Skip to main content

State and feds shipped massive amounts of water south during drought  

The dry bed of Folsom Lake has become an unlikely tourist attraction for visitors to the Sacramento area this year. On any given day this winter, large numbers of people can be seen wandering around the mud flats, granite boulders and rock formations of the lake bed to view ruins of Mormon Island and other communities that were inundated when the lake was formed by the construction of Folsom Dam in the 1950s.

The lake is its lowest level ever, 17 percent of capacity and 32 percent of average, since the Bureau of Reclamation filled the reservoir with the clear waters of the North, Middle and South Forks of the American River that drain the Sierra Nevada Range. Because of the record low level of the lake, the cities of Sacramento, Folsom and other communities face dramatic water shortages this year.

The impact on the American River and its unique urban steelhead and salmon fisheries is just as alarming. The Bureau in early January dropped flows to only 500 cubic feet per second (cfs), compared to winter flows ranging from 2000 to 5,000 cfs that anglers are used to fishing in– and much higher flows during wet years.

Because of the threat to steelhead and Chinook salmon posed by the low water conditions, the Department of Fish and Wildlife voted for an emergency fishing closure on the upper section of the lower American on Wednesday, February 5, along with closures on the Russian River and coastal streams threatened by drought.

Stafford Lehr, Fisheries Branch Chief of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, explained to the Commission the dire situation that steelhead, salmon and other fish face in the low flows.

"The snowpack in the American River watershed is only 12 percent of normal and Folsom Lake is only 17 percent of capacity," said Lehr. "We are trying to maximize the protection of as many wild salmon and steelhead in the American and other rivers as possible. We are implementing the emergency closures on some waters to reduce mortality caused by angling."

Lerh stated, “We are fully aware of the impacts these closures will have on anglers and related businesses. However, anglers have overwhelmingly supported the decision to close fisheries because they are the original conservationists. They understand the severity of this drought.”

Southern California reservoirs are 96 and 86 percent of capacity

While the drought has received major national and regional mainstream and alternative media attention, most media outlets have failed to explain how the Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Water Resources systematically drained northern California reservoirs last summer, resulting in low flows and endangering salmon and steelhead in the Sacramento, Feather and American rivers while supplying corporate agribusiness interests with subsidized water and filling Southern California water banks and reservoirs.

Last summer, high water releases down the Sacramento, Feather and American rivers left Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs at dangerously low levels. Shasta is at 36 percent of capacity and 53 percent of average; Oroville, 36 percent of capacity and 54 percent of average; and Folsom, 17 percent of capacity and 32 percent of average. (

Yet Pyramid Lake in Los Angeles County is 96 percent of capacity and 101 percent of average, while Castaic Reservoir is 86 percent of capacity and 102 percent of average. Both are State Water Project reservoirs that receive their water from the Delta through the California Aqueduct.

The state and federal water agencies exported massive quantities of water to agribusiness interests and Southern California water agencies, endangering local water supplies and fish populations as the ecosystem continues to collapse. (

Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, explained how the water was mismanaged.

“We entered 2013 with Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs at 115 percent, 113 percent, and 121 percent of historical average storage. In April, they were still at 101 percent, 108 percent and 96 percent of average," said Jennings.

"With no rainfall and little snowpack, the Department of Water Resources and the Bureau (of Reclamation) notified their contractors that water deliveries would be reduced. But they didn’t reduce deliveries. Instead, they actually exported 835,000 acre-feet more water than they said they would be able to deliver," said Jennings. (

Ironically, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California will have enough water in 2014, 2015 and 2016 to supply its users while Sacramento, Folsom and other cities have been forced to cut water use by 20 percent.

“We’ll have plenty of water in 2015,” Jeffrey Kightlinger, Metropolitan’s general manager, told the Sacramento Bee. “And even if it’s still a drought, we’ll still have enough water in 2016." (

Jennings said the present crisis could have been avoided, and is a "direct result of egregious mismanagement of the state’s water supply system by the state and federal water projects."

"Excessive water exports and the failure to prepare for inevitable drought have created a decades-long disaster for fisheries, and placed the people and economic prosperity of northern California at grave risk. The State's obsession with tunneling under the Delta does nothing to address drought, or put us on a path to correct the misuse of limited water supplies," he added.

There is no doubt that California’s fish populations are in unprecedented crisis, due to massive water exports south of the Delta by the state and federal water projects.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife’s fall midwater trawl surveys, initiated in 1967, the same year the State Water Project began exporting water from the Delta, document the steep decline of Delta fish species. They reveal that the population abundance of Delta smelt, striped bass, longfin smelt, threadfin shad and American shad declined 95.6%, 99.6%, 99.8%, 97.8%, 90.9%, respectively, between 1967 and 2013, according to Jennings. The 2013 abundance estimates for Sacramento splittail, a native minnow, were not released, but results from 2012 reveal that splittail abundance indices have dropped 98.5% from 1967 levels.

Jennings noted that 2013 was also a bad year for salmon. As many as half of this year’s up-migrating winter-run Chinook salmon were stranded in the Yolo Bypass and Colusa Basin in April-June and Sacramento River temperature requirements to protect spawning winter-run were relaxed in June.

