Would a Tunnel Be a Viable Solution to the Water Shortage?

The San Joaquin River Delta
The San Joaquin River Delta

With all the restrictions on pumping from the San Joaquin Delta, there must be some alternative to provide more water to Southern California. The new suggestion is the proposed 35 mile underground tunnel to channel water from the Delta and lessen the negative effects on the fish population.

The tunnel has been better received than the previous idea of a canal, more specifically, the Peripheral Canal, which the majority of voters decided against in 1982.

The price is yet to be determined, but if it costs less than the canal, it has a better chance of approval. The tunnel may end up being very expensive. New York already has underground water tunnels and San Francisco will soon begin work on a shorter, five mile tunnel, in an effort to make it’s pipes earthquake resistant.

To read more about the proposed tunnel, check out the article here, and check out more water news at Aquafornia.

The Water Shortage Dilemma

Quoting Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, John Patrick Ford explores the problem of water shortage in San Diego in his article entitled, “Water, Water Everywhere.” While the source material is an epic poem filled with allegory and imagery, the article explores the interesting paradox of water availability.

The Pacific Ocean certainly does not suffer from a dearth of water. San Diego is home to beautiful beaches and it’s shores are met with a constant flow of water. Yet, this water is filled with salt and is not fit for drinking. San Diego gets the majority of its drinking water from the San Francisco Bay Delta. As other areas, such as Long Beach, search for ways to be more self reliant for water supply, San Diego’s most logical, yet most expensive solution is a desalination plant.

If San Diego can harvest the ample water from the Pacific Ocean and turn it into drinking water, why not do it? Poseidon Resources is already constructing a Carlsbad based desalination plant. While it will be expensive, new developments in technology make it possible to cut costs in half by switching to desalination, rather than importing from the other side of the state.

The other viable option has been soured by its nickname, “toilet to tap.” The idea of purifying  grey water and making it into potable, or drinkable, water is actually a good idea, but people refuse to get behind it until they lose the stigma that it was once toilet water.

Whatever the choice, something needs to be done soon to combat the current drought in San Diego. What do you think should be done?

Read the article here.

The City of Long Beach May See a 17% Increase in Water Rates Soon

Long Beach Water Department proposed an amendment to the use of underground and recycled water, which would make the district less reliant on water from the Metropolitan Water District. However, the cities of Signal Hill, Downey, and Cerritos disagreed with the amendments, so a formal hearing is scheduled for late August.

The 17% proposed increase in water rates comes on the heels of last years 15.5% increase. Although water use has dropped 15.5% over the past ten years, Metropolitan Water District raised its rates 22% this year, and it supplies half of the water used by Long Beach Water Department.

There is a good chance the proposed increase will go through because the alternatives are expensive and take years to take effect. Long Beach encourages its customers to conserve water to help alleviate the reliance on MWD’s water supply. Long term solutions are desalination and reuse of recycled groundwater through the use of aquifers.

You can read the article, entitled “Water Rate Hikes Likely To Continue Despite Savings” here.

Farmers and Feds to Butt Heads?

An article from the USA Today suggests that some Fresno area farmers are receiving less water for their fields, not because of drought, but due to Federal restrictions on the San Joaquin Delta that are meant to protect endangered fish species. The article, entitled “California Farmers Say Feds Make Drought Worse,” almost seems to be a counterpoint to the article I summarized a few days ago.

While the aforementioned article suggested that Farmers could use less water and help conserve for the entire state, this article suggests that some of these farmers don’t have much water themselves. One of those farmers, Todd Allen, believes that restrictions on taking water from the Delta are more to blame for his lack of water than the drought itself. He’s not alone, either. Over 200,000 acres of farmland in Fresno County alone have not had crops due to the water shortage.

But where does this idea that fish protection is the cause of water shortage come from? The article says that in 2007, a federal judge imposed restrictions on pumping from the Delta, following suits that claim removing water from the delta is detrimental to endangered species like smelt and salmon.

