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California Drought
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Sumanguru Offline
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Post: #76
RE: California Drought
(05-06-2015 10:06 AM)EnemyCombatant Wrote:  I'm an environmental engineer with research experience on water projects. Water issues, along with the general ecological situation, are what caused me to switch from pre-law to civil engineering at the beginning of college. I'd like to tell you that I found out a bunch of amazing technology that will fix this, but unfortunately that's not the case.

One of the central books you should read if you want to really grasp this issue is Cadillac Desert: The American West and its Dissappearing Water, by Marc Reisner.

Starting with the homesteading movement and Westward Expansion, there's been this image of the West that has been perpetuated through mythology, dirty money deals, and humongous government projects. This entire region is a desert, and the extravagantly-costly (in terms of money AND natural resources) cities, infrastructure, and industry we've built up have tapped out every major body of water in the area over the last 150 years with the help of dam-happy federal agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation.

News flash: there are no more huge sources of water. The Colorado River is tapped, Owens Valley is tapped, the Sacramento is already over-drawn (even barring a proposed pipeline to SoCal!). Groundwater is tapped bone-dry throughout the state. The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which supplies a large amount of our baseline water capacity in NorCal, has been hovering at around 10-20% of normal levels for a couple years, with no signs or anticipation of relief.

"No problem, we'll go to desalination!"
No, numb nuts, you can't just break the older system, order a new water cycle and get it in the mail. I can't pull the exact numbers but there's no chance in hell that desal's going to cover up our shortfall - it's orders of magnitude more expensive, uses a ton of energy, and creates toxic brine that fucks up coastal ecosystems.

Our real problem here is that we haven't invested in our infrastructure, or society generally, with any consideration to natural limits. In our economic systems, water is priced for its cost of extraction, not based on its true life cycle cost. For example: under our system we have valued water at pennies on the acre-feet to irrigate crops in the Central Valley. These crops create tens of billions in revenue under a quarterly system, but if they destroy any potential for agriculture or civilization in the area for a hundred years after, they should rightly be net-negative in ROI.

Our problems with environmental or energy issues in America stem from this: we ONLY think short-term and hope for the best, which works until it doesn't. And in fact that naive hope is what prevents any hope of sustainability, because it allows us to ignore the irresolvable issues that our civilization and individuals confront: that we can't keep going on like this, that technology won't save us from our hubristic need for endless material growth, but that we don't really have any "big ideas" that will save us.

The number one thing that would save water in CA is to do conservation (through changing user habits AND infrastructure investment to cure leaky pipelines, plumbing, etc.). However, with water prices so low, this has no shot of getting off the ground on the scale it's needed, because end-users have little cost incentive to save on infrastructure, and on a personal level people don't feel enlisted in some grand water-saving strategy (understandable).

People have no idea of what their comfortable lives actually depend on, because they don't want to know and because they're lied to all the time by the agents of progress. In this situation, of course water can be undervalued, even if it causes disastrous long-term effects, because the issue is far-away and complicated. This math won't change until resource limits start hitting us hard, when the rule of quarterly profits gives way to the brutal calculus of necessity and survival.

I don't really see us attempting substantial and necessary reforms until it's too late, unfortunately. The issue's too abstract for the general public, regulatory frameworks are totally outdated, and special interests are too entrenched and can get any ordinary scientist like me shouted down.

tl;dr: I'm a water research engineer. This drought is only going to perpetuate and intensify. If you live in the American West, and intend to stay long-term, you should look at the current drought situation, projected rainfall patterns in your area for coming decades, consider how secure your place is - and make serious considerations of bugging out to wetter climates. If you have to stay in the West, stay away from large, urban centers in deserts - all of Southern California, Las Vegas, Phoenix / Tucson metros for AZ are all particularly fucked.

This should be a ROK article.

Do you have a website or blog where you write on issues like this?
05-07-2015 09:23 AM
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Libertas Offline
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Post: #77
RE: California Drought
I actually have a question about that desalination video. One astute commenter brought up solar desalination plants, which I don't know that much about.

Could those possibly go a way towards fixing the southwest's water problems?

