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By Tim Hunt

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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Time for a rain dance

Uploaded: Dec 26, 2013
The continued freezing nights and warm afternoons are great for outdoor activities, but forget snuggling by the fireplace in this month of Spare the Air days.

The high pressure system that seems to have dominated Bay Area weather throughout winter months of 2013 has the area on track to endure the driest calendar year on record. If you recall, the fall of 2012 was marked by near record rainfall that almost stopped completely once this year dawned. It has not gotten any better.

For farmers, they are planning what not to grow in the great San Joaquin Valley because they are facing a preliminary allocation of just 5 percent of their requested water supplies. That could change if the rains and snow arrive, but the situation and the relatively low levels of the reservoirs likely will mean fallowed land and relying more heavily on ground water pumping.

Reports earlier this month detailed the amount of subsidence in areas on the western side of the San Joaquin Valley as over drafted aquifers subside and the ground sinks. In other areas (eastern Merced County and the Paso Robles area) the county Board of Supervisors have exerted emergency control over pumping ground water because shallower wells serving rural residences have been going dry. Watering acreage of permanent crops that have been expanding (grapes in Paso Robles and nut and fruit trees in Merced Country) have been linked to the dropping ground water table.

Here in the Livermore Valley, earlier resident faced the same challenges—over-drafted ground water supplies. They had the foresight, more than 50 years ago, to form the Zone 7 Water Agency and charge it with managing the ground water table. Those visionary leaders also tapped in the State Water Project because they realized that importing water was going to be necessary for the valley to grow.

Today, as areas around the state wrestle with water challenges, Zone 7 is relatively secure with an ample reserve in the ground water basin available for supplies during a drought. In normal years about 80 percent of the water delivered to the cities of Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin as well as the Dougherty Valley area in San Ramon, is conveyed across the Delta to the State Water Project pumps near Tracy and then moved into the valley in the South Bay Aqueduct (visible south of Interstate 580 a bit beyond the Greenville Road bridge and then along Greenville. Water also is pumped into Lake Del Valle, complementing the runoff in the water shed.

Given how dry 2013 turned out to be, 2014 likely will be a year with more ground water pumping to offset lower deliveries from the Delta. The valley is fortunate to have that reserve and we all should be grateful to community leaders who took wise moves to develop a sustainable water supply back in the 1950s.
NOTE: I have followed water and water politics since the 1980s and have consulted with Zone 7 on Delta and other public affairs issues.

Comments

Posted by Tim Hunt, a DanvilleSanRamon.com blogger,
on Dec 27, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Tim Hunt is a registered user.

The other aspect of drought is that it will ripple the prices of beef and other meats. Most ranchers expect to have their cattle grazing on range grass by mid- to late-fall. Most of them are still searching for natural pasture because there has been so little rainfall that the hills have not turned green.

Beef prices climbed last year and are expected to do the same in 2014.

It's also really tough on wildlife that normally would have lots of fresh green to eat and now must rely on golf courses and other irrigated lands.


Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Dec 28, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Tim,

I also follow water issues. I ran twice for the Dublin San Ramon Services District (DSRSD) and lost. DSRSD is the water retailer for Zone 7 water in Dougherty Valley. I have been supporting the separation of Zone 7 from Alameda County so residents of Dougherty Valley can vote for representation on the Zone 7 Board of Directors, which they can't now because it is not officially in Contra Costa County.

I am also a proponent of rainwater capture. California only recently, in 2009, made it legal for homeowners to capture and store rainwater. I have two systems on opposite sides of my property, 2500 gal for laundry and 4500 gal for lawn irrigation. I recently had the two systems connected for a combined amount of up to 7000 gal.

I believe that all new homes should require rainwater collection and storage systems for lawn irrigation and laundry, and grey water recycling for flushing toilets. Storage tanks could be put underground for up to 20,000 gal of storage on a typical 1500 sq. ft. house. Of course when there are dought conditions like now, there isn't enough rain to fill up the storage, but any rain can be captured and stored for when it is most needed.

Roz


Posted by Jack, a resident of Downtown,
on Dec 29, 2013 at 9:27 am

Jack is a registered user.

Roz & Tim,
I was always told that our valley sits on top of a 20 year supply of water. That sounds crazy, and then they say, "Look at Shadow Cliffs." Can either of you comment on that?

I do not believe it is considered a 20-year supply. What rattles around in my head is six years--of course--that all depends upon the assumptions concerning usage. I will check with Zone 7 and let you know.Tim


Posted by Ms. Bunny, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 30, 2013 at 8:22 am

I'm with Roz on this one, the collection of gray water would be a boon to this area alone, if just the golf courses were able to utilize this procedure. I'm not sure what/how they manage? But it's clear, it takes a mighty amount of water to irrigate the "beauty" of Fircrest/Royal Ridge in our town alone, unless there is something I don't know about their water usage. This is why I no longer have lawns; this is why I'm continuing on with UC Davis recommendations on native plants (beyond drought tolerant these days...) If you haven't visited their facilities to see the magnificent work they are doing here in Northern California? You don't know what you're missing!


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Dec 30, 2013 at 3:38 pm

It's critical to be prepared if you want to harvest rain water:

Web Link

now, do your raindance...


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