What I see in the drought proclamation (1-5).

I assume you have a copy of the proclamation to hand. I’ll go point by point with my first impression.

1. Calling on Californians to reduce their water usage by twenty percent in one year doesn’t seem like enough when reservoirs are so drastically low. But if they do reduce by that much, after this year Twenty by 20XX will be relatively easy. I know some of the behavioral changes backslide when the drought ends, but this drought will be a big boost to that effort.

This drought feels very different than 2007-2009. People mention rain and guiltily enjoying the sun everywhere I go. I’ve heard so many mentions of the dry hills. The dry reservoirs are so blatant. I have come to believe that humans can only deeply identify with problems they can see (literally see –problems without a visible element (groundwater, greenhouse gases) will not be solved.) and this drought may be stark enough to qualify. I’d urge water conservation people to put pictures of empty reservoirs on billboards.

2. This point cracks me up. I read this as: do your fucking water management plans. Back when 20xtwentytwenty was written, the only enforcement mechanism for the requirement to write ag water management plans was that if your district didn’t do a plan, it wouldn’t be eligible for DWR loans and grants. Not much of a hammer. But I am very sure that any agency approaching the Drought Task Force for assistance will be welcomed with a sweet “What does it say in your Drought Contingency Plan, appendix to your water management plan?”. If the reply is that they don’t have a Drought Contingency Plan yet, I expect they’ll be told to finish that before coming back.

I see there’ll be a publicly posted map of which districts have updated plans. It is eighteen years since I proposed doing that at Reclamation and was told that was too sensitive. I am glad water districts have become less delicate since then.

3. State agencies implementing water conservation in our own facilities? Dude. I’ll believe that when I see it. DGS is invariably cited as the barrier to making green changes at state buildings. Maybe it will be different in the Brown administration, but I haven’t seen Governor Brown show any interest in shaping the state agencies.

4. They have to say this about water transfers. Water transfers are the politically acceptable win-win solution. Willing sellers, willing buyers, no one loses anything, the State “facilitates” but doesn’t dictate. From what I saw in the last drought, inter-regional transfers were nearly negligible, primarily because rice prices were high and because there weren’t available pumping windows that weren’t already being used for project water. This time I think inter-regional transfers will be even more trivial, because I don’t think many will have water to offer. There is real utility in local and regional transfers, so I hope those get “expedited”.

From what I understand, the danger in a rushed transfer process is that there may be secondary damage on the seller’s end. The transferred surface water may be immediately replaced on the seller’s end with groundwater that wouldn’t have otherwise been pumped. If that damages an aquifer or taps nearby connected surface water, that’s a transfer that wouldn’t be approved. “Expedited” transfer evaluations may miss this. My real opinion, though, is that transfers allow people to pretend that there is a pleasing solution, a feelgood thing the State can do. I think the real volumes are tiny and the secondary damages from transfers correspondingly tiny.

5. I don’t know what this item means in real life, so I don’t have impressions to type up.


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3 responses to “What I see in the drought proclamation (1-5).

  1. OTPR — Let Ron Stork help with the real life meaning of Directive 5, with this quote in today’s SacBee —–

    “Some environmental groups expressed concern that fine print in Friday’s drought declaration could lead to disruptive changes in how water is distributed. For instance, the drought declaration directs the State Water Resources Control Board to “immediately” consider petitions that would consolidate “places of use” for water diversions now held separately by the State Water Project and the federal government’s Central Valley Project.

    These two separate diversion systems in the Delta require a state permit to combine places of use so they can jointly use the proposed tunnels. Such an action would normally require months, if not years, of careful review and public comment.

    Ronald Stork, a senior policy advocate at Friends of the River in Sacramento, said that if “place of use” is consolidated, federal water such as that held in Folsom Reservoir could be sent to Disneyland to keep the roller coasters operating. Currently, most of that water is designated for agriculture.

    “That’s a titanic shift of purpose for the federal water project,” Stork said. “I think the water board needs to think this one through very carefully before they give the go-ahead to consolidating these two very different projects.”

  2. Hard to tell if the concern noted in the previous comment is genuine or simply a strawman. It would seem that consolidation of places of use could facilitate local transfers if a transfer application no longer needs to indicate a change in place of use AND would be expedited if located within the same basin – as you note in your comment on 4. But the way this is worded does potentially raise some red flags. It would be interesting to know some context behind #5.

  3. Francis

    I think that #5 is referring to this.