In the editorial below (Too Dammed Expensive) from the Chico News & Review, they say building new dams is too expensive and their alternative is to advocate increasing "the amount of groundwater recharge in areas where aquifers have been depleted." This is a really good idea and no one has a problem with it, but under current conditions it isn't possible to achieve because of a lack of available surface storage. Groundwater recharge is happening right now as fast as possible, but water percolates into the ground slowly. It takes time. If we had a place to store extra water (another reservoir) while the percolating water slowly seeped into the underground aquifers, we would be able to achieve the above stated goal.
In other words, we need more above-ground dams and reservoirs to be able to capture and store water which would allow for the additional time necessary to percolate into the underground aquiver. This may appear to be counterintuitive, but it's just the way it is. Some people seem to have the perception that we can just pour all this water into a big hole in the ground and the problem will be solved, but percolation is a much slower process. Right now, while some of the available water slowly percolates into the underground, hundreds of thousands of acre feet of extra water are flowing out to sea because we don't have any place to put it. We don't have any way to capture it either above or below the ground. The problem of underground storage is directly linked to above ground storage, and it is expecially noticable in a wet year like this.
If you enjoy our newsletter, please help us grow by sending it to friends. If someone sent this to you and you'd like your own free subscription, please sign up here. You can always check our website for the latest California water news.
Too dammed expensive
Taxpayers are in no mood to pay for more water storage
There’s nothing like a wet winter and a deep snowpack to get some folks clamoring for more dams and storage facilities in California. All that water running into the Pacific Ocean is being wasted, they insist. What good is it if we can’t use it?
Well, ask the fish, especially those that live in or move through the Delta, like salmon. They’re enjoying the cold, clean water. For the past several years water flows have been low, slow and warm. This is a bracing change.
Watching all that water flow out to sea drives Tom McClintock crazy. He’s the Republican congressman who represents the 4th District, which includes Oroville, and he chairs the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Water and Power. Although he touts himself as a fiscal conservative, McClintock took the seat promising to build more dams, and that’s what he’s trying to do, beginning with the controversial Auburn Dam. Never mind that it would sit astride an earthquake fault and cost up to $10 billion.
That’s one of the problems with dams: They’re hugely expensive. It would cost as much as $1 billion to raise Shasta Dam just six feet—and that of course wouldn’t guarantee sufficient river flow to make the additional height useful. The proposed Sites Reservoir in western Colusa County, which would impound Sacramento River water, would cost more than $3 billion.
There’s no way to build these dams without massive taxpayer subsidies. In today’s tight times, that’s not going to happen.
There are alternatives. For example, we could increase the amount of groundwater recharge in areas where aquifers have been depleted. This is especially true in Southern California, where there are numerous recharge areas to which runoff water could be directed. And we could organize California’s water delivery system to be more efficient by conserving more and planting only annual crops in areas where water deliveries vary from year to year.
But dams? No way.