The lack of water for the populous and yet we still grow the Almonds.

Drought could push California to rethink water strategy

California Gov. Jerry Brown announced a sweeping executive order Wednesday that imposes mandatory water restrictions across the state as California copes with a historic drought and water shortage. AP


California’s historic drought has thrown the state into crisis mode, but some experts hope it will force long-term improvements in how the state manages water.

Gov. Jerry Brown announced California’s first-ever mandatory water restrictions Wednesday, calling for a 25% reduction in water use and encouraging water districts to charge consumers more for excessive consumption. His executive order will also lead to new rebates for water-efficient appliances, as well as new funding for replacing lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping.

But California’s underlying problem, some experts say, is bigger than the current drought. Considering the state’s burgeoning population and the likelihood that climate change will make droughts more frequent and more severe, they say, policymakers should use the current crisis to lay the groundwork for more sustainable water management.

“We have to think about this as an opportunity to do better for the future,” said Brian Stranko, California water program director for The Nature Conservancy, an environmental advocacy group. “We can only do so many things in this crisis. Our options are limited.”

Speaking during a Thursday conference call hosted by Circle of Blue — a Michigan-based media organization that covers water issues — Stranko said the drought has had major consequences not only for people, but for fish and wildlife as well. Rivers have dried up and wetland habitats along the Pacific Flyway, a major migratory bird route that includes the Salton Sea, have been diminished, leading to death and disease among bird populations.

“Nature is suffering alongside our people, our farms, our communities,” Stranko said.

Brown’s executive order is a good first step toward addressing California’s water problems, Stranko said, but more is needed. He called for “dynamic conservation” measures that would use dams and other reservoirs to provide water to natural environments in short bursts, when it’s most needed. Those kinds of measures, Stranko said, would make it easier to balance the water needs of people and nature.

“We have to take advantage of the crisis and take action,” he said.

Upmanu Lall, director of the Columbia Water Center in New York City, struck a similar note during the conference call. The combination of California’s record-breaking drought and the need to make costly upgrades to aging water infrastructure, he said, creates an opportunity to fundamentally rethink how the United States manages water.

Lall called for policymakers to reevaluate long-entrenched water rights, to consider more centralized water management and to think about water as a human right rather than a commodity. He also highlighted emerging wastewater treatment technology that could make water recycling much less energy-intensive than it is now.

One of the worst droughts on record has had far-reaching consequences throughout the state. Video provided by Newsy Newslook

“I understand that the drought has severe consequences, but these are times when it actually pays to think about your larger picture and your longer-term strategy, in addition to thinking about what you need to do now,” he said.

Like Stranko and Lall, William Patzert — a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge — believes California must emerge from the drought with a fundamentally different system for managing water.

The main reason for that, Patzert said in an interview Wednesday, isn’t climate change — it’s population growth. The state’s population ballooned from less than 24 million in 1980 to nearly 39 million last year.

Toll Road Extension defeated.

Water Quality Board Adopts Legal Reason for Rejection of Toll Road Extension Project Permit

The Toll Roads
The road to somewhere?

The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board adopted legal findings Monday to support its unanimous June 2013 rejection of a water quality permit for the 241 Foothill/Eastern toll road Tesoro Extension project.The Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) has said the extension is a singular project and not the first five-mile leg of a 16-mile road to connect the 241 with the 5 freeway in San Diego County. Foes accuse the TCA of trying to build the full extension one leg at a time.

That would be due to TCA’s original proposal to fully extend the 241 through San Onofre State Park, San Onofre State Beach and the protected natural lands in the Donna O’Neill Conservancy having been flatly rejected by the federal government, civic leaders, environmentalists and 78 percent of Orange County voters.

On Monday, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board for the third time rejected a 241 extension. The board’s grounds for its 6-0 rejection of a requested Waste Discharge Requirements permit are the TCA failed to disclose the full environmental impacts of the entire road project. (The California Parks Department has indicated one major environmental impact: the full extension would prompt the agency to abandon 60 percent of San Onofre State Park due to toll road damage.)

“The board today voted to protect our water quality, our parks and beaches from this destructive toll road project,” says Elizabeth Goldstein in a Save San Onofre Coalition statement issued Monday. “We commend the board for upholding California’s water quality laws and protecting the public interest.

“The board responded to the overwhelming evidence that the Tesoro Extension is no more than an attempt to commence construction of a larger, environmentally destructive [project] that has been rejected by the board and every other agency that has considered the project to-date. This project needs to be rethought from the ground up, or abandoned, rather than twisted to accommodate every rejection the TCA experiences.”

The coalition accuses the TCA of having spent more than $300 million in public funding for the project.

