Bloggers Discuss Groundwater Recharge and Regulations, Drought Management, Environmental Allocations, the Napa Earthquake, and Colorado

With 67 million people blogging and news blogs rivaling mainstream media, the amount of information being churned out in posts is overwhelming—but recently a few themes have emerged that warrant attention.

This week, bloggers discuss the effects of drought and regulation on groundwater, strategies for coping with drought, environmental allocations, implications of the Napa earthquake on California water policy, and updates from Colorado.



The aftermath of drought in Texas
Writing for Hydrowonk Blog, Jeff Simonetti examines groundwater depletion in Texas, which until recently was experiencing a severe and widespread drought.  While rains have alleviated the drought in much of the state, groundwater levels are still low, and it could take centuries before underground aquifers are naturally recharged.  This problem is not unique to Texas: California will also experience lingering groundwater shortages after the nominal end of the current drought, making conservation and increasing storage during wet times crucial for taking the edge off the next dry period.

For regulating California’s groundwater, this is only the beginning
John Fleck of JFleck at Inkstain writes that while California’s new groundwater regulations are an important step, there is still much work to do.  The law requires local water agencies to create groundwater management plans but it cannot mandate political consensus at the local level, which is a tall order for some areas.

Groundwater package is latest example of confronting tough issues
Tim Quinn of the Association of California Water Agencies offers his take on the recent groundwater regulation package, which he calls “without question one of the most complicated and difficult set of policy reforms this generation of water managers has attempted to pursue.”  Quinn particularly supports the long implementation timeframe the bills call for, as well as the emphasis on local control.


Drought management

In Colorado, conversation about lawn water use begins
A bill filed earlier this year in the Colorado senate would have capped lawn area at 15% of new developments has sparked discussion about the amount of water that should be used for residential irrigation.  Indoor water is usually recaptured and treated, while outdoor water does not reenter the system, making conservation even more imperative.   As a result, some have proposed shifting the indoor/outdoor ratio from its current 50/50 levels to 60/40 or higher if water is being taken from agricultural users.

Drought Watch: Rethinking Urban Water Pricing
During droughts, one of the standard responses is to impose mandatory water restrictions.  Since restrictions can burden local water districts by reducing revenue, Caitrin Chappelle and Ellen Hank recommend a supplemental strategy: drought pricing, in which previously agreed-upon surcharges help to offset the financial strain of restrictions.


Environmental allocations

Time for a new boat
David Zetland of Aguanomics fields a reader question about money in the California water bond set aside for purchasing environmental water flows, the amount of water necessary to keep rivers running.  Zetland advocates for revoking over-allocated water rights by fiat and setting aside baseline environmental flows from remaining water allocations.


Napa Earthquake

Shaken and stirred in California’s recent earthquake
Last month’s Napa earthquake served as a reminder about the vulnerability of the levee network in the Bay Delta, Jeremy Miller writes.  Concerns about the levees have led some to support the proposed Delta tunnel plan, while others argue that tunnels would be more vulnerable.  Miller points to research showing that loss of groundwater might be exacerbating seismic activity along the San Andreas Fault.

Blaming Napa quake on California drought doesn’t hold much water
Writing for the Huffington Post, Peter Getty argues that the link between drought-induced groundwater depletion and earthquakes is nonexistent, as groundwater depletion places a only negligible strain on faults.  While Getty would not mind the belief in the link if it inspired people to conserve more water, he worries that the opposite could be true if people think of the drought, a problem people can help mitigate, in the same terms as earthquakes, which we cannot control.



Colorado River at Gore Canyon is the stuff dreams are made of
Gore Canyon, on the Upper Colorado River, is known as an idyllic fishing spot, but it is also at the center of a variety of planned uses.  The Bureau of Land Management has approved the construction of a whitewater park, which it says will attract outdoor enthusiasts while ensuring adequate flow through the canyon.  Meanwhile, water agencies, including Denver Water, are hoping to draw more water out of the Upper Colorado.

Low flow toilets and big water supply dreams (this series is no longer available from the original source)
Bill Hudson examines the state of water policy in Archuleta County, CO and the western U.S. at large.

  • Part one looks at the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District’s ( PAWSD) high water rates, which Hudson argues stem from expensive and questionable infrastructure projects and the corresponding debt incurred.
  • Part 2 considers the low-flow toilet, and contends that their legally-mandated use does not make much sense in Colorado, where water comes from and returns to the Colorado River.
  • In Part 3, Hudson returns to the PAWSD, observing that the system’s costly infrastructure was built during a period of high growth, when forecasts for future demand greatly overestimated reality.  PAWSD has enough capacity to treat 8 times the current demand and 5 times the waste currently produced.
  • Part 4 recount a meeting of the Colorado Legislature’s Water Resources Review Committee, which is holding listening sessions a part of the effort to produce a state water plan.  Hudson focuses on the drought and the linked fortunes of all the states in the Colorado Basin.
  • Part 5 continues the discussion of the meeting, focusing on the multitude of conflicting attitudes about water management and the challenges of influencing federal agencies through the Colorado water plan.
  • Parts 6 and 7 examine the proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir, which Hudson strongly opposes.  He contends that the project is neither feasible, as its water claims would be junior to all others, nor necessary, as there are no supply shortages.

Written by Stratecon Staff