In November, abrupt reductions in Sacramento River flow exposed spawning redds, killed up to 40% of Sacramento River fall-run Chinook salmon eggs and stranded newly emerged fry. "And low reservoir levels will likely lead to inadequate flows for young salmon out-migration this coming spring," said Jennings.

Failure to plan ahead contributed to water shortage

John Herrick, Restore the Delta board member and Counsel and Manager of the South Delta Water Agency, said the failure of the state and federal water projects to plan ahead contributed to the current water shortage – and a looming disaster for salmon, steelhead and other fish species.

"Last winter and spring the projects were concerned about not having enough water to meet fishery or agricultural standards, and so sought changes in their permits to allow for the relaxation of those standards," he said.

“At the same time, they projected the amount of water available for export. As soon as the projections were released, they began to pump MORE water than they projected; thus taking the water needed for fish and endangering future allocations for all purposes. If this had not been allowed, the reservoirs would have 800+ TAF more storage in them than they currently do,” he noted.

“The Urgency Petition process is for actual, unforeseeable emergencies,” said Herrick. “The State has known since at least September that we might be facing a horrible water supply year due to the lack of precipitation during the first 9 months of 2013. Knowing that reservoir levels were getting very low, and that the prior year had insufficient water for fish and water quality standards, the projects simply waited to see what would happen. Not until the very last minute did they file their Urgency Petition (to the State Water Resources Board - SWRCB)," he explained.

Herrick noted that Urgency Petitions require no public notice or input, but must be based on a finding that the petitioner exercised due diligence in getting the permit change under the normal petition process if possible.

“Since the projects have known for months that this scenario was facing them, they should have made their petition months ago. But that would have resulted in public notice, public hearing and input by the interests who depend on the current standards being met,” he said.

Herrick said, “It appears that, as in the past, the projects manipulated the process to make sure there was no official opposition to their requests to violate the water quality standards. Worse, it appears the regulators (SWRCB staff) were working with the regulated projects outside of the public purview to make sure the petition remained unknown. Therefore, there was no contrary data submitted to contradict the pre-agreed to order granting the petition.

Herrick asked, “What would have been the findings of the SWRCB Board if the information of the projects taking too much water last season were in the record?”

Tunnels and fracking will only amplify California's water and fish crisis

In spite of the record drought, Governor Jerry Brown continues his plan to build the fish killing-peripheral tunnels under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and to expand the water-intensive oil extraction process of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) for oil and natural gas in California.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, the Executive Director of Restore the Delta, urged the state and water agencies to invest in projects that yield new water and jobs, rather than spending billions on the environmentally destructive twin tunnels.

“We have had three dry years in a row and the governor admits the tunnels won’t add one drop of water to our drought-plagued state," said Barrigan-Parrilla. "We need solutions more appropriate to our future water challenges, not this $60 billion mega-project that would misspend the billions needed for sustainable water solutions."

“The better approach would be to invest wisely in projects that actually produce new water and local jobs. California needs more water recycling projects, such as Orange County's that is producing enough water for 600,000 residents each year. By cleaning up groundwater, we will create another new supply and room to store water when it is truly available," concluded Barrigan-Parrilla.

The proposed peripheral tunnels will undoubtedly kill the sensitive Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, a delicate mix of salt and freshwater, that is vital to the life cycle of Central Valley Chinook salmon, as well as thousands of other fish and species, according to the Winnemem Wintu Tribe.

“There is no precedent for the killing of an estuary of this size, so how could any study be trusted to protect the Delta for salmon and other fish? How can they even know what the effects will be?” said Winnemem Wintu Chief and Spiritual Leader Caleen Sisk. “The end of salmon would also mean the end of Winnemem, so the BDCP is a threat to our very existence as indigenous people.”

Referring to Shasta, Oroville and Folsom dams, Sisk said, "These dams are supposed to be efficient in times like these, but they will never work when water mongers are in charge. They want the dumbed down public to believe now that building the twin tunnels and raising Shasta Dam are what MUST BE keep golf courses green, and fallow farms wet with drinking water! Why don't they use their 'reclaimed water' project there like they did on the San Francisco Peaks?"

The massive tunnels won't create any new water, but they will divert huge quantities of precious water from the Sacramento River to corporate agribusiness interests, Southern California water agencies, and oil companies conducting steam injection and fracking operations in Kern County. The construction of the tunnels would hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon and Delta fish populations, as well as imperil salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity River, the largest tributary of the Klamath River.

“We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas,” said Governor Brown when he declared a drought state of emergency in January. “I’ve declared this emergency and I’m calling all Californians to conserve water in every way possible.”  (

Brown can't make it rain, but he can can put a moratorium on fracking and he can stop his tunnels project in order to preserve California's precious water resources during an unprecedented drought. While Governor Brown is apparently pushing the construction of the peripheral tunnels as a monument to his “legacy,” his real legacy will be the extinction of Central Valley salmon and steelhead populations and the draining of northern California unless he stops his mad plans to build the tunnels and frack California.

For more information, go to:

Originally posted to Dan Bacher on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 10:36 AM PST.

Also republished by California politics and Climate Change SOS.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  I heard a brief forecast on my ride into work that (11+ / 0-)

    said that parts of CA could gee as much as 8 to 9" of rain I the next several days.

