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Blogs & Columns: 2014 in Review

The blogosphere is rapidly expanding the terrain of policy discourse, so when the Journal of Water rolled out in 2014, space was dedicated to assembling noteworthy posts from blogs and newspaper columns.  We posted 23 round-ups covering 248 blog posts in 2014 (an additional three roundups were posted in 2013 prior JOW’s official roll-out).

Major Themes

Four major themes emerged:

Water Supply
Drought was the obvious major issue of 2014, making water supply issues a dominate theme throughout the year.  Four roundups contain highlights of JOW’s coverage of water supply issues.  On March 27, JOW covered a post by Jeff Masters of Weather Underground on the feasibility and cost conservation, two posts by the environmental group TreePeople who advocate for planting trees as a solution to water supply needs and a post by Rodney T. Smith, Ph.D. of the Hydrowonk Blog updating his previous prediction about the final State Water Project allocation would be.  On April 9, Ben Chou of the Natural Resources Defense Council, who uses dwindling snowpack at the impetus to argue for a switch to more sustainable forms of water, and Dr. Smith makes another storm-driven update to his SWP allocation prediction.  July 21 covered a wide-spectrum of water supply issues, including an argument that water shortages “are a man-made result of bad economic policy” and accompanying solution to raise prices on water volume, a call to improve water planning, a discussion of water right curtailments in Northern California, desalination as a source of supply, and the vulnerability of Arizona’s Colorado River water supplies.  Arizona’s Colorado River supplies and desalination also appear on October 28, along with a post from Kate Zerrenner of the Environmental Defense Fund promoting a switch to clean energy on the basis of its water savings.

 The California Water Bond (aka Prop 1)
The California Water Bond appeared in the JOW collection on April 30 with a post from Rodney T. Smith, Ph.D. of the Hydrowonk Blog exploring the possibility of using the “wisdom of crowds” to predict the fate of the 2009 bond and its potential replacement. Appearing on July 21 were two additional posts by Dr. Smith on the implications of the legislature’s failure to pass a bond measure before the summer recess and a post on public attitudes about the bond size and allocation of funds.  November 11 saw an election-eve post by Dr. Smith discussing the role of political leadership in propelling the bond to what became an electoral victory and posts on by Jeff Simonetti on the Hydrowonk Blog and Peter Gleick, et al, on the Huffington Post sharing their respective views on what’s next.  On November 18, JOW included a post from Wayne Lusvardi on the relationship between the water bond and California State Senator Andy Vidak’s re-election.

While fracking turned up frequently enough to be captured as theme, its status as a highly charged issue lead JOW to expect more lively debate in the blogosphere.  Fracking turned up three times over the course of the year.  January 7 included a post by All-Gov stating definitively that under the BDCP what from the Delta would be used for fracking in the Central Valley.  In a post included in the February 17 roundup, Jeff Simonetti of the Hydrowonk Blog runs down the environmental concerns related to fracking and water quality.  March 27 includes a post from Ceres looking challenges faced by policymakers and recommending that other countries heed the lessons learned in the U.S.  Also included on that date are two posts by Jeff Simonetti looking at how technology is addressing fracking-related water supply and water quality issues.  On October 21, Simonetti uses West Virginia as a case study to outline the revenue stream costs benefits and pollution costs associated with fracking.

Environmental Policies
Two posts on February 17 discuss an environmental water market.  On California Water Blog, a team from U.C. Davis proposed an environmental water market in which municipal and agricultural users would pay for water made available from relaxed environmental standards, and those funds would be used for fish and wildlife recovery.  Writing as guest blogger on the Hydrowonk Blog, Wayne Luvsardi challenges the U.C. Davis proposal outlining problems with the proposed pricing structures and calling it a “shake-down” of farmers.  In a post captured on September 16, David Zetland of Aguanomics responds to reader question about the public purchase of water for environmental purposes.



There were also five series covered.

The first series posted by JOW was on EPA’s Proposed Rule on the definition “Waters of the United States,” written by Lowell Rothschild of the law firm Bracewell & Giuliani. The series discusses strength and weaknesses of the rule as well as suggesting possible beneficial changes that could be made.

The series “Low Flow Toilets and Big Water Supply Dreams” written by Bill Hudson of the Pagosa Daily Post, was covered on September 16.  In this series, which is no longer available from the original source, Hudson examines the state of water policy in Archuleta County, CO and the western U.S. at large. He suggests possible reasoning for the high water rates and opposes the mandate of low-flow toilets and the Dry Gulch Reservoir project.

A three-parts series from On the Public Record was written in response to a post by Alan Heathcock.  Heathcock’s original post blames faulty environmental laws as well as lack of action from politicians for the drought, argues that farmers have been unfairly blamed and suggests that the public have more empathy for them.  The responding series questions the significance that Heathcock assigns to the amount of land fallowed, examines and posts reasons for the lack of the empathy for the farmers, and discusses the inverse relationship between wealth and drought resilience.  Heathcock’s post and the responses were covered by JOW on September 30.

Also on September 30, JOW shared the initial posts of series written by Wayne Lusvardi on the legality and efficacy of “drought pricing,” the practice of raising water rates during a drought. Lusvardi explores drought solutions, such as possible drought pricing methods that do not violate Prop. 218. In the continuation of this series on October 15, Luvsardi discusses price subsidies.  He first counters claims previously made by David Zetland that agricultural users have cheaper water prices than municipal users because of subsidies and argues that prices for agricultural water is lower because of long-term contracts.  Then, in Part 4 of the series, he turns to a discussion of why water and crop subsidies are a thing of the past.

On December 3, JOW also covered a five-part ongoing series from the El Paso Times that examines water management on the Rio Grande and examine several proposed solutions to the ever-drier region, including applying lessons learned from Australian and increasing wastewater recycling as a means to reduce use of river water.


The Top of Our Blogroll

Our most frequently referenced blogs were:


Huffington Post

Hydrowonk Blog

JFleck at Inkstain

National Geographic Water Currents

NRDC Switchboard


Something New

One additional attention-grabbing post came up after JOW had wrapped up for the year …

Hard Wisdom for Scarce Water
Moshe Alamaro, research affiliate at MIT and founder and chief technology officer at More Aqua, Inc., a company that develops a new monolayer evaporation suppressant, waxes critical of western water management in post on Project Syndicate.  Alamaro contends that current measures to deal with drought and water shortage in the western U.S. are “political placebos.”  He likens some of the actions taken, like California’s regulation that imposes fines on residents for excessive water use, to having the police “blare their sirens wherever they drive to create the impression that crime is being fought.”  He also criticizes subsidized pricing for water and calls for federal intervention in the water industry to bring to a more rational point where new water-saving technologies have a chance in the marketplace and “real” solutions to the water shortage problems can be sought.


Written by Marta Weismann and Stratecon Staff