Salt Tolerance of Crops in the Southern Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

The purpose of this report is to research the scientific literature and provide the state of knowledge on subjects that impact crop productivity with saline irrigation water and analyze the existing information from the South Delta and quantify how the various factors influencing the use of saline water applies to conditions in the South Delta.

There are five objectives for this study:

One of the objectives of this study is the review of existing literature relating to the effect of salinity on a variety of irrigated crops under South Delta conditions, preparation of a comprehensive list of references, and a synopsis of findings from key references.

A second objective is the review of the relative strengths and limitations of steady-state and transient models that have been used to determine the suitability of saline water for crop production. As part of this second objective, the strengths, limitations, and assumptions of each model when applied to field conditions are to be presented.

The third objective involves the use of soil information to determine and describe the approximate area and nature of saline and drainage-impaired soils; an estimate of the effectiveness of local rainfall in reducing the irrigation requirement; and compiling and evaluating historical crop types, acreages, and evapotranspiration information.

The fourth objective is to provide conclusions and recommendations to the State Water Resources Control Board based upon the literature, modeling, and data evaluation.  Among the conclusions and recommendations to be reported the following are considered paramount. (1) Identify significant gaps or uncertainties in the literature and recommend future studies to fill the gaps. (2) Using a steady-state model and appropriate data for the South Delta, estimate the leaching fraction required for salinity control for crops regularly grown on the drainage- and salinity-impaired soils of the South Delta. (3) Using the approach as in (2), recommend a salinity guideline that could provide full protection of the most salt sensitive crop currently grown or suitable to be grown on the drainage- and salinity- impaired soils.

The final objective is to present the findings and recommendations in Sacramento to interested stakeholders and representatives of California state agencies.

Thirty-Five Years of Water Policy: The 1973 National Water Commission and Present Challenges

Concern about the availability and use of water to support the nation’s people, economy, and environment has bolstered interest in establishing a national water commission. The commission structure proposed in recent legislation (e.g., H.R. 135) is similar to that of the 1968-1973 National Water Commission (NWC or Commission). As proposed in H.R. 135, the commission would assess future water demands, study current management programs, and develop recommendations for a comprehensive water strategy.

Questions about a commission as an effective model and which topics a commission might consider have raised interest in assessing what the NWC recommended in its 1973 report, Water Policies for the Future, and how the issues that it identified have evolved.

The NWC recommended addressing the interconnection between water development and the natural environment, implementing a “users pay” or “beneficiary pays” approach, accomplishing water quality improvements, and adapting governance and organizations to meet water challenges. Since 1973, progress has been made in some of these areas; however, few actions can be traced directly to the NWC’s recommendations.

Nonetheless, the influence of the NWC on the evolution of water policy cannot be dismissed. Many of the problems that the Commission identified remain today, and some actions since 1973 have moved water policy toward alignment with NWC recommendations; others have moved it in the opposite direction of NWC recommendations. Shifts in institutional arrangements in general have reduced coordination of
federal water agency activities and in many ways have moved away from NWC-recommended multi-objective or river basin planning. State-federal tensions over proper and respective roles continue to cloud resolution of difficult water resource issues and complicate coordination efforts.

While many support better coordination of federal water activities and a clearer national “vision” for water management, Congress has not enacted overarching water policy legislation since the 1965 Water Resources Planning Act. Instead, water policy has largely evolved through executive and judicial actions, in many cases in response to piecemeal legislation. Congress continually modifies federal water projects through amendments to existing projects and programs through Water Resources Development Acts (WRDAs), Reclamation acts, water quality legislation, and appropriations decisions.

Incremental and ad hoc evolution of water policy, however, is not surprising. Water management is complicated by past decisions and investments affecting a wide range of stakeholders pursuing different goals. Specifically, federal and state laws and regulations, local ordinances, tribal treaties, contractual obligations, and economies dependent on existing water use patterns and infrastructure all affect water management. Attempts to untangle such complexities involve many constituencies with differing interests, and success is difficult to achieve. Expectations for a commission to achieve change in a complex system resistant to transformation may be unreasonable; instead, the influence of a commission may lie in how its recommendations combine with other drivers to support policy evolution.