  •  Thank you for a thorough, enlightening (8+ / 0-)

    (albeit depressing) article on the drought situation in California, and the politics behind its uneven affects.

    I'm a Christian, therefore I'm a liberal.

    by VirginiaJeff on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 11:08:27 AM PST

    •  Oops: "... uneven effects." (Is that right?) nt (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Onomastic, Caddis Fly

      I'm a Christian, therefore I'm a liberal.

      by VirginiaJeff on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 11:28:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I just despair reading these stories of (7+ / 0-)

      how California apparently insists on following poor practices just to throw water at Southern California.  These water transfer tunnels are obviously bad for the environment and bad for the people of Northern California and I really don't understand why Governor Moonbeam is so insistent on doing this against all reason.

      •  socal has more people (3+ / 0-)

        until we split the state, they'll determine a lot of water politics, because of sheer voting and economic power.

        •  Let me get the straight (0+ / 0-)

          Your solution is to split the state in half and fuck the 25 million people in Southern and Central California. That is almost 70% of the states population BTW. We got ours so screw you. What a wonderful progressive idea.

          SoCal has the most people, the most industry the most agriculture and pays the majority of taxes to run this state. Dream on. Ain't gonna happen. We have just as much right to that water as you do. I'm sick and tired of you northern Calif. elitists dumping on the southern half of the state all the time.  That attitude just pisses me off, as if you couldn't tell. Let the donuts from the north come raining down. I don't care. I finally had to say something after reading diary after diary after diary bashing Southern California.  

          •  No, you don't (7+ / 0-)

            Water should stay near where it would naturally fall/flow.  That's why you're not getting any Great Lakes water ever. Period.

            If you build in a desert, you'd better figure out your water needs ahead of time.  Stealing from those people who built where it was sustainable instead of where it was sunny and pretty is not an option.

            "Don't be defeatist, dear. It's very middle class." - Violet Crawley

            by nightsweat on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 02:10:36 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I guess (0+ / 0-)

              the same goes for food, energy supplies and everything else that is traded. Everybody keep what you have and screw everyone else. Your argument is bullshit. If we follow your argument to it's conclusion, large cities would cease to exist.

              •  SoCal wastes HUGE amounts of NorCal water. I see (5+ / 0-)

                more green lawns down there than in the Bay Area.

                •  So (0+ / 0-)

                  Pass laws that say you can only use native plants. Another thing to do is over time install more grey water systems for things like lawns and toilets. The University of Calif. Irvine has a grey water system for all its irrigation. There are also golf courses that do it. It's just a matter of investing in the infrastructure. I know of several industries that use a lot of water who recycle over 50% of it. There is room for improvement there. Given that it is almost inevitable that the West Coast will be getting less and less rain and snowfall over the next century all these things and more will have to be done. The only alternative is mass migration to where, I don't know. Where did the Anasazi go? They ended up all over.

                  As for the present situation. There is no way you can cut off water to 25,000,000 people. That is not going to happen.

              •  WE GROW YOUR FOOD (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                north of the grapevine. you turned your citrus orchards into stucco wasteland.

                development should be centered where the water is.

                •  Most of the water in the state (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  wu ming

                  is used north of the Grapevine, municipal use is a minor fraction of consumptive use in the state.  The Coachella and Imperial Valleys are also south of the Grapevine.  Covering fertile cropland with suburban sprawl is a sin, and not a trivial one in my view, but does not typically increase water use on that land.

                  Conservation efforts in SoCal are strong, and have been for decades.  Municipal water use per capita has declined strongly enough to keep total consumption flat or declining for two decades in the South Coast, despite substantial population growth.  Much more could be done, of course.

                  Personally I see big, easy wins for long-term water stress available in several places:
                  1)Massive increases in treated municipal wastewater recycling
                  2)Financial incentives for irrigation demand infrastructure improvements to reduce typical ag water demand per acre, without reduction in surface water rights volume or seniority
                  3)Continuing progress in municipal conservation via zoning, building standards, tariff structure, code enforcement, etc

                  There are many, many other things that need to be done, of course.

                  Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

                  by benamery21 on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 04:19:25 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  agreed on #s 1-4 (0+ / 0-)

                    to it i would add:

                    5) seriously considering taking the arid selenium soils of the western san joaquin out of agricultural production altogether

                    6) outlawing landscaping lawns that aren't actually used for anything (ie. sports, sitting, playing, etc).

              •  Luckily (0+ / 0-)

                We have international treaty to keep your argument from prevailing.  Even if the US falters, Canada will not allow the drainage.

                "Don't be defeatist, dear. It's very middle class." - Violet Crawley

                by nightsweat on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 08:56:05 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  You're right, not gonna happen (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            But you really should go see what LA has done.  Might I suggest a trip to the Owens Valley?

            And, someday, they're going to do it to Northern CA.  I think it is inevitable.

            •  I used to work for the LA DWP (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              I know all about the Owens valley. We were told that if we ever went there we shouldn't tell them where we worked. DWP workers were getting shot at. Then there was California and Arizona almost getting into a shooting war over water at the turn of the last century. I hope that isn't a preview of the future.

