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California Flooding Continues, But We’re Still in a Drought

AUDIO: As one storm after another pounds California, and millions of acre feet of floodwater run out to sea, officials still proclaim the state to be in a drought. Edward Ring with Kara McKinney on OANN’s Tipping Point.

California’s Mega Water Wasters

Edward Ring

Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.

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California’s Mega Water Wasters

It’s illegal to serve drinking water in a California restaurant unless the customer asks for it. Billboards sponsored by the state urge residents to put a bucket in their shower to capture water for their gardens. These symbolic pittances, along with escalating restrictions on water use by farmers and households that are anything but trivial, are the products of a deeply flawed mentality governing water policy in California.

At the same time as government bureaucrats commit to ongoing water rationing, ferocious winter storms lash the state with hundreds of millions of acre-feet of precipitation. If this storm runoff were captured and stored, there would never be water scarcity again. But instead, it merely causes flooding and havoc, then runs into the vast Pacific Ocean. This is the story of California’s mega water wasters, one of the most delusional, self-righteous, destructive cults in the history of civilization.

In California, when it rains, it pours. So far in 2023, up and down the state, rain and snow are pouring down, one storm after another. Rainfall totals in the San Francisco Bay Area are an astonishing 600 percent of normal for this time of year. In almost every watershed throughout the state, total rainfall is well above normal, and in the Sierras, the all-important snowpack is now sitting at exactly 200 percent of normal.

With all this rain and snow, it might seem like California’s multiyear, devastating drought has come to a welcome and very wet end. But according […] Read More

Harvesting the Deluge is an Opportunity for Californians

It doesn’t take a hydrologist to know Californians are getting an unusual amount of rain. Totals in the San Francisco Bay Area are an astonishing 600 percent of normal for this time of year. In almost every watershed throughout the state, total rainfall is well above normal, and in the Sierras, the all important snowpack is now sitting at exactly 200 percent of normal.

With this quantity of water already delivered from the sky, with so much more on the way, one might think that drought restrictions could be lifted. But not so fast. Despite predicting for years that Californians were going to need to rely less on a diminishing snowpack and more on harvesting water from storm runoff, the state has done little to take advantage of the new normal. When the rain stops and the snow melts prematurely, Californians will likely face another year of drought restrictions.

It didn’t have to be this way. In 2014 voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 1, a water bond that would have funded the sort of water storage projects that we could use right now. But that was over 8 years ago, and not one project has started construction. The proposed Sites Reservoir, an offstream facility originally planned to hold two million acre feet, remains tied up in litigation, endless planning, and only half-hearted and belated efforts by the state to secure matching federal funds. The proposed Temperance Flat Reservoir, which would have held 1.5 million acre feet […] Read More

These Projects Can Solve the Water Crisis and Protect Farms

Despite seasonal rainfall at normal levels so far this year, the California Department of Water Resources on Dec. 1 announced an initial State Water Project allocation of 5% of requested supplies for 2023. Unless heavy rains or new policies change this decision, it will mark the third consecutive year that the State Water Project delivered only 5% to its customers.

This is an avoidable problem. By the end of December 2021, for example, only three months into the water year, two massive storm systems had already dumped more than 104 million acre-feet onto California’s watersheds. Almost none of it was captured by reservoirs or diverted into aquifers.

For nearly 40 years, the political consensus in California has been to cope with droughts by increasing conservation mandates. During that time, the state’s population has increased from 24 million to nearly 40 million, and farm production has increased in virtually every category. But due to conservation, agricultural water use has been constant, averaging about 34 million acre-feet per year.

Several factors are breaking this model despite a 40-year history of alleged success. Replacing flood irrigation with drip irrigation was a short-term solution. Flood irrigation in the fields downstream from the Sierra mimicked annual flooding prior to the construction of dams and levees—and replenished the aquifers.

Increased environmental requirements for less water diversion from rivers for agriculture have forced additional groundwater pumping at the same time as those aquifers were no longer being replenished by flood irrigation. As depleted aquifers collapse and percolation […] Read More

Revitalizing the Los Angeles River

“And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.” Ezekiel 47:9

From the dawn of recorded history, humans built cities along rivers. Over 6,000 years ago, Sumerian city-states grew along the fertile banks of the Tigris-Euphrates rivers system, relying on these rivers for irrigation and transportation, water to drink and fish to eat. And in the millennia to follow, from the Yangtze to the Mississippi, across the continents, rivers have been the enabling arteries of civilization.

With the arrival of the industrial revolution came rapid population growth and an explosion of new technology. In 1800 the earth and its rivers sustained 990 million people; today, that number approaches 8 billion. As cities expanded along their rivers, to prevent winter floods, dams and levees at an unprecedented scale were constructed to contain them. And at the same time as many urban rivers were transformed into gigantic drainage culverts, their waters were fouled by contaminated runoff, poorly treated sewage, and outfall from industry.

