The supply doesn't exist for California water storage expansion

November 21, 2014 by Kat Kerlin, UC Davis

California's approval of a $7.5 billion water bond has bolstered prospects for expanding reservoirs and groundwater storage, but the drought-prone state can effectively use no more than a 15 percent increase in surface water storage capacity because of lack of water to fill it, according to a new analysis released Nov. 20.

The report by water engineers and scientists with the University of California, Davis, The Nature Conservancy and three prominent water consultants, said California could potentially use up to 6 million acre-feet in combined additional surface and groundwater storage—about a third more capacity than Shasta Reservoir. Exceeding this expansion runs into limits of available precipitation and the ability to transport water.

"Reservoir storage does not equate to water supply," said Jay Lund, lead author of the report and director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences. "Reservoirs cannot supply water without a water supply to fill them first."

The report, "Integrating Storage in California's Changing Water System," evaluates the possibilities of increasing water storage capacity in the semi-arid state. The study does not encompass economic or environmental analysis to determine whether additional storage is justified. Rather, they determined the maximum that could be used, both with and without coordination with other parts of California's water system.

The study comes as the California Water Commission begins developing rules for allocating investments in storage projects from funds recently approved by California voters as Proposition 1. More than a third of the $7.5 billion is allocated for additional surface and groundwater storage. The bond does not specify individual projects, and the study does not consider any specific project proposals.

Overall, the report advocates a more integrated approach to surface and groundwater water storage where new storage projects are planned, designed and operated as components of a statewide water system.

Such an integrated, multibenefit analysis would include a wide variety of water sources and delivery alternatives, and potential changes in how water is managed to meet California's multiple water demands—flood management, energy production, water quality, recreation, and flows for fisheries and wildlife.

Such an approach would be a departure from most project analyses and policy discussions that examine water storage proposals as isolated projects, said co-author Maurice Hall, California water science and engineering lead for The Nature Conservancy.

"Our current water supplies are over-allocated, and we need to invest in a much smarter strategy to upgrade our water system and meet multiple water needs with an eye to the future and changing climate conditions," said Hall. "We need to design the system for nature's needs up front if we want to have healthy streams and rivers in the future."

The authors said that with a science-based approach to investing in water storage projects, there is great potential to develop more sustainable storage and water management strategies. The report said integrated water projects are likely to "significantly outperform" individual projects in achieving multiple water management objectives.

The authors note that this study looks exclusively at storage considerations for surface and groundwater , and does not look at comprehensive water conservation strategies, system reoperation, water rights apportionment or other water policy considerations that may stretch existing water supplies.

The report's other authors are Armin Munèvar of CH2M HILL; Ali Taghavi of RMC Water and Environment; and Anthony Saracino, a resources consultant. Jeffrey Mount, a UC Davis professor emeritus of geology, and Leo Winternitz, formerly of The Nature Conservancy, contributed to the study.

Explore further: California has given away rights to far more water than it has

More information: Read the report: … _Paper_20Nov2014.pdf

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2 / 5 (4) Nov 21, 2014
It was Agribusiness which put their man in the Federal judiciary and changed the law giving California subsidized water to small families, giving away our resources to Big Business, which used it to salt up the soil.

When the land is ruined, they will write it off as a loss, and not pay taxes on the billions.
not rated yet Nov 22, 2014
Seems like part of the lack of groundwater in California is caused by so much rainwater running right off to the ocean every time it does rain. Why not create a bunch of mini-dams in every California river simply by using heavy equipment push up blocking mini-dams of dirt and rocks every mile or so to hold the rainwater long enough for it to drain down into the underground water table.
1 / 5 (2) Nov 22, 2014
The supply doesn't exist for California water storage expansion

Nonsense. You've take the entire Pacific basin and add fission plants to flash sea water to steam. Condense the steam . . .

Or go south and wrap some Antarctic icebergs in mylar, saran wrap or plastic, and tow them into sheltered harbors through out the state. Stick a large straw into it and suck.

Problem solved.
3 / 5 (2) Nov 22, 2014
Desalination is a partial answer, and one that may soon come into play, given recent advances with graphene filtrate materials.

Shooty's fission flashin' steam distilleries are lunatic rant.

Another option, and one so low-cost and obvious that it boggles the mind that it is never tabled for discussion, is to construct a network of(preferably underground) reservoirs, each a significant portion of a cubic mile in volume, in the mountains, where the runoff from seasonal rains and snows could be gathered most efficiently ,instead of waiting until the water has flowed to vital estuary, where it is pumped out to supply Big Ag at public expense.

California has enough water(-on average- and with thoughtful management)to serve its environment, citizens and economy. But, mainly due to the steadfast, concerted avoidance of taxpaying by business, and shifting of the burden of these costs to citizen taxpayers, funding for such a public works project in the Golden State is scarce, indeed.
1 / 5 (2) Nov 22, 2014
" . . is to construct a network of(preferably underground) reservoirs, each a significant portion of a cubic mile in volume, in the mountains, where the runoff from seasonal rains and snows could be gathered most efficiently"

We had that. It was called the aquifer. Agribusiness pumped it out.

When that happens, the ground subsides closing the interstitial spaces and losing the ability to hold water there again. We are killing ourselves.
not rated yet Nov 23, 2014
We had that. It was called the aquifer. Agribusiness pumped it out.

When that happens, the ground subsides closing the interstitial spaces and losing the ability to hold water there again. We are killing ourselves.


All the more reason to build a reservoir system.

A collapsed aquifer, as you say, cannot be recovered. Nor can an aquifer contain an infinite amount of water --it has a specific capacity. Some auifers recharge continuously, but this is only relatively so in California's case, since almost all precipitation is seasonal.

However, a reservoir can be constructed, filling during wet/surplus years, and drawn down in dry/deficit years, independent of watershed capacity.

Unfortunately, as I said before, the tax $$$ to pay for such a project will be hard to find, since they are already being used to pay for the budget shortfalls by the individual taxpayer subsidy of tax-dodging corporations and the wealthy.

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