Posted on Sun Mar 9, 2014 6:15 am.
Lake Mead bathtub ring
The California drought may lead to California withdrawing water it has saved in Lake Mead, which is already low. However, California isn’t stealing the water, Rather, this is water it parked there.
“The people making an issue of this only see the negative, because water is being taken out,” he said. “But if Met [The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California] hadn’t banked it in the first place, that water wouldn’t be there.”
Nevada, Arizona, and Mexico have also banked water in Lake Mead. Nevada made some bad choices many years ago over Lake Mead when not many lived there and Vegas was not yet a gambling mecca. It only gets about 7% of the water from Lake Mead, yet this accounts for most of Las Vegas’ water.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants to pump billions of gallons of groundwater from hundreds of miles away. Environmentalists have sued to stop them. The project would cost most than $15 billion and it’s not clear where the money would come from.
A giant tunnel is being drilled now to create an intake pipeline from the bottom of Lake Mead to Vegas. This is a precaution in case water levels drop below two higher intakes. It is an expensive, dangerous, challenging task that has already had delays.
Posted in Water
Posted on Sat Mar 1, 2014 7:00 am.
The recent storms in California (despite the usual hysteria in LA when it rains) produced less rain and snow than predicted. Crucial areas in the Sacramento area have increased mandatory drought rationing to 25%. Snow pack in the all important Sierra Nevada is 24% of normal. This is where the bulk of California’s water comes from. Plus, California is now at the end of the rainy season. A big storm predicted for the coming week now looks to be not much more than a few days of drizzle.
Los Angeles got a good-sized storm yesterday. Judging from the overreaction by local media, you’d have thought a hundred foot tsunami swept in from the Pacific, along with Godzilla on steroids, plus a 9.5 earthquake. (We lived in LA for years. I found it comical when it started drizzling, people in parking lots would look to the heavens in horror then hurry inside.)
The rain in southern California helps fill their reservoirs a bit. However northern California and the Sierra Nevada is where the bulk of water comes from. The drought continues.
Posted in Water
Posted on Fri Feb 28, 2014 6:30 am.
Desalination plants powered by solar thermal are being tested in California in agricultural areas far from the ocean. Water used for crops can be filled with salts, and the problem gets worse over. The Water FX Aqua4 provides clean water from “wastewater, drainage water, runoff, saline groundwater and industrial process water. The remaining brine is concentrated into solid byproducts for resale.” The system is a highly efficient, scalable solar still that produces 30x more clean water than by natural evaporation.
Posted in Renewable energy, Water
Posted on Mon Feb 24, 2014 16:07 pm.
California legislators have had multiple opportunities to create genuine plans for water to help all residents and plan for the future. Instead they have indulged in tedious political infighting. Worse, Sacramento legislators have twice attempted to foist water bonds on the public that were so pork-filled and corrupt that the stench drove everyone including themselves from the room. That’s the kind of “leadership” Californians have now in Sacramento. Cowardly, venal legislators beholden to special interests do everything except serve the public. That’s why, for several decades now, California has done little to prepare for the obvious eventuality of severe, lasting drought.
The tendency of politicians, however, has been to take symbolic steps so that they can’t be accused of ignoring water, but not face it squarely. Brown’s recently published Water Action Plan is more a wish list of outcomes than a specific blueprint.
It’s been a case study of how multiple “stakeholders” on any major issue cancel each other out and freeze an unsatisfactory status quo – in the case of water, leaving the state vulnerable when another drought strikes.
While our politicians can do little to alleviate the current drought, they can damn – or dam – well prepare for the next one. And if they don’t, they’re not fit to hold office.
Posted in Water
Posted on Sat Feb 22, 2014 10:50 am.
The feds are supposed, by contract, to limit water cuts to a Central Valley water settlement contractor to 75% of the full amount. Instead they may get 40%, which means 60% of cropland will go fallow. And they are among the lucky ones. Some Central Valley agriculture will get zero water from state and federal water projects.
“Forty percent is inconsistent with the terms of our contract, so we’re wrestling with that,” Bettner said. “Until we have those conversations with Reclamation, it’s too soon to decide what our next steps are going to be.”
If the cut holds, Bettner said, he expects this would require a 60 percent reduction in planted acres in his district, which would affect rice, tomato and corn production.
Posted in Water
Posted on Fri Feb 21, 2014 17:13 pm.
As expected, state and federal water allocations from the Sacramento Delta are zero for Central Valley agriculture in California. Stockpile food now. Food prices are sure to rise.
The California State Water Project previously announced zero percent allocations. The federal Central Valley Water Project has just done the same. There will be no federal water allocations north of the Delta, none for Central valley agriculture, and 50% for municipal and industrial.
Zero percent allocations have never happened before. No one knows what comes next. Farmers in the fertile, enormous Central Valley (which provides large amounts of food to the nation) will fallow hundreds of thousands of acres. Without allocated water, their only sources are whatever is stockpiled in local reservoirs (not much) and wells, which are being drilled ever deeper and draining aquifers.
Posted in Water
Posted on Wed Feb 19, 2014 8:04 am.
