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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #50 on: December 30, 2013, 11:40:05 AM »

NOT A DROP TO SPARE
California faces a catastrophic drought next year
By Todd Woody

In the run-up to the holidays, few noticed a rather horrifying number California water managers released last week: 5%.

That’s the percentage of requested water the California State Water Project
(SWP), the largest man
-
made distribution system in the US, expects to deliver in 2014. The SWP supplies water to two-thirds of the state’s 38 million residents and 750,000 acres of farmland.

Ending one of its driest years in recorded history for the second year in a row, California, an agricultural and technological powerhouse, faces extreme drought conditions in 2014 unless winter storms materialize between now and April, according to the US National Weather Service.
 

That means farmers will receive a fraction of the water they need for spring planting, likely triggering spikes in food price as agricultural land goes fallow. “The San Joaquin Valley is facing the prospect of a record low water allocation, an historic low point in water supply reliability, and yet another year of severe economic hardship,” the Westlands Water District, which supplies water to 600,000 acres in California’s bread basket, said in a statement. The potential cost to the regional economy? More than $1 billion.

With the state already a tinderbox, a dry 2014 raises the likelihood of more catastrophic wildfires like August’s Rim Fire, which devastated parts of Yosemite National Park and ranked as one of the largest in California history.

The prospects for a wetter 2014 are not looking good. California relies on snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains for much of its water. As of Dec. 1, California’s snowpack contained just 13% of the average water annual water content. San Francisco, meanwhile, has received just 38% of its average rainfall since July. Less than an inch of rain has fallen on Los Angeles in that time, or 39% of its average.

Here’s how much rain has fallen in all of California over the past day: none.
 

In response, California governor Jerry Brown has ordered a “drought management team” to convene weekly to manage the state’s response to what is likely to be a very difficult year.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #51 on: January 06, 2014, 10:37:11 AM »

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/06/us/colorado-river-drought-forces-a-painful-reckoning-for-states.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20140106
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DougMacG
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« Reply #52 on: January 10, 2014, 10:35:59 AM »

Mentioned in Crafty's 'way forward' post.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/09/us/west-virginia-contaminated-water/

Memo to many in West Virginia: Don't drink the water
CNN  updated 11:07 AM EST, Fri January 10, 2014

Many without water after chemical spill

(CNN) -- Nearly 200,000 people in West Virginia awoke Friday to stark warnings about their tap water: Don't drink it. Don't cook with it. Don't even brush your teeth or take a shower.

The reason: a chemical spill in the Elk River in the central and southwestern parts of the state.

The news sent shock waves through the region as the worried headed to hospitals in search of reassurances they were OK.

A spokeswoman for West Virginia American Water Co., Laura Jordan, said the company had received calls about illnesses, but none of them were serious.

"We just advise customers if they are feeling something that isn't right to seek medical attention."
West Virginia\'s governor declared a state of emergency in nine counties.
West Virginia's governor declared a state of emergency in nine counties.

Many appear to have done just that.

"Our emergency rooms have been very busy with individuals unnecessarily concerned and presenting no symptoms," Charleston Area Medical Center said.

The water restrictions affected the hospital, too. It put into place linen conservation and alternative cleaning methods and turned away all but emergency patients.

Residents moved quickly to stock up on bottled water.

"We managed to get the last five bottles of water at 7-Eleven last night," Charleston resident Beth Turley told CNN. "We are OK right now on water. We're just drinking sports drinks and teas, things like that right now."

"There was a run on water at every Walmart and convenience store in the county," said Kent Carper, president of the Kanawha County Commission.

On Thursday evening, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency for nine counties.

"Right now, our priorities are our hospitals, nursing homes and schools," the governor said. "I've been working with our National Guard and Office of Emergency Services in an effort to provide water and supplies through the county emergency services offices as quickly as possible."

The declaration affects West Virginia American Water customers in Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam and Roane counties.

The company said on its Facebook page that the spill along the Elk River contaminated the Kanawha Valley water system.

President Barack Obama signed an emergency declaration authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.

The leaked chemical, 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, is harmful if swallowed, said Thomas Aluise, a spokesman for the state's Department of Environmental Protection. It is used to wash coal before it goes to market.

