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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.

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El Nino rainfall 1998. L.A.

El Nino now ginormous, will drench key California drought zone

El Nino rainfall 1998. L.A.

The current El Nino may be stronger than in 1997-1998

The current El Nino is still building and is on track to be bigger than the previous biggest El Nino that hit California in 1998. There is no no chance it will fail and it’s increasingly looking like crucial northern California will get some hefty rains (and southern California will get drenched.)

There are better odds that the area around Lake Oroville, California’s second-largest reservoir, will have above-normal precipitation — now more than a 40% chance, up from a more than 33% chance in last month’s forecast. San Francisco now has more than a 50% shot of a wetter-than-average winter, up from a more than 40% probability.

That winter [1998], 17 people died in California, and more than half a billion dollars’ worth of damage occurred. Flood-control channels overflowed, mudslides destroyed hillside homes and roads, and railroad tracks were washed away.

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Lower Austria Verbund-Hydropower

Largest state in Austria now 100% renewable energy

Lower Austria Verbund-Hydropower

Lower Austria Verbund Hydropower

Lower Austria, the largest state in Austria with 1.65 million people, now gets 100% of its power from renewable sources. The sources of the power may be surprising to some. They are 63% hydropower, 26% wind, 9% biomass, and 2% solar.

The Danube River provides most of the renewable energy. Hydropower is still the king of renewable energy by far, both worldwide and in the US.

In 2014, renewable energy accounted for 13 percent of the total net electricity generated in the United States. Hydropower accounted for 48 percent of that total. The states with the largest hydroelectric generation are Washington, California, New York, Oregon and Alabama

For apparent political reasons, California does not count big hydro as renewable energy but does include small hydro. Go figure. Yes, big dams can create environmental problems (so can small ones.) However big hydro produces prodigious amounts of energy at low cost, as does so 24/7 as long as there is sufficient water. Drought is not a problem in Austria.

The focus on clean energy isn’t just good for the environment, either. According to the report, Lower Austria has created some 38,000 ‘green jobs’ thanks to its heavy investments in renewable energy production, and the state aims to up this to 50,000 positions by 2030. The rest of Austria is also remarkably invested in renewables, with 75 percent of the country’s electricity coming from clean energy.

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"California water system" by Shannon1 - Own work, background from DEMIS Mapserver, public domain source. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

California get ready, El Nino will be conveyor belt of storms

"California water system" by Shannon1 - Own work, background from DEMIS Mapserver, public domain source. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

“California water system” by Shannon1 – Own work, background from DEMIS Mapserver, public domain source. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

It’s official. El Nino is here, and it continues to grow in strength, promising to be one of the biggest in 65 years. I lived in L.A. during the very powerful 1982-83 and 1997-98 El Ninos. It is indeed awe-inspiring. Big massive storms cannonballed into Los Angeles one after another. Projections for 2015-16 say southern California will get deluged, which is good. However that’s not where major water storage is. To really replenish a parched state, the storms need to dump large amounts of snow in northern California and the Sierras. Let’s hope it does. Southern California gets much of its water from canals starting in the Sacramento Delta. The Delta is fed by the Sierras. (It also gets water from the Colorado River, as you can see from the somewhat bewildering canal map.) The forecast also looks wet for Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona.

Generally, El Niño doesn’t peak in California until January, February and March, Patzert said. That’s when Californians should expect “mudslides, heavy rainfall, one storm after another like a conveyor belt.”

“January and February are just around the corner. If you think you should make preparations, get off the couch and do it now. These storms are imminent,” he said. “El Niño is here. And it is huge.”

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The coming El Nino will mess with everything

El Nino hasn’t hit North America yet. However, it has already caused droughts, smog, and typhoons elsewhere, as well as gyrating commodity prices. As one who lived in Southern California during two El Ninos, I do believe this one is going to be ginormous and devastating to California. Yes, reservoirs and crops in California will get precious rain. However, houses will slide down hills, boulders will crash down on roads, streets will flood, and freeways will become parking lots. Hurricane Patricia, which is about to hit western Mexico as a Cat 5, is fueled by El Nino too

The last big El Nino in 1997-98 caused tens of billions in damage worldwide. This one could be as strong. Heat waves in India and Pakistan have already killed people. Asia harvests will be reduced. The brunt of El Nino is expected to hit southern California. That’s not where the major reservoirs are. To help the drought El Nino needs to hit in northern California too, especially in the Sierras.

