CARLSBAD, N.M. » Just after the local water board announced this month that its farmers would get only one-tenth of their normal water allotment this year, Ronnie Walterscheid, 53, stood up and called on his elected representatives to declare a water war on their upstream neighbors.
“It’s always been about us giving up,” Walterscheid said, to nods. “I say we push back hard right now.”
The drought-fueled anger of southeastern New Mexico’s farmers and ranchers is boiling, and there is nowhere near enough water in the desiccated Pecos River to cool it down. Roswell, about 75 miles to the north, has somewhat more water available and so is the focus of intense resentment here. Walterscheid and others believe that Roswell’s artesian wells reduce Carlsbad’s surface water.
For decades, the regional status quo meant the northerners pumped groundwater and the southerners piped surface water. Now, amid the worst drought on record, some in Carlsbad say they must upend the status quo to survive. They want to make what is known as a priority call on the Pecos River.
A priority call, an exceedingly rare maneuver, is the nuclear option in the world of water. Such a call would try to force the state to return to what had been the basic principle of water distribution in the West: The lands whose owners were the first users of the water — in most cases farmland — get first call on it in times of scarcity. Big industries can be losers; small farmers winners.
The threat of such a move reflects the political impact of the droughts that are becoming the new normal in the West.
“A call on the river is a call for a shakeout,” explained Daniel McCool, a University of Utah political scientist and author of “River Republic: The Fall and Rise of America’s Rivers.”
“It’s not going to be farmers versus environmentalists or liberals versus conservatives,” he said. “It’s going to be the people who have water versus the people who don’t.” And, he said, the have-nots will outnumber the haves.
Dudley Jones, the manager for the Carlsbad Irrigation District, said that water law and allocation practice have long diverged. “We have it in the state constitution: First in time, first in right. But that’s not how it’s practiced.” In New Mexico’s political pecking order, his alfalfa farmers, despite senior priority rights dating back 100 years, have little clout. The state water authorities, he said, “are not going to cut out the city.”
“They’re not going to cut out the dairy industry,” he added. “They’re not going to cut off the oil and gas industry, because that’s economic development. So we’re left with a dilemma — the New Mexico water dilemma.”
A priority call, said McCool, “will glaringly demonstrate how unfair, how anachronistic the whole water law edifice is.”
He added, “The all-or-nothing dynamic of prior appropriation instantly sets up conflict. I get all of mine and you get nothing.”
Water Conservation in Maui Landscapes
with Doug Carmichael
Date: Tuesday January 29, 2013
Place:: Maui Community Service Bldg next to CTHAR Extension Services (Map) on the UH Maui campus.
Time:: Pupus will be served at 6:30 pm and the talk will begin at 7:00.
Are you trying to save money on irrigation water? Are you working on a LEED certified property? With continuing droughts and ongoing increases in cost, water conservation has become one of the hottest topics in Maui landscapes. Doug will cover his experience with Rain Bird and California’s strict water use regulations. He will be discussing the use of Smart Controllers to calculate ‘ET’ (evapo-transpiration) to regulate water use. He will be showing how pressure regulation, proper nozzle selection and drip irrigation can be adapted into your existing landscapes. Doug will also address the incorporation of these methods on LEED certified projects. These water saving methods can be adapted for use on golf courses, plant nurseries, farms, resorts and private homes.
The Kauai County Department of Water said it has received $6,693 from a Swiss pesticide manufacturer as part of a class-action lawsuit regarding the pesticide atrazine.
The money will help the county pay for testing the water supply for the common weedkiller.
The Water Department said it has conducted tests for atrazine since the 1990s and has found the level of the pesticide in Kauai’s water systems to be either well below the EPA maximum contaminant level of 3 pbb or nondetectable.
Syngenta of Switzerland agreed to a $105 million settlement with 1,085 water systems, including Kauai County’s.
Ongoing drought conditions on Maui have prompted the county to adjust potable water production in the Upcountry area, the Maui Department of Water Supply said Friday.
On or about Wednesday, the department will reduce production at the Olinda Water Treatment Facility to 0.1 million gallons per day from 1.8 mgd to give Upper Kula reservoirs time to be refilled by rain.
The 30-million-gallon Waikamoi Reservoir is empty and the 100-million-gallon Kahakapao Reservoir is at 39.5 million gallons, the department said.
In the meantime, Upper Kula customers will get water from the Kamole water treatment facility in Haliimaile, the Piiholo treatment facility in Makawao and the Po‘okela well in Makawao.
Upper Kula customers may notice a change in water quality because the water from the lower elevations is disinfected with chlorine. The water meets all federal and state water quality standards.
Hawaii’s beef market is backward. Nearly all the beef eaten here — 95 percent — arrives packaged on container ships from the U.S. mainland. At the same time, Hawaii cattle ranchers ship 40,000 live cattle each year to California, Kansas and other states, while just 4,000 are slaughtered for meat sales in Hawaii.
