Our Last Blood….
Recently, there was a water summit held in the quiet town of Los Banos. All the heavy hitters showed; Central CA ID, Madera ID, Merced ID, all the Exchange Contractors, Friant Water Authority and Westlands Water District, to name a few. And on the regulatory side, the Bureau of Reclamation, NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, State Department of Water Resources, and the State Water Resources Control Board. Collectively represented in the room –was a group of players that literally control the heart of the State’s entire water supply –North and South. They had been summoned by Congressman Costa to confer with one another regarding the State’s dire water supply situation, and to possibly alleviate angst among the State’s largest agricultural water supplying districts.
The news was dire.
After learning that many of our reservoirs in the Central Valley were approaching dead pool and that as a State, we have less than 11% left overall in Storage –the group learned that the Northern California settlement contractors appear to be hoarding what little supplies they have left with respect to transfer water. For good reason too –the level of restrictions that exist in moving water through the Delta may cause them so many constraints –that the overall quantity of water able to moved is just not worth it. The end result being is that there is little to no transfer water available for Central Valley ag users. Summarily –it also revealed that even if our ag districts BOUGHT the theoretical transfer water, that it most likely will NOT be available for use this year. In other words, all bets are off.
This caused a collective groan throughout the room. Ron Jacobsma, of Friant Water Authority, described the transfer water as “our last blood.” And the news reinforced that there is no more blood to give.
The news also gave way to vilification and criticism–where appropriate. It seemed an appropriate time for the group to ask the regulatory agencies to soften the environmental requirements that have so debilitated the water system and our industry in the Valley. Sadly, their response was that they had done so “within the limit of their authority.” It appears that all future softening of environmental and fish regulatory burdens related to water transfers had to wait until a more finite quantity of water was available for delivery.
And that was where cordiality stopped and real life began. How did this collective group of regulatory water czars not know how much will be available to date? Sure we haven’t had any measurable storms since December (that should only make the job of figuring out what isn’t there easier), and we’re not certain who up North is going to fallow what –but certainly you know what you have in the reservoirs and canals –right?
It appears that from a local perspective, there are only two options available to us that might provide a sliver of hope for this year’s crops. Negotiate individually with Northern sellers (like Los Angeles and Metropolitan Water District does), and prepare our own critical economic schedule of agricultural needs to be a place holder for any future quantities that may become available. This would head off any further lag that will present itself in the softening of environmental requirements. It is –after all –a health and safety issue if we can’t eat.
Anja K. Raudabaugh