The TCA submitted a letter to the regional board before the meeting that argued extending the 241 from Oso Parkway in Rancho Santa Margarita to Cow Camp Road in San Juan Capistrano is desperately needed to alleviate traffic congestion.

“The regional board’s concerns focus primarily on former alignments that are not part of TCA’s existing application,” according to the TCA, which claims “the Tesoro Extension can function to provide traffic relief independent of any future extensions; therefore, it has independent utility and should be judged on its own merits.”

The TCA accused the regional board of failing to provide detailed findings to support the rejection of waste water discharge permits, refusing to take into consideration the “minimal” environmental impact of the project and “setting a dangerous precedent that could prevent future infrastructure projects throughout the state from proceeding in stand-alone phases.”

Finally, the TCA said it “acknowledges and respects the authority of the regional board to restrict water discharges of any future extension of the 241,” so “there is no reason for the regional board to deny the Tesoro Extension permit.”

Maybe the fourth time will be the charm for the TCA.

Email: Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

Progressive Caucus Budget

Did you ever wish there were champions in Congress offering up better ideas than draconian Republican austerity or corporate Democratic mush? Well, there are. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, a highly diverse, 70+ member group of House Democrats, just unveiled the populist, progressive People’s Budget. Congress will vote on the People’s Budget next week, and Daily Kos has banded together with a big coalition to try and get over half of all House Democrats to vote for it: Sign the petition by Daily Kos and a wide coalition of allies in demanding that Congress pass the Progressive People’s Budget. The People’s Budget would, among other things:

  • create 8 million new jobs
  • create universal pre-K and debt free college
  • raise the minimum wage
  • repeal the Bush tax cuts
  • allow states to transition to single-payer health care
  • close loopholes that allow corporations to evade their tax liability, and
  • stronger paths to equity for communities of color.

Congress will vote on budget proposals next week, and Republicans will be pushing more devastating cuts. We expect it will be ugly, which is why the People’s Budget is so crucial. If we can get a majority of House Democrats to vote for the People’s Budget, it will send a powerful message to the 1% that a new populist movement is on the rise. Please join Daily Kos and a coalition of allies in supporting the People’s Budget. Keep fighting, Paul Hogarth, Daily Kos

To unsubscribe from ALL Daily Kos emails, visit this link. To opt-out ONLY from action emails, visit this link.

Vote Vets: Call Tom Cotton


Since General Eaton’s letter, over 30,000 veterans, military family members, and VoteVets supporters have signed our petition expressing their disappointment with Tom Cotton’s mutinous letter to Iran’s leaders. Now he needs to hear your voice. Call Senator Cotton’s D.C. office at 202-224-2353 and let him know that you support a diplomacy-first approach to disabuse Iran of their nuclear ambitions. Report on your call when it’s complete.

A few very important notes:

1. If you’re a veteran or military family member, please be sure to indicate that when you begin the conversation.

2. Be brief, polite, and courteous when you call. You’re probably talking to a hard-working staff member and others are trying to call, many with local concerns.

3. Above all else, make sure you let the staffer know you disapprove of Senator Cotton’s letter and that you’ll be following this issue with interest.

Thanks for making the call, Jon Soltz Iraq War Veteran and Chairman


Utilities wage campaign against rooftop solar
2015-03-07, Washington Post
Posted: 2015-03-16 14:44:06…

Three years ago, the nation’s top utility executives gathered at a Colorado resort to hear warnings about … rooftop solar panels. According to a presentation prepared for the group, “Industry must prepare an action plan to address the challenges.” Three years later, the industry and its fossil-fuel supporters are waging a determined campaign to stop a home-solar insurgency that is rattling the boardrooms of the country’s government-regulated electric monopolies. Recently, the battle has shifted to public utility commissions, where industry backers have mounted a … successful push for fee hikes that could put solar panels out of reach for many potential customers. In a closely watched case last month, an Arizona utility voted to impose a monthly surcharge of about $50 for “net metering,” a common practice that allows solar customers to earn credit for the surplus electricity they provide to the electric grid. Net metering makes home solar affordable by sharply lowering electric bills to offset the $10,000 to $30,000 cost of rooftop panels. A Wisconsin utilities commission approved a similar surcharge for solar users last year, and a New Mexico regulator also is considering raising fees. In some states, industry officials [are now] arguing that solar panels hurt the poor. “It’s really about utilities’ fear that solar customers are taking away demand,” said Angela Navarro, an energy expert with the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Note: In Arizona, traditional utility companies are brazenly manipulating the law to attack solar power installation companies. Meanwhile, the Rockefellers have stopped investing in fossil fuels. Does this mean that the renewable energy revolution is now in full swing?