By Tim Hunt
Tough new rules on water are necessaryUploaded: Jul 17, 2014
Media reports abounded this week after the state water board established firm new regulations to put some teeth to its message that the state is locked in a drought and everyone must conserve water.
Calendar year 2013 was one of the driest on record and with meager rain and snowfall in January and February, 2014 isn't shaping up any better. It is the third worst drought on record.
The board established fines up to $500 for wasting water such as overwatering landscapingnotably lawnsor using potable water to wash down hard surfaces. San Francisco got a special dispensation for its program of power-washing sidewalks to remove human waste left by homeless people. The city also has moved ahead with porta-potty trucks including staff to ensure that they are used only for physical relief and not illicit activities.
The state board took the action after many communities ignored Gov. Brown's call last winter for a 20 percent voluntary reduction. The overall state numbers have not been close and water managers are particularly concerned because there's no guarantee that precipitation will return to normal levels or more next winter.
Of course, water is one of those uniquely local issues. Depending upon the source and the storage capabilities of the wholesale or retail agencies, the situation varies dramatically area-to-area. Citrus growers on the eastside of the San Joaquin Valley near Fresno are struggling to keep their groves alive because there is no groundwater basin in the area and no surface (river) water is available. The state board has formally curtailed water to nearly 8,000 holders of "junior water rights."
By contrast, most of Southern California is fine this year with voluntary reductions because the wholesaler, Metropolitan Water District, has built substantial storage in the region to have a drought reserve.
Statewide, growers and communities alike are relying heavily on groundwater supplies, with over-drafting of some basins likely.
Locally, Zone 7 has seen its Delta water deliveries reduced entirely, but has water that it has banked elsewhere and groundwater available. It was the overdraft of Livermore Valley groundwater in the 1950s that led foresighted leaders to established Zone 7 and tie in with the State Water Project.
Incidentally, here's a perspective on water and costs.
There's lots of debate going on in the Legislature and other circles about the Bay Delta Conservation Plan that is strongly backed by Governor Brown. It calls for two huge 40-foot in diameter tunnels that would carry water from the Sacramento River just south of the capital city to the export pumps near Tracy.
The Livermore Valley has much at stake in this process because Zone 7 water agency, the wholesale supplier to the Livermore Valley and the Dougherty Valley in San Ramon, receives 80 percent of its water in a normal year through the pumps and the South Bay Aqueduct.
The costs of the new Delta facilities is estimated at $16 billion--- a big really number, but consider.
The Hetch Hetchy water system, which supplies the city and county of San Francisco from the dam in a sister valley to Yosemite, is nearing completion on a $4.6 billion project to upgrade and reinforce its system that supplies about 2.4 million people in Alameda, Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco counties.
The Delta tunnel project, without the expenses of environmental restoration in the Delta that is considered a statewide benefit, is expected to cost about three times more than the Hetch Hetchy project. It serves 25 million people and thousands of acres of irrigated agriculture.