Here's another one: Southern California water issues

This one has some good info.

And here's something I found odd: Below, it says that 200,000 acre-feet of
water is being bought from rice farmers, and that this is enough to
irrigate about 40,000 acres of rice land...

	An acre-foot of water is 1 acre in area, and 1 foot deep. 43,560
cubic feet of water. 200,000 acre-feet / 40,000 acres = 5 *feet* of water
per acre?!?  That seems a bit deep, even for rice farming, which I think
does fine in about 6-8" of water.

	My girlfriend, Stacie, was just saying how it made no sense to be
doing water-intensive rice farming in the bone-dry Central Valley of
California. (I could make the same argument about most types of farming,
but I also think that having that water lying around might help moderate
the local climate, increase humidity, breezes, etc. It probably also does
wonders for the local mosquito population. ;-)  ) 
	In 2001, at the World Future Society annual conference, I sat in on
a presentation by the man who holds the position (roughly translated) of
"Minister of Water" for all of Mexico. We spoke a bit at the end, but
neither his English nor my Spanish were really up to the task. But his
presentation was great. 
	It is his job to know how much water Mexico has, everywhere. How
much in streams, rivers, lakes, ponds and reservoirs. How much falls as
rain, how much is pumped from aquifers (Too much. Mexico City is sinking
about 6" per year, I think), how much is sprayed on fields and blows away
in the wind and is used in the cities...all of it. 
	He raised an interesting point: Roughly 90% of Mexico's population
now live in cities and the surrounding urban areas. They consume about 7-8%
of the country's water supply. The other 10% live in the rural areas, run
farms, etc. They consume about 56% of the total water supply. Yep. 7-8
times more than a group of people 9 times larger than them.
	I'm not positive about the numbers here, but I think the US has a
similar (if not lower) percentage of the population living in rural areas,
and I can attest to the watering practices at least in the Southwest. Very
	That's actually why I wrote this page: and I spoke to the
Minister briefly about the idea: If they built a large inflated structure
to act as a vapor-lock (just like my previous post about the salt
evaporators, or just like the major inflated sports arenas), they could
recapture and reuse that water. 
	They would probably be able to drop their water use an astonishing
amount. (I'm thinking they could likely reduce it to 1-2% of their current
amounts.) Water the crops once at the begining of the season, and it keeps
cycling like a gigantic terrarium.

	Entire valleys could be enclosed like this, providing a protected
space with a more controlled environment and longer growing season, without
the fears of weather damage to crops. 

	And if we found ways of reducing the water waste at the farms, we'd
probably have enough for everyone to drink.


				  (Snip snip)

    SF Gate <>
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    * No new dams foreseen for water needs
    Southern California would bear brunt of Interior's plan
    * Glen Martin, Chronicle Staff Writer
    <mailto:glenmartin at sfchronicle dot com>
    Sunday, December 29, 2002
    2002 San Francisco Chronicle </chronicle/info/copyright/> |
    Feedback </>


    The Interior Department's announcement that California may soon lose
    enough Colorado River water to slake the thirst of 1.4 million
    people stunned many state officials, but water experts said Saturday
    that the worst-case scenario of new dams on Northern California
    rivers is not likely to occur.

    But if the Bush administration's decision is upheld and the state
    loses a significant share of Colorado River water, Southern
    California water users will have to look elsewhere to make up the

    And that means a host of scenarios, which include the acquisition of
    north state water rights, construction of new desalinization plants,
    and development of groundwater-storage projects, as well as
    reclamation and conservation efforts.

    "No one should panic, but everyone should be concerned," said Tim
    Quinn, vice president of state water project resources for the
    Metropolitan Water District, which serves 17 million people in
    Southern California.

    Metropolitan Water stands to bear the brunt of the plan introduced
    late Friday by Interior Secretary Gale Norton. The plan would strip
    California of the "excess" water that flows into the state from the
    Colorado River.