              The entire Western half of the country is involved in a huge water war that's been going on for over a hundred years and there is no end in sight.

              We can either find a fair way to share what water is available through legislation or we can shoot it out like in the old west.

              Threats likef "we're gonna split the state in half and keep all the water, neener, neener" are no help at all.

              Without Water, there is no life. It's as simple as that.

          •  we have been getting screwed for generations (4+ / 0-)

            conserving water so you guys could waste it, limiting our development to what we could reasonably sustain while socal just built more and more and more to play real estate games, stealing water from everywhere else it could.

            it was a terrible idea to put the population so far away from water in the first place. the only way that process will stop is if the state is split before the water is pumped out.

            it's not a matter of elite, it's a matter of power. socal has alienated the state through how it treats everything north of the grapevine as a colony.

            •  Not that I'm a seer (0+ / 0-)

              or anything. But I imagine if you split the state and kept all the water to yourself, we'd just have to invade you and really treat you like a colony. You are not going to deprive 25,000,000 people of life. Josef Stalin might have done that, but I don't see Jerry going there.

              Oh yeah, the San Joaquin Valley isn't in Northern Calif.

              Wish I could keep going with this but I have to go fill my swimming pool and spa.  

              •  Pretty sure SoCal doesn't have a military (0+ / 0-)

                I'm no seer but I'm pretty sure the US military would have no trouble handling it.

                •  I mean what could SoCal do? (0+ / 0-)

                  Send the expendables? The Kardashians and Bruce Jenner? Good luck with that, also I'm pretty sure that sending the Kardashians would qualify as a war crime but at least the predator drone footage from the USAF would be entertaining.

                  After the US military makes short work of the E! Channel brigade you guys can call it the "War of Northern aggression". Good luck with reconstruction.

                  •  What military do you mean (0+ / 0-)

                    So the military is going to stand by and watch millions of people dying or scattered to the four corners of the country to cause major disruption everywhere because a bunch of elitist Northern California snobs don't give a shit whether they live or die. Not to mention the destruction of major cities and ports that are critical to this nation. You people are living in fantsyland. It's  NOT YOUR WATER. It belongs to the nation. I imagine the Marines will be leading the charge to show you the error of your ways. Maybe you can change the name of your little empire into North Korea East. You are showing your true colors about how much you really care about people as opposed to your own selfish desires. Look in a mirror. Maybe you aren't as progressive as you think you are.  Unbelievable. I didn't expect to hear this kind of crap on this site. I'm done talking with you people.

              •  the san joaquin is not southern california (0+ / 0-)

                in any meaningful sense. it is the central valley, and the profligate water-wasting half at that. monterey is also not southern california, for that matter, and nor is big sur. southern california starts after the grapevine, according to pretty much every discussion of the state ever.

  •  Take all the water and ship it south for profit (20+ / 0-)

    So sorry, northern California, you don't have the political clout.

    “Industry does everything they can and gets away with it almost all the time, whether it’s the coal industry, not the subject of this hearing, or water or whatever. They will cut corners, and they will get away with it. " Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D, WVa

    by FishOutofWater on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 11:14:09 AM PST

  •  And I just saw that parts of S.CAl got an inch of (6+ / 0-)


    I'm a Northern California girl... my parent's and my husband's still live there. My son has recently moved there. This is horrifying.

  •  SoCal reservoirs really aren't much better. (6+ / 0-)

    In San Diego County, for example (all names -= reservoirs, all figures % capacity):

    Barrett  34
    El Capitan  38
    Hodges  36
    Miramar  83
    Morena  4
    Murray  88
    Lower Otay  71
    San Vicente  51
    Sutherland  10


    "Life is the crummiest book I ever read - there isn't a hook, just a lot of cheap shots, pictures to shock, and characters an amateur would never dream up." - Bad Religion

    by TheOrchid on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 11:45:29 AM PST

    •  Those are local lakes dependent on rain water (10+ / 0-)

      Most of those lakes are small local watershed reservoirs. The two big reservoirs operated by the State Water Project, the ones that receive exported water, are in great shape. That's why the Metropolitan Water District says it will have sufficient water through 2016. You just made my point for me.

      •  Well la-te-da. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        StrayCat, jakedog42

        Guess I'll go water my f*cking lawn then.

        "Life is the crummiest book I ever read - there isn't a hook, just a lot of cheap shots, pictures to shock, and characters an amateur would never dream up." - Bad Religion

        by TheOrchid on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 12:35:38 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  The two 'big' reservoirs you reference (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ypochris, jakedog42

        are Castaic and Pyramid, which are small by Northern California standards.  Since you mention the relative size of storage at SoCal reservoirs, I thought I'd share the relative size of storage at NorCal reservoirs.  The below numbers are approximate, but not deceptive:

        For instance, water stored today at both Castaic and Pyramid combined is ~443kaf.

        Water stored at Shasta alone is 370% of that, at Oroville is 286% of that, at Trinity is 261% of that, at Folsom is 36% of that, at New Melones is 236% of that, at Don Pedro is 235% of that, at San Luis is 137% of that, at Exchequer is 48% of that, at Millerton is 42% of that, at Pine Flat is 40% of that.  

