Tuesday, September 16, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

What we don’t know about the drought? Plenty

TomEliasW

By
From page A6 | August 13, 2014 |

We know a fair amount about the drought that has now afflicted California for about three years: It has been the driest period since record-keeping began in the 19th century.

If their wells are deep enough, farmers can still pretty much pump all the ground water they like, while homeowners can be fined up to $500 for watering down a walkway. Water use actually rose after Gov. Jerry Brown asked for a voluntary 20 percent cutback.

A large seawater desalinating plant will open by 2016 in the north San Diego County city of Carlsbad. Ground has subsided in many parts of the Central Valley as aquifers have been pumped faster than they could be replenished. Weather forecasters predict next winter may be as dry as the last one.

But there remains much that we don’t know, as detailed in the latest issue of Stanford Magazine article by writer Kate Galbraith. It turns out that what we don’t know may be more fundamental that what we do know.

For example, because more than 255,000 homes and businesses in 42 communities lack water meters and because of the almost unlimited, unmetered ground water pumping, no one knows just how much water California uses or needs.

In Sacramento, scene of the meeting where state regulators this summer decreed there be less watering of lawns all over California, about half the homes and businesses lack water meters. They can use all they like without any financial or legal consequence unless they have the temerity to hose down a walkway or sidewalk.

For another example, we have no idea how much water lies in most California underground lakes, also known as aquifers. We do know that golf courses in the Coachella Valley portion of Riverside County — including Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage and the aptly named Indian Wells — remain quite green even as the state Capitol lawn and many others go brown.

Drought or not, a vast underground lake beneath most of that area has so far kept water shortages there at bay. Plus, much of the water sprayed onto that valley’s myriad greens and fairways eventually filters back down to the aquifer.

But it’s the extent of aquifers in the Central Valley that’s most important to know. As farmers expend tens of thousands of dollars deepening wells to reach the new, lower levels of the aquifers, no one has the foggiest notion how long this can go on.

Meanwhile, state law effectively permits farmers, water districts and anyone else with a well to pump all the water they want, the presumption being that water beneath a property belongs to the property owner. Never mind that ground water has no idea who owns it or where property lines may lie. Which can mean that if one well owner pumps excessively, others in the area get left high and dry.

Meters, Stanford Magazine says, could fix some of that.

“If everyone had a meter on their well and you knew how much everyone was using and you knew what the aquifer levels are, you could sort of calculate everybody’s contribution to aquifer depletion,” Leon Szeptycki, executive director of Stanford University’s Water in the West program told the magazine. “But if you don’t know any of those things, they just become things to fight about.”

So groundwater regulation bills now wending their way through the Legislature could be vital to planning the state’s water future. So could expanded aerial surveys of the Central Valley’s land formations and levels, which can indicate how much of a region’s groundwater has been lost over time.

Every other Western state now regulates groundwater use. But California operates blindly, and could pay a heavy price if it doesn’t begin sizing up its real situation, since groundwater is the usual backup when surface water supplies from aqueducts and reservoirs run low.

Yes, conservation is important, but even more vital is information. Right now, California simply doesn’t have enough upon which to base vital decisions that become more urgent with every passing month of drought.

— Reach syndicated columnist Tom Elias at tdelias@aol.com

Comments

comments

.

News

Davis school nurses are stretched thin

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
Dempsey: If campaign fails, ground troops possible

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Scotland took long road to independence vote

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Wright resigns his seat in California Senate

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
New DHS Hall-of-Famers

By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: A3

 
Exploration of dementia lecture set for Sept. 25

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Sierra Club gathers for morning walks

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

DPNS has afternoon openings

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

 
Paws for Thought: Socialize your new pup at UCD’s Yappy Hour

By Evelyn Dale | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
DHS parents go back to school

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Sick-pay benefits expanded to millions

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A4

 
Bad roads cost Californians billions

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Farmers market continues at Sutter Davis

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Yolo County’s looking for a few good advisers

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Search the Internet at Connections Café

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Garage, bake sales benefit outdoor education trip

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A5

Sutter qigong classes start Sept. 22

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Halloween costume sale benefits preschool

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Hundreds flee wildfires; homes burn

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Harmony Award nominations sought

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
Da Vinci seniors take on Constitution essay

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

.

Forum

Sounds like a swell party

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Maybe not the best rebound guy

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

Carbon fee and dividend plan is the answer

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

 
Nate Beeler cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

 
Many reasons to back Sunder

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

I support Madhavi Sunder

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
A leader with heart and vision

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

.

Sports

Finding the good in a tough DHS football loss

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1

 
More pressure on QB would be nice for Aggies

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

Raber: glad to join in bringing readers golf column

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B1

 
Open Cup final has local flavor

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1

Devil volleyball victories keep piling up

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
DHS needs just 10 boys to top Elk Grove

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Highlights galore in Junior Blue Devil weekend

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Sports briefs: Big Monday for Masiel as DHS golfers win league opener

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8 | Gallery

.

Features

.

Arts

‘Shrek, The Musical’ shines at DMTC

By Bev Sykes | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
Irish fiddlers come to Davis house show

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

Jenny Lynn and Her Real Gone Daddies play at Picnic in the Park

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
Woodland artist hosts event at her new studio

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

‘Jane Eyre’ to screen at I-House

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Anais Mitchell to play Third Space

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

.

Business

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 (set 1)

By Creator | From Page: B5

 
Comics: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 (set 2)

By Creator | From Page: B7