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Bloggers Tackle Water Project Financing, Groundwater Management, Water Supplies & Drought, Climate Change, Megadrought and more

Over the last month, bloggers have offered a high level of insight on complex and technical topics, including water project financing, groundwater management, water supplies & drought, climate change, megadrought, the Rio Grande Compact, and the “Pipeline to Missouri.” 


The Financial Structure of Water Projects 

Thoughts on the Financial Structure of Water Projects
Rodney T. Smith, Ph.D. of the Hydrowonk Blog discusses the issue of debt from large water projects, specifically focusing on how to structure project financing so that the economics of the deal are reflected accurately, and repayment is equitably apportioned across the term of the debt. The two examples of San Diego County Water Authority’s Carlsbad Desalination Plant and San Antonio Water System’s Vista Ridge Project are used to illustrate Smith’s points.


Groundwater in California

New Local Groundwater Rules try to get out in Front of California’s Groundwater Legislation
According to the Hydrowonk Blog’s Jeff Simonetti, as the four-year drought perpetuates the low ground and surface water supplies, California farmers have had to increase their groundwater drilling and pumping. However, with groundwater legislation not being effective until 2022, local political action is necessary to avoid over pumping groundwater by farmers throughout the state.

Creating effective groundwater sustainability plans
The coming plans to sustain groundwater are critically important for California’s water supply. Therefore, the California WaterBlog presents suggestions for making these plans as effective as possible, incorporating teams of professionals and high levels of transparency. A proposed table of contents at the end of the blog post lists the technical requirements and suggestions for these Groundwater Sustainability Plans.

A State-federal partnership in California is needed to protect pristine aquifers from development
In the past, when groundwater aquifers have not been properly protected they have become unfit for human use due to contamination or over pumping. What Marcus Griswold, of  NRDC’s Switchboard Blog, suggests in light of the decision to make sustainability plans for only mid to high priority aquifers, is that the government take responsibility for the large number of basins on federal land in order to prevent future issues to these low priority aquifers, that given our past mistakes could become high priority all too soon.


Water Supply and Drought in California

What will be the Final SWP Allocation for 2015?
Hydrowonk Blog’s Rodney T. Smith’s model for predicting of the State Water Project (SWP) allocation depends on both Mother Nature and manmade solutions. Based on his model, Smith projects a final allocation of 21% and discusses the probability and conditions that would cause his prediction to change.  (For an updated prediction and discussion following the recent increase to 20%, see “CA Department of Water Resources Increases 2015 SWP Allocation To 20%,” in this issue).

Some (Sort of) Good News and Some Bad News: The SWP and CVP Allocations and the Continued Drought in California
On March 2, the California Department of Water Resources released the SWP allocation at 15%-20%. While this allocation could change, Jeff Simonetti of Hydrowonk Blog predicts that by the end of March conditions in California will not change drastically enough to indicate an end to the drought. This is modest improvement from last year’s 5% SWP allocation, but an improvement nonetheless.

The 2015 Drought so far – March 1
2015 has already surpassed rainfall of 2014, but a few more storms would be more than welcome, according to Jay Lund of the California WaterBlog. While Northern California is predicted to be better off than Southern California, March is looking like a predicted dry month. The Snowpack is still significantly below average, but should a “March miracle” occur, there could be hope for more than just the Sacramento Valley.

Drought Watch: Treating Stormwater as a Resource
After the rainfall that occurred in Southern California in early March, much of the water was lost to runoff and ran into rivers and the ocean, taking pollutants along with it. Ellen Hanak, of The Public Policy Institute of California, references a critical funding gap of $500-800 million that could be spent creating a more holistic approach to California’s water system in rain capture gardens and wetlands.

Oil Drilling and Water Supply in California: Missteps and the Challenges that Lie Ahead
Jeff Simonetti of Hyrdowonk Blog, states that in California—the third largest energy producing state in the US, hydraulic fracturing has made its presence known—but not for its success. After the EPA sent letters to the California Department of Conservation informing them of the poor job they were doing in regulating the sites where dangerous products of fracking were being injected into wells that could contaminate vital drinking and agricultural water sources, the industry took large hits as sites that had been unduly permitted were immediately shut down.


Climate Change, Megadrought and Other Issues in the Colorado River Basin

Can Climate Action Plans Combat Megadrought and Save the Colorado River?
As response to the NASA study, several cities in the Southwest U.S. that use water out of the Colorado River are enacting “Climate Action Plans” to reduce their carbon emissions. (For more on climate change and the megadrought, see “NASA Study Predicts Megadrought in Southwest and Central Plains” in this issue).

Climate Change Poses Existential Water Risks
With recently published studies revealing climate change and the depleted water cycle being linked to a “megadrought,” Sandra Postel, of National Geographic, questions what further evidence it will take to invoke water saving and energy saving actions and stop depleting our reserves of groundwater (which we might need on an even drier day).

6 Ways to Save the Salton Sea and Colorado Delta
The dying ecosystem of the Salton Sea could disappear altogether unless action is taken to preserve the little remaining life in this “freshwater agricultural sump.” Benny Andrés, a guest blogger of National Geographic, gives six policy and preservation actions that should be taken to keep these ecosystems intact.


The Rio Grande Compact

Article VII of the Rio Grande Compact
JFleck at Inkstain notes that after a storm passed through the Rio Grande Valley in late February and early March, inflows to Elephant Butte Reservoir increased, and reservoir storage is projected to increase above the Article VII trigger by May.  Article VII of the Rio Grande Compact prevents Colorado and New Mexico from storing water in upstream reservoirs if usable storage in Elephant Butte is below 400,000 AF.  Flecks also notes a catch-22:  as soon as Elephant Butte Irrigation District begins diverting from the reservoir, it will fall back below the 400,000-AF trigger—which will trigger not only upstream storage restrictions, but also conspiracy theories about government collusion aimed at keeping the restrictions in place.


Overcoming Groupthink and Considering the PTM

Rethinking a pipeline to the Missouri
The “farfetched” idea of a pipeline system to bring water to the southwest from the Missouri River is one that was rejected in the past, says JFleck at Inkstain.  But this project could be reconsidered given the large engineering feats like the Central Arizona Project and the water infrastructure project underway in China.


Written by Stratecon Staff