Monday, July 26, 2021

"California moves to cut off water to thousands of farmers, as drought dries up rivers"

It's the "thousands" that catches one's attention.

From The Sacramento Bee, July 23:

Forced to reckon with a worsening drought, California’s water regulators are preparing to forbid thousands of farmers from tapping into the state’s major rivers and streams.

It’s an extraordinary step — and one that regulators didn’t take during the last drought, which was considered one of the worst on record.

The State Water Resources Control Board on Friday released an “emergency curtailment” order that would cut thousands off from rivers and streams in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river watersheds. The five-person board still has to vote on the order Aug. 3, and it would take effect about two weeks later.

Eileen Sobeck, the board’s executive director, said the proposed order shows the dire conditions of California’s water supply. There “is just not enough to meet all of the legitimate demands,” she said.

“We don’t take this action lightly; we know that it’s going to impose hardships on folks,” she said. Exceptions will be made for drinking water and other human needs.

“We’re trying to protect drinking water supplies; we’re trying to protect endangered fish in the system,” she said. State officials have warned that most winter-run Chinook salmon could die in the Sacramento River this year.

Most farmers who rely on the State Water Project or the federal Central Valley Project are already struggling with dramatically reduced allocations. The proposed order released Friday covers those thousands of farmers with direct legal rights to pull water out of the rivers.

Saving rivers to protect fish populations

Karen Ross, secretary of state Department of Food and Agriculture, said the cutoff would further weaken farmers’ and ranchers’ ability to produce this year, but she called the move “absolutely necessary” in light of the severity of the drought.

Environmentalists have been urging the state to act quickly, saying more water needs to be kept in the system to prop up ailing fish species. As far back as March, the state water board began warning farmers that supplies were drying up. Formal “notices of water unavailability” were sent out in mid-June — a precursor to the proposed order released Friday....


As noted in the introduction to June 21's "Agricultural Commodities: Whither the Weather": 

Attentive reader may have noticed we are not making as much noise about the ongoing drought in California as some folks are. As long as the government is sending water into the Pacific so the smelt can swim  it is hard to get worked up about cries of emergency. Lake Powell may drop far enough to cut into Cali's electricity supply but it wasn't me ignoring the lessons of history. Seven years ago we were posting: "California: The Last 200 Years Were The Happy Time For Weather, Get Ready For A Return to The West Without Water".

And every year we post the graph from "The Economics of the California Water Shortage"

Where this gets really interesting is when you throw a historical perspective on the current California drought:

—San Jose Mercury-News "California drought: Past dry periods have lasted more than 200 years, scientists say"

Regarding the drought in the desert southwest that is threatening Phoenix, Las Vegas and tangentially Los Angeles, ummm "Desert Southwest". 

Back in 2008 we posted these handy little maps....