Expect “major disruptions, widespread droughts and floods,” Kevin Trenberth, distinguished senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. In principle, with advance warning, El Nino can be managed and prepared for, “but without that knowledge, all kinds of mayhem will let loose.”

While the effect on the U.S. may not reach a crescendo until February, much of the rest of the world is already feeling the impact, Trenberth said.

“It probably sits at No. 2 in terms of how strong this event is, but we won’t be able to rank it until it peaks out and ends.

A crucial issue is that California and the American Southwest save as much of that water as possible. Las Vegas already does this well because catches water in giant flood catchments through the area, then stores the water in Lake Mead after being cleaned. Other areas aren’t as fortunate and don’t have a big lake to store water in.

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Mudslide Grapevine

Flash mud floods outside L.A. could be precursor to El Nino

Mudslide Grapevine

I lived in Los Angeles through two El Ninos and don’t recall anything like what just happened on the Grapevine and in the Antelope Valley where a deluge of rain caused unprecented mudflows, trapping hundreds of cars. The intensity of the storm was due at least in part to the warming ocean off California, which creates more evaporation and humidity than usual. This is precisely what causes an El Nino.

We’re not seeing El Nino itself yet. However, if this is a precursor, then California get ready. Those who don’t live in deserts or semi-arid areas may not understand what the flooding can be like. Storms can be ferocious and waters can rise very fast indeed. “The two most common ways of dying in deserts are too little water and too much water.”

In one spot in the Antelope Valley, the storm dumped 1.81 inches of rain in 30 minutes on Thursday, in what the National Weather Service described as a 1,000-year rain event. “It’s absolutely incredible,” said Robbie Munroe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. October storms are nothing new in the high desert. But experts say the intensity of the deluge is just the latest byproduct of the record temperatures in the Pacific Ocean.

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Drought tap

Bring on El Nino! The Ridiculously Resilient Ridge is gone

drought photo
The abnormal and unusually persistent high pressure ridge off California that has blocked rainfall is gone, replaced by low pressure. This opens the door for El Nino storms to come barreling in. In addition the El Nino is now so strong there is no chance it will dissipate. California, get ready… It looks to be a deluge.

The Ridiculously Resilient Ridge — as meteorologists and forecasters have dubbed the system because of its unusual persistence — has been absent for more than a month, according to a forecaster with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The expectations are as we get into Fall and Winter seasons more deeply, we’re going to see a lot more low pressure there, and that will be the more sort of dominant story,” Mantua said.

Eric Boldt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard, said low-pressure systems typically accompany El Niño events.

I lived in Los Angeles during two El Ninos. There will be flooding. Houses will slide down hillsides. The crucial thing is that the storms hit northern California where important reservoirs are. But hey, even if rainfall is average in NorCal, it will be a huge improvement

Weather models this year show a 60 percent chance of above-average rainfall in Southern California, but that figure declines farther north, Boldt said.

From the San Francisco Bay Area to Sequoia National Park, there’s a 50 percent chance of above-average rainfall. From Eureka to north of Reno, Nevada, that estimate drops to 33 percent. It’s likely to be drier in the Pacific Northwest and the northern Rocky Mountains.

El Nino may be good for a parched California and Southwest, however areas like Papua New Guinea face serious drought. El Nino giveth and El Nino taketh away.

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california water allocation

Water flows to money in the banana republic of California

california water allocation
Respected water wonk David Zetland details how California’s system of allocating water is broken, corrupt, routinely allocates more water than it has, and resembles a banana republic. Yes, there’s a drought. However an antiquated system of water law that is gamed by the wealthy to the detriment of the general public makes things worse. In California law, those with the oldest water rights take priority over everyone else. It doesn’t matter if they use water inefficiently or if their water use drains aquifers and lakes. Zetland says California lawmakers need to show some spine and change the laws so ecosystems that benefit all are not destroyed. Because those ecosystems are what provide water to Californians. Exploit them too much and they will be gone.

