Blog round-up: The politcal time machine of drought, climate change and California’s drought, holding water theives accountable, and more on the drought plus water conservation devices you’ve likely not seen before …

The California drought is a political time machine:  Mark Lubell writes:  ” … the most interesting aspect of drought politics is how it stimulates political and policy change. According to political scientist John Kingdon, drought is the classic example of a “focusing event” that creates a window of opportunity for policy change. And California politicians have a tradition of using drought as a political tool for pushing favored policies. For example, William Mulholland allegedly used the false threat of drought to raise public support for his Southern California water empire. Now nearly every scientist, commentator, and politician is using drought to make some call for their preferred political change. Regulate groundwater. More storage. Build the twin tunnels. Pass the long-delayed water bond. These cries for change are truly echoes of the 1976-77 and other past severe droughts. There are two key policy questions to ask given this recurrent pattern. ... ”  Continue reading from Mark Lubell’s blog at UC Davis Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior here:  The California Drought is a Political Time Machine

Peter Gleick clarifies the discussion on climate change and California’s drought: The attention the drought has been receiving has been increasing the debate and the confusion about the link between climate change and the drought: “The confusion stems from the failure of some scientists, bloggers, reporters, and others to distinguish among three separate questions. All three questions are scientifically interesting. But the three are different in their nuance, their importance to policy, and their interest to politicians and water managers. Here are the three different questions: Is the California drought caused by climate change? Is the California drought, no matter the cause, influenced or affected by climate changes already occurring? How will climate changes affect future drought risks in California? These questions are not the same thing. … ”  Read more from Peter Gleick at the Significant Figures blog here:  Clarifying the Discussion about California Drought and Climate Change

Legal Planet blog looks at the lesser-known provisions of California’s emergency drought legislation: Richard Frank writes:  ” … I confess I am relatively more intrigued by other, less-publicized provisions of the new legislation that strengthen the state’s water rights enforcement system. Those amendments to California’s Water Code increase substantially the monetary penalties state water regulators and courts can impose in response to illegal water diversions and related offenses. (The previously set statutory fines and penalty levels were almost laughably modest.) To be sure, the enhanced sanctions only apply to conduct occurring in years when California, as in 2014, faces drought conditions. But it’s an improvement over the status quo and, hopefully, will prompt broader reforms to California’s water rights enforcement laws. … ”  Read more from Legal Planet here: California Enacts Emergency Drought Legislation

Rethinking California water in zero State Water Project allocation world:  “California’s State Water Project is the backbone of the California economy.  The recent declaration of a zero water allocation for 2014 has exposed the California economy’s vulnerability to decades of political gridlock and ineffective water agency action.  Last Friday’s announced allocations for the federal Central Valley Project piled on.  Unless changes are made promptly to California’s “water culture”, look for California growth to come to a screeching halt.  To quote Reverend Wright (admittedly out of context), “California, the chickens have come home to roost.”  This post is the first of an eight-part series on Rethinking California’s Water Industry.  In this post, I analyze the economic implications of the unreliability of the State Water Project, including the use of State Water Project (“SWP”) water for real estate development.  Carryover storage capacity owned by water users and having more than five times SWP contracts needed to cover water demands are critical. … “  Read more from the Hydrowonk blog here:  Rethinking California’s Water Industry: Part 1—a Zero State Water Project Allocation World

Need for Storage, ESA Flexibility Comes Through at D.C. Conference:  ACWA President John Coleman and Vice President Kathy Tiegs report from the conference in the Voices on Water blog:  “When ACWA members arrived in Washington, D.C. in late February for the association’s annual D.C. Conference, three topics were on everyone’s mind: California’s drought and the need for both short-term and long-term solutions.  In discussions with Administration officials and meetings on Capitol Hill, the conversation quickly turned to the drought and how it is affecting farms, communities and the entire economy of our state. With Congress weighing legislation to provide relief to drought-stricken California, ACWA members used the opportunity to urge the state’s congressional delegation to work together to fashion a bipartisan bill that can meet the state’s needs and advance the coequal goals of improved water supply reliability and Delta ecosystem health. ... ”  Read more from Voices on Water here:  Need for Storage, ESA Flexibility Comes Through at D.C. Conference

Holding water thieves accountable during drought is critical:  Kate Poole at the NRDC Switchboard blog writes:  “Every day, the media is filled with new stories about California’s historic drought – cities facing the imminent threat of no drinking water; ranchers scrambling to feed herds grazing on brown stubble; migrating birds searching in vain for wetlands along the Pacific Flyway; and fish eggs drying out by the thousands on desiccated river banks. There is no question that the drought is imposing hardships on cities, farms and the environment, and that different solutions may be called for to address those hardships. But there is one obvious solution that benefits everyone and that we should all be able to agree on:  nobody should be allowed to steal water that is not rightfully theirs in times of drought.  That’s why it is especially perplexing that a group of California legislators is objecting to clamping down on water thieves during the drought in this February 24, 2014 letter sent to Governor Brown. ... “  Read more from the NRDC Switchboard blog here:  Holding Water Thieves Accountable Is Critical In Times of Drought

