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Executive Summary for February 23rd

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key water developments around the West, including a delay on a decision regarding new conservation rules in California, initial allocations for some Central Valley contractors and bad news for the ski industry.

Published on Feb. 23, 2018 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

New Conservation Rules Delayed

An expected decision this week by California’s State Water Resources Control Board adopting new regulations to curb wasteful water practices was postponed.

Part of the governor’s directive to make conservation a “way of life” in California was anticipated action by the Water Board to permanently outlaw certain wasteful water practices that were temporarily banned during California’s most recent drought.

Among the practices that would be banned are: Hosing off sidewalks and other hardscapes; washing cars without using a shut-off nozzle; using non-recirculated water in a fountain or water feature; overwatering lawns so that it causes runoff; watering within 48 hours after a rain; and watering grass medians.

The Water Board was set to vote on adopting the prohibitions, but the vote was postponed after concern from some water agencies and the period to comment on the proposed changes was extended for another two weeks.

“Officials from several irrigation and water agencies said the restrictions are reasonable, but not the plan to impose them under the state Constitution’s prohibition on the ‘waste or unreasonable use’ of water,” the Associated Press reported. “That would create a slippery slope of allowing the board to repeatedly chip away at California’s historic protection of water rights for landowners, they said.”

Long-Term Impacts to Ski Industry

A study has bad news for the ski industry in the U.S. as it predicts the ski seasons being cut by in half by 2050, and by 80 percent in some places by 2090.

The research found that climate change impacts would mean more rain and less snow, impacted the duration and size of the snow covered areas in the Northern Hemisphere, AccuWeather reported.

Ski areas across the West are suffering from low snowpack this year. But more could be in the forecast. “The shortened snow seasons, warmer conditions and lack of snowfall could spell ‘economic devastation’ for the billion-dollar winter sports industry, according to a 2012 report from the Natural Resources Defense Council and nonprofit environmental organization Protect Our Winters,” AccuWeather reported.

In California, the Sacramento Bee reported that Tahoe-area ski resort Heavenly Mountain has submitted a plan to widen trails, remove boulders and, hundreds or potentially thousands, of trees in an attempt to improve skiing conditions during low-snow years.

“Low-snow seasons are expected to become more common due to climate change,” the Sacramento Bee reported. Less obstacles on the trail would mean less snowmaking needed when nature.

Central Valley Project Allocations

The first word of the season about allocations for some contractors of the federal Central Valley Project is out – and thanks to a dry winter – it’s conservative.

The Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the water project, provided only allocations for South-of-Delta, Friant and Eastside contractors at this time.

“Given what we know today, and what we see in the forecast, we must be very conservative with our allocation,” said David Murillo, Reclamation’s mid-Pacific regional director. “If this lack of rain and snow continues, we could very well be right back in drought operations. A situation like this really underscores the need for more storage in California.”

The initial allocation included 20 percent for agricultural water service contractors south of the Delta, 30 percent for Friant Division contractors and 100 percent the Central San Joaquin Water Conservation District and Stockton East Water District.

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