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Bloggers discuss nature and water, power plants, the Lake Powell Pipeline, and the politics of Prop 1

JOW Blog Round Up
In this week’s edition, bloggers explore ways to harness nature to protect water supplies and how drought is hurting fish populations.  Meanwhile, others parse new data from the USGS, question the justification for the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline in Utah, and examine how water politics propelled one California Republican to electoral success.


Nature-Water Nexus

Staring Down the California Drought: Looking at Solutions to Our Water Crisis
Ann Clark Espuelas highlights the State of Watershed Investment 2014 report, which focuses on ways to harness nature to promote clean water supplies.  Examples of natural management include switching to organic agriculture and minimizing the risk of forest fires, which can destabilize watersheds, and training people for sustainable jobs.    According to the report, these sorts of efforts attracted $9.6 billion last year, with businesses and governments chipping in.  

Protecting Watersheds As We Grow Our Cities and Towns
Writing for the Huffington Post, F. Kaid Benfield surveys efforts to utilize “green infrastructure” in cities to improve watershed health.  He points to a number of cities, including Washington, Richmond, and Los Angeles, which are experimenting with “green alleys,” which use water-permeable pavement to reduce urban runoff.  This sort of development fits into a broader strategy of greening cities while protecting open spaces, which Benfield argues is an important tactic for protecting water sources.  

Water vs. Wildlife: Is There a Happy Medium as Drought Grips West?
Hydrowonk Blog’s Jeff Simonetti examines the drought’s effects on California salmon populations. Low flow in rivers is making it difficult for salmon to swim upstream to spawn, and higher than average water temperatures could kill the fragile salmon eggs.  In response, officials have taken a variety of steps to protect the salmon, including moving salmon fry downstream in tanker trucks and refrigerating water in hatcheries.  The other—and far more contentious—response has been to release extra water from reservoirs in order to increase river flows, as Journal of Water discussed in this story.  This has drawn the ire of farmers and water districts, who argue that scarce water should be going to people instead.


Power Plant Data

New Report Shows Remarkable Reduction in Water Use by Power Plants
Becky Hayat of the NRDC discusses the recent data from the United States Geological Survey about United States water use in 2010.  While water use in general hit a 40-year low in 2010, falling 13% since 2005 alone, Hayat focuses on power plants, which cut water consumption by 20% over the same period.  Much of this decrease resulted from a shift away from coal-fired plants to natural gas plants, which generally use water more efficiently.  With power plants accounting for 45% of the nation’s water use, Hayat urges further improvements, such as switching to closed-cycle cooling systems.


Lake Powell Pipeline

Water District’s “Water Line” Raises Many Questions
The Washington County (Utah) Water Conservation District (WCWCD)’s proposed Lake Powell Pipeline is a contentious issue in the region.  This post on The Spectrum takes issue with water use data from the WCWCD, specifically the claim that the county uses 161 gallons per capita per day (gpcd).  This is about 100 gpcd  lower than recent estimates by the state.  The post argues that if the new figures are correct, there is no need for the pipeline, because existing water supplies will be adequate.


Water Politics

Water Issue Re-elects GOP Sen. Vidak in Dem District
Conventional wisdom says that bipartisan support helped propel the California water bond to electoral victory.  Wayne Lusvardi, writing for Cal Watchdog, says supporting the water bond—and leadership on water issues more generally—helped Republican State Senator Andy Vidak win reelection in his majority-Democratic district.  Vidak helped shape the final version of the bond by proposing billions of dollars for storage projects, which helped make the deal palatable to farmers.


Written by Stratecon Staff