by Jay Famiglietti of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California used data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites to develop the first-ever calculation of this kind — the volume of water required to end an episode of drought. Earlier this year, at the peak of California’s current three-year drought, the team found that water storage in the state’s Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins was 11 trillion gallons below normal seasonal levels. Data collected since the launch of GRACE in 2002 shows this deficit has increased steadily.  READ MORE »

Ocean upwelling off Pacific may be linked to global weather change

Petaluma, California, USA – An international team of scientists has shown that winds that cause coastal upwelling off the west coasts of North and South America and southern Africa have increased over the past 60 years, indicating a global pattern of change. The leader of the team, Dr. William J. Sydeman of the Farallon Institute for Advanced Ecosystem Research (www.faralloninstitute.org), said, “We were amazed by the consistency of the wind trends found across the globe. This pattern suggests we have found an important general trend in winds, a response to climate change that is likely to have significant impacts on fisheries production and, more generally, the health of these coastal ocean environments.” Co-author Dr. David Schoeman of the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia commented, “This study is one of the first to statistically synthesize the literature on wind trends in these critical marine environments.” Drs. Schoeman and Sydeman were also contributing authors to the new chapter on ocean ecosystems (Chapter 30) for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report. Dr. Schoeman notes, “In preparing sections on coastal upwelling ecosystems, it was evident we didn’t have a clear understanding of how upwelling-favorable winds are changing.”  READ MORE »

181 California dams not sending enough water downstream to protect fisheries

University of California, Davis

NEW TOOL IDENTIFIES HIGH-PRIORITY DAMS FOR FISH SURVIVAL

  Scientists have identified 181 California dams that may need to increase water flows to protect native fish downstream. The screening tool developed by the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis, to select “high-priority” dams may be particularly useful during drought years amid competing demands for water.

   “It is unpopular in many circles to talk about providing more water for fish during this drought, but to the extent we care about not driving native fish to extinction, we need a strategy to keep our rivers flowing below dams,” said lead author Ted Grantham, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis during the study and currently a research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

   “The drought will have a major impact on the aquatic environment.” The study, published Oct. 15 in the journal BioScience, evaluated 753 large dams in California and screened them for evidence of altered water flows and damage to fish. About 25 percent, or 181, were identified as having flows that may be too low to sustain healthy fish populations.  READ MORE »

If drought goes on will migration out of California start?

   Some folks are predicting mass migration out of California if the drought continues.  The U.S. Weather Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and several universities have predicted that the drought may go on for several more years and could last decades. Here is one such prediction (copy and paste into browser) from the Epoch Times website: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/1030249-14-california-communities-now-on...

35-year Mega-Drought coming for San Joaquin Valley and the American Southwest?

   A new study by Cornell University, the University of Arizona, and the US Geological Survey researchers looked at the deep historical record (tree rings, etc.) and the latest climate change models to estimate the likelihood of major droughts in the Southwest over the next century. The results are as soothing as a thick wool sweater on a midsummer desert hike, according to Mother Jones Magazine.

   The researchers concluded that odds of a decadelong drought are "at least 80 percent." The chances of a "megadrought" one lasting 35 or more years, stands at somewhere between 20 percent and 50 percent, depending on how severe climate change turns out to be. And the prospects for an "unprecedented 50-year megadrought" — one "worse than anything seen during the last 2000 years" — checks in at a nontrivial 5 to 10 percent.

    To learn more, go to this link: http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/09/southwest-megadrought

The Power of Salt

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Where the river meets the sea, there is the potential to harness a significant amount of renewable energy, according to a team of mechanical engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The researchers evaluated an emerging method of power generation called pressure retarded osmosis (PRO), in which two streams of different salinity are mixed to produce energy. In principle, a PRO system would take in river water and seawater on either side of a semi-permeable membrane. Through osmosis, water from the less-salty stream would cross the membrane to a pre-pressurized saltier side, creating a flow that can be sent through a turbine to recover power. The MIT team has now developed a model to evaluate the performance and optimal dimensions of large PRO systems. In general, the researchers found that the larger a system’s membrane, the more power can be produced — but only up toa point. Interestingly, 95 percent of a system’s maximum power output can be generated using only half or less of the maximum membrane area. Leonardo Banchik, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, says reducing the size of the membrane needed to generate power would, in turn, lower much of the upfront cost of building a PRO plant.  READ MORE »

Drainage Deal Imminent?

A tentative agreement is near in secret talks between the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation,the U.S. Justice Department and the Westlands Water District to settle three long-simmering drainage lawsuits, according to Interior Department sources. The settlement could be a bonanza for Westlands, which has been searching for half a century for a solution on how to safely dispose of farm drainwater containing salts, heavy metals and the trace element selenium. Westlands drainage triggered deformities in birds at evaporation ponds at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in Merced County more than 30 years ago. According to one source, Westlands will only have to retire a minimum amount of selenium-tainted soils even though a safe drainage solution has not been achieved. A current Reclamation plan to reduce or eliminate toxic drainwater will cost an estimated $2.7 billion for Westlands' 600 growers. Geologists say more than 300,000 acres of land in Westlands and adjacent water districts (state and federal) have elevated levels of selenium, a trace element highly toxic to birds and fish. Environmentalists have called for a cessation of farming on these tainted soils.  READ MORE »

U.S.Supreme Court rules in favor of protecting Los Angeles rivers and beaches

FROM A Natural Resources Defense Council and Los Angeles Waterkeeper news release

 

WASHINGTON (May 5, 2014) – A decision today by the U.S. Supreme Court will protect millions of people living near and visiting Los Angeles rivers and beaches from the harmful effects of water pollution. The Supreme Court declined Los Angeles County and the County Flood Control District’s request to review a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling finding Los Angeles County liable for untreated stormwater pollution that plagues local waterways.

  The decision stems from a lawsuit initiated by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Los Angeles Waterkeeper in 2008. The Supreme Court previously remanded the case to the Ninth Circuit Court, which sided with NRDC and Waterkeeper last August. In an attempt to shirk its responsibility for cleaning up the region’s chronically polluted waterways, the County petitioned the Supreme Court for review in January 2014. Denying review of the case allows the lower court ruling to remain in place and holds Los Angeles County liable for water pollution, with documented and persistent violations of its Clean Water Act permit in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers since 2003.  READ MORE »

Monsanto and rivals creating "superweeds"

WASHINGTON (May 1, 2014) – An animated video released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) illustrates how the agribusiness giant, Monsanto, and its competitors are responsible for the rise of “superweeds” – weeds that have developed resistance to a common herbicide that once kept them in check.

According to a recent UCS policy brief, superweeds are cropping up on more than 60 million acres of U.S. cropland, increasing farmers’ costs and driving an increase in overall herbicide use and the return of more toxic chemicals. The video, “Monsanto Supersizes Farmers' Weed Problem—but Science Can Solve It,” depicts Monsanto’s Roundup Ready seed and herbicide system as a “superhero” with a fatal flaw. Monsanto sold the system as a way to make weed control easier.

Farmers adopted the system enthusiastically, and for a while it did reduced their overall use of herbicides. However, as weeds developed resistance to Roundup weed killer, the false superhero was unmasked. Nationally, weeds began to develop resistance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, only five years after the Roundup Ready products were introduced in the United States. Resistant weeds can grow eight feet tall and the tough stems damage farm equipment. These weeds also steal nutrients from crops, hurting crop yields and overall productivity.  READ MORE »

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