The turning point in the desecration of urban rivers was in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the modern environmental movement began in reaction to polluted air and water. A defining event of this era came in 1969 when the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland […] Read More

Environmentally Friendly Delta Diversions

When it comes to cost-effective ways to increase the supply of water to California’s cities and farms, every idea should be considered. The residential, commercial and industrial water requirements of California’s 40 million people add up to about 8 million acre feet of water per year. The nine million acres of irrigated farmland that produces the food they eat, requires another 30 million acre feet of water per year.

With droughts and increasing priority given to letting water stay in the rivers to maintain ecosystem health, this water supply is threatened. Water scarcity and water rationing, along with fallowing millions of acres of farmland, is the only answer California’s legislature seems to support. Efforts to increase the water supply have been incremental at best.

From a cost perspective, most supply solutions are financially viable, but nonetheless quite expensive. For example, only about one-third of California’s urban wastewater is recycled. Construction costs to upgrade every water treatment plant in the state that isn’t already turning sewage back into recycled water for landscaping or even for potable reuse would cost about $20 billion, and give back up to 2 million acre feet per year.

Desalination is another option, but is roughly twice as expensive as wastewater recycling. For an estimated construction cost of $20 billion, about one million acre feet of ocean water per year could be desalinated. While it is the most expensive option, desalination has the virtue of being a perennial supply of new water, impervious to drought. What other […] Read More

Creating Water Abundance in California

“And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.” Ezekiel 47:9

Water is Life. For as long as there has been civilization, access to water has been an unyielding prerequisite. California is no exception. As its population grew, the state built one of the most remarkable systems of interbasin water transfers in the world. Every year, nearly 40 million acre feet of water is diverted from remote rivers and transported to magnificent coastal cities or used to irrigate rich farmland. But the whole system needs to be upgraded for the 21st century.

Here are some water projects that ought to be moving forward in California:

(1) Desalination at scale: There is only one major desalination plant in California, located just north of San Diego. At a total project cost of just over $1.0 billion, the Carlsbad Desalination Project went into operation in 2015 and desalinates 55 thousand acre feet of water per year. Desalination has the unique virtue of being an inexhaustible supply of fresh water. Every other water source, ultimately, depends on how much rain we get. In combination with wastewater recycling, building several more large desalination plants could enable California’s coastal cities to become nearly independent of imported water. Potential sites for their construction are already […] Read More

California Water Facts for Legislators

Everyone in California agrees that water policies need to adapt to changing times. There is even growing agreement that enforcing draconian reductions to farm water allocations (which will eliminate all but the most powerful corporate agribusinesses) and outlawing household outdoor watering will not only fail to solve the problem, but is a tough and undesirable solution. And so the debate over more rationing versus more water supply projects goes on.

Missing from the debate over water policy in California, however, especially among the state legislators who need to do something about it, are some basic overall metrics regarding how much water we need, what various types of water projects cost, how much potential capacity each type of project delivers, and how much energy is involved. Here’s a summary.

When quantifying macro variables of this nature, first it is important to note that for any project category, costs are not uniform. A wastewater recycling plant, for example, will cost more to construct and more to operate depending on the type of wastewater it has to process. The cost to build and operate a conveyance to deliver water from a recycling plant or desalination plant direct to the consumer or to a storage facility will vary depending on the length of the conveyance and any necessary elevation changes. So these are rough numbers. They are nonetheless vital to begin a more informed discussion of water policy options in California.

The primary measurement used to describe large amounts of water are units of […] Read More

The Fate of the Los Angeles River Epitomizes the Choices Facing Californians

From its pristine headwaters in the San Gabriel Mountains all the way to its sordid finale as a gigantic culvert emptying into Long Beach Harbor, the Los Angeles River – what’s happened to it and what the future brings – is an apt metaphor for California’s story and California’s ultimate fate.

Until a few years ago, the Los Angeles River was an unrelieved victim of human progress. In less than 150 years, its lower watershed has been transformed from an Arcadian floodplain to an urban metropolis with over ten million inhabitants. After a series of floods in the 1930s devastated the growing city, the Army Corps of Engineers was brought in to tame the river. By the time they were done, what had been a verdant ribbon of life had become a concrete wasteland, dry enough and wide enough for car chase scenes in countless movies, occasionally deluged with safely channeled floodwaters whenever California’s infrequent storms hit the mountains and the water raced down to the sea.

Starting around 1980 the citizens of Los Angeles began to view their river as more than an intriguing eyesore. Under pressure from artists, journalists and environmental activists, the city and county of Los Angeles, with help from the Army Corps, issued a series of studies that imagined a restored river. Most recently, in June 2022, the County of Los Angeles published the “LA River Master Plan.” All of these lengthy reports offer blueprints for turning the Los Angeles River back into […] Read More

Are There Viable Alternatives to Reservoirs?

AUDIO: How dam removal efforts are gaining momentum in the Western United States and around the world, with a specific focus on four large dams on the Snake River in Washington that have been targeted – 16 minutes on KVI Seattle – Edward Ring on the John Carlson Show.

https://civicfinance.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/2022-09-22-Edward-Ring-on-John-Carlson-Show-16-minutes-KVI-Seattle.mp3 Edward Ring

Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.

Help support more content like this. Click here.

edwardring.com