Jul 25 2014
Water-The Third Rail Part XX
Maureen Stapleton, General Manager of the San Diego County Water Authority
(and the board of directors) apparently still believe San Diegans can
conserve their way out of this drought when she said, “..residents only have
to go back to 1991 to see what a real water crisis looked like. In four
months, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), which then supplied the vast
bulk of the region’s water supply, went from voluntary to severe cuts very
quickly. In less than four months they went from a 5 percent voluntary cut
to a 50 percent cut to our region. This is what we want to avoid.”
The above quote sounds very polished. She has been general manager for many
years, is a very smart lady and knows about water. But she may be attempting
to use history to guide her’s and the board’s decisions. In many instances
we can look back to the patterns of the past and make decisions on the
future, but not now.
Why? One factor is climate experts are telling us we have entered a dry
century. That the 20th century was a wet one, and they typically alternate.
Another a recently completed study of the Colorado River Basin
groundwater by a bevy of scientists concludes, “Results indicate that
groundwater may comprise a far greater fraction of Basin water use than
previously recognized, in particular during drought, and that its
disappearance may threaten the long-term ability to meet future allocations
to the seven Basin states.” Please cite this article as doi: 10.1002/2014GL061055
A fact glossed over by Ms. Stapleton is regardless of whether the water from
the Colorado River is supplied by MWD, or through transfers from the
Imperial Irrigation District, it’s the same water. San Diego’s 500,000
acre-feet (per year) of water consumption relies heavily on the over-allocated
Colorado River. Sixty percent is the number typically used.
SDCWA’s conserve-our-way-out-of-this-drought water policy can be compared to
a family where the breadwinner has been out of work for three years,
watching their savings diminish daily, but stoutly maintaining that if the
family members can just save enough, everything will be just fine. Really?
What happens when the savings (water) are (is) gone. As of June 25th all of
the County’s reservoirs combined are at 39%, holding (if they were drained
dry, which couldn’t happen) 586,382 acre-feet, about a year’s supply,
mathematically, but realistically no more than six months.
Couple that with the California Water Board’s recent dictates where they
have posited a new term, “Super Priorities” into the water lexicon, and the
situation becomes even grimmer. Where the first priority for the State’s
water for decades used to be humans, now it is fish, but that is the subject
for another blog. Water districts, particularly in Northern California are
scrambling to keep up with the knee-jerk reactions of the Water Board to
this drought due to a 270 day period when the districts can store water.
So the question to Ms. Stapleton and the SDCWA Board is, “When are you going
to come out of the bubble and begin real work to provide a reliable water
supply for San Diego by promoting potable recycling?” Time is not on our
side. We have some breathing room, but the window is closing. Like the
family attempting to survive unemployment by cutting expenses without any
new money coming in, San Diego cannot conserve its way out of this drought.
Is that a difficult concept?
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