Jordan, the water company spokeswoman, said she first suspected something was amiss Thursday morning when she noticed an odor like licorice in the air en route to work.

The Department of Environmental Protection and the Emergency Operations Center investigated, and they found the spill coming from a 48,000-gallon tank at Freedom Industries, a chemical storage facility about a mile upriver from the West Virginia American Water plant.

A toxicologist with Freedom Industries told the water company there is "some health risk" associated with this chemical, Jordan said.

"The safety sheet indicated there could be some skin or eye irritation if you come in contact, or possibly harmful if swallowed, but that's at full strength of the chemical," Jordan said. "The chemical was diluted in the river."

The do-not-use advisory was issued just before 6 p.m. as a precaution, she said.

She said the company was working with DuPont and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to determine the level of contamination. "We will determine a course of action at that point in time," she said.

No one from Freedom Industries immediately responded to a telephone call seeking comment.

Officials weren't sure when the water advisory would be lifted in the nine-county area.

"You've got 60 miles of this system, and it's full of this water," said Carper of the Kanawha County Commission. "And people aren't using the water."

Meanwhile, Jordan said that a dozen water tankers had arrived by Friday morning from Pennsylvania and that West Virginia American Water has bought four truckloads of bottled water from a local supplier.

The emergency's ripple effects included the closure Friday of the state supreme court of appeals in Charleston, courts in Boone and Lincoln counties, and the cancellation of classes at West Virginia State University.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #53 on: January 10, 2014, 11:14:34 AM »

On a Prepper/Survivalist note-- this is a good moment for each of us to ask himself how well his family and he would be prepared should similar news hit him this morning.

The Denny family has nearly 100 gallons of bottled water.

Also worth pondering is what responsibility should our legal system place upon the company responsible for all this?
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DougMacG
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« Reply #54 on: January 10, 2014, 11:51:48 AM »

...what responsibility should our legal system place upon the company responsible for all this?

I assume they are liable for damages.  The loophole I fear is bankruptcy, but I don't believe bankruptcy releases anyone from environmental liability.  One might look back at Johns Manville for precedent.  They were the largest, richest company in Denver when I lived there and filed bankrupt because of the link between insulation of the past and asbestos poisoning.  They paid billions in settlements, bounced around in courts, and now are a Berkshire Hathaway company. http://www.asbestos.com/companies/johns-manville.php

If facts prove the thrust of the original post to be correct, criminal negligence would be on the table as well.  Accidents happen but environmental laws are not something to mess with.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #55 on: January 15, 2014, 12:53:57 PM »



http://worldtruth.tv/collecting-rainwater-now-illegal-in-many-states-as-big-government-claims-ownership-over-our-water/
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #56 on: January 27, 2014, 06:23:09 AM »

On the California Water Front
How green politics has exacerbated the state's growing shortages.
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Jan. 26, 2014 5:42 p.m. ET

Governor Jerry Brown in his state of California speech last week recalled Joseph's advice from scripture to "Put away your surplus during the years of great plenty so you will be ready for the lean years which are sure to follow." If only government water regulators were as wise as Joseph.

Mr. Brown has declared the state's severe drought an emergency. Snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas, the state's primary water source, is 20% of normal for this time of year, and reservoirs that capture the melted runoff are fast being depleted. While urging conservation, he says the government's ability to provide relief is limited since "we can't make it rain." That's refreshing modesty for Democrats these days. But the water shortage like so many other crises in California has been exacerbated by government. Californians are getting another first-hand lesson in the high costs of green regulation.
Enlarge Image

European Pressphoto Agency

Local water districts that supply southern California, the Bay Area and the southern San Joaquin Valley may receive only 5% of their contractual allocations this year while growers in the heart of the valley might be cut off completely. Supplies for residents north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta could be sharply restricted for the first time.

Districts in the south report they can weather the drought through 2015 without rationing water since they've invested in underground storage, desalination, wastewater reclamation and water metering. Yet the normally flush north, which likes to blame southern Californians for wasting the state's most precious resource, has been slow to adopt such technologies and is now feeling the pinch.

