Monday, March 02, 2009

Today had a great front page article on the California water problems and its impact on the Central Valley, in terms of farming and unemployment, which is up to 40% in farming communities now. This state is in the third year of a drought and even if it gets lots of late season snow and rain, the reservoirs will be at less then 40% Currently Folsom Lake is at 25%. This is the largest dam on the American River and feeds many cities with raw water for the potable system, as well as controls the flow to the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta. Keep in mind, this is the same Delta where this year there is so little water, the State Water Resources Control Board is trying to decide if the smelt (the main feed fish in the Delta for larger species such as bass and salmon) should have a spring water flow allowing them to spawn, or an autumn flow allowing salmon to spawn. Which species needs to be pushed close to extinction (no joke, that is how bad it is)? Glad I do not have to play God myself with that decision. In the interim, the population has grown by 3,000,000 since the last drought and many acres of land have been placed into fruit and nut trees, or vineyards, which require annual water and cannot be allowed to go fallow, as they will die. So the State has to balance pumping water from the Delta to San Diego, LA and the Central Valley for farming, as well as keeping water for the fish and a flow to the sea. Except there is no water. Everyone needs to read Cadillac Desert to see how California and particularly LA have overstressed any natural system in CA in an attempt to urbanize, feed the country and grow economically in a desert. Unbelievable read and it really shows how overbuilt this fake paradise is.

My wife got to see the big canals for the first time last weekend as we drove to scenic Bakersfield (home of the Drillers, honest, that is the high school nickname and has more to do with oil than teen age hormonal pursuits). The canals have more flow than most rivers on the Front Range of Colorado. Yes, they pull more water out of a delta system than CO relies for life. I am not naive enough not to realize that Boulder, Ft. Collins, Greeley et al could exist oin their present form without taking water from the western slope and bringing it through the Rockies (there is one hell of tunnel under Rocky Mountain National Park from Grand Lake to Estes Park) to bring water to the front range.

We wil be having a fresh water crisis in America soon if global weather patterns continue to change. Just last year, Georgia tried to move its State line just a little north into Tennessee to grab river water as Atalata was going dry. Then they tried to divert Great Lake water through the Misssissippi drainage to Georgia. Israel tried to buy water from the Great Lakes to ship to Israel (they use immense baggies to ship fresh water over the ocean. google it, honest).The Aral Sea in Russia has been drained for cotton farming. This has led to health problems as the desert has grown with sea levels dropping, and the resultant dust storms have caused numerous health problems. Fishing boats there are so far out of the sea, they cannot be salvaged. That is how fast it has dropped.

Now turning sewage into drinking water is a big issue. You have to find water somewhere. This is not really a bad idea, and is much cheaper than turning salt water into fresh. Reverse osmosis is just an expensive process usiing lots of electricity to pump water through semi-permeable membranes using high pressure pumps. Now water laws in many states will have to catch up to this practice. In CO, I think that you may own water rights, but it is expected that you will return at least 85% of the water in your area back to streams, after first turning into drinking water and then processing the sewage. CA has no such laws.

There will be the problems of pollution if this is to become a common process (and it will, believe me--it is one of the reasons I really love my field, the alchemy of turning shit into clean water is really, really cool.) Coomon pollutants such as ammonia and phosphorus are tightly regulated in some states. CA is at least twenty years behind the curve because they believe in the economic benefit of communities and that the solution to pollution is dilution, the old engineers' chant. In other words, they will force higher treatment because it costs too much. And their water law would allow Sacramento to sell its treated sewage to the highest bidder, whether it leaves the Sacramento drainage or not. Time is short right now, but the Scaramento Bee has a great article on this today. I don't have time to find the link.

In fact, work is calling so I will continue this later...


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