The economics made sense for decades. Huge slaughterhouses elsewhere could process beef more efficiently than smaller ones in Hawaii, and it’s cheaper to send cattle to the mainland to be fattened than to bring in corn or other grains to feed calves after they’re weaned.
Now, national interest in locally grown food and grass-fed beef has caught on in Hawaii — offering ranchers plenty of reason to escape this paradox. But the opportunity comes as crushing drought has made it difficult to keep enough cattle here to capitalize on the demand.
Rancher and veterinarian Dr. Tim Richards has been trying for six years to raise more cattle on his family’s century-old ranch. He holds back some calves he previously would have sent to Oregon, Texas or elsewhere for final feeding, or “finishing.” But eight years of below-normal rainfall have left little grass for the cattle to eat.
“You put them out, and then it doesn’t rain and then instead of growing, they just sort of stand around,”
Legal notices published Wednesday in The Maui News and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser listing people, churches, and commercial and other entities with claims to kuleana water rights in the Na Wai Eha surface water management area are part of a “historic” effort by the state water commission to recognize those appurtenant rights.
“This is the first time in its history that the commission is formally going to permanently recognize kuleana rights,” said Isaac Moriwake, an Earthjustice attorney, Wednesday.
He represented Hui o Na Wai Eha and Maui Tomorrow, which along with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, earlier this month claimed a major victory for appurtenant or kuleana water rights in the Hawaii Supreme Court. Moriwake and his clients got the high court to vacate a state Commission on Water Resource Management decision in a dispute over mauka diversions of the surface water of Na Wai Eha, or the four great waters of Central Maui – Waihee, Waiehu, Waikapu and Iao streams.
Currently, surface water is diverted from the four West Maui Mountain streams for Central Maui sugar cultivation and domestic use, and Native Hawaiian and environmental groups are seeking to have more water returned to streams to revive the natural habitat and to allow for taro cultivation.
The publication of those with claims to kuleana water was not directly related to the Hawaii Supreme Court ruling Aug. 15. However, as part of the process of recognizing kuleana water rights, water commission officials will be estimating how much water was historically used by landowners.
The kuleana water inventory can only help as the state water commission revisits the allocation of Na Wai Eha water, Moriwake said.
“There has been a historical difficulty to have these rights recognized,” he added.
America’s worst drought in half a century will push up inflation and put a fresh obstacle in the path of the struggling global economy, one of the UK’s leading banks has warned.
Senior global economist at HSBC, Karen Ward, said sharp rises in the cost of wheat, corn and soya beans came when growth was slowing but said the weakness of wage pressure meant there was no need for central banks to raise interest rates in response to a higher cost of living.
Blistering heat in the US has destroyed 45% of the corn and 35% of the soya bean crop in the worst harvest since 1988. Russia and Ukraine have also had poor crop yields. Ward said higher food prices would result.
“This is another dampener for the global economy at a time when the headwinds are already acute,” Ward said.
OUR dams are full, the lambs are fat and the sprinklers are running again. But weather experts are warning Australia’s east coast to brace for a return to dry conditions, perhaps even drought, as another El Nino event looms.
After two consecutive years of record rainfall and devastating floods brought on by La Nina, the Bureau of Meteorology warned yesterday that climate indicators show a shift towards drier weather patterns, and a potential swing to the opposite phenomenon, El Nino.
Warmer waters in the Pacific Ocean can trigger an El Nino, which brings less rainfall and drought such as the one that drained Warragamba dam to one-third of its capacity five years ago. Cooler waters bring on La Nina and associated wetter conditions, including those that spurred this year’s floods across NSW, and the devastating Brisbane floods the previous summer.
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A full moon rises over Clovelly as an El Nino weather pattern begins to dominate the forecast.3rd July 2012Photo: Wolter Peeters
Surface tension … waves wash onto Clovelly Beach last night under a full moon. Temperatures have been rising in the Pacific Ocean for the past few months, suggesting a return to El Nino and less rainfall. Photo: Wolter Peeters
A bureau climatologist, Acacia Pepler, said conditions along the equator were yet to reach El Nino thresholds, but most climate models were predicting the event would develop in late winter and early spring.
”The chances of us reaching El Nino are growing,” Ms Pepler said. ”It’s not certain yet, but probability is increasing as the weeks pass.”
But the Weather Channel, which measures the event using different indices, called the result early, declaring yesterday that El Nino had returned.
By the end of 2012, a water resource allocation plan for 25 rivers that flow through more than one province will be put into use, limiting the amount of water that can be taken from the rivers by each of the provinces.
“We are doing our best to accelerate the process,” said Chen Ming, deputy head of the Water Resources Department at the Ministry of Water Resources. “Hopefully, the plan will come out by August.”
Water plan to take effect by 2012
The water resource allocation plan is one of the moves the ministry has taken to promote the implementation of the most stringent regulations in Chinese water resource management.
Announced in January by the State Council, the regulation set four “must-complete” targets by 2030, including limiting the country’s annual total water consumption to less than 700 billion cubic meters.