The green paradise of Santa Cruz has barred restaurants from serving water with meals except on diners' request. Sacramento residents have been ordered to scale back their water consumption by 20% and forbidden from using sprinklers on weekdays or washing cars with a hose. City workers and neighborhood watch groups are patrolling the streets for scofflaws.

Suffering the most are farmers south of the delta whose water allocations have plunged over the last two decades due to endangered-species protections. According to the Western Growers Association, up to 4.4 million acre-feet of water is diverted annually to environmental uses like wildlife refuges and salmon restoration. That's enough to sustain 4.4 million families, irrigate 1.1 million acres of land and grow more than 100 million tons of grapes.

Farmers are having to fallow hundreds of thousands of acres and pump groundwater, which depletes aquifers and can cause land subsidence. One irony here is that environmentalists are destroying one of FDR's great public-works programs—irrigating the naturally arid San Joaquin Valley.

California's biggest water hog is the three-inch smelt, which can divert up to one million acre-feet in a wet year. In 2008, federal regulators at the prodding of green groups restricted water exports south to protect the smelt, which have a suicidal tendency to swim into the delta's pumps. While wildlife refuges have continued to receive all 400,000 acre-feet of water they're entitled to under environmental regulations, farmers haven't gotten 100% of their water allocations since 2006. Even during years of heavy precipitation, federal regulators have supplied growers with 45% to 80% of their contractual deliveries.

After a deluge late in 2012, 800,000 acre-feet of melted snowpack was flushed into the San Francisco Bay. Regulators worried that reservoirs could overflow if the heavy precipitation continued. Yet they didn't want to harm the smelt by pumping more water south. All that flushed-out water would come in handy now.

California also has limited surface water storage because green groups oppose building new reservoirs or expanding existing ones like the Shasta Dam. Construction could disturb species's habitats. Reservoirs also encourage population growth, which is one reason many northern California communities rely heavily on groundwater.

Senator Dianne Feinstein noted last year that "expanding and improving California's water storage capacity is long overdue" since the last significant government investments in water storage and delivery were in the 1960s—not incidentally before the California Environmental Quality Act and National Environmental Policy Act were enacted in 1970. Those laws make it easier for environmentalists to block public works.

Ms. Feinstein and her fellow Democrats are now rushing to dodge the political storm brewing in the San Joaquin Valley. Earlier this month, she and her fellow California Senator Barbara Boxer and Rep. Jim Costa of Fresno urged federal agencies to "exercise their discretion in regulatory decision-making within the confines of the law to deliver more water to those whose health and livelihoods depend on it."

That sounds nice, but both Senators left farmers out to dry in 2012 when they opposed House legislation that would have redirected more water to humans and helped mitigate the present shortage. The Senators claimed the bill would "eviscerate state and federal environmental laws and water rights" and "seriously set back California's ability to resolve its water challenges." President Obama threatened a veto.

Republican Reps. Kevin McCarthy, Devin Nunes and David Valadao plan to introduce similar legislation that would temporarily suspend some environmental regulations and put humans at the front of the water line once it starts raining. This is a modest step toward reforming the absurd government status quo that puts green indulgences above human welfare.
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DougMacG
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« Reply #57 on: January 27, 2014, 11:20:10 AM »

Droughts come and go and people most certainly tamper with our water supplies.  More importantly IMHO: people in their prosperity are choosing to move away from abundant fresh water supplies.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #58 on: January 29, 2014, 10:04:58 PM »

http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2014/01/29/report-some-bay-area-communities-could-run-out-of-water-within-4-months/
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #59 on: February 10, 2014, 11:13:46 AM »


The Opinion Pages|OP-ED CONTRIBUTORS

The Dust Bowl Returns
By Blain Roberts and Ethan J. Kytl

 

FRESNO, Calif. — EVERY Saturday in late December and January, as reports of brutal temperatures and historic snowfalls streamed in from family in Vermont, New York and even southern Louisiana, we made weekly pilgrimages to our local beer garden to enjoy craft brews and unseasonably warm afternoons.

Normal winters here in Fresno, in the heart of California’s Central Valley, bring average highs in the 50s, steady periods of rain and drizzle, and the dense, bone-chilling Tule fog that can blanket the valley for days and even weeks on end.

