Archive | Water

Renewable energy 24/7 from turbines in water pipes


Rentricity has the novel idea to put turbines in water pipes where the water flows downhill, providing a 24/7 source of renewable energy. Drinking, irrigation, and industrial water users are their target market. This is micro-hydro, small amounts of electricity is generated. However, it can be enough to help power a water treatment plant, as is being done in Utah. They have installations in other states too, providing extra power that is essentially free after the turbines have been installed, producing power 24/7 because the water is always flowing down the pipes.

Rentricity focuses on an innovative application of in-pipe hydrokinetic power generation. Water continuously flows through pipelines and offers the capability to generate electricity year-round, 24 hours per day. Over-pressurization occurs where water is stored at significantly higher elevation than the customers it serves, and must therefore flow downhill to reach them. Drinking water processors and industrial manufacturers typically install pressure reduction valves (“PRVs”) – hydraulic devices that maintain pre-set pressure ranges – to relieve the excess pressure. PRVs generally do not perform useful work with the dissipated pressure, and simply release it as waste heat. Rentricity’s innovative energy recovery systems convert this excess pressure into clean electricity.

Posted in Energy, Water0 Comments


OTEC renewable energy development continues


Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion doesn’t get much notice. However, especially for islands, it is a reliable way to generate renewable energy 24/7. OTEC creates electricity by using the difference in temperature between cold water at lower depths and warm water at the top, and can generate prodigious amounts of power. Makai Ocean Engineering says all of Hawaii’s power could be generated by 12 commercial-scale OTEC plants.

OTEC pumps in cold water from the depths and warm water from the top. The warm water is used to heat ammonia, converting it to a gas to power turbines. The cold water cools the ammonia back into a liquid so it can be used again. The ammonia is stored in a closed system. Ocean water never mixes with ammonia. Mixed temperature water is pumped back into the ocean at a depth where water is a similar temperature.

OTEC News reports on developments and new installations.

Posted in Energy, Water0 Comments


Flint water crisis perhaps cannot be solved


David Zetland, water policy expert, on the disastrous problem with Flint MI water supply. He’s known for thinking outside the box and says, pay each household in Flint to move to Detroit, to help resurrect that city. Because Flint is probably too far gone to save.

Someone asked my opinion on the situation in Flint. The problem can be traced to a combination of:

  1. An underfunded, shrinking system
  2. Old pipes/underserviced network (30% non-revenue water!)
  3. A switch of water supplies that changed pipe chemistry and increased lead leaching
  4. Managers who are too indifferent, incompetent or overworked to run the system.

Now it seems that the people there face a future of bottled water while waiting for $1.5-$2 billion of spending to replace all the cities pipes.

This is a farce in one of America’s most poor and violent cities (thanks for pointing that out, Mr. Moore)

I thus suggest that the people of Flint be paid $50,000/household (that’s about $2 billion) to move to the neighboring city Detroit, where property is cheap.

Let’s make lemonade! Move the people from Flint to Detroit so they can drink the water, communities intact, and strengthen a “better” city.

Destroy a city, kick out the poor people, then gentrify it. Sounds like disaster capitalism. I’m not suggesting this is what Zetland wants, not at all. He’s one of the good guys. It does look what disaster capitalists do. If, as Zetland says, the Flint water system is lost, then the city is indeed screwed.

Posted in Banksters, Water0 Comments

California aqueduct

Complexity and vulnerability in water supplies

California aqueduct
All water in Dubai is desalinated and they apparently don’t reclaim and reuse. By contrast, buildings in Chinese coastal cities have two sets of plumbing, with salt water being used for toilets. This makes sense, why use drinkable water for purposes that don’t need it? California has a sprawling system whereby much of the southern part of the state uses water that comes from hundreds of miles away.

What do all these systems have in common? They’re big, complex, expensive, and highly vulnerable to disruption. And let’s be clear. Disruption means no running water in cities with millions of people who have no recourse to other sources of something as critical and essential as water. There’s no slack in the system. Nothing to fall back on.

