Apr 24, 2012
Unfiltered Political News by Independent Contributors
PNP comment: Interesting info on Colorado River, etc. — Editor Liz Bowen
Article should take about 2 – 4 minutes to read.
Image Lake Mead bathtub ring 2010. (Credit: commons.wikimedia.org)
What, you ask, does Nevada and Las Vegas have to do with California water? Well, water wars aren’t just fought within states. They are also fought between states. Southern Nevada gets almost 90% of its water from the Colorado River. Southern California also gets substantial water from the Colorado, most of which goes to agriculture in the Imperial Valley. The Colorado River has the unenviable status of being the most litigated river in the world. The problem for Nevada is that it agreed to a small apportionment of Colorado River water back when their population was tiny. Southern Nevada gets 0.3 Million Acre Feet a Year (MAFY) while California gets a princely 4.4 MAFY.
But then gambling came to Las Vegas in a big way. The population soared. They now have persistent water problems, made worse by a decade of drought. Thus, the Southern Nevada Water Authority is on a mission to find water anywhere it can.
Nevada’s crown jewel is the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River at Lake Mead. They get one-third of the power generated by it. But water levels at Lake Mead have dropped so precipitously that a “third straw” is needed to insure that water will be available. It will cost $800 million and no one is quite sure where the money will come from. In addition, SNWA has floated plans to build pipelines from northern Nevada and Utah, something which has met with vociferous opposition. They’ve also discussed building desalination plants in California or Mexico and swapping that for more water from the Colorado River.
Under The Law of The River which governs the Colorado, California, Nevada, and Arizona are allowed to use any Colorado River water not used by another state. But given the drought and growing populations, all three states are using their full allotments. This means no excess water for the other states.
SNWA is not currently a direct competitor with California for water due to the ancient agreement apportioning Colorado River water. Should that agreement ever change – and everyone know it is archaic – then SNWA could directly compete for more Colorado River water. However, SNWA is relentless in seeking more water and through swaps, desalination, and other agreements and is always looking to get more water from the Colorado. If they get more, someone else gets less. That is the real Law of The River.
Apr 24, 2012
PNP comment: This article is about water in Sacramento Valley and Bureau of Reclamation Project farmers south of Siskiyou County. — Editor Liz Bowen
April 23, 2012 | Posted in: News
West Side farmers will have more water to work with this summer, after the Bureau of Reclamation revised its 2012 allocation last week.
The Central California Irrigation District, which had prepared for its first “critical” water year since 1994, was advised that it will receive a normal water allocation.
Growers in surrounding federal water districts learned that their 2012 allocation has been bumped from 30 percent to 40 percent – still a far cry from the 80 percent allocation of a year ago.
According to a Bureau of Reclamation news release, improved precipitation in the Sacramento Valley and improved snowpack in the Sierra Nevada led to the increased allocations.
A 100 percent water year has been the norm for CCID even through tight water times because of its enviable water rights secured under a long-standing exchange contract, which assures the district of receiving no less than 75 percent of normal.
Most cropping decisions have already been made, CCID General Manager Chris White explained Monday, but the increased allocation means that growers will have to rely less heavily on groundwater wells.
“It does come in time for us to revise our thinking on well use,” White told Mattos Newspapers. “We are preparing to make a heavier than normal draw on our groundwater, but we are back to normal operations and preserving our groundwater for a future year.”
Given the complex formulas involved in determining the allocation, White said, there may be an increased likelihood of a critical designation next year.
He said that conservation continues to be a priority for the district and its growers.
White said CCID received applications for $4 million worth of conservation projects last year and funded them all through a combination of grants and low-interest loans.
“With heightened awareness, with nearly a critical year this year and perhaps a heightened probability (of a critical year) next year, I see them embracing that even more this year,” White predicted.
Growers in federal districts such as the Del Puerto Water District running along the Interstate 5 corridor are now slated to receive a 40 percent allocation.
Jim Jasper, president of Stewart & Jasper and a Del Puerto district board member, said he does not anticipate additional increases.
He said that storms delivered enough rainfall and snow in February and March to somewhat change a water outlook which, along with cool weather had the added benefit of reducing demand for irrigation deliveries during that time period.
“It is a step in the right direction,” Jasper said of the 10 percent increase in allocation. “We will still have to get supplemental water, which tends to be very expensive, but there won’t be quite the demand for it.”
