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January 04, 2019



Speaking of dry, whats the latest with the pool?

Bruce Dickinson

You're way too early to draw any conclusions, Joe. Let's just say you've been on the wrong side of right these past couple of years, if ya know what I mean?

One of the classic Bruce Dickinson sayings is "Don't try predicting the unpredictable"

Unfortunately, many people saw four years of drought and started projecting that forever and attributing it, quite unscientifically, to "climate change". You have any sort of reversion to the mean, and there's no water problem. If there is no reversion to the mean, it's a solvable problem. If countries in the Middle East can easily build desalinization plants, so can we. Not an unsolvable problem in the wealthiest state in the wealthiest country in the world. Now only if we could kill this HSR for good, we could free up money for much more worthy causes. A potential water shortage in the future is one of these potential causes, but think that's a big IF.


Sooo dry out there. I've started a rain dance.


Lord Gavin has declared the serfs shall be taxed for their water. Pay up or shrivel up


That proposed tax caught my eye as well. Here are some details:

In order to help disadvantaged communities obtain safe and affordable drinking water, California Governor Gavin Newsom is proposing a new statewide water tax.

In the newly-released 2019-20 budget, Newsom calls for the creation of a "safe and affordable drinking water fund" that would "enable the State Water Resources Control Board to assist communities, particularly disadvantaged communities, in paying for the short-term and long-term costs of obtaining access to safe and affordable drinking water."

The details of the proposed tax are unknown, but a similar proposal was abandoned by then-Governor Jerry Brown last year after failing to garner enough support in the legislature.

California residents would have been taxed 95 cents a month, or $11.40 a year, under that plan.


Maybe if the one tax Proposition I did support had passed we would need this new tax which will probably need another department and 300 state employees to collect and distribute.


Dear Joe,
I have had re-register every time I want to post/respond.
Am I being shunned?


I'm not sure what you mean by re-register. If you mean you have to re-enter your name, I have noticed that as well myself. It must be a TypePad thing.


Happily the 2019 water outlook has substantially brightened. I don't mean the rain B'game got, but rather the heavy, heavy snowfall in the Sierra. I just got back from a week there and it is a massive "Februburied".

I can also verify this:

‘Just please stop coming up here.’ Sierra travel can wait, officials say, as more snow moves in
The consensus is clear: Don’t drive to the Sierra.

As the eastbound I-80 was a complete mess. Miles of stopped cars with people standing around talking to their new neighbors.

Of course, none of this does a thing to solve the long-term water crisis in California. The snowpack with fill the reservoirs, feed the salmon breeding rivers and make a tiny dent in the depleted acquifers. But it won't fix the long-term problem.

Bruce Dickinson

Joe, sorry I gotta tell ya, but in 8 weeks, the California long-term drought has been solved. What we experienced in the past 5 years was extreme drought, it was not the norm. Just as we've now experienced extreme rain/snow. Any return to the mean level of precipitation over a period of years will mean no water "problem" in the sense that building desalination plants would continue to be un-economic for many many years even with continued population growth in California.

Shows that recent experience really biases people into making absolute proclamations that are incorrectly projected in the future. With each year of drought the probability of the successive year in having a drought gets lower, not higher!

Let's just say that in nearly 80 years, this Dickinson has been on the right side of right more often than wrong! ;)


Dear Mr. Dickinson.
What are your thoughts on Global Warming?


BruceD, I agree that you are seldom wrong, but when you are wrong, you are really wrong--as you are here. You are as susceptible to "recent experience bias" as anyone else and this comment suggests that.

First, who is to say that we will return to the norm in rainfall? This isn't rolling a pair of fair dice in statistics class to determine probabilities of any number coming up--it's nature and it's unpredictable. Hollyroller asks the popular question in that regard, but it's quite possible that this is all just random weather.