This CRS report presents the NWC’s recommendations and analyzes how issues targeted by the recommendations have evolved during the intervening years. The report focuses on key federal-level recommendations, thereby targeting what has been accomplished since 1973, what issues remain unresolved, and what additional concerns have developed.

Reforming Davis-Dolwig: Funding Recreation in the State Water Project

The Davis-Dolwig Act is a 47-year-old state law that specifies that the state, not water ratepayers, should fund the recreation component of the the State Water Project (SWP). The budget proposes a number of statutory reforms to the act, in part to provide a dedicated funding source for its implementation. We find that the Governor’s proposal does not address a number of major problems with the implementation of the act and that the administration’s approach improperly limits the Legislature’s oversight role. We also find that, over many years, the Department of Water Resources has been allocating costs to the state under Davis-Dolwig that are significantly in excess of the direct costs to SWP for recreation. In our report, we offer the Legislature a package of statutory reforms to address problems that we have identified with the implementation of Davis-Dolwig. These include clarifying the role of public funding for recreation in SWP. We also recommend that the state evaluate the potential to divest itself of SWP reservoirs that are used mainly for recreation.

Adaptive Management – Technical Guide

The Department of the Interior (DOI) Adaptive Management Working Group (AMWG) sponsored the development of this technical guide to clearly and consistently define adaptive management and describe conditions for its implementation. AMWG membership includes representatives from across DOI’s bureaus and offices.

A writing team of resource managers, technical experts, and other specialists worked with AMWG to address four basic questions concerning adaptive management: (1) What is adaptive management? (2) When should it be used? (3) How should it be implemented? (4) How can its success be recognized and measured? These questions were used to organize both the writing effort and the structure of the guide itself, with individual chapters addressing each of the questions.

The authors sought to describe adaptive management at an appropriate level of technical detail, while remaining focused on its definition, operational components, and conditions in which it applies. A key challenge was to provide sufficient detail for clarification, while limiting the length and complexity of the document.

The doctrine of reserved water rights. What are federal and tribal reserved water rights?

The doctrine of reserved water rights evolved to ensure that Indian reservations and public lands set aside by the federal government would have sufficient water to fulfill the purposes for which they were established. Whereas most western water rights (state-based appropriative rights) have a priority date based on when water was first put to beneficial use, federal reserved water rights have a priority date that goes back at least as far as the date on which the lands were set aside.

The reserved water rights doctrine is rooted in a number of judicial decisions, beginning with a U.S. Supreme Court decision that has come to be called the Winters Doctrine. The case of Winters vs United States involved a dispute between Native Americans of the Ft. Belknap Reservation and nonnative settlers over the use of the Milk River in Montana. When the water use of the settlers upstream from the reservation interfered with the Indians’ water need for large Irrigation diversions, the U.S. government filed a lawsuit on the reservation’s behalf.

The Winters decision held that when Congress created the Ft. Belknap Reservation, sufficient water to make the Indians a “pastoral and civilized People” was implicitly set aside. Therefore, although the normative settlers had perfected their water rights under Montana state law, the water right of the Indians of Ft. Belknap was prior, or senior in use.

Clearer Structure, Cleaner Water: Improving Performance and Outcomes at the State Water Boards