        Total current storage on the system's major reservoirs, exclusive of the two 'big' reservoirs you mention, is about 16.9X the storage at those two.

        Those two 'full' reservoirs represent less than 6% of storage on the system of 'empty' Northern reservoirs.

        I don't minimize the severity of this statewide drought, and the underlying problems it reveals, but I think you are showing a lamentable tendency to reductive presentation of the facts in favor of a certain viewpoint.

        Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

        by benamery21 on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 12:47:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  A lamentable tendency? (6+ / 0-)

          Actually, it appears "lamentable tendency to reductive presentation of the facts in favor of a certain view point" is exactly what you are doing.

          Castaic and Pyramid lakes are big by Southern California standards - and are the ones that received the State Water Project water, along with Diamond Valley. Diamond Valley, the biggest reservoir in Southern California, isn't updated daily like the other ones are, but it is in very good shape compared to the Northern California reservoirs. (Diamond Valley is an MWD reservoir that receives water from both the Colorado River and the Delta). These three reservoirs received their water after the majority of water had already been delivered to subsidized agribusiness water barons farming unsustainable, drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

          As Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, explained in my article, “We entered 2013 with Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs at 115 percent, 113 percent, and 121 percent of historical average storage. In April, they were still at 101 percent, 108 percent and 96 percent of average," said Jennings.

          "With no rainfall and little snowpack, the Department of Water Resources and the Bureau (of Reclamation) notified their contractors that water deliveries would be reduced. But they didn’t reduce deliveries. Instead, they actually exported 835,000 acre-feet more water than they said they would be able to deliver," said Jennings.

          Again, 835,000 acre feet of water more than the projects said they would be able to deliver was exported south to corporate agribusiness interests, the Kern Water Bank, oil companies in Kern County, and finally, Southern California reservoirs.

          It is undeniable that Folsom, Oroville and Shasta were systematically emptied to dangerously low levels - and now there is little water left in storage in Northern California reservoirs. Rather than do the right thing and conserve water in a drought, the state and federal water agency officials made sure that the corporate agribusiness, oil companies and Southern California water agencies got their water - at the expense of northern California - while "relaxing" State Water Resources Control Board water quality standards on the Delta and violating the Endangered Species Act by moving the winter run chinook water temperature compliance point on the Sacramento upstream from Red Bluff to Anderson.

          •  I simply make clear one point you elided (0+ / 0-)

            There is MUCH more water in storage in NorCal than in SoCal.


            State Water Project allocations are at 0%

            The amount of SWP water in storage in SoCal is small in comparison to demand.

            Unless there is a dramatic change in the statewide drought situation, SoCal will be relying primarily on other supplies, not the Delta, for water this year.  The largest sources of water will be local (normally 40%) and Colorado River water (100% deliveries of 4.4maf), as deliveries from the Eastern Sierra are also likely to be minimal this year.

            None of this means the SWP is properly managed or that there are not serious concerns on multiple levels with the statewide drought.

            One of the many rational steps on which we could likely agree is that recycling of the 5maf of treated wastewater in CA should be increased statewide.  As of 2009, 87% of this water was not recycled.  

            Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

            by benamery21 on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 02:22:32 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Otay, Miramar, Murray and San Vicente (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Are attached to the State water project (for sure) and get their water from the North.  Those are ones I'm certain about, because I used to fish in them.  Some of the others may be.  Moreno and Hodges--definitely not, El Cap, not sure but I don't think so.  Miramar and Murray are quite a bit smaller than the others.

        Note that the ones with the most water are definitely attached to the State water project.

        •  Bulk of project water goes to agribusiness (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Richard Lyon, RainyDay


          Lots of reservoirs store State Water Project water. However, the two major State Water Project storage reservoirs in Southern California are Pyramid and Castaic. The largest Southern California reservoir is Diamond Valley, but it receives water from both the Colorado River and State Water Project.

          It is interesting that the ones in San Diego County that get their water from the State Water Project have the most water, as you point out.

          But again, the bulk of state and federal project water went to corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, NOT to urban users! Also, oil drilling operations in Kern County use project water - and that amount will increase if fracking is expanded.

          Restore the Delta will hold a teleconference on Monday, Feb. 10, during which experts will release new information showing where California’s water went, how the State of California contributed to the current water scarcity through egregious mismanagement, and offer better policies for a sustainable water future.

          The speakers will include Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director, Restore the Delta; Adam Scow, California Campaigns Director, Food & Water Watch; Bill Jennings, Executive Director, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance; and Lloyd Carter, investigative reporter, expert on Westlands Water District.

  •  There sure has been a lot of doomsday drought (0+ / 0-)

    talk here which I've always felt was premature since February is normally the month when we get the majority of our annual rainfall and we're only 6 days into it.