Second, we are assured of the current reservoir capacity being full to the brim this year and everything else going out to sea. Yea, salmon! But the long-term concern of no new reservoir capacity (or its substitutes via desalinization or water pipelines) remains intact. And if we lose capacity via degraded infrastructure (Oroville dam) or earthquake, look out.

Second, the Central Valley aquifers have been seriously depleted. That is why smart money is buying up land with water supplies even if they happen to have grapevines on them now that the buy has no interest in growing.

Bottom Line: Adding tens of thousands of housing units in the Bay Area with the same water storage capacity as we had in 1950 is stupid and short-sighted.



Bruce Dickinson

Bring it on, baby!

I kid, I kid Joe. However, you do misquote Bruce Dickinson's "recent experience bias".

This is what I said: "What we experienced in the past 5 years was extreme drought, it was not the norm. Just as we've now experienced extreme rain/snow. Any return to the mean level of precipitation over a period of years will mean no water "problem"

I'm saying that even the recent experience (this season) is an extreme. What matters is the mean over longer periods of time.

While Bruce Dickinson undoubtedly believes in global warming, the evidence is much less clear about how that affects overall climate extremes. If you look back even farther than the 20th century, California's climate was considered to be more extreme but in a cooler "global climate" before the advent of fossil fuels. (Read the book "Ecology of Fear" by Mike Davis analyzing Californias climatic collision with 'reversion to the mean'). There is a school of though which says what we've experienced in the 20th and 21st centuries is rather benign climate compared to the past. So again it depends on overall averages and I don't think the overall averages will end up changing that much over the next 20 years. After this extreme winter, I would say next season has a much higher probability of having less precipitation. If I'm wrong about next year, then the following year will have an even higher probability of less precipitation. So yes, actually when it comes to year-to-year variations, weather is largely a "random walk" (break out your stats book on that one). Just as for every successive year we were having a drought, I was saying you'll eventually get more rain, while you were saying "the drought's gonna last forever". But it's gone in 8 weeks. Hmmm. So THUS FAR, who is actually right? If I had to wager, I don't think we're gonna have the calamity that you're expecting even with population growth.

If one assumes the existing reservoirs will all be functional and with the average level of rainfall experienced in the average 50 years, there should be no problem for the next 20. Now global warming can continue to affect drought cycles but they will likely be longer term in nature.

In the meantime, smart uses of rainwater harvesting, low water gardens, drought resistant crops should help on the margin. In the long run, by 2100 all industrialized nations will have adopted solar technology that will not only stop global warming, but may actually reverse it. So if average ocean temperatures rise a bit, yeah you'll have some costs you may have to build dikes, harvest more rainwater, etc, but I don't think it's going to involve the demise of human civilization. It will have a cost, probably a couple of Trillion Dollars (cost of housing crisis) but not the end of the world, and probably a LOT cheaper than colonizing Mars.

Finally, I am rather bemused with the comment that "you're seldom wrong, but when you are, you're really wrong". So seldom implies other times when I was wrong, but so far, I've only seen one time when I was (which according to you is this one). Recent experience bias, Joe? *wink*


More Cow Bell!


*Wink* back. I only used "seldom" because I couldn't agree with "never" :-)

What is your basis for saying "If one assumes the existing reservoirs will all be functional and with the average level of rainfall experienced in the average 50 years, there should be no problem for the next 20." And are you building in the possibility that the Feds do something different with the Colorado River allocations such that we have to send even more water to SoCal?


I generally only take excerpts of news pieces to use as a basis for comment, but this editorial from today's WSJ is SO GOOD that I am going to provide the whole thing:

The Golden State can’t seem to catch a weather break. Drought and horrific wildfires have again given way to catastrophic storms and flooding. Progressives often exploit natural disasters to campaign against fossil fuels, but Californians would be better off if their politicians spent more money preparing for bad weather than fighting climate change that they can’t do anything about.

The last couple of months in California have been among the coldest and wettest on record. For the first time in at least 132 years, the temperature didn’t hit 70 degrees in downtown Los Angeles in February. Snow powdered the hills of West Hollywood and Malibu two weeks ago not far from where a wildfire raged last November.