But not this year. Instead, early 2014 gave us cloudless skies and midday temperatures in the 70s. By the end of January, it seemed like April, with spring trees in full bloom.

We fretted over the anomalous weather, to be sure. A high-pressure system parked off the Alaskan coast had produced not just our high temperatures but also soaring levels of fine particulate matter in the air and more than 50 rainless days, worsening a
three-year drought, the most severe in half a millennium. If it’s this bad in January, we wondered, what’s it going to be like in July? But then we’d return to the beer taps, or meander over to peruse food truck menus.

Life in the Central Valley revolves around two intricately related concerns: the quality of the air and the quantity of the water. Although Fresno is the state’s fifth-largest city, it is really just a sprawling farm town in the middle of the nation’s most productive agricultural region, often called “America’s fruit basket.” Surrounded by mountains, which trap the pollution created by a surging population, interstate transportation and tens of thousands of farms, the valley has noxious air, even on good days.

The political atmosphere surrounding crop irrigation is equally toxic. Some farms in the western Valley — crippled by cuts in water allocations, salt buildup in the soil and depleted aquifers — now resemble the dust bowl that drove so many Tom Joads here in the 1930s. Farmers line highways with signs insisting that “food grows where water flows,” while environmentalists counter that the agriculture industry consumes 75 percent of the water transported by California’s byzantine water system.

Locals assess the situation in numbers and colors. Meteorologists compile and trade rainfall statistics with all the regularity and precision of batting averages, but without any of the fun. The air quality index — ranging from a “healthy” green to a “hazardous” maroon — occupies an ominous presence in the day, not unlike the color-coded terrorism alert scale adopted after 9/11.

Experts offer dire warnings. The current drought has already eclipsed previous water crises, like the one in 1977, which a meteorologist friend, translating into language we understand as historians, likened to the “Great Depression” of droughts. Most Californians depend on the Sierra Nevada for their water supply, but the snowpack there was just 15 percent of normal in early February. And the dry conditions are likely to make the polluted air in the Central Valley — which contributes to high rates of asthma and the spread of Valley Fever, a potentially fatal airborne fungus — even worse.

The current crisis raises the obvious question: How long can we continue to grow a third of the nation’s fruit and vegetables?

Tom Willey — an organic farmer from nearby Madera with the genial manner and snowy beard of a Golden State Santa Claus — certainly wonders. For six and a half years, he and his wife, Denesse, have provided most of our family’s fresh produce through their community-supported agriculture program. The Willeys taught us to appreciate kohlrabi and even turned our 5-year-old into a fan of brussels sprouts, which she likes to eat straight from the farm box.

Twenty years ago, the water table under the Willeys’ farm measured 120 feet. But a well test in late January revealed that it is now 60 feet lower. Half of that decline, Tom estimates, has occurred in the last two years.

I guess the Tom Joads' of the current generation will not be singing "California here I come." All this snow in Minnesota looks pretty good...

The Willeys have done what they can to cope. They’ve cut back on less profitable crops, and they are already dedicated practitioners of sustainable agriculture. But many farmers aren’t, and the future is worrisome. Pumping from aquifers is so intense that the ground in parts of the valley is sinking about a foot a year. Once aquifers compress, they can never fill with water again. It’s no surprise Tom Willey wakes every morning with a lump in his throat. When we ask which farmers will survive the summer, he responds quite simply: those who dig the deepest and pump the hardest.

Yet for all the doom around us, here in Fresno itself it is hard to find evidence that the drought is changing the behavior of city dwellers. Locals have made a few concessions, though mainly to mitigate the effects of the bad air. The two of us, for instance, have skipped afternoon jogs to ease the strain on our lungs.

And while religious communities around the valley organized a day of prayer and fasting, entreating God to send rain, concrete efforts to solve the water problem are less apparent. Gov. Jerry Brown has called on all Californians to reduce their water use by 20 percent, but residential lawns, seeded each year with winter ryegrass, continue to glow in brilliant, bright-green hues, kept alive by sprinkler systems that are activated in the dark of night.