The Little Hoover Commission on Thursday urged the governor and the Legislature to reform the State Water Resources Control Board and nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards by expanding the state board to nine members, with five members representing statewide interests and four drawn on a rotating basis from the nine regional board chairpersons, whose positions would become full-time. In addition, the Commission called for a revamped appeals process; to improve the use of data and science in water quality regulatory processes; and urged the water boards to focus on new ways to solve modern water quality problems and set priorities.
In its report, Clearer Structure, Cleaner Water: Improving Performance and Outcomes at the State Water Boards, the Commission also recommends refocusing both the state board and regional boards on policy-making and updating basin plans. During its study, the Commission found that the water boards face increasingly complex water quality problems, caused in part by hard-to-regulate sources such as urban and agricultural runoff. The Commission also found that a decentralized governance structure, with nine regional water quality boards operating with distinct policies and processes, hinders accountability and transparency. The result is a system that has lost the confidence of most stakeholders. To restore accountability and increase focus on clean-water outcomes, the Commission recommends strengthening the relationship between the state and regional boards.
“The governance structure for water quality regulation in California is 40 years old and is ill-prepared to handle modern problems,” Little Hoover Commission Chairman Daniel Hancock said. “Major reform is needed to help protect and improve water quality, which is a key to the state’s future.”

Reforming Watershed Restoration: Science in Need of Application and Applications in Need of Science (The H.T. Odum Synthesis Essay)

Coastal and inland waters are continuing to decline in many parts of the world despite major efforts made to restore them. This is due in part to the inadequate role that ecological science has played in shaping restoration efforts.

A significant amount of fundamental ecological knowledge dealing with issues such as system dynamics, state changes, context-dependency of ecological response, and diversity is both under-used by managers and practitioners and under-developed by ecologists for use in real-world applications. Some of the science that is being ‘used’ has not been adequately tested. Thus, restoration ecology as a science and ecological restoration as a practice are in need of reform.

I identify five ways in which our ecological knowledge should be influencing restoration to a far greater extent than at present including a need to: shift the focus to restoration of process and identification of the limiting factors instead of structures and single species, add ecological insurance to all projects, identify a probabilistic range of possible outcomes instead of a reference condition, expand the spatial scale of efforts, and apply hierarchical approaches to prioritization. Prominent examples of restoration methods or approaches that are commonly used despite little evidence to support their efficacy are highlighted such as the use of only structural enhancements to restore biodiversity.

There are also major gaps in scientific knowledge that are of immediate need to policy makers, managers, and restoration practitioners including: predictive frameworks to guide the restoration of ecological processes, identification of social-ecological feedbacks that constrain ecosystem recovery and data to support decisions of where and how to implement restoration projects to achieve the largest gains.

I encourage ecologists to respond to the demand for their scientific input so that restoration can shift from an engineering-driven process to a more sustainable enterprise that fully integrates ecological processes and social science methods.

California’s Water: An LAO Primer

California’s water delivery system is facing a series of challenges due in part to a combination of increasingly variable weather conditions, legal requirements, and system operation and conveyance constraints. These challenges affect water availability, reliability, and delivery. Recent public and private efforts have sought ways to address these challenges. These measures include proposals to increase water through groundwater storage, surface storage, infrastructure changes, and system operation improvements, among others.

This report provides, through a “quick reference” document relying heavily on charts to present information, a snapshot of water in California, including: (1) An Overview of California’s Water Governance; (2) Water Supply, Source, and Delivery; (3) How Do We Finance Water Projects? (4) What Drives the Cost of Water?, and (5) Issues for Legislative Consideration

Overview on Central Valley Project Financing, Cost Allocation, and Repayment Issues

As part of its strategic plan, the Delta Vision Task Force is considering in detail the entire California water infrastructure.

This report summarizes and expands upon four individual reports prepared for the Task Force on the financial characteristics and status of the Central Valley Project (CVP).

It begins with an overview of CVP history, organization, costs, and repayment. It then focuses on the overall repayment responsibilities of irrigation and municipal and industrial (M&I) contractors as well as those responsibilities specifically for Sacramento Valley and San Joaquin Valley water users.

Next is a review of the summary financial statements of the 10 largest San Joaquin Valley contractors based on reports filed with the California State Controller. Following is a discussion of CVP power generation revenues, expenditures, and repayment.

The report is then summarized and conclusions presented, with subsequent appendices showing detailed financial statements and repayment responsibilities by individual contractors; and information on power sales over time to various users.