High good, low bad: Mead in April 2011

Mural, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Photo: Emily Green

Last week at a meeting of the Southern California Water DialogueReclamation had good news and bad news. The good news was that as tallies keep coming in from a record water year on the Colorado River, the looming prospect of shortage declarations for the “Lower Basin” has receded. (By last night, the closing April elevation of Lake Mead was 1,095.77 feet, more than 13 feet higher than November 2010, when the largest reservoir in the American West was within 7 feet of shortages being declared.)

The bad news was that Mead, which serves Nevada, California, Arizona and Mexico, is still less than half full. As this graphic shows, when a dry trend began on the river in 1999, Mead was 95% full. While we’ve had a

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Here it is. Take it.

Map showing Metropolitan's service area and aqueducts. MWD's announcement comes on the back of the state Department of Water Resources reporting snowpack in the California mountains to be 165% of the April 1 average. Single click on the map for the DWR release.

“We anticipate residential consumers and businesses throughout the Southland will continue to use water efficiently,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, General Manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California in a press release signaling that the giant wholesaler will be resuming full deliveries of water to 26 member agencies after several years of shortages. The shortages triggered region-wide conservation programs, whose fates and continued effectiveness are unclear in the momentary face of plenty. Click here for the full release.

 

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The consolidated salmonid cases and us

Last week in the Eastern District Court in Fresno, Judge Oliver Wanger derided federal biologists for employing “guesstimations” as to how much Sierra snowmelt should be allowed to flow through the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers and related tributaries into the San Francisco Bay Delta instead of being diverted by pumps to Central Valley farms and Southern Californian cities. The contemptuous conflation was the most quoted part of an 134-page finding in the on-going Consolidated Salmonid Cases, which concluded by intimating that pumping restrictions in place to protect migrating Delta smelt, Chinook salmon, steelhead trout and green sturgeon would soon be relaxed.

Unsurprisingly, the Contra Costa Times and other news outlets report today that pumping restrictions were indeed loosened. Decried by environmentalists and praised by water exporters, the most recent ruling is a temporary call in a game that is far from over.  As this battle for

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Better red than dead

Nano update: Ed Osann explains at the NRDC Switchboard how the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s conservation program on Tuesday escaped cutting or even cancellation by a board seeking immediate economies. Via Aquafornia.

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The fish did it

A vote by the board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California today all but assures that last year’s water delivery cuts of roughly 20% will continue through 2010. This was expected. One passable rain year does not a recovery make. The weird part of Met’s announcement is the belligerence, which puts responsibility for the “historic” prospect of continued rationing and price hikes on fish.

Roughly a third of Southern California’s water supply comes from the Northern California delta where the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers meet near San Francisco. The once fecund rivers have been losing their salmon, trout and smelt as the winter snowmelt that feed their waters is diverted south.

As Met’s general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger has it in today’s announcement, “The historic pumping restrictions in the Delta because of endangered fish species are compromising the statewide water system’s ability to capture adequate supplies.”

Disregarding the repeated

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