    •  2012-13 is over. that's not premature... (6+ / 0-)

      I am tired of laughing at the irony of their stupidity.

      by stagemom on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 12:33:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It is raining now (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mr Robert, FishOutofWater

      In the Bay Area, but it would take a month of nonstop rain to make up for the complete absence of rain since November.  With the high pressure zone still sitting out there as far as I know I doubt we will get the truly large storms we need.  This is barely more than a drizzle now

    •  you are wrong (10+ / 0-)

      california gets the vast majority of its waster in december and january, generally speaking. most importantly, that's when nearly all of the snowpack falls, because spring storms tend to be warmer and fall predominantly as rain, not snow.

      the fact that we had more or less nothing between december 2012 and the end of january 2014 has left a gigantic water deficit - in the snowpack, in the reservoirs, in the streams and rivers and lakes, and in the groundwater - that will not be replenished very quickly (even though it's awesome that it's finally raining). add to that the multi-year chain of dry years before december 2012, and you've got a legitimate reason to start talking doomsday.

      geologically speaking, the 20th century was an unusually wet and mild period. brutal droughts that go on for decades, followed by catastrophically large flood years, are more normal for our climate. preparing to survive one of those years, when it stops raining for 13 straight months, is smart planning. assuming that the problem will fix itself is dumb.

    •  Not premature (3+ / 0-)

      This storm wasn't expected to bring much of anything until a few days ago. The ridge that has been keeping water away moved south.

      Since Wednesday night, the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport received 0.84 of an inch of rain to boost Santa Rosa's total rainfall since July 1 to 3.57 inches. Santa Rosa normally receives 19.42 inches of rain by this time.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 01:57:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Where I live in Sonoma Co (7+ / 0-)

    We have gotten something over an inch of rain in the last couple of days. What I am noticing is there isn't any appreciable runoff yet. The ground is so parched that it is soaking it all up. The rain seems to be hitting from the North Bay and south. Unfortunately that is not where the main reservoirs are. It is a bit too soon to declare the drought at an end.

  •  as one who volunteers to restore streams for (8+ / 0-)

    steelhead, i am disgusted by brown's continuing the bad policy of his father's folly (Ca Water proj)

    and i really hate the "farmers v fish" or "ppl v fish" --must be frank luntz' work...
    it's not just a fish.  or a single species--salmon.  it's a the whole food chain.  little organisms to food to ?
    it's farmers v old battle of the west played out again and again.

    and what about our cheap hydroelectricity?  we need water for that.
    thanks for the info on the lowering of the reserves.  i've been searching.  saw something at truthout, too.
    something fishy's going on.

    I am tired of laughing at the irony of their stupidity.

    by stagemom on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 12:42:43 PM PST

  •  Are they still subsidizing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    S F Hippie

    rice farmers in the central valley desert?

    None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

    by gjohnsit on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 12:52:35 PM PST

    •  the sacramento valley is not a desert (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Richard Lyon

      we get 18-24 inches of rain a year, all at once in the winter and spring. noone's growing rice down in bakersfield.

      •  It's still not a place to grow rice (0+ / 0-)

        and it certainly shouldn't be subsidized.

          And after spending 2 summers there, it sure as Hell feels like a desert.

        None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

        by gjohnsit on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 04:13:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  this is why we need to split the state (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Norm in Chicago

    it's the only leverage norcal will ever have WRT water.

  •  "Control of Nature" by John McPhee sez (0+ / 0-)

    The Los Angeles basin is among the top five examples of inappropriate land use.
     a.)  Wild fires fanned by Santa Ana winds in drought conditions
     b.)  Flood and slide damage following wild fires.
     c.)  Potential for seismic disaster on the San Andreas Fault.

    I think it all started the day rail fare from New York to Santa Monica dropped to $1 & street car conductors started flipping
    beach front lots to their passengers.

  •  Stop watering landscaping (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ypochris, Norm in Chicago


  •  Sacramento (3+ / 0-)

    We have had a 3-year pattern of late rains that did not add to the snow pack and is very different from our usual January/February with lots of rain.  This makes the shipping out of water south especially irritating, but not unexpected.  The South always steals more water than they deserve usually illegally.  The worst is that Gov. Brown has pretended to be an environmentalist, but is allowing the fracking and tunnels that are the opposite especially in fragile CA.  
    Thanks for this great diary.

  •  This (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wu ming, RainyDay
    Tunnels and fracking will only amplify California's water and fish crisis

    Dear future generations: Please accept our apologies, We were roaring drunk on petroleum -Kurt Vonnegut

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 01:20:08 PM PST

  •  Great diary, but I question the terminology. (0+ / 0-)

    The standard practice is that a reservoir is prefixed by "Lake", and a natural lake is followed by it. So it would be "Lake Folsom", not Folsom Lake.

    The point may seem petty, but it come into play in this article when you contrast Pyramid Lake, a natural body of water that SHOULD be kept full, with Lake Folsom, a reservoir that was designed to store water during high flow periods and be drawn down during droughts. The two are NOT comparable.

    I do understand the conflict between Northern and Southern California over water. My father was an engineer on the Oroville dam and later worked for the Metropolitan Water District of Los Angeles. No, it isn't right, for the people or the environment. Irrigation should be banned, period, in SoCal except with reclaimed water. It isn't just NorCal, Mexico and the Gulf are also being screwed.

    I say, let the rivers run free. But conflating reservoirs with natural lakes doesn't help make the environmental case that our conservation argument is based on.

    •  It depends on the lake (0+ / 0-)

      South Carolina and GA have always bickered about "Lake Thurmond" vs "Clarke's Hill Lake" - the latter is what I grew up calling it, and I sure ain't changing it for no Strom Thurmond.

