Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Under ANY circumstances, do not let your elected officials privatize Florida's water supply … by gimleteye

Voters, heed this warning. Ever since Enron tried to persuade the Florida legislature to privatize Florida's water supply (1999), the issue has been percolating in the cozies of top Republican legislators and leadership.

Enron was based in Texas, from whence cometh poisonous law granting private water rights. It should escape no one's attention that Texas' largest private landowner, the King Ranch, has had a strong presence in the Everglades Agricultural Area since the Jeb Bush terms.

It was a simple twist of fate that Jeb, then governor, dodged the Enron implosion by going slowly on Enron's privatization scheme; one that his top lieutenant at the time, David Struhs, supported in gatherings industry meetings.

Last year, the Tampa Bay Times disclosed that King Ranch hunting grounds in Texas were the site of GOP junkets, paid for by US Sugar Corporation. Of the secret trips, Gov. Rick Scott said that "no business was discussed", but when a Tampa Bay Times reporter asked Ag Secretary Adam Putnam, the door was slammed in the reporter's face.

Maybe it wasn't bid'ness; just talk over single malt whiskey how to privatize Florida's water supply.

Last week, NJ governor Chris Christie approved a GOP state plan to private water supply, over the protest of citizens.

What should be driving Florida voters' interest in this issue -- who controls our water -- is climate change. As a nation, we are on the verge of massive economic impacts. For example there is no Plan B for California, where scientists estimate there is only a year's supply left of potable drinking water.

The case can already be made that large California agribusinesses have become extraordinarily wealthy by exploiting their claims to water that cities desperately need. Let's bar that economic scavenging from Florida.

Voters need to be vigilant. (click read more for relevant reports)

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law on Thursday legislation that critics say sells out the state's water supply and democratic process for private profits.

The Water Infrastructure Protection Act, which purportedly aims to address aging infrastructure , allows for fast-tracking of sales of municipal water systems to private entities.

Among the sponsors of the measure, which passed the state legislature in December, was Senator Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth), who stated Thursday: "We recognize that there are times when private entities might be most capable of operating, maintaining and upgrading drinking water and sanitary wastewater systems,” and keeps "the public’s ability to be part of the process."

Quite the opposite, according to the law's critics.

"Governor Christie has sided with private water companies over our water supply," stated Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "This law will raise rates, hurt consumers and businesses."

"Residents will not be able to decide the fate of their water supply unless the petition to sell or lease is signed by 15% of voters in the area. This is undemocratic, takes away public oversight and input, and allows deregulation of our water protection and rates. Governor Christie has now allowed for private water companies to reap massive amount of profit at the expense of residents and their water supply," Tittel said.

Tittel added that water privatization's track record shows it's a no-win situation for the public.

"Privatization is one of the single biggest threats to clean water and public health. Privatization often leads to higher rates for services and worsen water quality. Studies have shown that when public services are privatized, corporate profits replace meeting the needs of consumers and the environment," he said.

"Rate payers and tax payers have spent billions of dollars to build these water systems. Now companies are going to take over our public water supply for profits rather than work for the public they are supposed to serve. We will end up seeing higher costs for the services, problems at facilities, and tax payers paying the bill," he added.


California drought: Sierra Nevada snowpack hits historic low
By Peter Fimrite Updated 6:32 am, Saturday, March 28, 2015

The abominable snowpack in the Sierra Nevada reached an unprecedented low this week, dipping below the historic lows in 1977 and 2014 for the driest winter in 65 years of record-keeping.

Electronic surveys show the water content of the snow throughout the Sierra is a shocking 8 percent of the historical average for this time of year, by far the driest it has been since 1950, the year record-keeping began, because of the lack of rain and snowfall and the exceedingly high temperatures. It is a troubling milestone that water resources officials say is bound to get even lower as the skies remain stubbornly blue.

“It’s certainly sobering when you consider that the snowpack in a normal year provides about 30 percent of what California needs in the summer and fall,” said Doug Carlson, the spokesman for the California Department of Water Resources. “What this suggests is that we will have very little water running off. It accentuates the severity of the drought and emphasizes the importance of people cutting back on their water use.”

The department is planning to conduct its monthly snow survey on April 1, the date water resources officials use as a benchmark because it is when the snowpack normally begins to melt and fill up the state’s reservoirs. Meteorologists see nothing on the horizon that could pull the state out of its increasingly frightful drought.

