It is very clear that an undefined threat of state involvement, domestic wells going dry and aquifer decline are not worse to Paso Robles locals than a new Groundwater Sustainability Agency. If the State wants compliance with SGMA before the deadlines pass, it must make the alternative to forming a GSA worse than forming one. Fortuitously, one measure for doing that -prohibiting planting new permanent crops in any basin with a declining gw aquifer -is also a good drought response. I read that the State Board is looking for those as we go into Year Five.
Outlook for Year Five: More of the same, but less inconvenient for me.
If we are following in Australia’s footsteps, they got serious in Year Six. Year Five is the year of “oh shit. This drought thing could last.” Indeed, we’re seeing a lot of “new normal” stories this month as the wet season comes to an end.
State Water Contractors west side CVP contractors got a pretty small allotment this year, 5% as of now. So they’ll be pumping and I’ll be calling for them to pay for damage to public infrastructure caused by their pumping.
People will feel discontent with urban water conservation as the prospect of doing this longterm sets in. Passive methods, like switching out toilets, are great. But active methods that impose a small ongoing cognitive burden are no longer exciting emergency measures. People will get tired of short showers and carrying buckets of water. As they should. Those aren’t real fixes.
Poor people in the San Joaquin Valley will continue to feel the brunt of the drought.
Things to watch for:
Bank involvement: I continue to think that agricultural financing is a mystery influence in all this. Will land prices go down as the limits of water availability become known? Who the hell is financing half-million dollar wells? Will there be a wave of bankruptcies? How will we see those? I love banking and water stories, friends. Please send them along if you see them.
I read that this is the make-or-break year for the AroundDeltaWaterGo, that MWD is tired of pouring money into it. Will the Brown Administration and the State Board put their attention into getting the tunnels through, or to using the drought to achieve something? I have said before that it is a real shame that Brown chose the tunnels to focus on; I bet the same attention and the drought would have gotten water rights reform through.
The time for serious live-within-our-means drought response will be Year Six. If Gov. Brown doesn’t do it in 2018 and we get to Year Seven, the next governor will have plenty of built up emotion for change. I’ll be looking for gubernatorial candidates and guessing whether they are tied to west side ag.
I’ve been watching for a photogenic infrastructure break caused by subsidence. Would we get easements, forbidding pumping within a quarter-mile of important public infrastructure? I’m also watching closely for the report on funding mechanisms for repairs to the California Aqueduct. (Remember, people of L.A.. If you pay a penny for repairs to subsidence damage to the California Aqueduct, you got robbed.) I’m also keeping an eye out for a nuisance suit, brought against a neighboring pumper for breaking someone’s foundation. I haven’t seen or heard anything like that, but surely there’s a cantankerous homeowner in the Valley who isn’t here to make friendsdoesn’t want to pay to repair a cracked foundation that someone else broke.
Hey, the next Almond Acreage Report comes out in a month. We will know soon if almond acreage expanded last year.
Less inconvenient for me:
I don’t have to fear that we’ll get four years into drought and start all over. I watched 2006-2009 closely, so I’d already seen drought years One to Four. Now I get to see what happens in Year Five.
Here in Sacramento it seems like I’ll have to do less personal household water conservation, which is nice. I lost a dogwood tree last year, so now I’m thinking I should put an illegal French drain on my outdoor shower. See? Permanent systemic fixes, not water bucket bullshit.
Regardless of snowpack percentages, the landscape looks green again. The parched landscape of the past two years has looked sad and thirsty and pained. It is a relief to have that feeling lifted, even though the drought hasn’t ended.
There’s enough project water in the system that there is no pump capacity for north-to-south water transfers. So maybe I’ll have to read less abstract bullshit about the value of water transfers? One can hope.