Fresnans have long resisted water-saving measures, clinging tenaciously to a flat rate, all-you-can-use system. Nudged by state and federal officials, Fresno began outfitting new homes with water meters in the early 1990s, but voters passed a ballot initiative prohibiting the city from actually reading them. It took two decades for all area homes to acquire meters and for the city to start monitoring the units. To its credit, Fresno has a watering schedule, limiting when residents can water their lawns. But enforcement, to put it charitably, is lax.

Our behavior here in the valley feels untenable and self-destructive, and for much of it we are to blame. But we also find support among an enthusiastic group of enablers: tens of millions of American shoppers who devour the lettuce and raisins, carrots and tomatoes, almonds and pistachios grown in our fields.

Rain showers moved in Thursday morning, for the third time in a week. The faithful will see signs of divine intervention, but it seems clear we need to stage one of our own. These storms brought less than two inches of rain — merely a drop in our tired, leaky bucket.

Blain Roberts, the author of the forthcoming book “Pageants, Parlors, and Pretty Women: Race and Beauty in the Twentieth-Century South,” and Ethan J. Kytle, the author of the forthcoming book “Romantic Reformers and the Antislavery Struggle in the Civil War Era,” are associate professors of history at California State University, Fresno.
+++++++++++++++++++++

2
 February 2014

Severe Drought Has U.S. West Fearing Worst
By Adam Nagourney and Ian Lovett

LOS ANGELES — The punishing drought that has swept California is now threatening the state’s drinking water supply.

With no sign of rain, 17 rural communities providing water to 40,000 people are in danger of running out within 60 to 120 days. State officials said that the number was likely to rise in the months ahead after the State Water Project, the main municipal water distribution system, announced on Friday that it did not have enough water to supplement the dwindling supplies of local agencies that provide water to an additional 25 million people. It is first time the project has turned off its spigot in its 54-year history.

State officials said they were moving to put emergency plans in place. In the worst case, they said drinking water would have to be brought by truck into parched communities and additional wells would have to be drilled to draw on groundwater. The deteriorating situation would likely mean imposing mandatory water conservation measures on homeowners and businesses, who have already been asked to voluntarily reduce their water use by 20 percent.

“Every day this drought goes on we are going to have to tighten the screws on what people are doing” said Gov. Jerry Brown, who was governor during the last major drought here, in 1976-77.

This latest development has underscored the urgency of a drought that has already produced parched fields, starving livestock, and pockets of smog.

“We are on track for having the worst drought in 500 years,” said B. Lynn Ingram, a professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Berkeley.

Already the drought, technically in its third year, is forcing big shifts in behavior. Farmers in Nevada said they had given up on even planting, while ranchers in Northern California and New Mexico said they were being forced to sell off cattle as fields that should be four feet high with grass are a blanket of brown and stunted stalks.

Fishing and camping in much of California has been outlawed, to protect endangered salmon and guard against fires. Many people said they had already begun to cut back drastically on taking showers, washing their car and watering their lawns.

Rain and snow showers brought relief in parts of the state at the week’s end — people emerging from a movie theater in West Hollywood on Thursday evening broke into applause upon seeing rain splattering on the sidewalk — but they were nowhere near enough to make up for record-long dry stretches, officials said.

“I have experienced a really long career in this area, and my worry meter has never been this high,” said Tim Quinn, executive director of theAssociation of California Water Agencies, a statewide coalition. “We are talking historical drought conditions, no supplies of water in many parts of the state. My industry’s job is to try to make sure that these kind of things never happen. And they are happening.”

Officials are girding for the kind of geographical, cultural and economic battles that have long plagued a part of the country that is defined by a lack of water: between farmers and environmentalists, urban and rural users, and the northern and southern regions of this state.

“We do have a politics of finger-pointing and blame whenever there is a problem,” said Mr. Brown. “And we have a problem, so there is going to be a tendency to blame people.” President Obama called him last week to check on the drought situation and express his concern.

Tom Vilsack, secretary of the federal Agriculture Department, said in an interview that his agency’s ability to help farmers absorb the shock, with subsidies to buy food for cattle, had been undercut by the long deadlock in Congress over extending the farm bill, which finally seemed to be resolved last week.

