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Water Shortages

March 20, 2010 | By Bettina Boxall
Any hope that a panel of scientists would end the brawl over environmental restrictions in the hub of California's water system evaporated as warring factions each found ammunition in a report released Friday. Charged with evaluating the basis of federal fish protections that are limiting the pumping of water supplies from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the National Academy of Sciences committee concluded the protections were on the whole scientifically justified. "In no case did we say these did not have a scientific underpinning," said committee chairman Robert Huggett, professor emeritus at the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences at the College of William and Mary.
March 14, 2010 | Michael Hiltzik
Who needs absinthe, vodka or even a six-pack of beer? Judging from the quality of our debate on natural resource policy, all it takes to addle the political mind in California is water. We're talking about the water that flows to us from the mountains and the rivers, via canal or aqueduct, irrigating our fields, maintaining our aquatic habitats, and sustaining daily life in the cities and suburbs. There isn't enough of it to be exploited with abandon as we've done in the past, and nothing we do will increase the raw volume we receive from nature.
February 22, 2010 | By Bettina Boxall
When California Sen. Dianne Feinstein drafted legislation that would weaken endangered species protections to deliver more water to San Joaquin Valley farms, her rationale was jobs. "People in California's breadbasket face complete economic ruin," the Democrat said in a recent statement. She was joining a chorus of Central Valley politicians and farm groups that during the last year have painted the region as a dust bowl, beset by drought and environmental protections that are cutting vital water deliveries and the jobs that depend on them.
February 12, 2010 | By Bettina Boxall
Sen. Dianne Feinstein has drawn up legislation that for the next two years would loosen Endangered Species Act restrictions on pumping water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to increase irrigation deliveries to San Joaquin Valley growers. Feinstein has not released details of the proposal, which she is calling the Emergency Temporary Water Supply Amendment and which is expected to be attached to a jobs bill. In a statement Thursday she said that the language had not been finalized and that she was open to "alternative ways" of boosting water supplies for the valley's west side, which has been hit hard by delivery cuts caused by the state drought and the pumping limits.
February 6, 2010 | By Bettina Boxall
A federal judge has temporarily lifted pumping curbs designed to protect salmon migration in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, an action that allows the diversion of more winter storm flows to farms and cities in the south. Friday's ruling is the latest in a tortuous legal fight over Endangered Species Act protections that limit pumping from the troubled delta east of San Francisco, a source of water for 23 million Californians and millions of acres of farmland. The decision was a victory, however brief, for San Joaquin Valley irrigation districts that have tried in the courts and the halls of Congress to loosen pumping restraints that have reduced their water deliveries.
January 27, 2010 | By Bettina Boxall
Federal managers said Tuesday they are speeding up delivery of irrigation water to farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley because recent storms have boosted the state's water supply. "Essentially we're saying we're confident enough right now that we can provide this as an assured water supply . . . and it will give them a jump- start on this year's water season," said Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes. West-side farmers suffered the greatest irrigation cutbacks last year, largely because of the state's three-year drought.
November 29, 2009
Steamed about water Re "Best answer to state's water woes may be you," Nov. 24 How interesting that in The Times' article about California's water shortage, you never once used the phrase "agricultural use." It also was not included in your water-use chart. The column representing agricultural use would not have fit on the page. I'm all for water conservation, but it galls me to have to beg for an eight-ounce glass of water at a restaurant when about 10 million irrigated acres of California farmland are sucking up 11 trillion gallons of the stuff a year.
November 24, 2009 | By Bettina Boxall
Katie Martin grew up with a set of water commandments. No lingering in the shower. Turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth. Don't flood the yard. Until she left for college this fall, the 19-year-old lived with her family in a typical California stucco house with a lawn. But when it comes to water, neither the Martins nor their town, San Luis Obispo, is typical. Katie, her parents and little brother use roughly half the water on a per-person basis as the average single-family household in Los Angeles used last year.
October 1, 2009 | Bettina Boxall
In a bow to a summer of angry complaints about water cutbacks to Central Valley farms, the Obama administration said Wednesday it would invite the National Academy of Sciences to examine the environmental measures restricting some water shipments from Northern California. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he would ask the academy to conduct an independent review of the science underpinning federal pumping limits imposed under the Endangered Species Act to protect smelt and salmon in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
September 24, 2009 | Bettina Boxall
Need more water? If you've got $30 million or so, you can bid for it at an auction this fall. In what officials believe is a first for the state, a Southern California water agency is planning to auction off enough water to supply about 70,000 homes for a year. Water sales are not uncommon in California, especially when supplies are tight, as they are in the current drought. But putting water up for bid in an auction -- which is bound to drive up the price -- appears to be unprecedented in the state.
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