I lived in L.A. for years, and live in Las Vegas now. Every drop of indoor water in Vegas including toilet water is cleaned up, then pumped into Lake Mead to be used again. Southern Nevada is apportioned a mere 1.8% of Colorado River water. The constant recycling is how it lives. In 2015 it only used 1.2% and sold the excess to Southern California in the middle of a bad drought.

Vegas, Phoenix, and Tucson, and yes, Los Angeles use less water now overall than they did twenty years ago. Not per capita. Total usage. With much larger populations. So, change is happening. Cities are trying to plan ahead, to have redundant systems in case of system failures.

The electrical grid is even bigger and more complex that water supplies, which tend to be localized or regional. By contrast, the grid is nationwide, because it has to be. But what happens when there are failures?

As a society we have no interest in thinking about these things. Nor are we even remotely prepared to adjust to what is probably inevitable.

I disagree a bit. Cities and states are getting smarter about water and energy. Yes, we have a long way to go. When the drought hit the Southwest and California, many water districts called in experts from Israel who were appalled that our big cities generally had no meaningful contingency plans for drought. Cities in Israel are required to have such plans.

Maybe the drought will function as a badly needed wake up call.

Posted in Water0 Comments

El Nino storms in Pacific

Ok California, you prayed for rain, rain you will get

El Nino storms in Pacific

I lived in Los Angeles during two El Ninos. The current El Nino is bigger than both of those and is the biggest on record. El Ninos are really quite amazing. Storms stack up in the Pacific waiting to make land. There are at least four storms heading towards California now and the conveyor belt should send continual storms through March. The problem is that constant rain loosens hillsides, with the very real possibility of homes sliding off foundations, mud-flows, beach erosion, and of course, flooded streets. Recent fires in wooded areas means hillsides are barren. This increases the probability of mud flows.

Rain is good everywhere. However, to break the California drought, it needs to fall in the Sierras, because that snow and water is crucial for much of the state, as it flows to the Sacramento Delta then southward via canals. The Eastern Sierra has already gotten snow, with more coming this week.

In the meantime, people get ready.

El Niño storms: it’s steady, not spectacular. But it’s relentless,” said Bill Patzert, climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. “It’s not 10 inches in 24 hours and nothing afterward. It’s a 1-inch storm, a 2-inch storm, followed by a 1-inch storm, followed by a 2-inch storm.

“As this goes on for many weeks, then you start to soak the hillsides — then you get more instability. And then, instead of having 6 inches of mud running down your street or off the hillside behind your house, then you can get serious mudflows — 2 to 3 feet in height.”

Posted in Water0 Comments

Lake Mead bathtub ring

Feds to states: Fix Colorado River problems or we will

Lake Mead bathtub ring

Lake Mead bathtub ring

The Secretary of the Interior is telling the seven states who rely on Colorado River water to fix ongoing water problems or the feds will do it for them. The biggest problem is the agreement governing water usage is decades-old, insanely complicated, increasingly unworkable, yet no one wants to change it for fear they will end up with less water allocated. But fix it they must.

The river, particularly the Lower Basin, faces three potential water shortage problems rolled into one.

First, there is the short-term risk of Lake Mead dropping over the next decade to levels low enough to force severe cutbacks. Second, the Lower Basin river system faces a longer-term “structural deficit” of about 1.2 million acre-feet of water use compared to supply, which must be solved over a longer period, water officials say. Third, the entire Colorado River Basin faces a supply-demand deficit of about 3.2 million acre-feet by 2050

It’s complicated. The Imperial Valley in California, due to its ancient water rights that come before all others, gets 20% of all water from the Colorado. Yet it grows lots of food. And if supplies are cut back the Salton Sea could turn toxic.

Many outside officials, including some in Arizona, have fingered the Imperial Irrigation District in the California desert west of Yuma as a prime target for water-use efficiencies. It has by far the largest share of river water of any user: about 2.6 million acre-feet used this year. But if Imperial Valley farmers use less water, that’s less runoff going into the already shrunken Salton Sea to the west. The Salton is an internationally recognized bird sanctuary that’s in danger of turning into a sea of toxic dust if the water keeps receding.