Apr 24, 2012
The Clean Water Act was adopted by Congress 1972. The purpose of the Act was to clean up our nation’s fresh water resources. It was designed to identify, and mitigate, water pollution from both point-sources, such as discreet discharges from a pipe, and from non-point sources, such as precipitation flowing from a field or forest.
The Act appeared to recognize that water pollution from point- sources generally are related to the activities of man. Most of these discreet sources of water pollution can be adequately addressed resulting in a cleaner water supply. For that reason regulations were adopted making identified mitigation procedures for point-sources mandatory and enforceable.
The Act also appeared to recognize that non-point sources of water pollution are less likely to be under the control of man and are more difficult to address. For these reasons the Act required that non-point sources of water pollution must be identified and that water quality management plans must be created to attempt to address those more diffuse water quality problems. However, the Clean Water Act did not require mandatory compliance with the water quality management plans because that compliance is often neither physically nor economically possible.
Over the past forty years, implementation of the Act has made significant progress toward cleaning up our nation’s fresh water supply.
In the early 1990’s the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission began legal efforts to expand the mandatory compliance to non-point sources of water pollution. Largely in response to that action, the Oregon Legislature adopted Senate Bill 1010 in 1993 that established the agriculture Water Quality Management Act . The EPA ultimately did not prevail in their attempt to enlarge their regulatory authority.
However, Oregon’s one of a kind state Agriculture Water Quality Management Act remains Oregon law. It is administered by the Oregon Department of Agriculture under the control of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. The law set up nearly forty separate state planning areas for water quality management.
The law provided for the appointment of Local Advisory Committees for each area. Those committees were tasked with identifying local water quality problems, and determining opportunities to improve that water quality. Each committee adopted rules designed to make progress toward better water quality within their local watershed.
The Administrative Rules the committees adopted have the full force of Oregon law. Each committee developed rules that they believed were appropriate for their particular area. However, all Local Advisory Committees were required to adopt one rule by the Oregon Environmental Quality Department.
That Rule was Oregon Revised Statute 468B. That statute defines all of the regulations that apply to water pollution from point-sources. Virtually every Local Advisory Committee in Oregon objected to adopting that rule, because it appeared to apply the mandatory regulations for point-source water pollution to the non-point source run-off that the committees were addressing.
The committee members knew that no way exists to meet those standards when applied to run-off from fields and forests. Committee members were concerned that the citizen lawsuit provision of the Clean Water Act would result in a third party bringing suit to force compliance with the 468B rule. Notwithstanding the plain wording of the ORS 468B rule, the Oregon Department of Agriculture assured committee members and producers that moving toward achievement of water quality standards would be sufficient to comply with those rules.
Unfortunately, the committee members were correct to be deeply concerned. The Northwest Environmental Advocates did sue the EPA, and various other federal agencies, to enforce the provisions of Agriculture Water Quality Management Act as they apply to the Clean Water Act. The suit appears to be focused on attainment of compliance with the ORS 468 B rule.
In a ruling last month, Federal Magistrate John V. Acosta appears to imply that making progress toward achievement of the Water Quality Management Plan rules is not sufficient. My reading of his decision appears to suggest that the water quality standards actually must be achieved to comply with the Water Quality Management Plan rules in order to provide adequate habitat for threatened and endangered species
Many of these water quality standards, such as water temperature and water phosphorous concentrations, cannot be achieved. They cannot be met because the standards significantly exceed the normal background levels. Water in the streams often exceeds those standards without any influence by man.
The result is that water diverted from a stream for irrigation may already exceed the water quality standards. For that reason, it cannot be returned to the stream because the return flow exceeds the arbitrarily established standard for clean water.
Unfortunately, after nearly twenty years, the committee members’ greatest fears have become reality. A third party lawsuit has resulted in a court ruling that appears to apply point-source water quality regulation to agricultural practices. The ruling has the potential to virtually eliminate flood irrigation practices in much or Oregon when that irrigation practice results in any surface water return flow to the stream or river.
It is my concern that Federal Magistrate Acostas’ ruling, if not successfully appealed, has the potential to virtually eliminate centuries old irrigation practices in much of Oregon.
Please remember, if we do not stand up for rural Oregon no one will.
Apr 24, 2012
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