Harnessing the storms:  Ellen Hanak and Jeff Mount write in the PPIC blog: “Southern California got a thorough soaking in late February and early March, with intense storms that caused localized urban and coastal flooding. Northern California also received some much needed rain and snow. As officials pointed out during and after this wet interlude, it helped, but it was not a drought buster.  So where did all that rain go and did we miss an opportunity to improve our water supplies? … ”  Read more from the PPIC blog here:  Drought Watch: Harnessing the Storms

What’s the best way to save water and energy:  “It is being widely touted in the media that water conservation obviously not only saves water but also saves energy.  Water is free, but the cost to capture, convey and treat it is not.  It’s worth asking, and answering: Which sector has the greatest potential for water energy conservation? Municipal water; Agricultural water; or Environmental water. ... ”  The Cal Watchdog blog takes a look here:  Drought: What’s the best way to save water and energy?

New Temperance Flat Feasibility Study claims salmon benefits and Delta earthquake risk reduction justify the new dam and a big taxpayer subsidy, says the Valley Economy blog: Jeff Michael writes: “I spent a good part of the afternoon reviewing the new feasibility study for the Temperance Flat dam and compared it to the one released in 2008.  The Bureau of Reclamation’s claimed benefit-cost ratio in the new feasibility study is much higher than the one from 2008 that infamously found a B-C ratio of 1.0 to 1.06 despite the fact that the estimated water yield is lower. … ”  He shares his observations here:   New Temperance Flat Feasibility Study Claims Salmon Benefits and Delta Earthquake Risk Reduction Justify the New Dam and a Big Taxpayer Subsidy

Living with less water:  Lessons for Californians from New Mexico:  This post from the GOAT blog begins with the writer confessing of his failed attempt to live on 5 gallons of water a day, and then writes:  “For me, five gallons a day was a quirky experiment. For the 17 California communities on a list released last month by state health officials, it may become reality: As drought tightens its grip on the state, each community is at risk of running out of drinking water within 100 days. Officials are discussing trucking in water as a possible solution.  In one such place, a town of 1,200 called Lompico, water comes from underground aquifers replenished by rainwater. The problem is, there hasn’t been much rain lately: California received an average of just 7 inches in 2013, compared to their usual 22, and the Sierra Nevada snowpack that feeds many reservoirs is at 12 percent of normal. Lompico residents have been asked to cut their water usage by 30 percent, but as Water District Board president Lois Henry pointed out to the San Francisco Chronicle, “We live in the Santa Cruz Mountains. People don’t have lawns. They don’t have gardens. How are they going to conserve 30 percent?”  California isn’t the only state to face water shortages; residents of Magdalena, N.M., might be able to offer a few water-conserving suggestions. … “  Read more from the GOAT blog here: Living with less water: Lessons for Californians – and the rest of us – from a New Mexico village

Climate change in the West is not just all about more or less rain, says the Inkstain blog: “Ben Cook at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies has a new paper that offers a reminder of why the impact of climate change on our ecosystems and water supplies involves more than “will it rain less”?  In some sense this is an old and obvious point, which I link here just to repeat said old and obvious point. Drought is a combination of how much rain and snow falls from the sky and then what happens once it hits the ground. If it’s warmer, more evaporates, and it’s the net left behind after the puts and takes that defines our available water supply and drought or lack thereof. .. ”  Read more from the Inkstain blog here:  Climate change in the West: it’s not just about more or less rain

Mike Connor’s appointment to Deputy Secretary of the Interior is good news for western rivers, says the Western River Law blog:  ” … Connor may be uniquely qualified for the Deputy Secretary gig–and I do not say that just because he is from New Mexico.  He has strong Native American connections, with a grandfather who was a leader of Taos Pueblo.  He is an engineer, and also an attorney who worked on water issues for Interior earlier in his career.  He was a key Senate staffer on water and energy issues, and one of his major accomplishments was crafting the 2009 SECURE Water Act.  And he earned high marks in his four-plus years as Commissioner of Reclamation.  His experience will be especially important now because his boss, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, came into the job with basically no background in government. I see Connor’s new position as good news for western rivers.  … “  Read more here:  What Interior’s new #2 could mean for western rivers

And lastly … Water conservation devices you’ve likely not seen before:  A retrofit for your toilet lid that turns it into a sink, a device to wash your clothes and then flush your toilet, and shower mat that get uncomfortable to stand on if your shower’s too long and other ultra high tech devices to help you conserve.  It’s well worth the out-clicks to check out these devices!  Read more here from Tech Page One:  Drought management: the next wave