In drought areas, the big problem is grass – lawns, golf courses, parks

Xeriscaping. Low water usage doesn't mean barren or drab.
Xeriscaping. Low water usage doesn’t mean barren or drab.

In Las Vegas, as well as in other drought areas, lawns and grass use 70% of the water. Grass in semi-arid areas and deserts can no longer be tolerated. There are too many people and not enough water. Xeriscaping creates attractive landscaping in homes and parks and conserves water use. Grass is not needed. Neither are golf courses in deserts. They just aren’t.

The real water hog is not people, many say, but grass: About 70% of Las Vegas water goes to lawns, public parks and golf courses. A rebate program has already ripped out 168 million square feet of grass.

Las Vegas, although it still uses more water per capita than other cities, is becoming a model for water conservation. However, it charges too little for water. Rates, especially for piggish users, need to be expensive enough to be painful.

Interestingly, everyone’s favorite water villain, the Strip with its lavish fountains, uses 3% of the water and produces 70% of the economy. And the fountain water is recycled.

California Central Valley race to the bottom to drain aquifers


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.

Fracking uses enormous amounts of water in our driest areas


Fracking uses upwards of millions of gallons of water per well in ten of thousands of wells, often in the driest parts of the country. This is deranged. Short-term profits are being allowed to create long-term damage to water supplies and communities. The water used in fracking is mixed with various noxious and dangerous chemicals, poisoning aquifers, as well as depleting water supplies in areas already in drought or experiencing serious water problems.

The Ceres report title says it all, ‘Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Stress: Water Demand By the Numbers’.

Nearly half of the wells hydraulically fractured since 2011 were in regions with high or extremely high water stress and over 55 percent were in areas experiencing drought.

In Colorado and California, 97 and 96 percent of the wells, respectively, were in regions with high or extremely high water stress. In New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, the majority of wells were in high or extremely high water stress regions. In Texas, which currently has the highest concentration of hydraulic fracturing activity in the U.S., more than half of the wells examined (52 percent) were in high or extremely high water stress regions.

Gosh, that sure sounds sustainable, doesn’t it?

The Ceres report provides a series of recommendations which include recycling of water used during fracking (a practice already becoming more commonplace among drillers); using wastewater or brackish water; disclosing more information, not only on water use from the company perspective, but also on water availability and requirements for the basin as a whole; and tougher regulations governing the use of water in dry regions.

Translation: Drillers have been using drinking water and lots of it for fracking and are now grudgingly using alternatives since the media is watching and there is a threat of more damned gummint regulation.

More from The Guardian, Inside Climate News, and Naked Capitalism.

Sacramento CA area imposing mandatory water rationing due to drought


December is generally when the rains come in California. Not this year. The drought continues. The Folsom CA reservoir is just 20% full. The city has implemented a mandatory 20% reduction in water use, as has the county for unincorporated areas. Sacramento and Roseville are expected to do the same next week.

This year will probably be the driest in recorded California history. Folsom Lake is so low that contingency plans are in place to provide emergency pumps should the water level drop below the intake pipes. Water is still being released from the dam to provide habitat for salmon and steelhead. However, authorities are considering lowering the amount released. If they do so, water levels in the reservoir will be sufficient until mid-March, assuming no rains come.

The dry weather is caused by a stubborn high-pressure ridge looming over the Gulf of Alaska and stretching across most of the northern Pacific Ocean. It has diverted the normal storm track away from California for months.

The pattern shows no sign of changing.

Calif Gov Brown wants task force to determine if there’s a drought?

clueless is no excuse

Multiple reservoirs in California are at extremely low levels. This year could be the driest on record. Yet Gov Brown is balking on declaring a drought emergency. Huh?

Groundwater pumping in the agricultural San Joaquin Valley is causing land to sink. Several small reservoirs are nearly dry, at 5% of capacity while major reservoirs are at 40%. The normal December rains have not come. Water allocations for 2014 for agriculture are at 5% or normal. Yet Gov. Moonbeam is still pretending everything is a-ok.

We concur with the reaction of state Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford: “I’m scratching my head on this one — Governor Brown needs a task force to figure out there’s a drought? It’s time for leadership, not a task force.”

Brown needs to get ahead of this quickly to avoid a water emergency. Hoping for winter storms is not a strategy.