Friday, April 20, 2007

Western States Water Shortage Hits Home

This week, our local newspaper, the Healdsburg Tribune, ran a front-page article, Water Conservation Urged. I recall the ’76-’77 drought that hit Northern California, and despite a severe shortage of water in this area, no effort was made by our city officials to conserve water or urge city residents to cut back.*

So things have changed. Back then, there was no talk of an “arid West.” Now it’s a mainstream news item, described at length in the New York Times on April 4, 2007, An Arid West No Longer Waits for Water. The article initially focuses on water from the Colorado River: “The scramble for water is driven by the realities of population growth, political pressure and the hard truth that the Colorado River, a 1,400-mile-long silver thread of snowmelt and a lifeline for more than 20 million people in seven states, is providing much less water than it had”

Closer to home, here in California, the Times article reports “The water content in the Sierra Nevada snowpack has reached the lowest level in about two decades, state hydrologists have reported, putting additional pressure on the nation’s most populous state to find and store more water.

Scientists say that global warming will eliminate 25 percent of our snowpack by the half of this century,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said recently in Fresno, Calif., 'which will mean less snow stored in the mountains, which will mean more flooding in the winter and less drinking water in the summer.'”

Here in Sonoma County, we don’t use water from the Colorado River or the Sierra Nevada snowpack. We primarily rely on the Russian River. According to the Healdsburg Tribune article, our county water agency is asking us to we’re being asked to voluntarily cut our water usage or face mandatory water restrictions. Lake Mendocino, which stores Russian River water, is the lowest it’s ever been, despite “a normal rain year.”

It looks like we human beings are going to be competing with the fish in the Russian River: “We could lose an entire generation of chinook salmon if they do not have a successful migration and spawning period,” said the agency's senior environmental specialist Sean White. “Unfortunately this time period is exactly the same we have projected the lake to be at its lowest.”

I was very involved in water issues back in the 70’s. What I’ve seen in this county since then: increased urbanization, lack of studies of groundwater, and an indifferent attitude toward water conservation. I have no idea what effect global warming has on our strange weather pattern, including the lack of spring rains.

Our county water agency recommends that we check our water meters to see if there are any leaks, sweeping debris away from your driveway or decks instead of using a hose, delaying new planting projects and irrigating in two short cycles rather than one long one to decrease run-off. These are all worthwhile efforts, but I suspect they are not enough.

*The can of emergency drinking water was given to me as an “award” by the Healdsburg City Council back in 1977. It was a “tongue-in-cheek” award since the city had ignored my request at a public hearing that it stop wasting water during the drought by such acts as washing off city trucks with huge hoses, water splattering everywhere. When the city ignored me, I drove to Sacramento and reported it to the state Department of Water Resources, which launched an investigation of the city’s use of water. It had to tighten up. The can of water, given to me several months later, was a tacit admission that I had been right.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Gail for bringing the severity of the water shortage to the attention of your readers.

Living in Mendocino County and dependent on the Russian River I know my neighbors and I will be affected.

As we move into an era of scarce resources the water issue will be our test of just how well we handle ourselves in this new era.


Gail Jonas said...

Ah, it's wonderful to have Janie for a friend. She takes time to read and comment on what I write.
Thanks, Janie.

Marla said...

Fresno's water shortage is a set-up FARCE!

The evidence is behind the lies and altered records.
Check out (MySpace requires free registration)
Or check out some of these: (this one has accompanying blogs)

(I was employed by the man behind 45 yrs of secretly altering sewer/water lines in preparation for the current tie-ins during the citywide "infrastructure upgrade." He is a former employee of the City of Fresno. Linked to development beyond Friant. Problem is, I did not realize what he was doing until he and the city risk analyst were caught in action! You will NOT get any help or answers from the City - the ones who are not involved are looking at altered records.)

Gail Jonas said...

Thanks, Marla.
I'll try to follow up by reading the links you provided in your comment.

I don't know anything about Fresno's water supply and whether or not has an adequate supply regardless of rainfall. Here in the north bay area, we count on winter rains to provide adequate water. They have substantially decreased in the 42 years I've lived here.