    That water -- about 13 percent of the state's take from the river --
    would instead flow to the booming populations of other Western
    states, most notably Arizona, Nevada and Utah.

    Metropolitan Water would lose 700,000 acre-feet of the 1.2 million
    acre- feet of water it normally receives from the Colorado. That
    loss would be enough to supply 800,000 people.


    In the past, the Interior Department's decision may have guaranteed
    political pressure to build new dams on the rivers of the Sierra
    Nevada and the North Coast. But that is no longer practical, Quinn

    "They can't be sustained either economically or environmentally," he
    said. "There will never be additional dams on the Eel, Klamath,
    Trinity or Sacramento (rivers)."

    Now the district is buying water rights from north state farmers.
    Quinn said the district is currently negotiating to buy 200,000
    acre-feet of water from Sacramento Valley rice farmers.

    That amount of water would irrigate about 40,000 acres of rice land,
    Quinn said -- about 8 percent of the total acreage devoted to rice
    in the Sacramento Valley.

    Metropolitan Water officials say the agency has also stockpiled
    enough water to stave off any problems for at least two years.

    "We've invested tremendously in new projects in the past decade,"
    Quinn said. "We completed Diamond Valley Reservoir in Hemet in 1999.
    That holds 800, 000 acre-feet, and it's almost full. We also have 2
    million acre-feet in new groundwater-storage projects."

    Additionally, said Quinn, the district has used incentives to
    encourage reclamation and conservation, with good results.

    William Kier, a fisheries and water consultant and a director of the
    Marin Municipal Water District, agrees that big new dams are
    unlikely in California, no matter what the Interior Department
    decides to do.

    "Water policy from this point is going to be price-driven," Kier
    said. "Water originating from north state reservoirs will cost three
    to four times what people are paying for it now in Southern


    Many new water strategies are superseding those that favor dams,
    Kier said.

    "San Diego is now looking very seriously at desalinization plants,"
    he said.

    "The latest technology will deliver desalinized water at $700 an
    acre-foot. Metropolitan will gladly subsidize that so that the
    customer price will be $450 an acre-foot -- about what they're
    paying for Colorado River water right now."

    By comparison, said Kier, "Water delivered from a project like Sites
    Reservoir, which is proposed for Glenn County, would cost $1,500 an

    Perhaps the biggest argument against new dams, he said, is that they
    can only store water and not create it.

    "To quote former Assemblyman Phil Isenberg, 'I never saw a dam that
    could make it rain,' " Kier said. "We need water going down the
    Sacramento River to maintain bay delta quality standards. Unless
    you're willing to trash those standards and ship all the water
    south, dams won't increase the available water supply."

    But some environmentalists warn that there is still a strong
    constituency for new dams in Northern California.

    "It's still too early to pronounce all these projects dead," said
    Barry Nelson, a water policy analyst with the Natural Resource
    Defense Council.

    "That's because there is growing political pressure -- particularly
    for Sites," he said. "And the same is true for the (proposed
    expansion of the) Los Vaqueros Reservoir in eastern Contra Costa
    County. Lots of people are very excited about them."

    Nelson also said there is growing political sentiment for boosting
    water diversions from the Sacramento River Delta. The state pumps up
    to 6,600 cubic feet of water per second (cfs) from the delta, and
    state water officials would like to increase that to 8,500 cfs, he


    Kier said water marketing will become an increasingly attractive
    option for dealing with California's water woes. But it carries
    serious implications for Northern California's rural economies, Kier

    Programs to let land lie fallow that would free up water for
    Southern California would have a tremendous impact on those who rely
    upon the agriculture industry for their livelihood -- people who
    sell farm equipment, for example.

    "You can't turn those things on and off like a light switch," Kier
    said. "When you take 40,000 acres of rice out of production, the
    people who live there are going to feel it. These water sales could
    really unravel the farm economy."

    /E-mail Glen Martin at glenmartin at sfchronicle dot com
    <mailto:glenmartin at sfchronicle dot com>./

    2002 San Francisco Chronicle
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