      The Cake is a lie. In Pie there is Truth. ~ Fordmandalay

      by catwho on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 02:04:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Pyramid Lake in California, not Nevada (6+ / 0-)

      You are thinking of Pyramid Lake in NEVADA. I am very clear that I am talking about Pyramid Lake in Southern California.  

      Nobody is "conflating reservoirs with natural lakes." In California, most people and communities refer to the reservoirs within those communities as LAKES. This has been done for decades. For example, if you asked somebody in Trinity County where "Clair Engle Reservoir" was, they wouldn't know what you were talking about; everybody refers to "Clair Engle Reservoir" as Trinity Lake, including on fishing maps.

      To compound the issue more, some natural lakes also function as "reservoirs" because of dams put on them to raise them and enlarge them. For example, Caples Lakes, a natural lake, has two dams on it that make it into a reservoir also. The same is true of Silver Lake, a natural lake with a dam on it and California's natural lake, Clear Lake, that has a dam on it to regulate the release of flows.

    •  Folsom Lake is OFFICIALLY Folsom Lake (0+ / 0-)

      Let's make things clear - the official name of the reservoir behind Folsom Dam is FOLSOM LAKE, not Lake Folsom. If you don't believe me, go to the official state of California websites: Folsom Lake SRA - California State Parks - State of California‎
      Visitors to Folsom Lake State Recreation Area are being asked to help protect historic resources by not handling, removing or destroying any artifacts or ruins ...
      Folsom Lake - California Data Exchange Center - State of California‎
      Folsom Lake Storage Level Graph: Choose water years to plot: 1976-1977 (dry), 1982-1983 (wet), 1988-1989, 1989-1990, 1990-1991, 1991-1992, 1992-1993 ...

      •  Turns out you're right (0+ / 0-)

        The official decision of the Board on Geographic Names is that it is Folsom Lake.

        Why they decided to deviate from the rule that a reservoir uses "Lake" as a prefix I have no idea.

        •  I don't know why either (0+ / 0-)

          Now here's one for you: Lake Valley Reservoir (everybody calls it this). Would it be Lake Lake Valley or Lake Valley Lake?

          Then there's the case of Los Vaqueros Reservoir; everybody calls it a reservoir, not a lake. I've never heard anybody refer to it as Lake Los Vaqueros.

          Generally, the name used is the one that the agency that builds or owns the reservoir calls it on their official correspondence or website and maps adopt this name.

          Here's another one: Jenkinson Reservoir is located in the Sly Park Recreation area, but businesses and local people refer to the reservoir as both "Jenkinson" and "Sly Park."

  •  This is a good article about the situation (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jaimas, cpresley, wu ming

    in Lake Mendocino, and a fix that could help:

    Bill by Jared Huffman aims to keep more water in reservoirs

    Basically, for every dam there's a big manual that tells you what to do if it's a wet seasons, a normal season, or a dry season. What happened in our region was that they were put on the Wet rules because of rains in the fall, and then a lot of water was spilled unnecessarily and to no one's particular benefit because capacity was held in reserve for flood control even though long range projections showed no rain in the forecast.

    The result is this:

    Lake Mendocino, January 19, 2014

    There is a similar problem on Lake Pillsbury, where every spring, the target lake elevation is above gates that the Corps of Engineers keeps open for flood control safety. Because the lake doesn't reach its target elevation, the rules don't allow that water to be sent to Lake Mendocino... even though water is gushing over the top of the dam at Lake Pillsbury.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 01:46:55 PM PST

  •  You are talking about my old stomping grounds (0+ / 0-)

    So sad that our water has been stolen and mismanaged!

    I want to live in a world where George Zimmerman offered Trayvon Martin a ride home to get him out of the rain that night. -Bishop G. Brewer

    by the dogs sockpuppet on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 02:02:40 PM PST

  •  The urban/rural divide, again, writ large (0+ / 0-)

    Therein lies the answer to why the North's water is sitting in the LA-San Diego corridor reservoirs.  As folks on this list are sometimes fond of pointing out, the urbanized areas are where the majority lives, so the urban areas will determine the rules that the ruralites live by.  You might call it the "downside of the politics of Democracy" when the urban factions can tromp on the ruralites, or even on their less-urbanized but still urban neighbors.  LA has a history concerning water sources.  Does the "Owens Valley" ring any bells?

    Add in the complication of corporate farming and the avalanche of money that surrounds it and this is where we are.  Everyone should have seen this coming.  Hell, I don't know much of anything about water issues (except I fish in it and salmon and steelhead need clean, cold water), and I knew that eventually this would happen.  When the choice is between the environment and water for your kids to drink and play in, well, you know what choice will be made.  For those that say, "It doesn't have to be this way", there is the problem of population growth and increasing demand, and eventually, no matter what we do, we will butt up against those choices.  We can conserve the resource, now, but the future still looms and we will have succeeded only in putting off the inevitable.

    Meanwhile, hope for rain because rain will put off our having to make the decision for a while longer.