An insane person, some say, repeats the same mistakes while expecting different results. Just a few weeks ago, the Feds announced an agreement that gave Jean Sagouspe and other Westlands farmers a permanent water contract in exchange for their pledge to “take care” of a drainage problem that was going to cost the government hundreds of millions to fix. This flawed settlement was particularly galling because it simultaneously wrote off massive debt while conferring rights to water that isn’t really there in exchange for a promise that Westlands would “do its best” to stop toxic salinity from draining into wetlands.

You usually only see sweetheart deals like this for Wall Street, but bankers are not uniquely persuasive. As the L.A. Times reported, “Westlands spends heavily on lobbyists – $2.3 million in Washington since 2012, and $576,000 in Sacramento.”

In 1904, O. Henry described a banana republic as a Central American country whose corrupt politicians sacrifice citizens on behalf of fruit companies. California has always been a banana-shaped state, but its ongoing and deepening policy failures are giving it a reputation as a banana republic where money talks, citizens suffer and the future be damned.

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Salton Sea

California does little as Salton Sea smell and toxic dust apocalpse nears

If an inland salt water lake 35 miles long and 15 miles wide dried up, releasing toxic dust and reeking odors for 100-150 miles around into highly populated and wealthy areas, then that would be apocalyptic. That’s exactly what will happen if the Salton Sea in southern California dries up after 2017, if a new agreement isn’t reached with agriculture there. Farmers are being paid to fallow their land and let their water allotments from the Colorado River flow into the Salton Sea. That agreement expires the end on 2017.

After 2017, the [Salton Sea] “falls off a cliff environmentally.” Toxic dust storms will increase markedly, and so will the chances of a rotten egg smell routinely wafting over much of coastal Southern California.

Oh, I bet California beach cities will definitely start howling for action then, as their air fouls, tourists go elsewhere, and property values drop. However, by then it’ll be too late. The howling for actions needs to start now.

Lack of action will have a devastating impact on the public health and economy of the region, the board was told.

Six months later, the board had done nothing.

In addition to a new agreement, the Salton Sea needs massive help to prevent further deterioration. The problem is, doing so will cost billions.

“The amount of water flowing to the Salton Sea will soon decrease dramatically, with rapid and catastrophic consequences,” Cohen wrote. “Fish will die out. Birds will lose their food source. The lake will shrink and the exposed lake bed will emit large amounts of disease-causing dust unless action is taken quickly.”

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Colorado River

Water law based on common good not archaic water rights explored at Nevada Drought Forum

Colorado River
Southern Nevada uses 32 billion gallons less water than in 2000 despite having 500,000 more people. Nevada governor Sandoval says Nevada is the best in the nation at conservation. This is not an exaggeration. Israel is also a leader. Both did it out of necessity.

“We are the best in the nation and maybe the world in water conservation,” Sandoval said. On a trip to Israel, another arid region, Sandoval said he was amazed by the innovation used to manage water.

“It made me wonder, are we doing all we can?” he asked.

One way to improve water use and conservation is to focus on the common good, a topic that was explored the the recent Nevada Drought Forum.

Existing water law is anchored on the principles of beneficial use and a pecking order that gives owners of the oldest water rights first dibs at the trough.

Those two concepts are coming under increased scrutiny. Some people suggest the “use it or lose it” criteria for water rights is at odds with the goal of rewarding conservation. Others question whether giving senior water right holders access to water at the expense of others in times of drought does not necessarily benefit the public good.

Even though the drought is severe, southern Nevada has water it is not using.

The authority board last week approved leasing 150,000 acre-feet of water to drought-parched Southern California for $44 million, and a new resource report said the water purveyor has enough water to support 1 million new residents in coming years.

“That is a compliment to Southern Nevada Water Authority,” the governor said. “It is one of the most efficient water systems in the world. That is a good problem to have.”

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