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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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California's permanent state of drought

Uploaded: Jun 28, 2018
Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature have declared a permanent state of drought in the Golden State.

The governor signed two bills on May 31 that will limit household water usage, regardless of the winter snowfall or how much water is stored in the reservoirs. The new laws require cities, urban water districts and agricultural districts to set annual water budgets. If agencies use more than the budget, the fines are $1,000 per day in normal times and $10k per day during droughts.

For those of us who lived through earlier drought periods, we remember just how difficult it was for Marin County residents in the 1970s to minimize usage to 50 gallons per day per person. Putting bricks in toilets to save water was common in those times.

In 2030, 50 gallons will be the standard per person. It will be will be 55 gallons per day in 2022. There will be an allotment for outdoor use based on regional climates that has yet to be determined. Remember the challenges East Bay MUD customers in the warmer San Ramon Valley with their larger, landscaped yards faced when the district failed to account for differences between them and customers in Berkeley.

Over many years, state law has stiffened requirements for water-conserving fixtures and appliances. These have limited routine water use. For instance, 1.6 gallons per flush toilets are now the only ones sold in the state. And low-flow shower heads and limited flow faucets are common.

Outdoors using drip systems for landscaping and agriculture, such as grape vines, hardens demand. So, when the inevitable drought occurs, reducing water use is much more challenging.

The rebates for drought-resistant landscaping and efficient toilets and washing machines have the same effect of reducing routine water usage.

One of the canards cited for these new restrictions is climate change. The state already is hitting residents with billions of dollars in additional costs (transportation taxes, utility rates for “clean energy” that must be backed up with fossil fuels-based plants for evening hours or cloudy days or days without winds).

It should be noted that agriculture still uses more than 80 percent of the state’s developed water, which is delivered, primarily, through the state and federal water projects. During the recent drought, with permanent crops such as almond trees, stone fruits and grapevines having replaced annual row crops, there was a race to dig deeper and deeper wells that resulted in land subsiding.

To avoid subsidence, there must be ongoing water sources to replace water that is pumped routinely.

The other big caveat is the abject failure of the governor and the state water bureaucracies to build storage. Voters passed a water bond in 2014 that included funds for storage. To date, no bonds have been issued because no projects have been approved. More storage, both surface such as Sites Reservoir near Colusa (an off-stream facility that would greatly improve the flexibility of operations at Shasta dam to enhance cold water flows for fish) and in groundwater basins is necessary.

Zone 7, which provides wholesale water to the Livermore Valley cities and the Dougherty Valley region of San Ramon, has managed its groundwater basin efficiently for decades (it just celebrated its 60th anniversary). When valley residents voted to form the agency, groundwater was being over-drafted routinely.

The agency will have two new directors next month when retired Zone 7 engineer Dennis Gambs and Oliva Sanwong join the board after winning seats in the June election. Incumbents Bill Stevens and Sarah Palmer (the No. 2 vote-getter) also won re-election.

With new General Manager Valerie Pyror in place along with two new board members, the agency could be taking a fresh look at how it operates. One key statewide issue that the Zone 7 board already supported is the California WaterFix, the one or two tunnels under the Delta to move water from upstream reservoirs to the pumps serving the valley, San Joaquin County and Southern California.

It’s important to understand that, since the State Water Project started running in the 1960s, it has used Delta channels to move water south—forcing a north-south flow through the Delta instead of the east-west natural flows.

That’s one of the major problems the tunnels are designed to solve.

The Independent reported winter-time water use ranged from 56.4 gallons per day in the Dublin San Ramon Services District to 64 gallons per day in Livermore. Pleasanton does not separate internal and external numbers, but its total was 141 gallons per day in 2015.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Cholo, a resident of San Ramon,
on Jun 28, 2018 at 10:11 am

A sad story. If you believe in the power of prayer, PRAY FOR RAIN.

Posted by Watergeek, a resident of Livermore,
on Jun 28, 2018 at 2:57 pm

The Governor's permanent drought regulations are misguided at best and totally unnecessary at worst. They ignore local or statewide water supply realities in favor of a fantasy that we need to live in a "permanent drought" mentality because of the possible future impacts of climate change. The 50 GPCD limit is likely unreachable, and even if it CAN be done, it doesn't NEED to be done because the state storage system is so pathetic that there's no facilities to even store the "saved" water. Unless someone is planning massive population growth or migration there is no need for this restrictive approach of punishing the end-user for the State's lack of water supply planning.

Posted by Michael Austin, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Jun 30, 2018 at 4:36 pm

I was in central valley a couple of times last week. I drove along side endless acres of Almonds. Sprinkler systems every where are full bore, water is puddling on the ground around the tree base of the Almond trees. There is no drip system in use here.

Than there are the trees and bushes on all on and off ramps that line the freeways and all up and down the freeway system. PVC pipe waters all of these trees and bushes. Cal Trans is constantly cutting and trimming never able to keep up with it. Why doesn't Cal Trans plant cactus, eliminate the need water and spending money to trim constantly?

Michael Mulford one told me that the value of city owned trees in Pleasanton is "conservatively valued at $50 million".

The trees on our freeways must be valued at one trillion or more. That money would build the water tunnel and speed train to nowhere.

Posted by Dabster, a resident of Birdland,
on Jul 1, 2018 at 9:42 am

Total, complete, and abject failure on the part of our state government. California's population has doubled, and our beloved (Democtrat) state government has done zero, nothing, nada, zilch to build more water storage and infrastructure, even though the population voted to improve it. Same story with our roads, housing, security, etc. Effective government can do much to combat the water problem, but they choose to spend their time (and our money) chasing utopian bulls*%t like global warming, bullet trains, cap & trade, etc etc etc. Wake up California! Or alternatively, keep voting for progressives and watch the state go down the tubes

Posted by BobB, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Jul 2, 2018 at 4:24 pm

BobB is a registered user.

"It should be noted that agriculture still uses more than 80 percent of the state's developed water, which is delivered, primarily, through the state and federal water projects."

It should be emphasized. Residential use is a tiny fraction.

Posted by Peter MacDonald, a resident of Birdland,
on Jul 3, 2018 at 10:45 am

That was a really excellent summary of the water situation.

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