Mr. Vilsack called the drought in California a “deep concern,” and a warning sign of trouble ahead for much of the West.

“That’s why it’s important for us to take climate change seriously,” he said. “If we don’t do the research, if we don’t have the financial assistance, if we don’t have the conservation resources, there’s very little we can do to help these farmers.”

The crisis is unfolding in ways expected and unexpected. Near Sacramento, the low level of streams has brought out prospectors, sifting for flecks of gold in slow-running waters. To the west, the heavy water demand of growers of medical marijuana — six gallons per plant per day during a 150-day period — is drawing down streams where salmon and other endangered fish species spawn.

“Every pickup truck has a water tank in the back,” said Scott Bauer, a coho salmon recovery coordinator with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “There is a potential to lose whole runs of fish.”

Without rain to scrub the air, pollution in the Los Angeles basin, which has declined over the past decade, has returned to dangerous levels, as evident from the brown-tinged air. Homeowners have been instructed to stop burning wood in their fireplaces.

In the San Joaquin Valley, federal limits for particulate matter were breached for most of December and January. Schools used flags to signal when children should play indoors.

“One of the concerns is that as concentrations get higher, it affects not only the people who are most susceptible, but healthy people as well,” said Karen Magliano, assistant chief of the air quality planning division of the state’s Air Resources Board.

The impact has been particularly severe on farmers and ranchers. “I have friends with the ground torn out, all ready to go,” said Darrell Pursel, who farms just south of Yerington, Nev. “But what are you going to plant? At this moment, it looks like we’re not going to have any water. Unless we get a lot of rain, I know I won’t be planting anything.”

The University of California Cooperative Extension held a drought survival session last week in Browns Valley, about 60 miles north of Sacramento, drawing hundreds of ranchers in person and online. “We have people coming from six or seven hours away,” said Jeffrey James, who ran the session.

Dan Macon, 46, a rancher in Auburn, Calif., said the situation was “as bad as I have ever experienced. Most of our range lands are essentially out of feed.”

With each parched sunrise, a sense of alarm is rising amid signs that this is a drought that comes along only every few centuries. Sacramento had gone 52 days without water, and Albuquerque had gone 42 days without rain or snow as of Saturday.

The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, which supplies much of California with water during the dry season, was at just 12 percent of normal last week, reflecting the lack of rain or snow in December and January.

“When we don’t have rainfall in our biggest two months, you really are starting off bad,” said Dar Mims, a meteorologist with the Air Resources Board.

Even as officials move into action, people who have lived through droughts before — albeit none as severe as this — said they were doing triage in their gardens (water the oak tree, not the lawn) and taking classic “stop-start-stop-start” shower.

Jacob Battersby, a producer in Oakland, said he began cutting back even before the voluntary restrictions were announced.

“My wife and I both enjoy gardening,” he wrote in an email. “ ‘Sorry, plants. You will be getting none to drink this winter.’ ”
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DougMacG
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« Reply #60 on: February 10, 2014, 12:26:18 PM »

If interested, Lake Superior still has 3-quadrillion gallons of fresh water, a surface area the size of the state of Maine, retention time of 191 years and enough volume to cover North and South America in one foot of water.  Superior has recovered 100% from the "dangerously low" levels of 6 years ago.  http://www.seagrant.umn.edu/superior/facts

People move away from fresh water and then complain about it. 

Vilsack, Sec of Agriculture: “That’s why it’s important for us to take climate change seriously,”

Oh, good grief.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #61 on: February 13, 2014, 08:05:17 AM »

Why Do We Manage Water Via Command and Control? And Is It Any Surprise We Are Constantly Having Shortages?
February 11, 2014, 1:59 pm

In most commodities that we consume,  market price signals serve to match supply and demand. When supplies are short, rising prices send producers looking for new supplies and consumers to considering conservation measures.  All without any top-down intervention by the state.  All without any coercion or tax money.
But for some reason water is managed differently.  Water prices never rise and fall with shortages -- we have been told in Phoenix for years that Lake Powell levels are dropping due to our water use but our water prices never change.  Further, water has become a political football, such that favored uses (farmers historically, but more recently environmental uses such as fish spawning) get deep subsidies.  You should see the water-intensive crops that are grown in the desert around Phoenix, all thanks to subsidized water to a favored constituency.   As a result, consumers use far more water than they might in any given year, and have no natural incentive to conserve when water becomes particularly dear, as it is in California.