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05-07-2015 09:32 AM
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CJ_W Offline
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Post: #78
RE: California Drought
(05-07-2015 09:32 AM)Libertas Wrote:  I actually have a question about that desalination video. One astute commenter brought up solar desalination plants, which I don't know that much about.

Could those possibly go a way towards fixing the southwest's water problems?

sure, if they find a way to have solar give us enough energy that we don't need electric companies anymore. Untill then, no.

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05-07-2015 09:33 AM
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Libertas Offline
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Post: #79
RE: California Drought
I thought so.

How about the side effects of the solar plants? Are they less damaging than the conventional ones?

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05-07-2015 09:36 AM
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SunW Offline
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Post: #80
RE: California Drought
I work in the oil industry and we're already solving the drought problem in a few places. See: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-Genera...ution.html

Quote:For the oil industry, this is a breakthrough technology that could save it untold sums of money by reclaiming the massive volumes of precious water used in drilling and fracking and also processing produced water that accompanies oil and gas production.

For municipalities and local governments—particularly in Texas during this time of unprecedented drought--it means future water security by accessing new sources that were previously unusable just below the Earth’s surface.

We can turn on the spigots when there's a water shortage, turn off the spigots when we have a year of abundance. None of this stuff is built over night and does take time to build, but with a few of these plants on the coast, we'll have a solution that can produce water for those drier years.
05-07-2015 10:05 AM
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Tokyo Joe Away
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Post: #81
RE: California Drought
[Image: giphy.gif]

How's that "California Drought" situation working out for everyone? Has the entire State of California blown away in one apocalyptic Dust Bowl -- as grimly dictated by the iron-clad certainties of nihilism?

Quote:tl;dr: I'm a water research engineer. This drought is only going to perpetuate and intensify. If you live in the American West, and intend to stay long-term, you should look at the current drought situation, projected rainfall patterns in your area for coming decades, consider how secure your place is - and make serious considerations of bugging out to wetter climates. If you have to stay in the West, stay away from large, urban centers in deserts - all of Southern California, Las Vegas, Phoenix / Tucson metros for AZ are all particularly fucked.

Quote:There is no "solving the problem" when it comes to our environmental predicament. There are only adaptive measures and infrastructure investments that we can make in order to conserve what's left, but nothing can make up for the bounty we've blown away.

Oh wait...

[Image: reservoir0216.JPG]

[Image: pepe.jpg]

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02-18-2017 12:38 AM
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cascadecombo Offline
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Post: #82
RE: California Drought
The faucet was turned on and now they don't know how to turn it back off.
02-18-2017 11:34 AM
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NilNisiOptimum Offline
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Post: #83
RE: California Drought
With all the rain that is simply washing back out to sea, people are finally starting to question why Jerry Brown's bullet train is needed and why that money wasn't spent on infrastructure like dams and reservoirs.

Of course, that requires the average Californian to think more than a week in advance, but I like that these questions are being asked.

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02-18-2017 12:00 PM
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Post: #84
RE: California Drought
I lot of the rain inlands end up refilling the aquifers, which act like a giant reservoir. They've been severely depleted by this last drought, I wonder how much those levels are going to rise after this rainy season, probably not back to normal, but at least a few feet back up.

Part of the problem is in the water use, some of the very water-intensive crops from the Central Valley will have to be scaled back going forward so that water supply and demand balance out in the long run..

λ ό γ ο ς
(This post was last modified: 02-18-2017 02:12 PM by 911.)
02-18-2017 02:11 PM
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Foolsgo1d Offline
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Post: #85
RE: California Drought
Water goes down or runs off, it is never truly gone. You have massive water reserves under the US which are watched 24/7 for terrorism.

California is the perfect example of a place which squanders its golden opportunities.
02-18-2017 02:56 PM
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Hell_Is_Like_Newark Offline
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Post: #86
RE: California Drought
The people who designed the California reservoir system noted that droughts tend to last about 5 years (California started getting above normal rainfall in the North last year). So they put plans together that would increase the system's storage capacity as the population rose.

The power that be in California canceled the expansion plans (i.e. the Ah Pah project on the Klamath River). So now CA has a state with about 40 million people but a reservoir system designed for around 28 million.

Maybe the power that be will cancel the train to nowhere and dust off the Ah Pah project?

I doubt it...
02-18-2017 03:36 PM
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