Water Supply Update

Just in case you haven’t noticed, we are getting a little rain and snow here in California. Excellent news for water folks, right? Well, yes and no. See this very good article on the situation from the Sacramento Bee:

http://www.sacbee.com/2011/03/22/3493907/late-rains-put-states-water-managers.html

It wasn’t too long ago that we were really concerned about the water supply situation, and the outlook for this Winter. Another nice article on this topic shows up in today’s LA Times, from Catherine Saillant:

http://www.latimes.com/news/la-me-0322-weather-records-m,0,576074.story

Apparently, California Department of Water Resources remains concerned about drought conditions: the allocation for this year was just raised last week — but only to 70 percent of entitlement levels!

But let’s not be too hard on DWR. They really do need to be conservative in their allocations, so that they don’t promise to deliver water that they may not have at some point later in the year. But where could all that water go?

The Sacramento Bee article noted above provides a clear discussion of the first concern — the need to balance flood control with water supply. In fact, DWR’s largest reservoir, Lake Oroville, has had to release water in the past week, so that there would be enough empty space left in the lake to capture possible upcoming storm water inflows. Without this space, catastrophic flooding downstream could occur. So we are already “wasting” water! And already enough to completely fill Pyramid Lake! Yeah, that’s a lot of water — quite literally down the drain, and on its way to the Pacific Ocean. So DWR needs to be concerned about how much more water it will lose in this way over the next several weeks of Spring.

A second concern is how much of the water supply will have to be “wasted” for environmental uses. Believe it or not, the environment is still the biggest user of water in California, consuming over 50 percent of the total supply. And with new environmental regulations and law suits coming forward seemingly every day, how can DWR know what the future will require of them in this area?

Despite that, I do think that we will see the DWR ultimately increase their allocation to 100 percent. But I don’t expect them to do so until their final announcement of the year, shortly after May 1.

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