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Executive Summary for July 29th

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key developments in the California drought including a new court ruling affecting the Delta tunnels plan. We also look at reports on California’s water accounting and the sale of Delta islands.

Published on July 29, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

The Energy Footprint of Our Daily Lives

How much water do you use every day? Probably a lot more than you think, because our routine water consumption is not limited to what we use for bathing, cooking and cleaning.

In reality, our water footprint also includes factors including how much we drive, how much energy we consume, how much we shop and for what, and how much we recycle. If we take all that into account, it turns out the average American consumes a shocking 2,220 gallons (8,400 liters) of water per day, according to a tool developed by the GRACE Communications Foundation.

“We do have to think about these things,” Kai Olson-Sawyer, senior research and policy analyst at GRACE, told Water Deeply. “It’s the kind of stuff that shifts markets and makes producers take note.”

By cutting water use between June 2015 and February 2016, Californians saved enough energy to power 135,000 homes for a year and the greenhouse gas equivalent of removing 50,000 cars from the road for a year.

Hearings Begin on Delta Tunnels

The first official public hearings to consider Gov. Jerry Brown’s water diversion tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta were held this week. Predictably, it was not a love-fest.

The hearings were held before the State Water Resources Control Board, which must decide whether the so-called California WaterFix tunnel project will be granted a permit to divert water from the Sacramento River. This decision is crucial to moving the project forward, but far from the only permit that must be granted before construction of the multibillion-dollar project can begin.

The day-long hearing featured lots of rancor from opponents of the project, who object to the state government’s assertion that the project will somehow fix all that ails the struggling Delta estuary. The state water board had difficulty keeping the debate focused on the relatively narrow issue at hand, which is the merits and pitfalls of the proposed three new diversions on the Sacramento River near Clarksburg.

Many more days of hearings are planned, and it will be months before the water board rules on the matter.

Going Deep for Desalination

A desalination project proposed in Moss Landing is expected to reduce environmental concerns simply by tapping seawater from a much deeper source: the deepest submarine canyon in North America.

Backers of the Deep Water Desal project propose to mount their water intake on the brink of Monterey Canyon, a unique underwater landscape that reaches more than two miles deep. The goal is to capture clean, cold water that pulses up from the deep canyon daily. The water would first be used to cool a large data storage facility proposed as a companion facility, which would reduce the energy cost for desalination.

But many questions remain to be answered. For example, Carol Reeb, a research scientist at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Lab, tells Water Deeply that those pulses of cold, deep water often shut down in winter. There’s also a risk that regular algae blooms in Monterey Bay will clog the desalination plant and potentially introduce a health hazard.

Deep Water Desal is preparing a draft environmental impact study on the project, which is estimated to cost around $300 million to construct.

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