The article mentions the Pacific Institute, the same group that conducted the survey for the previous article that found data that suggests farmers could simply cut back on their water use and help the whole state. The representative from Pacific Institute insists that these farmers are just trying to use the current shortage as leverage to overturn the restrictions.

So with so much finger pointing, how can this problem of drought be alleviated? What are your thoughts?

You can read the article here.  For the previous article, check my post entitled “Farm Water Conservation a Short Term Answer for California?” or click here.

Native plants do more than just save water in your garden.

Originally posted in the BeWaterwise group discussion forum on LinkedIn.  Reposted here with permission of Reginald I.Durant, Director of Restoration/Executive Director at Back to Natives Restoration, Inc. 

Are you aware that the use of locally Native plants in landscaping saves much more than just water?  We hope requirements for water conservation will encourage more home owners and business to use LOCALLY native plants, not drought tolerant non native species. Many species used today that are listed or touted as drought tolerant cost the state and federal governments millions of dollars each year in habitat restoration and weed eradication projects. Back to Natives Restoration teaches the USFS & Back to Natives Restoration Training Program for the Trabuco Ranger District of the Cleveland National Forest. The majority of the species we teach our students how to remove are included in recommended planting lists for water saving in the garden including Olive species, Pepper Trees, Palm Trees, Fountain Grassso called sterile and non sterile varieties are found throughout our wildlands and currently seeded by CALTRANS along our freeways and many more. Please see the book “Invasive Plants of California Wildlands” to see how many California Friendly Plants are not so friendly after all! The use of Locally Native California plants reduces the amount of water used in landscaping, reduces chemical use in the garden as they are adapted to local pests, provides longer flowering seasons if planted appropriately, and reduces the likelihood of our Ornamental Plants escaping and invading local wilderness areas thereby costing non profits and public agencies millions of dollars per year. Last year BTN alone had over 950 volunteers work more than 3500 hours removing non native plants and seeding or planting natives!

 Visit the Back to Natives website here: http://www.backtonatives.org/

Farm Water Conservation a Short Term Answer for California?

I read an article in the Oroville Mercury-Register entitled, “Study: California needs to think small to save water.” In it, Tracie Cone looks at the possibility of encouraging farmers to cut back on their water use. The article is based around a report conducted by The Pacific Institute.

The article focuses on farmers specifically in the San Joaquin Valley and states that they receive the same amount of water regardless of how much they use. The article suggests that these farmers should get a break on their water bills if they use less water, because some people aren’t getting a sufficient supply of water as it is.

The problem this poses is that many of these farmers have been doing this for years and don’t want to be forced or even encouraged to use less than they need. The report’s results found that if farmers conserved water, their water savings could amount to much more than what is needed for the proposed new reservoir.

This may be a short term answer, the article suggests, but it isn’t going to fix the drought problems that California continues to face for the third straight year. Other solutions offered include water storage and desalination.

You can read the article here.

What do you think about these ideas?

Food products should carry water footprint information, says report | Environment | guardian.co.uk

“Food products should carry water footprint information, says report.  The hidden amounts of water used in manufacturing food and drink products should be made known to customers, according to lobby groups.”

This article in the Guardian draws attention to the large amount of water used in producing many of our foods and beverages.  Although the Guardian article focuses on water used for food items, there are also other social and environmental impacts (energy, greenhouse gases, pollution, and solid waste to name a few) involved in producing, transporting and selling of every consumer good. 

As awareness grows about these impacts made by consumer products it seems more and more likely that we will soon see some kind of sustainability labelling or certification on many of the goods we buy.  With the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, recently getting into the act ( http://www.newsweek.com/id/207780 ) , there will be greater pressure on suppliers of all kinds to take steps toward sustainability.

What do YOU think?

via Food products should carry water footprint information, says report | Environment | guardian.co.uk.