At a glance: Water reports target critical issues

Shasta Lake, 170 miles north of Sacramento. (Photo:

There may be lack of water in California, but there’s no dearth of printer’s ink: Here’s a quick rundown of reports from key government agencies.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office has issued “The 2015-16 Budget: Effectively Implementing the 2014 Water Bond.”

In it, the LAO outlines Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion water bond passed by voters last November, and how funding from the bond money should be implement. The LAO runs through Governor Brown’s proposals for spending $533 Million allotted by the proposition, supporting some suggestions, criticizing others. They also posit their own recommendations, mainly focusing on making sure that the money is spent on the public good, that the funds doesn’t get siphoned off into endless studies and unneeded jobs, that there is strict oversight over the cash dispensing and project progress, and that everything is transparent. These points are repeated often. The report can be viewed here.

The Bureau of Reclamation‘s “West-Wide Climate Risk Assessments.”

This one makes for somber reading.

It is “an analysis of the potential changes in crop irrigation demand in eight major river basins in the West and projections of evaporation for 12 reservoirs within those river basins when considering observed and projected impacts of climate change.” The study compares irrigation water demand and evaporation rate from 1950 to 1999 to determine what demand and evaporation – based on a 5 degree increase in temperature – will be in 2080. The future is not bright, but it is very sunny — and lacks water. In two areas that affect California – Sacramento and San Joaquin River Basins and the Truckee and Carson River Basins – the Bureau predicts a 6.8% increase in demand for Sacramento/San Joaquin and a 14.5% increase for Truckee/Carson. This while evaporation rate for Lake Shasta and Millerton Lakes (Sacramento/San Joaquin) increase 14 and 12 % and Lake Tahoe and Lahotan Reservoir increase 14 and 7%. The whole report can be read here.

The Delta Stewardship Council has issued the final version of its issue paper State “Investments in Delta Levees: Key Issues for Updating Priorities.”

The paper poses 15 questions that will guide the council in prioritizing state spending on the Delta’s levee systems, under pressure from nature, man, and time. The DSC asks “What are the State’s interests in the Delta?” “Who is responsible for the Delta’s levees?” “What level of Delta levee improvement is warranted?” and “What about Climate Change?” While there are brief replies, the full answers will inform Council’s final report on Delta levee investment and risk reduction strategies, some time in 2016 or so. The issue paper can be read here

More DSC: The Stewardship Council has released the “Interagency Ecological Program’s Management, Analysis, and Synthesis Team (MAST) report.”

An updated conceptual model of Delta Smelt biology: our evolving understanding of an estuarine fish.” At 205 pages of mostly science and methodology, the report is a difficult read for the layperson. One of the main conclusions is that the Delta smelt are most “productive” when the water is high and that recovery of the smelt population is reliant on “better than average larval production” during high water. The report also says that the effect of predators, algae blooms, and water pumps on the smelt and their babes needs further study. You are can read the full report, posted here.

The State Water Resources Control Board released its 2014 Dry Year Report and in it the SWRCB gets a a low grade. The report criticizes SWRCB for infrequent reporting on water diversions, poor communication from SWRCB to the public in making the water rights curtailment process clear, and a “cumbersome enforcement processes hindered timely and efficient implementation during the drought timeframe.” The report also recommends what to do about those problems. The SWRCB will hear the report at their Tuesday meeting. The report is here.

Ed’s Note: Scott Soriano is a regular contributor to Capitol Weekly.

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