Monday, July 14, 2014

California Water Restrictions - 2014

Subtitle: Drought Welcome, Brings Population Decrease

[Update: 7-15-2014, the State Water Resources Control Board approved the new measures, as outlined below. -- end update.]

California is in one of its periodic droughts.  Snow in the Sierras has been below average for the past three years.  Rainfall also has been below average.   Water reservoirs are getting low. (see Lake Shasta photo below)  Farmers are not receiving enough water for irrigation.   The State writes: 

"More than 400,000 acres of farmland are expected to be fallowed, thousands of people
Lake Shasta, California showing low level from drought 2014
source: USGS
may be out of work, communities risk running out of drinking water and fish and wildlife species are in  jeopardy. Many communities are down to 50 gallons a day or less per person for basic sanitation needs. With our inability to predict the effect of the next rainy season, water saved today can improve a region’s water security and add flexibility to systems that may need to withstand another year or more with precipitation below average."

Tomorrow, July 15, 2014, the state Water Board will vote on additional measures to conserve water. ( it passed)  These restrictions apply to outdoor water used in cities and towns.  The restrictions are expected to pass, probably unanimously.   They include:

"1)  The direct application of water to any hard surface for washing. 
2) Watering of outdoor landscapes that cause runoff to adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots or structures. 
3) Using a hose to wash an automobile, unless the hose is fitted with a shut-off nozzle. 
4)  Using potable water in a fountain or decorative water feature, unless the water is recirculated. 

Violations of prohibited activities are considered infractions and are punishable by fines of $500 for each day in which the violation occurs."

This is the type of issue that is very controversial in California.  Some, including myself, believe that the lack of water is a primary means to discourage growth.   In fact, nothing would please the establishment more than to see the population shrink to pre-1960 levels.  If less water is available, people will eventually leave the state.  Perhaps this explains the foot-dragging and roadblocks in the way of any serious water projects.  Whether proposals involve new dams, desalination, or ceasing water-intensive agriculture e.g. rice farming, all are met with fierce opposition.

California has come a long, long way from the days of diverting the Owens River high in the Sierras through an aqueduct into Los Angeles (in 1913).   Yet another river was partially diverted to Southern California, the mighty Colorado River of Grand Canyon fame.   Those days brought surplus water and millions of people.  No more. 

The fact is, though, that only four or five years ago there was a surplus of snow, and water from reservoirs was intentionally sent down-river into the oceans.  This was done to make room for the coming snowmelt and runoff.   To go from a surplus where water is wasted in that fashion, to extreme drought only four year later is a clear sign of incompetence or worse, deliberate imposition of water shortages.  

If, and it is a big if, the snows are below average again this winter (2014-2015), California will experience water rationing as it has seldom seen, if ever.   The ENSO predictions are still 70 percent for an El NiƱo this winter as per NOAA.   Only time will tell.  

For the Fact Sheet from California State Water Board, see link

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 
Marina del Rey, California

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