So, when water is short, rather than relying on the market, politicians step in with command and control steps.  This is from an email I just received from state senator Fran Pavley in CA:

Senator Pavley said the state should consider measures that automatically take effect when a drought is declared to facilitate a more coordinated statewide response.

“We need a cohesive plan around the state that recognizes the problem,” Pavley said at a committee hearing. “It’s a shared responsibility no matter where you live, whether you are an urban user or an agricultural user.”

Measures could include mandatory conservation, compensation for farmers to fallow land, restrictions on the use of potable water for hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), coordinated publicity campaigns for conservation, increased groundwater management, and incentives for residents to conserve water. Senator Pavley noted that her hometown Las Virgenes Municipal Water District is offering rebates for customers who remove lawns, install rain barrels or take other actions to conserve water.
Pavley also called for the state to create more reliable, sustainable supplies through strategies such as capturing and re-using stormwater and dry weather runoff, increasing the use of recycled water and cleaning up polluted groundwater basins.

Note the command and control on both sides of the equation, using taxpayer resources for new supply projects and using government coercion to manage demand.  Also, for bonus points, notice the Senator's use of the water shortage as an excuse to single out and punish private activity (fracking) she does not like.

All of this goes to show exactly why the government does not want a free market in water and would like to kill the free market in everything else:  because it gives them so much power.  Look at Ms. Pavley, and how much power she is grabbing for herself with the water shortage as an excuse.  Yesterday she was likely a legislative nobody.  Today she is proposing massive infrastrure spending and taking onto herself the power to pick winners and losers (farmers, I will pay you not to use water; frackers, you just have to shut down).  All the winners will show their gratitude next election cycle.  And all the losers will be encouraged to pay protection money so that next time around, they won't be the chosen victims.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #62 on: February 17, 2014, 06:58:44 AM »

Water-Cleaning Technology Could Help Farmers
WSJ
By TODD WOODYFEB. 16, 2014


FIREBAUGH, Calif. — The giant solar receiver installed on a wheat field here in California’s agricultural heartland slowly rotates to track the sun and capture its energy. The 377-foot array, however, does not generate electricity but instead creates heat used to desalinate water.

It is part of a project developed by a San Francisco area start-up called WaterFX that is tapping an abundant, if contaminated, resource in this parched region: the billions of gallons of water that lie just below the surface.

Financed by the Panoche Water District with state funds, the $1 million solar thermal desalinization plant is removing impurities from drainage water at half the cost of traditional desalinization, according to Aaron Mandell, a founder of WaterFX.

If the technology proves commercially viable — a larger plant is to be built this year — it could offer some relief to the West’s long-running water wars.
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WaterFX faces a daunting and urgent task. The water is tainted with toxic levels of salt, selenium and other heavy metals that wash down from the nearby Panoche foothills, and is so polluted that it must be constantly drained to keep it from poisoning crops.

And with California facing a record-breaking drought, the spigot has gone dry for farmers that depend on long-term contracts with the federal government’s Central Valley Project to deliver cheap water from the north. Irrigation costs are expected to double or triple as growers are forced to buy water on the spot market.

“Food prices are going to go up, absolutely,” said Dennis Falaschi, manager of the Panoche Water District, as he drove his pickup truck past bone-dry fields of almond trees and grapevines on an unseasonably warm day recently.

WaterFX’s project exploits two things the Central Valley possesses in abundance — fallow land and sunshine — to cut desalinization costs.

The parabolic-shaped receiver is a standard unit made by a Colorado company called SkyFuel for solar thermal power plants. It uses a reflective film rather than expensive mirrors to focus the sun on tubes containing mineral oil that are suspended over the solar array.

As the oil warms to 248 degrees, the heat is piped into refurbished, 1960s-era evaporators to generate steam. The steam then condenses fresh water and separates the salts and heavy metals. The cycle is repeated to further concentrate the brine.

WaterFX relies on off-the-shelf equipment except for a heat pump of its own design. The pump recycles excess steam for reuse through a chemical process rather relying on an electricity-driven compressor.

