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The Drought Task Force

Our immediate need is for short-term solutions. Short-term should be the primary focus of the task force.

Dec 27, 2013

We would like to think that the governor's Drought Task Force will be open to ideas about how to get more water to Central Valley farms. We have a few ideas, just for starters:

1. We are all for long-term solutions, and will list some here, but our immediate need is for short-term solutions. Short-term should be the primary focus of the task force.

2. Consider our request of a 1-year moratorium on San Joaquin River Restoration outlined in our last newsletter. As we explained in the newsletter, this will be wasted water going down a river not yet ready to be restored. We would hope this is the first and easiest call for the task force. This would give farmers immediate water.

3. We hope the task force will ask Senator Feinstein and Congressman Costa to propose legislation that would change the environmental rules for pumping water out of the Delta, instead of asking bureaucrats to bend the rules as much as possible. Why ask them to stretch the rules that you wrote for them? Change the rules and make sure they are followed. This would give farmers immediate water.

These are the most important short-term solutions and would help farmers get surface water and allow them to keep from pumping more and more groundwater.

4. We would suggest that with enviromental rules adjusted in the Delta we can postpone the twin tunnels project for the time being. The money proposed for this project and high-speed rail would be better spent on desalination plants along the coast and new dams inland. If Southern California can be weaned off Delta water and become more dependent on desal water it will be a tremendous help to Central and Northern California. There is no shortage of salt water to be used for desal. Also, the increased costs of the tunnel project is making desal more affordable every day.

5. About those dams...two or three dams could be built for less than a tenth of the cost of the tunnels and high-speed rail. We also need to look at all current dams like Shasta, San Luis and Exchequer for increased storage. A dam like Temperance Flat above Friant would help the Central Valley be less dependent on the Delta.

6. Water engineers need to take a long look at the Los Angeles area. It was built to get rid of rain water as fast as it comes down. When it rains in Southern California, the rain water is flushed to the ocean ASAP. There has to be a way to capture it and use it.

7. All single-family homes in dry parts of the state should be encouraged to install cisterns, which is an individual small private reservoir, and could be used for personal use other than drinking.

8. We don't want to get too crazy here, but we would also take a look at forest management where experts say careful thinning of our forests would allow more water to run off into streams and rivers, getting more water to reservoirs and the Delta.

Drought task force to maximize water deliveries

Tim Hearden

State officials say a drought task force set up by California Gov. Jerry Brown will try to maximize water deliveries to farmers, particularly those in the western San Joaquin Valley. Farmers expect little or no state or federal water allocations because of the worsening drought.

Capital Press

SACRAMENTO — State officials say a drought task force set up by Gov. Jerry Brown will focus on maximizing the efficiency of water deliveries to farmers, particularly those in the western San Joaquin Valley.The governor on Dec. 17 asked California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross and others to form the task force to determine the state’s preparedness for a worsening drought that already has farmers anticipating few if any state or federal water allocations next spring.

“We must do everything we can to address the impacts of water shortages and move water from where it is available to where it is needed,” Brown said in a letter to top officials.

The state’s actions could include establishing a clearinghouse of water storage-related information, assessing the regions most affected by dry conditions and the impacts of drought on the regions’ economy, the governor stated.

The task force could help determine potential water transfers, infrastructure improvements, water trucking and other actions to alleviate the water shortages, Brown explained.

The administration “recognizes the potential seriousness of the current water situation for agriculture and is committed to doing what it can,” CDFA spokesman Steve Lyle told the Capital Press in an email.

Along with Ross, the task force will include State Water Resources Control Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus, Department of Water Resources chairman Mark Cowin and Office of Emergency Services director Mark Ghilarducci. The group will meet weekly, and its work could lead to a formal statewide drought declaration.

The task force’s formation comes as the Department of Water Resources has set up its own drought management team to help farmers and others make it through what is expected to be a dry 2014. Among the DWR’s principal concerns is the plight of farmers – especially those in the western San Joaquin Valley – who must operate with markedly less water than needed for crops, the agency said in a news release.

Jeanine Jones, the DWR’s interstate resources manager, said the department can’t make it rain or change biological opinions that have led to limitations on pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

However, the state and federal water projects “are working very hard with fishery agencies to improve operations and fine-tun as much as possible … to move water when it’s available,” Jones said.

When it does rain, water agencies might be able to use runoff water in streams below dams to meet needs south of the Delta, she said. The state has been working with sellers and buyers on water transfers as part of an executive order issued by Brown this spring, Jones said.

Officials from the DWR will make a presentation on the drought to the California Board of Food and Agriculture on Jan. 7. The 10 a.m. meeting will be held in the main auditorium at 1220 N St., Sacramento.


California Board of Food and Agriculture: http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/state_board/

California Department of Water Resources: http://www.water.ca.gov

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