If the California drought was due to climate change, there would not have been previous droughts when few people lived there. The link between the current drought and climate change is tenuous (as the NY Times says.) That didn’t stop Obama from linking the two. Politicos on both sides then then jumped in with their own agendas, not bothering to look at inconvenient facts. This obscures and complicates dealing with the drought.
Right wing sites said it was all due to an out of control federal government, conveniently forgetting that without the federal government, most of the vast water projects in the Southwest wouldn’t exist at all. Inhabitat was equally evasive, not even mentioning there is no scientific link between Southwest drought and climate change as they called for immediate action. However, there is clear evidence the Southwest historically and routinely has droughts, which sometimes last for decades, and which were not caused by humans. The current drought could just be part of a normal cycle.
While a trend of increasing drought that may be linked to global warming has been documented in some regions, including parts of the Mediterranean and in the Southwestern United States, there is no scientific consensus yet that it is a worldwide phenomenon. Nor is there definitive evidence that it is causing California’s problems.
Well lookie here, according to climate change projections, California should be getting wetter. Yet clearly it’s not.
In fact, the most recent computer projections suggest that as the world warms, California should get wetter, not drier, in the winter, when the state gets the bulk of its precipitation.
Posted in Climate change, Water
Posted on Tue Feb 18, 2014 9:59 am.
California and the Southwest have a long history of drought. Some Southwest droughts lasted 100 years. Worse, the 20th Century may have been unusually wet. Yet water infrastructures were built and planning was done assuming droughts, if any, would be brief. This was almost certainly a short-sighted, irresponsible approach. These droughts, since they have occurred in the past when far few humans were in the Southwest, have little to do with human-based climate change. Arguing whether or not climate change is a factor in the current drought seems to me to be mostly irrelevant. The more important issues are dealing with drought now and planning in advance for future droughts that surely will come.
It’s getting dire, and this drought may be less of a drought and more the beginning of a dry spell.
As 2013 came to a close, the media dutifully reported that the year had been the driest in California since records began to be kept in the 1840s. UC Berkeley paleoclimatologist B. Lynn Ingram didn’t think the news stories captured the seriousness of the situation.
“This could potentially be the driest water year in 500 years,” says Ingram, a professor of earth and planetary science and geography.
Ingram co-authored The West without Water: What Past Floods, Droughts, and Other Climatic Clues Tell Us about Tomorrow which explores these issues in detail.
Climate change is indeed a problem and may be making a potentially bad situation worse. However, killer droughts (like the one that probably wiped out the Anasazi, were not due to human-caused global warming. This means reversing the effects of climate change will not end long droughts in the Southwest.
You mentioned global warming. Is what we’re seeing consistent with the predictions that have been made about how climate change could affect California?
Yes. We’ve already started having a decreased snow pack and increased wild fire frequency. And we’ve been warming, and it’s gotten drier. With Pacific Decadal Oscillation [the ever-changing temperature of surface water in the North Pacific Ocean], every 20 or 30 years we go in and out of these positive and negative shifts that affect precipitation and temperature. But now we’re entering a period where it looks like we’re getting drier even though it doesn’t necessarily correspond to that cycle. It looks like a trend. It’s warming and drying, and that’s definitely a big concern for Western states.
Posted in Climate change, Water
Posted on Mon Feb 17, 2014 6:30 am.
The plight of Central Valley farmers fallowing land and frantically pumping water from wells not knowing when they will go dry is their own damn, greedy fault, says a California water blogger.
I have absolutely no sympathy for this predicament. It could not be more directly or more blatantly self-inflicted. This is the direct result of their own choices, and has been clearly evident to every observer for years. You know, even records and monitoring started in 2009 would be useful now. Fuck ‘em. Let them wonder how much water they have left in their aquifers. They have only themselves to blame for not knowing.
In the 1930′s, the San Gabriel Valley in California faced a similar problem, which they solved by coming together for the good of all, and imposing contraints on themselves. Their system is still working all these decades.
Which way do you want to go, Central Valley? Everyone grabs as much water as they can with no thought for consequences or create a plan that allows everyone to survive and prosper.
So, to summarize: If communities get together and take responsibility for the finite nature of their aquifers, their water can be reliably managed to last. If they don’t they water as long as it lasts and then, I guess, they’re done. Either way. Their choice.
It’s not just Central Valley farmers who made bad choices and paid little attention to the future. Most of California is ill-prepared for the drought. A Israeli company that specializes in water reclamation and delivery says they’ve been in conferences with many states in the US recently. They were astonished at the general US attitude of “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it” when it comes to water. Cities in Israel are required to have plans and backup sources for water.
Posted in Water
Posted on Fri Feb 14, 2014 6:30 am.
Friant Dam near Fresno CA provides water to 15,000 San Joaquin Valley farmers. It can’t store enough, especially during times of drought. Enter plans to build a much bigger dam, Temperance Flat, at the back of the lake. It would cost $3 billion. Enviros are opposed to it, citing huge damage to habitat as well as making it even harder to bring back the salmon.
Seventy years ago, salmon runs ended on the San Joaquin River because they built concrete channels and reversed the flow of the river. Lots of landowners lost their water and now the dry bed area gets filled with pesticide runoff and salts. Lawsuits forced the dam to start to provide water for salmon.
This is an instructive microcosm of the California water wars. The California Spigot has an in-depth article which I highly recommend.
Posted in Water