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December 14, 2020



Here are a couple more factoids on water issues from today's Chronicle:

Despite the soggy forecast, the Bay Area and Northern California remained dry and well short of normal rainfall totals. Rain gauges in San Francisco, for example, have recorded about 1.69 inches of rainfall since the season started on Oct. 1. That’s about 5 inches below the 30-year average.

“We are running rain deficits, behind what we would normally see from October to now,” Canepa said.
It's to be expected that the Chron would squeeze in the "warming world" bit at the start of this piece, but as the original post notes, this has been a California concern for at least 150 years:

In a sign of the growing value of water in a warming world, investors began trading futures of the coveted commodity, tied to California water prices, for the first time last week. In the futures exchange, investors buy into contracts that represent a specific amount of water at prices based on the Nasdaq Veles California Water Index (NQH20).

The novel marketplace allows speculators to make money betting on future prices of California water while allowing farmers, businesses and municipal suppliers to hedge against price swings and stabilize their costs.

The trading of actual water will continue as it always has in California, between limited numbers of irrigation districts and urban suppliers that generally make insider deals to accommodate one another’s varying needs. Wealthy outsiders won’t be siphoning off the state’s water supplies.

“The futures are like a bet on the weather,” said Ellen Hanak, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California who specializes in water.

For farmers and other water users interested in managing risk, there’s the ability to lock in future water costs, at least theoretically. The water users can buy into the market at one price, and if the price goes up, sell the contract and use the proceeds to purchase real, higher-priced water. If the price goes down, the loss is made up by the lower cost of real water.



One more splash of information from the Chron piece:

During the first week of trading, 36 contracts were secured. Water was priced at just under $500 an acre-foot, the amount of water that would cover an acre of land 1 foot deep, or about 326,000 gallons. (note: a football field is about 1.3 acres including the endzones)

That’s enough for two households for a year.


From today's Chronicle....here we go again. Build, build, build...wait, conserve, conserve, conserve

A month into California’s peak storm season, the lack of wet weather is beginning to weigh on the state’s water supply.

The snowpack in the Sierra and southern Cascades, which provides as much as a third of the water used by California cities and farms, is about 55% of average for this time of year. It hasn’t been this low at this time since 2017, when the state was emerging from a five-year drought.

Two more historically wet months lie ahead, and a few big storms could start to rebuild the snowpack. But the bleak December picture, on top of last year’s dry winter, is renewing concerns about drought and prompting water agencies to begin calling for people to conserve more.

The U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly report issued by the federal government and University of Nebraska at Lincoln, considers 95% of California to be in at least a moderate state of drought. That’s the state’s driest condition since March 2016.


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