    •  it's also rural v rural (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the westlands water district on the west side of the san joaquin valley is a big player in this whole fight. they don;t have water resources there, and so have to buy it from elsewhere. so you have farmers in a dry part of the state buying off the state government to try and force farmers and fishermen from the west part of the state to pump water to them at the moment when the wet part of the state is in drought. and then we're being asked to conserve water at the same moment where the water we would have had has already been sent to this water district down south.

  •  Rice in the desert? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    So why do we grow rice in the desert?

    Rice takes twice as much water to grow as wheat.  Rice-growing belongs in rainy places like E Texas and the Mekong delta.

    When farmers have to pay the same as city dwellers for water, we will have plenty of water.

  •  It's Chinatown, Jake (0+ / 0-)

    CA governor Jerry Brown is mayor of Chinatown.

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 02:19:23 PM PST

  •  it's pouring in Humboldt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I am hopeful (but not optimistic) that the W&F will reopen the Mad and Eel rivers to fishing. We've got plenty of water if they would stop shipping it south.

  •  Dan, you are prolific - (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    S F Hippie, FishOutofWater, wu ming

    Thank you for getting this very important story out the mismanagement of California water.  The drought is being misused, like the build up of fear to the Iraq war, to justify the Governor's $60 billion boondoggle tunnel project which will not make one more drop of water for California.

    Meanwhile according to Fortune Magazine, Stewart Resnick, on of the main beneficiaries of over pumping and the proposed tunnels plan, just built a $220 million packing shed for his new Halos.  But Delta family farmers stand to lose everything -- these are families that have been farming for 150 years.

    Water in California is about serving the 1%.  Sustainable water policies  are tide to sustainable economies!

    "Since when did obeying corporate power become patriotic." Going the Distance

    by Going the Distance on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 02:45:35 PM PST

  •  It's a big storm in the right places (0+ / 0-)

    plenty of snow in the Sierras.

    Snow all the way up to Portland!

    Almost nothing in SoCal, it's all up north.

    "The Obama Administration has been an unmitigated disaster" - Osama Bin Laden

    by Explorer8939 on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 03:29:56 PM PST

  •  I live on the Sacramento River! (0+ / 0-)

    We're not even close but this rain is nice to see.

  •  "You got lotsa water!" "No! YOU got lotsa water!" (0+ / 0-)

    Is this what life is like in California? All this arguing that this part or that part of CA has most of the available water "and I can prove it with data!" sounds pretty bizarre. Either the reservoirs are full, or they're not ... seems like pretty easy value to check just by looking at them. Awful  hard for somebody to claim "this reservoir is at 106% capacity" when it LOOKS like an overgrown mud puddle, I would think. Right?
    The massive irrigation for bigbux agriculture is a dead-end game for the simple reason that irrigated water is full of salts and minerals that stay behind in the soil after the water is used by the plant or evaporates. Eventually the soil gets too salty  to grow anything, and I'm not aware of any processes to feasibly reclaim saline fields.
    And drawing down the aquifers to nothing ain't so good either.
    Saddest aspect is this "this is our normal procedure" attitude toward water in California. Oh, draining down the northern reservoirs so we have life and business as usual is no big deal, because NoCal always gets tons of water every winter, more than  they can use." Uh-huh, in the old weather patterns. I wonder how many times in a decade people can say, "Yeah, we're having a really bad drought but that happens once in a while, no need to change our policies" before things change.
    If the Titanic is any example, it will take a lot of deaths before people realize things are being done wrong.

    Ash-sha'b yurid isqat an-nizam!

    by fourthcornerman on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 06:49:39 PM PST

    •  Saline soils can be reclaimed (0+ / 0-)

      via drainage and leaching, if the soil permeability is adequate, and there is an outlet for the salt.

      Of course this is a non-trivial issue in the context of parts of the Central Valley, with political posturing equal to if not greater than that on inter-basin transfers.

      Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

      by benamery21 on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 09:28:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Saline soils reclaimed by using lotsa FRESH WATER (0+ / 0-)

        which then takes us right back to the same problem -- where does CA get all the fresh water it needs?

        Ash-sha'b yurid isqat an-nizam!

        by fourthcornerman on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 01:57:26 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Two things (0+ / 0-)

          1)Improved irrigation efficiency (2nd lowest hanging fruit in the state), which has the side effect of reducing salt load
          2)RO the tailwater -- energy intensive, but much less so than desal of oceanwater

          Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

          by benamery21 on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 12:28:48 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Southern California calls the shots where water (0+ / 0-)

    is concerned in this state.

    Those of us who live in Northern California and who depend on the annual Sierra snowpack to supply our reservoirs have always known this, but So Cal has the money, population and legislative numbers to override any attempt to stop them from taking our water.

  •  Would large scale desalination plants make sense? (0+ / 0-)
    •  Exciting--VERY thin membrane RO (0+ / 0-)

      If it is commercialized easily, this will be a game changer, probably 15-20 years from now.

      Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

      by benamery21 on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 01:12:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  A wore from the 2nd link I posted. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        "Notaro said Lockheed expects to have a prototype by the end of the year for a filter that could be used as a drop-in replacement for filters now used in reverse osmosis plants.

        The company is looking for partners in the filter manufacturing arena to help it commercialize Perforene as a filter in the 2014-2015 time frame, he said."

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site