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Los Angeles district warns of water cuts, higher rates

Hector Becerra and Catherine Saillant, Los Angeles Times
The agency says that if dry weather continues, local districts may have to consider rationing for the first time in years.

Concerned about future supplies, the Metropolitan Water District announced Monday that it would cut shipments to Southern California agriculture by 30% and that customers would eventually pay higher rates.

The action by the giant water wholesaler, which provides water to 18 million people across Southern California, marks its first step in dealing with upcoming reductions in water supply and the record dry conditions locally.

MWD General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said that if the dry weather continues into this winter, local agencies would have to consider mandatory rationing, an extreme measure not seen since the severe drought of the early 1990s.

“People will feel this,” he said. “We really want to see if people are willing to conserve absent rationing.”
(9 October 2007)
Video at original.

Will Southwest’s economy dry up?
(Audio and transcript)
Stacey Vanek-Smith, Marketplace, National Public Radio (NPR)
Scientists saying global warming is going to make the Southwest United States especially dry. That will likely have dire consequences on the economy of one of the country’s fastest growing regions.
STACEY VANEK SMITH: Climate models by U.S. academics project a 15 percent decrease in moisture in the Southwest between the years 2021 and 2040. That might not sound so bad, but the same drop in precipitation led to the great Dust Bowl in the 1930s.

Jeffrey Mount directs the Center for Watershed Sciences at U.C. Davis. He’s been researching the drought’s future effects on hydropower:

JEFFREY MOUNT: The immediate and most severe impacts are brownouts.

Mount says those brownouts will likely become more and more frequent. As snowpacks recede, he says, dam levels will drop and strain the region’s power grid.

MOUNT: One of the things that tend to come with drought tends to be heat waves — and the demand for electricity is very very high during those heat waves. And the hydropower system is one of our great buffers there, because they can spin it up very fast.

Mount says the Southwest’s growth is directly tied to the ability to move water around cheaply, to very dry cities like Phoenix and L.A. Mount says the price of the energy needed to move that water will rise stratospherically as states go to the open market to buy extra energy.

Those higher prices for water and energy could affect everything from hi-tech to agriculture. Farming is a $40-billion industry in the Southwest. It also drinks up about 80 percent of the available water. Farmers are trying to conserve.
(8 October 2007)

Shampoo, coffee, etc., harming fish in area rivers

Stephanie Mathieu, The Daily News (Longview, Washington)
A new pollution study reveals that use of common consumer products like coffee, shampoo and antibiotics could be hurting salmon populations in the lower Columbia and Willamette rivers.

By passing products down the drain, humans are releasing chemicals into the rivers in amounts large enough to cause hormonal changes in salmon, according to a report released in August by the Portland-based Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership. This is the first time a study has tested for personal care products in the area, and their ubiquitous presence in the rivers is prompting environmentalists to search for solutions.

Like pollutants produced by industrial companies, household chemicals “affect the reproductive systems of species and are having an impact on salmons’ ability to deal with predators,” Debrah Marriott, executive director of the estuary partnership, said last week. “They are showing up in water bodies around the country.”

According to the report, researchers also continue to find widespread “legacy” pollutants in the rivers. Most of these toxic chemicals, emitted mainly by industries, were banned decades ago but have yet to break down. These include PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, a family of 209 toxic chemical compounds that have potential to cause cancer.
(8 October 2007)