Posted in Water

Lake Tahoe water levels

Lake Tahoe water level rises almost two inches in 24 hours

Lake Tahoe water levels
This is very good news indeed. Major rains in the Sierras have dumped 6.39 billion gallons of water in Lake Tahoe in 24 hours, the equivalent of 19,610 acre feet. Plus snow is falling at higher elevations. Let’s hope this is the beginning of many El Nino storms to come. Water levels are still historically low. However, perhaps the drought is finally breaking.

Due to the low lake level, the real-time stage sensor is no longer able to capture the current elevation. The current graph is from a temporary, backup sensor.

Also, Colorado is getting lots of snow, something which is crucial for the Colorado River and the seven states that rely on it for water.

Posted in Water


Soil dryness due to drought not groundwater pumping


New satellite data shows that groundwater depletion isn’t as severe as previously thought. The drought is what is causing drops in soil moisture. Yes, there has been water loss. However the cause is natural and not due to humans. As an aside, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Tucson are using less water than they did twenty years ago even though they’ve had big increases in population. There have been huge advances in water conservation and reuse. Las Vegas recycles all indoor water, pumping it back into Lake Mead to be used again.

Large changes in soil moisture as a result of drought, rather than human groundwater pumping, [is] the explanation for a significant portion of water losses identified by NASA GRACE satellite observations. This is especially true in the Upper Colorado River Basin. In the Lower Basin, the picture is more complex, with some groundwater losses in parts of rural Arizona, balanced by stable or rising aquifers in the state’s heavily populated and heavily farmed central valleys.

Posted in Water

Carlsbad desalination plant

San Diego desalination plant water will be very expensive

Carlsbad desalination plant

The Carlsbad desalination plant in San Diego CA will be online this month, producing 50 million gallons of water a day. It will be the nation’s largest, most efficient, and technologically advanced desal plant. It also cost $1 billion to build. Thus, water from it will be expensive, over $2,000 an acre foot, about twice the cost of imported water from the Colorado River and the State Water Project. And therein lies the problem.

If water gets too expensive, people cut back on usage, sometimes to the point of not needing new supplies of water. Also, due to the way California water agreements work, San Diego, in the middle of a nasty drought, already has too much water stored and doesn’t need more. Yes, you read that right.

Unlike other parts of California, San Diego has 99% of the water needed for normal usage. But statewide conservation mandates have applied equally to areas that have plenty of water and those that don’t, so the result here has been water piling up unused while local water agencies raise rates to make up for lost sales.

“It’s real hard to tell them, ‘You have to let your grass die,’ and in the same breath you have to tell them, ‘We have more water than we can use, ‘” he said.

Lee said the authority expects the cost of treated imported water to surpass the cost of desalinated water by 2030.

The San Diego Water Authority has contracted to buy the desal water.

San Diego has “too much water” due to water conservation, meaning that customers will be paying more when the plant opens in a few months. I had called attention to this potential (well know) problem as well, i.e.,

It’s important … to ensure that SDCWA doesn’t get left with a white elephant, as the people of Melbourne, Australia just did with their A$3.5 billion project that is now mothballed due to recent rainfall.

Bottom Line: San Diego’s ratepayers are ALREADY paying for a mistake. I now predict that “excess supply” will be used to support further housing development.

Posted in Water

Swell Actuated Reverse Osmosis System – SAROS

Wave powered desalination

Swell Actuated Reverse Osmosis System – SAROS

Desalination on a small scale is being testing using a low-cost device powered by ocean waves. It can produce enough water per day to be useful in emergencies or to provide water to small communities, plus it is small and completely self-sufficient. “Small scale desalination for people who really need it,” says a co-developer in the video. It will sell for about $23,000 and can produce upwards of 2,000 gallons of water per day. It is deliberately designed so users can make any needed adjustments using just a wrench.

Called the Swell Actuated Reverse Osmosis System – SAROS for short – it uses high-pressure pumps powered by the vertical motion of waves to remove salt from ocean water, making it fit for human consumption. The founders believe SAROS could be used to address fresh water shortages in coastal areas, island communities, and after natural disasters when regular water purification systems are disrupted.

“It’s never going to be something that’s going to make tons of money, but we just want to see it make tons of water,” Sonnett says.

Posted in Energy, Water


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