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Executive Summary for May 11th

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key water developments around the West, including a new report about climate impacts in California, key backing for the delta tunnels, and a projected shortage for Lake Mead in the years to come.

Published on May 11, 2018 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Silicon Valley Water Agency Backs Tunnels Funding

In a much anticipated vote this week, a major Silicon Valley water agency decided to back California Gov. Jerry Brown’s delta tunnels project and agreed to chip in up to $650 million.

As Water Deeply reported last week, the Santa Clara Valley Water District postponed last week’s vote but took up this issue of the delta tunnels on Tuesday. The Mercury News reported that the four-hour meeting resulted in a 4-3 vote by members of the agency’s board in support of the project and funds – a reversal of its position from October. The decision is likely to result in an extra $10 on monthly water bills for the district’s rate payers by 2033.

This also gives Santa Clara Valley Water District some leverage in the project, estimated at about $17 billion. “Santa Clara Valley would have one seat on a five-member partnership to design and build the project; Metropolitan would have two, the Kern County Water Agency would have one and the State Water Contractors, a coalition of 28 water districts and cities, would have another,” the Mercury News reported.

Shortage Looming for Colorado River

According to new estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, water levels in Lake Mead could dip low enough in 2020 to trigger cutbacks to Mexico and two U.S. states.

Reclamation reported this week that there’s a 52 percent chance that Lake Mead will fall below the critical threshold of 1,075 feet above sea level. That number increases to 64 percent in 2021 and 68 percent in 2022, the Associated Press reported.

If that happens with the rules that stand now, Arizona would lose 11 percent of its Colorado River allocation, Nevada would lose 4.3 percent and Mexico 3.3 percent.

The Colorado River Basin has been in a prolonged drought for 20 years and this year runoff is low again with Lake Powell experiencing just 43 percent of average inflow.

Climate Change Indicators in California

Climate change is already impacting California, according to a new report released this week by California Environmental Protection Agency, called “Indicators of Climate Change in California.”

The report lays out 36 indicators that show how rising global temperatures are impacting everything from weather to wildlife in the state.

“By measuring and tracking the changes occurring in California’s physical environment and ecosystems, the report provides an essential scientific foundation to inform the state’s efforts to respond to climate change through a combination of mitigation, adaptation, research and joint action,” wrote Matthew Rodriquez, the secretary of California Environmental Protection Agency about the new report.

The report documents warming temperatures, a 7-inch rise in sea level in San Francisco since 1924, an increase in catastrophic weather events and wildfires, and the warming of waters in Lake Tahoe, which has increased by 10 times in the last four years, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

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