About the Drought

April 28th, 2015 No Comments »


Despite clear evidence of a massive insufficiency of future water supply, City Planners and Administration are proposing a population increase of 300,000 persons in San Francisco by 2020.  The Governor’s administrative directive to 40 water agencies to cut water usage by 25% is grossly inadequate to deal with the water crisis now and in the long run.

This is the fourth straight year of below-average rainfall, and this year’s snowpack is 6% of normal.  No amount of new surface storage would help us because it would have been used up in one of the prior below-average years.  SFPUC has plans written for an eight-year drought – but any drought management plan has to rely upon conservation.

The future of California’s water supply lies in management of our groundwater supplies, which provide about 40% of California’s water in normal years.  Some local surface storage that aids in groundwater replenishment might be needed, but the days of large reservoirs are over.  The good news is that legislation to regulate and manage groundwater was passed last year.

The call for more surface storage in reservoirs ignores the fact that the two main surface projects being proposed would add less than 1% to the state’s water supply, and cost more than any other water supply.  That’s because all of the major rivers out of the Sierra are already dammed, and these new dams would only fill up in years of excess rainfall.  The capacity of all the reservoirs in the state is a thimbleful compared to our groundwater capacity.

Unlike the Planning Department, which has limited outside oversight, the SFPUC is required to prepare and submit an Urban Water Management Plan to the State every 5 years that describes their current water supplies, provides a 20-year population projection and identifies the water supply for that 20-year period.  The 2015 plan is due at the end of the year.

The Governor knew years ago that in addition to conservation measures, statewide desalinization and storage were needed with enormous capital expenditures.  The recent water bond measure allows continued “fracking” and farming on Tule Lake’ s arsenic soils.  What kind of political blindness is this?

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