28 Apr 2009

Picture of the Year

PB sent this XLS with a comment:
Not only have consumptive uses north of the Delta exceeded exports for many years, the outflows have not collapsed as some claim. What these figures do not show is the timing of these various diversions and outflows. Our better understanding of and regard for fish needs underlines the importance of timing.
And here's the picture that we've all been waiting for [click for larger]:As you can see, south of Delta exports average somewhere in the 5.5MAFY range. That's large but only relative to in-delta diversions. Upstream consumptive use is much greater.

Addendum: This figure is Figure 7B in the Final Report [PDF] of Delta Vision.

But note one thing, in-Delta diversions were FIRST; upstream diversions were SECOND; and south-of-Delta exports were LAST. Even small diversions can be blamed for "breaking the smelt's back," and the south of Delta interests were "last in time, last in right."

On a related note, PB also sent this analysis from a partisan:
On March 31, 1977, the CVP had 3,035,300 acre-feet of water stored in its northern California reservoirs. This point is still considered the driest on record and yet the CVP was able to deliver to its SOD ag service contractors 25% of their contract supply and some additional water to help protect permanent crops.

In 1991, the fifth year of a protracted drought, the CVP was again forced to curtail its deliveries to SOD agricultural customers to only 25% of contract supply. Under those true drought conditions, CVP storage ran approximately 37% and 44% of capacity, respectively.

On March 31, 2009, northern CVP storage stood at 5,033,200 acre-feet or 61% of capacity [and CVP deliveries are penciled in at 10%]. The difference between these “dry” periods is attributable entirely to changes in the regulatory constraints placed upon the CVP since the last natural drought.

On August 4, 1989, the National Marine Fisheries (NMFS) issued an emergency interim rule listing the Sacramento winter-run Chinook salmon as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act (FESA). Since that time, other FESA listings combined with implementation of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act and federal Clean Water Act through the State Water Resource Control Board’s Water Quality Control Plan have resulted in the reprioritization of at least 3,200,000 acre-feet of CVP and State Water Project water [every YEAR!] for environmental purposes.[1]

This volume does not include potential impacts that may result from the longfin smelt’s recent listing under the California Endangered Species Act nor the soon to be released NMFS revised biological opinion for salmon, steelhead, and green sturgeon.

[1] ~500,000 af Shasta cold water pool; ~400,000 af Trinity River restoration flow; ~800,000 af Sacramento River and Bay-Delta restoration flows; ~400,000 af wildlife refuge supply; ~1,090,000 af 2009 FWS Biological Opinion; ~100,000 af additional Water Quality Control Plan costs. Many of these numbers may be better or worse depending upon hydrological year type.
State Senator Cogdill (eastern San Joaquin Valley) makes similar claims of a "regulatory drought" caused by 3-4MAF of "environmental takings."

Bottom Line: Seems like there's some space for a north-to-south market in water trades :)


  1. In Delta diversions were not necessarily first. The islands in the Delta were not reclaimed and subdivided until the 1870s and later. Upstream water uses for mining and later for irrigation were already well established.

  2. There is a fair bit of argument about who was first. In California, pueblo rights are also recognized. The original pueblos established by the Spanish have superior rights to all of a watershed as California has recognized the City of Los Angeles having over Los Angeles River water. I'm not sure if there is a recognized pueblo on the Sacramento/San Joaquin watersheds but if there is, it will beat out riparians in the delta or along the Sacramento or San Joaquin rivers. In addition, there are also reserved federal water rights that the federal government has the power to exert on behalf of Native Californians and federal lands/needs. One legal argument I have yet to see is that the in stream uses of water intended to preserve the salmon runs are derived from these reserved water rights and the public trust doctrine requires the federal government protect the rivers as under its duties to the public trust.

  3. My point is that there are more intricacies between the types of water users than the chart shows. There are riparian, appropriative, pueblo, and reserved water rights. To be more useful, the chart will need to show the break down of the different uses and a second chart showing how much of the water makes it back into the watershed per use and area of use. It could be that much of the water north of the Delta makes it back into the watershed, something that does not occur after it is exported out of the watershed.

  4. @dfb -- good points. re: your second comments, I think that the chart shows NET diversions...


Spam will be deleted. Comments on older posts must be approved.
If you're having problems posting, email your comment to me