The snowpack is already far below the historic low, which happened in 1977 and again last year, when the snowpack was 25 percent of normal on April 1.

The surveyors measure the depth and water content of the snow in 230 places, called snow courses, in the mountains stretching from north to south. Their results are combined with electronic measurements taken from as many as 130 places around the Sierra to calculate California's drinking water supply for the year.

The state has been publishing statewide snowpack measurements in the Sierra since 1950, but there are several places where measurements go back as far as 1926. At Phillips Station, near the Sierra-at-Tahoe resort, an average of 66.5 inches of snow is normally on the ground on April 1. “We don't expect to find any snow up there on Wednesday,” Carlson said Friday. “It's pretty spooky.”

The snow in the Sierra has been declining since the first seasonal snow survey Dec. 30, when electronic readings found the statewide snow water content was 50 percent of normal for that date. That survey followed several storms in December.

But the readings plummeted to 25 percent of average on Jan. 29 and 19 percent of average on March 3.
The measurements are important because snow makes up 60 percent of the water that is captured in California's reservoirs when it melts in the spring and 30 percent of the state's overall water supply during a normal year.

Curiously, California's biggest reservoirs have managed to hold steady despite the dismal snowpack. Shasta Lake, the state’s largest reservoir, has 74 percent of what it normally holds at this time of year. Lake Oroville, the second-largest reservoir and the most important source for the State Water Project, is carrying 67 percent of what it normally holds at this time of year.

Shasta and Oroville carry 80 percent of the state's reservoir supply. The water is used to irrigate 8 million acres of farmland and quench the thirst of close to 30 million people.

The problem, experts say, is that the reservoirs will not be getting much additional supply from snowmelt, a crucial source in California’s dry Mediterranean summer climate.

Meanwhile, the reservoirs that serve farming communities are wretchedly low. Pine Flat Dam on the Kings River is only 32 percent of normal, and Exchequer, or McClure Dam, on the Merced River stands at only 16 percent of normal. Some of the smaller reservoirs are in real danger of going completely dry this summer.

Peter Fimrite is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: pfimrite@sfchronicle.com. Twitter: @pfimrite


Geniusofdespair said...

Water wars... It will be bigger than energy. You can always stop driving your car and use the sun for energy. You can't stop drinking water. Is this to be a world of nuclear power and desalination plants. Looks that way. They will all have to be built on high ground. Towns and cites will grow up around the highlands. Desal plants will anchor the towns. They will become like the church of past generations.

Anonymous said...

We are already selling our water to bottled water companies. Who makes that money?

Dade county resident said...

Good grief. Since we can't sell oil, we are going to sell our water?

Nice. Gosh I hate our state leaders....and I am equal opportunity... any and all parties stink.

Alexandria said...

Idiots at the South Florida Water Management Districts say we can drink reclaimed water. You stop your dog from drinking in the toilet and that water is clean until we fill it.Reclaimed water is a joke there is absolutely no way to remove pharmaceuticals and quite a few other constituents. What has to happen is Stop Building until we fix the problems with our entire infrastructure. The corporations (big sugar,Nestle, FPL, etc )need to fined and fix their mess. Not the taxpayers and or ratepayers start yelling about insane salaries, pollution , run-off the list is endless and they are the ones poisoning and stealing the water.

Sara Leviten said...

Who are the key members of the Florida legislature (in both houses) that we should contact about this important issue? I want to impress upon them the importance of keeping our water public. Of course, we have to curtail the overdevelopment of our municipalities and county. I was in the Brickell area today. It's already a concrete canyon. There's gotta be another way to have a good economy besides erecting those huge buildings that get filled up with so many people. These buildings are already invading the Roads Section on S.W. 1st Ave. Thank G-d they have a good homeowners association, so the development might be curtailed with these two buildings.

cheap crap from china said...

Wake up sheeple, while Repubnantcan leaders at the behest of corporate polluters have been running their climate change denial campaign, Wallstreet, Big Banks and the Bush Family have been buying up fresh water supplies all over the world. This is not incompetent government, this is yet another investment scheme by the 1% ers to control the potable water supply to make huge profits off of the most fundamental requirement to sustain human life. This is capitalism as its ugliest.