Southern Californians who have to bundle up more may get little sympathy from the rest of the country, but residents in the north have been pounded by storms. An avalanche in the Sierra Nevada mountains last week forced the closure of state highways. The Russian River that winds from Mendocino to Sonoma overflowed last week and inundated more than 2,000 structures. One city surrounded by floodwaters turned into an island.

The snowpack in the Sierras, which account for half of the state’s surface water storage, last week measured 153% of normal levels compared to 19% last year. “Right now we’re not concerned about drought at all,” said Pete Fickenscher, a senior hydrologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

That’s the problem. California’s political class is only worried about drought when the water runs out. Thus, there isn’t enough reservoir capacity in the north—which environmentalists oppose in any event—to store storm runoff during wet years like this one. When droughts come along, Sacramento resorts to rationing. The lack of storage and inadequate levees also raise the risk of flooding. If history is a guide, melting snowpack in the spring could inundate waterways and lead to mudslides that might be especially ferocious since last year’s wildfires stripped slopes of vegetation.

Weather and climate aren’t the same, even if politicians use wildfires and drought to push their green agenda. California’s weather patterns have always been mercurial. Renewable energy, electric cars and high-speed rail won’t help Californians escape this immutable climate reality.
Right on! I hope the Gavinor is reading this too.

Bruce Dickinson

Joe, I would be remiss if I didn't say that the article and you bring up some very valid points. Bruce Dickinson cannot predict how future allocations of Colorado River water will shake out, but I will say that what the State has squandered billions on HSR, forced cities into creating transit-oriented development (with no trains), and plowed money into dubious alternative energy projects could have been used much more wisely to improve water collection efforts.

While building a new reservoir dam is not gonna happen in this state, you can use existing reservoirs to pump water into storage tanks, create smaller local reservoirs/lakes downstream with pipelines, or even have rainwater collection mechanisms with certain public buildings or neighborhoods that harvest water on a micro-local basis.

California has to be one of the greatest examples of mis-allocation of resources in the history of governments. Super-majority legislatures really create echo-chambers that make it very difficult to change the status quo.


The editorial posted above generated two great letters to the editor at the WSJ:

Regarding your editorial “California’s Weather Cycles” (March 4): California’s weather has been cyclical since recorded history began. Everyone knows this. As California Congressman Tom McClintock often said, “Droughts are nature’s fault. Water shortages are our fault.”

California had a water plan which included the development of about 21 million acre feet of water storage through the building of mostly Central Valley reservoirs. The last major reservoir, New Melones, was completed in 1979, with a capacity of more than two million acre feet, when our state’s population was around 23 million. Now our population is about 40 million and no new major reservoir has been built in 40 years.

Without getting into the weeds about intelligent forest management, it becomes obvious why there are water problems in California. When the Auburn Dam was proposed with three million acre feet of storage, it got blown up. Look at the fight to raise the height (and capacity) of Shasta Dam. The politics du jour hasn’t built the water storage (and flood protection) to keep up with our population growth.

Larry Weitzman
Placerville, Calif.

This editorial isn’t the first to point out the cyclical nature of California’s political class when it comes to water: “During the dry years, the people forgot about the rich years, and when the wet years returned, they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way.” (John Steinbeck, “East of Eden,” 1952.) Indeed, Mr. Steinbeck, indeed.

Gavin Roberts
North Ogden, Utah


Here is a very interesting piece from the Guardian that gives the long history of the Colorado River water rights and notes that today a Saudi company has purchased a lot of land with cheap water rights to grow alfalfa to ship to cows in Saudi:


In California, everyone’s after whatever water they can get. Because of the low supply, the Palo Verde Irrigation District is currently three years into a 30-year fallowing contract – when farmers are paid not to plant a portion of their fields so the water can instead be sent to cities – with the Metropolitan Water District, which supplies water to big cities like San Diego and Los Angeles.

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