Latest Attack on Proposed Sites Reservoir – Not Enough Water

When it comes to attacking anything that will make so much as a scratch in the earth, California’s environmentalists never run out of arguments, and their litigators never run out of money.

So it goes with the proposed Sites Reservoir, which is enduring a withering new bombardment from environmentalists in the wake of Governor Newsom’s recently announced Water Supply Strategy in which the governor endorsed the Sites Project and even had the temerity to suggest environmentalist obstruction is stopping as many good projects as bad ones.

As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this week, and dutifully highlighted in Maven’s Notebook, “California’s largest reservoir in nearly 50 years may be derailed by water shortages.” Apparently there isn’t enough water flowing down the Sacramento River to fill the 1.5 million acre foot reservoir. But that entirely depends on who you ask.

Shown below, courtesy of the US Dept. of Geological Survey, is flow data for the Sacramento River, upstream at Colusa, which is near to where the planned diversions into the Sites Reservoir will be made. The data is expressed in “CFS,” which stands for cubic feet per second.

What is immediately evident from this chart is how it vividly depicts the volume of surplus water that hit Northern California even during what has been described as the driest winter in decades. If during the on-and-off wet months from October 1 to April 30 just 20 percent of the Sacramento River’s flow had been diverted […] Read More

Dams and Desalination – California Needs Both

When Californians can take showers, without flow restrictors, for as long as they want, and when Californians can have lawns again instead of rocks and cacti in their front yards, water infrastructure in California will once again be adequate.

When California’s farmers can get enough water to grow food, instead of watching their suddenly useless holdings of dead orchards and parched furrows get sold for next to nothing to corporate speculators and subsidized solar farm developers, water infrastructure in California will once again be adequate.

One of the difficulties in forming a coalition powerful enough to stand up to the corporate environmentalist lobby in California is the perception, widely shared among the more activist farming lobby, that desalination is more expensive than dams.

That’s not true. It depends on the desalination, and even more so, it depends on the dam.

As a baseline, consider the cost of desalination in California’s lone large scale operating plant in Carlsbad north of San Diego. The total project costs for this plant, including the related pipes to convey the desalinated water to storage reservoirs, was just over $1.0 billion. At a capacity to produce 56,000 acre feet per year, the construction cost per acre foot of annual capacity comes in just over $17,000.

When it comes to the price of desalinated water, payments on the bond that financed the construction costs form the overwhelming share of the cost per acre foot.

For example, California’s second major desalination project, the proposed plant in […] Read More