December 2009



As someone who has written about California water issues for 40 years I  found Leslie Stahl’s report on California water remarkably naive. She  doesn’t have a clue what is going on out here. First of all, she started by  misquoting Mark Twain. The quote is not “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting” as she said. It is “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over.”

A small point but telling.

Not once did she mention the selenium-tainted soils of the Westlands Water  District. Drainage water from the Westlands fields contains selenium, which  got into the food chain at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge 25 years  ago and killed thousands of birds and triggered deformities in bird embryos.
Thanks, in part, to an excellent report by 60 Minutes’ Ed Bradley on March  9, 1985, the poisoned evaporation ponds at Kesterson were closed. Sadly, this latest 60 Minutes report on Westlands is far off the mark…

Click here to read lloyd Carter’s full comment posted on 

SACRAMENTO (AP) — California’s first snow survey of the winter showed the Sierra snowpack below normal Wednesday despite a series of storms that has drenched much of the state and pleased ski resort operators.

The state Department of Water Resources reported the findings from monitors located along the 400-mile-long Sierra Nevada. The snowpack, which is the source for much of the water used by California cities and farms, contains about 85 percent of its usual water content for this time of year.

Sue Sims, the water department’s chief deputy director, said the results suggest California may be facing a fourth year of drought.

“Despite some recent storms, today’s snow survey shows that we’re still playing catch-up when it comes to our statewide water supplies,” Sims said in a statement in which she also urged conservation…

Click here to read the full article at

Reviving an ancient lake may help solve California’s water woes

High Country News, 12/07/09

Tufts of unmilled cotton line Utica Avenue like clumps of dirty spring snow. The road is like hundreds of others in the dun-and-green checkerboard of California’s Central Valley, a two-lane highway running straight as a zipper past geometrically arranged almond orchards and vineyards. Steve Haze, a candidate for U.S. Congress, is out here on what he calls “recon,” determined to debunk the local billboard slogans. “Congress-Created Drought” is common in fallow fields, right behind “Food Grows Where Water Flows” and “Water = Jobs.” The signs were put up by corporate growers and water-management leaders, who complain that a federal court decision that reduced their irrigation deliveries to save a tiny fish put thousands of people out of work. Haze thinks the reality is more complicated.

“We’ve lost more jobs in construction than we have in farming this year,” he says, piloting his granite blue Chevy pickup through clouds of fluffy bolls. “The real question is: How do we manage the water we have for farms, fish and people?”…

Click here to read the rest of this article at HIgh Country

Central Valley Busniess Times


The Port of Stockton and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have hammered out agreement on a plan to correct problems in the port’s storm water drainage, which goes directly or indirectly into the San Joaquin River.

The plan is expected to bring the port into compliance with the Clean Water Act and improve water quality in the San Joaquin River, the EPA says.

In a 2008 audit of the ports storm water management and control systems, the U.S. EPA and the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board found deficiencies with the port’s permit program concerning construction and industrial oversight, municipal operations, standard development, and toxicity monitoring…

Click here to read the full article at Central Valley Busniess

A new draft agreement from both developed and developing countries might prove the key to combating climate change

By David Biello , Scientific American, 12/18/2009

COPENHAGEN—The U.S., China, India and South Africa form the core of a growing group of nations that have agreed upon a commitment to combat climate change, concluding a grueling two weeks of negotiations in the Danish capital here as part of the United Nations’ climate summit. The so-called “Copenhagen Accord” will not be legally binding but will list in annexed documents, for the first time, commitments from both developed and developing countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

“We’re going to set a mitigation target to limit warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius,” said President Barack Obama in a press briefing. “Transparency, mitigation and finance that the U.S. and our partners embraced here in Copenhagen is a new consensus, a consensus that will serve as the foundation of global action.”

Click here to read the full article at Scienftic

Stockton Record, 12/15/2009

FRESNO – The San Joaquin River basin is being sucked dry by aggressive agricultural pumping, according to new satellite data.

Measurements acquired for the first time from outer space show the combined amount of water lost in the San Joaquin and Sacramento river basins within the past six years could almost fill the nation’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead in Nevada.

The research shows that the vast underground pools feeding faucets and irrigation hoses across California are running low, a worrisome trend that federal scientists attribute to farmland irrigation practices.

A shrinking underground aquifer has long been a problem in eastern San Joaquin County.

The data – gathered from October 2003 through March of this year – was obtained by scientists tracking how Earth’s gravitational pull on twin satellites changed as the amount of water stored in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins dried up.

Click here to read the full article at

A study suggests that spending time in nature changes our values

By P. Wesley Schultz   

I love spending time outside. From wild places like the backcountry of the Sierra Nevada mountains, to the mundane nature in my back yard, I find comfort in my natural experiences. These places are restful. Peaceful. They restore my batteries, and help me to focus. And I am not alone in these experiences. People around the world seek out natural experiences. Even when confined to built spaces, we add pets, plants, pictures, and momentos from nature. It is part of who we are, and these experiences in nature help us reflect on what is important in life…

Click here to read the full article posted in Scientific American…

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