Reclamation, DWR Join In Drought Fight
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and California Department of Water Resources say they have launched a coordinated effort to battle effects of the drought on California water users. The February 5 announcement in Sacramento focused on agreement among agencies to accelerate water transfers and exchanges, provide operational flexibility to store and convey water, expedite environmental review and compliance actions, and pursue new or fast-track existing projects that might help stretch California’s water supplies. Other federal agencies are assisting.
Fishing Ban Expanded
Northern California fishing restrictions have been expanded by the California Fish and Game Commission. Commissioners voted unanimously to extend fishing bans on dozens of north and central coast rivers and streams until the spring in an effort to protect threatened steelhead and endangered coho salmon. Also prohibited was fishing in most of the Russian River and parts of the American River.
Delta Smelt Surveys
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has begun drought-related surveys for threatened Delta smelt as part of the federal response to California’s severe drought. The surveys are supposed to provide real-time information about the location of Delta smelt and details if the smelt move closer to water export pumps near Tracy and Byron. Because of this year’s lack of rain, the Delta smelt have been nowhere near the pumps. Pumping restrictions imposed by regulators to protect the smelt have been major contributors to federal and state water supply cutbacks in recent years.
Reservoir Aids SoCal
Diamond Valley Lake, a reservoir near Hemet constructed nearly two decades ago, is cushioning the drought’s impacts on cities and counties supplied by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The lake was built after a critical 1991 drought and is paying off this year with no State Water Project currently allocated. “We got prepared. We invested over the last two decades, now the whole state has to do that. You’re seeing parts of the state running dry,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, MWD General Manager .
U.S. Drought System
The House of Representatives has approved a bill to reauthorize the National Integrated Drought Information System. The vote was 365-21. The bill would extend funding for the NIDIS through 2018 with a $13.5 million annual budget. Passage of this bill followed earlier and similar action by the Senate. The Senate bill would cut the program’s annual budget to $12 million. The NIDIS was established in 2006 to provide an early warning drought detection system.
A push is being made for increasing desalinization as a water supply tool in California. Seventeen plants are in some stage of development. The largest is a $1 billion plant being built in Carlsbad that is expected to be completed by 2016. The facility will be a major source of fresh water for San Diego County. It will be capable of pumping and treating 15.6 acre-feet daily and will be the biggest such facility in the Western Hemisphere. Desalination involves pushing sea water it at high pressure through a series of very thin membranes to strip away the salt and other impurities. The process uses an enormous amount of energy but its water source — the ocean — is unlimited.