“It cuts the number of solar collectors you need roughly in half,” Mr. Mandell said.

That savings means WaterFX can purify water using half as much energy as conventional desalinization.

During the pilot project, WaterFX produced 14,000 gallons of purified water a day. A commercial version of the plant, set to be built this year on 31 acres of land, will produce 2,200 acre-feet a year. That’s the amount of water that would cover an acre of land at a depth of one foot, or 717 million gallons. The company will store excess heat generated by the solar array in molten salt to allow the plant to operate 24 hours a day.

Mr. Mandell said WaterFX currently produces an acre-foot of water for $450. That compares to about $280 an acre-foot charged by the Central Valley Project — when water is available.

This year, farmers in the Panoche district will receive no water. Last year, they received only 20 percent of their allocation, Mr. Falaschi said. In 2012, the allocation was 40 percent. Farmers elsewhere who rely on the State Water Project to irrigate 750,000 acres of farmland will also receive no water in 2014.

For agricultural water districts like Panoche, solar thermal desalinization promises to solve two persistent problems. One is a chronic water shortage, even in rainy years, as regulators divert water to cities and for environmental purposes, like protecting endangered fish.
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The other is the growing salt contamination of agricultural land that has led farmers to abandon more than 100,000 acres in the Central Valley in recent years.

For decades, water districts like Panoche have drained salty groundwater and disposed of it in places like the San Joaquin River. But new environmental restrictions ban that practice.

WaterFX could reduce the volume of drainage water that needs to be diverted while providing a new supply of fresh water for irrigation that is not dependent on the vagaries of snowpack and rainfall in far-off parts of the state.

“This subsurface groundwater is a possible gold mine,” Mr. Falaschi said. “You’re taking a water supply that is unusable now and you’re converting it to a usable source.”

The desalinated water is of bottled-water quality, purer than what is needed for irrigation.

“We’re creating more water that can be transferred to other markets,” said Mr. Mandell, 38, a technology entrepreneur, who co-founded the renewable energy companies AltaRock Energy and Coskata. “In some instances, that may be water that goes into the municipal-industrial market, which is a higher-paying market.”

Michael Hanemann, a professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Berkeley, called desalinization a hedge against future shortages and the rising price of water. “It’s a form of insurance,” he said. “The issue isn’t turning over your whole water supply to desalinization but adding to it.”

Professor Hanemann said the economic viability of WaterFX’s technology depended on how much water farmers would have to buy on expensive spot markets because of drought and climate change. The more water they buy, and the greater the uncertainty surrounding future supplies, the more attractive desalinization becomes.

He noted that traditional desalinization plants carried high capital costs as they were often built as backup sources of water and operated infrequently. A solar thermal desalinization plant that runs continuously and relies on free sunlight for fuel could make the technology more competitive, he said.

Standard desalinization plants rely on membranes to filter out salt and other impurities from seawater. The process, called reverse osmosis, is expensive. Membranes must be periodically replaced, and forcing seawater through them is energy-intensive, with electricity typically accounting for around a third of operating costs.

Given the high price of desalinization, most projects have been built in water-stressed regions, like the Middle East. But as water shortages persist in California, cities like San Diego are building desalinization plants. A project under construction north of the city, for instance, carries a construction cost of $700 million.

A $30 million, federally funded reverse osmosis plant, which will also treat drainage water, is being built next to the WaterFX pilot project.

Brent Giles, a senior analyst at Lux Research, said solar thermal desalinization’s competitiveness with reverse osmosis remained to be seen. He noted that contaminated water like that found in the Central Valley contained far less salt than seawater and required less energy to purify.

“But for specialized applications like agriculture, I can see there being some value to solar thermal desalinization, " Mr. Giles said.

WaterFX is among a small number of efforts to use the sun to desalinate water. A company called Sundrop Farms is using solar thermal technology similar to WaterFX’s to desalinate seawater for use in growing greenhouse crops in southern Australia.

“It’s a technology that will ultimately be able to treat hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water without having an enormous impact on the environment or on the economics of agriculture,” Mr. Mandell of WaterFX said.
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