Bloggers Discuss Legislative Responses to the Drought, Dwindling Groundwater, Market-Based Valuations and Unconventional Water Sources

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.

In this installment, bloggers focus on legislative responses to the drought, dwindling groundwater, market-based valuations and unconventional water sources.


Of (CA) Water Bondage
Rodney T. Smith, Ph. D. of the Hydrowonk Blog breaks down the new, smaller California water bond and its implications for water politics in the state.  Smith credits Governor Brown’s leadership for jolting the political establishment to action, but history indicates that voters’ reception to the bond will likely be cool.  Ultimately, Smith argues, bold leadership from water officials and agencies is necessary to tackle California’s water issues. 

The Legislative Landscape for Current Water Issues in California
With water on Sacramento’s mind, Hydrowonk Blog’s Jeff Simonetti examines the water bond and two pending groundwater regulation bills.  While the water bond passed with exceptional bipartisan support, its fate on the November ballot remains to be seen.  Meanwhile, the groundwater bills face skepticism from farmers wary of losing access to groundwater and from local water districts hesitant to cede regulatory power to the state.

Fed bills could be key to California water shortage
Wayne Lusvardi compares the pending federal drought relief bill with Proposition 1 (the California Water Bond measure on the November 2014 ballot).  While the federal legislation must overcome obstacles to pass in Congress, it may be the state’s last hope for building more storage if voters reject the bond measure on the ballot.
Judge’s Corner: central Texans should ‘ remember the Ogallala’
Paul Pape, contributing writer to the Austin American-Statesman, argues that groundwater management in central Texas should seek to protect and preserve the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer—in order to avoid going the way of the Ogallala, which is reported to have less than a 50-year supply of groundwater.

What Will Become of Groundwater in the West as the Drought Continues to Deplete this Resource?
The ongoing drought has led water agencies and farmers to draw heavily on groundwater supplies to make up for surface supply shortfalls.  Jeff Simonetti writes in the Hydrowonk Blog that recent research from NASA and UC Irvine indicates that this practice is unsustainable, with groundwater levels falling as fast as surface water supplies.  It is unclear if even heavy rain will be able to reverse the consequences of intensive groundwater pumping, as some areas are physically sinking as water is taken out from below.


A Higher Price-tag on Water
Price Gouging Would Solve California’s Water Crisis
In light of the California State Water Resources Control Board’s approval of mandatory watering restrictions and fines for those that fail to comply, blogger Walter Hudson argues why market-based reforms (i.e. set water rates to reflect actual supply and demand) would be a better solution.

California Drought: How To Share an Emergency
Economists Matthew Fienup and Bill Watkins of California Lutheran University argue that California’s current response to the drought increases the drought’s costs—especially the social costs—and they suggest solutions such pricing water at its true cost and adjudicating the many unadjudicated groundwater basins in the state.

Colorado River Basin’s “Natural Capital” Delivers up to Half a Trillion in Annual Benefits, New Study Says
Springboarding from a trip to southwestern Colorado, Sandra Postel of National Geographic’s Freshwater Initiative reflects on the contribution of river-based recreation and tourism to the local economies and then discusses a recent report by Earth Economics that strives to estimate the economic benefit of “natural capital assets” in the Colorado River Basin.  Postel believes that the report helps to qualify the benefits of “natural services” allowing them to be factored in to land and water use decisions.


Exploring Unconventional New Sources for Water
Will the Drought Change the Public’s Attitude Regarding Recycled Water?
Hydrowonk Blog’s Jeff Simonetti argues that recycled water is a cheap and “drought-proof” source of water that should be expanded.  While it has historically been viewed with trepidation and relegated to agricultural irrigation, it is increasingly used in municipal settings as well—a sign that people are slowly warming to it in these dry times.

A Long and Twisting River: Traveling the 150-mile span of the Salinas River yields lessons on the Valley-versus-Peninsula water battle
After traveling the Salinas Rivers, authors David Schmalz and Sara Rubin explain the water conflict between the Salinas Valley and Monterey Peninsula—and discuss the possibility of the City of Monterey pursuing its pueblo water right.  The unusual move could satisfy the Peninsula’s water needs, but agricultural interests in the Salinas Valley oppose what they see as a grab for their own water supplies.

What about Desalination during the Drought?
Amanda Pebbler of Pacific Institute discusses the costs and risks of desalination plants and cites abandoned projects in Santa Barbara and Australia as cautionary tales.  Instead of pursuing more desalinization, she advocates focusing on more cost-effective options, like conservation and efficiency, reuse, and storm water capture, as well as developing a comprehensive water management strategy.

Written by Stratecon Staff