Archive for the 'aquifer overdraft' Category

Las Vegas Completing Last Straw to Draw Lake Mead Water

Photo retrieved from: www.abcnews.com

“It took $817 million, two starts, more than six years and one worker’s life to drill a so-called “Third Straw” to make sure glittery casinos and sprawling suburbs of Las Vegas can keep getting drinking water from near the bottom of drought-stricken Lake Mead.

The pipeline, however, won’t drain the largest Colorado River reservoir any faster. It’s designed to ensure that Las Vegas can still get water if the lake surface drops below two existing supply intakes.

“You turn on the tap, you don’t think about it,” said Noah Hoefs, a pipeline project manager for the Las Vegas-based Southern Nevada Water Authority. “These are the things being done in order to live the lifestyle we want in the places we want to live.”

It’s the latest example of ways the parched West is scrambling to deal with 15 years of unprecedented drought.

California is encouraging homeowners to rip out thirsty lawns and asking farmers to turn off spigots. And in New Mexico, a $550 million pipeline project would supply drinking water to several communities that run the risk of having wells go dry within a decade.

Las Vegas started in 1999 to conserve, reuse and replenish supplies. When Lake Mead water levels plummeted in 2002, regional water officials began drawing up plans for the pipeline.

“Unlike California and our other partners on the river, we are almost entirely reliant on Lake Mead,” said John Entsminger, water authority general manager. “We couldn’t afford to wait.”

Sin City gets about 90 percent of its drinking water from the lake behind Hoover Dam, itself an engineering marvel that cost the lives of about 100 workers during five years of construction before it was completed in 1936.

The need for the new pipeline can be seen in the wide white mineral band marking rock canyon walls where lake water has receded and the sun-bleached docks at abandoned marinas, left high and dry.

The water level has dropped almost the equivalent of a 20-story building since Lake Mead last topped the dam’s spillways in 1983.”

Read more: abc News

 

Stanford historian unearths greed-drenched origins of Mexico’s groundwater crisis

Photo retrieved from Stanford News

“A historic three-year drought has left California bone dry. But the state, along with much of the Southwest, is not alone in its water crisis. Mexico, too, is facing a severe water shortage, and Stanford scholar Mikael Wolfe says the Mexican version was decades in the making, and probably preventable.

Wolfe, an assistant professor of Latin American and environmental history, has brought to light the shady story of groundwater pumping in 20th-century Mexico. As Mexico’s water problem is now described as a matter of national security, Wolfe’s research is especially timely. He found that today’s groundwater crisis can be traced back to the 1920s, in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution (1910-20), much earlier than most water scholars and policymakers have assumed. His research draws heavily from the Historical Water Archive in Mexico City. The only collection of its kind in Latin America, the archive contains tens of thousands of documents produced by hydraulic engineers, landowners and peasants, from the 19th century to the present.

“Although the Revolution happened a century ago,” Wolfe says, “decisions about groundwater extraction continue to impact water quality and supply issues in Mexico today.”

Even more surprising, Wolfe found evidence that the Mexican government was warned about the overuse of groundwater resources in the 1930s. Mexican agriculturalists – by far the biggest groundwater users – were paving the way toward environmental disaster.

Within a decade after the Revolution, Mexico already showed signs of groundwater shortage. As Wolfe’s research demonstrates, the engineering elite was responsible for building canal networks, dam projects and groundwater pumps to distribute and maximize access to water. Wolfe found a confidential 1944 U.S. consular report predicting that ecological “disaster lies ahead” for Mexico – despite, or perhaps because of, the burgeoning water infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the insatiable demand for water, fueled by developmental imperatives, “persistently trumped concerns for conservation,” Wolfe said, adding, “it’s a pattern that persists to this day.”"

Read more at: Stanford News

The Risks of Cheap Water

“This summer, California’s water authority declared that wasting water — hosing a sidewalk, for example — was a crime. Next door, in Nevada, Las Vegas has paid out $200 million over the last decade for homes and businesses to pull out their lawns.

It will get worse. As climate change and population growth further stress the water supply from the drought-plagued West to the seemingly bottomless Great Lakes, states and municipalities are likely to impose increasingly draconian restrictions on water use.

Such efforts may be more effective than simply exhorting people to conserve. In August, for example, cities and towns in California consumed much less water — 27 billion gallons less —than in August last year.

But the proliferation of limits on water use will not solve the problem because regulations do nothing to address the main driver of the nation’s wanton consumption of water: its price.”

Read more: The New York Times

 

Santa Cruz: Soquel Creek Water District water emergencies declared

Photo retrieved from: www.watersavingtips.org

“The Soquel Creek Water District’s board of directors moved from voluntary water cutbacks to enacting a Stage 3 Water Shortage Emergency without significant discussion, other than about how long the status would continue. A groundwater emergency declaration was also approved, with no public comment.

The evening’s two votes were a marked contrast to the board’s June 3 meeting, where an estimated 400 people attended and 40 people spoke at the meeting.

Proposed modifications to the district’s existing Water Demands Offsets Program, however, did raise some protest from several developers. The existing program allows developers to offset the increased burden of water use arising with new developments with various water-conversation methods, often replacement of residential toilets with low-flow models.

The program remodel, still under discussion by the board late Tuesday, came after a June 3 proposal to institute a moratorium on new water hookups was set aside.

Speaker John Swift raised concerns that requiring new developments, particularly on the smaller side, to pay as much as a $55,000 per acre feet water usage offset fee to go toward water conservation efforts could cause a “chilling effect” on new developments that could not afford the additional cost.

“You ought to look at the economic impact before you make a decision,” Swift said.

District staff said it would speak with Swift to determine what that financial chilling point might be, while board members said an alternative might be going back to the moratorium idea.

Upcoming changes for water district customers include enacting residential water budgets by early 2015 and emergency rate increases of 16 percent, in effect July 1, to cover revenue losses from reduced water sales.

Water conservation concerns are heightened for the district because its currently obtains water from an underground basin, from which district customers are using more  annually than is naturally replaced through waterfall. If water use is not reduced, the district’s drinking wells are at risk of seawater contamination, according to officials. The district is also in the midst of researching alternative water supply sources, and has taken recent conservation steps as a stop-gap measure.”

Read more: Santa Cruz Sentinel

 

California Drought: State’s Flawed Water System Can’t Track Usage

Retrieved from: Motherjones.com

“SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Call them the fortunate ones: Nearly 4,000 California companies, farms and others are allowed to use free water with little oversight when the state is so bone dry that deliveries to nearly everyone else have been severely slashed.

“Their special status dates back to claims made more than a century ago when water was plentiful. But in the third year of a drought that has ravaged California, these “senior rights holders” dominated by corporations and agricultural concerns are not obliged to conserve water.

“Nobody knows how much water they actually use, though it amounts to trillions of gallons each year, according to a review of their own reports by The Associated Press. Together, they hold more than half the rights to rivers and streams in California.

“The AP found the state’s system is based on self-reported, incomplete records riddled with errors and years out of date; some appear to be using far less water than records would indicate.”

Read more: Huffington Post

 

Lawmakers Get Disturbing Picture Of Status of Groundwater

“Groundwater supplies are at an all-time low in both the Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins. Management of that dwindling supply was the focus of debate at the state Capitol.”

The Legislative Analyst’s Office told lawmakers that without comprehensive statewide regulation of groundwater, management of the state’s water supply will be increasingly difficult. The LAO suggests the state require local water districts to phase in groundwater permitting and keep track of how much water is extracted from all groundwater wells.

“Hydrologist Jay Famiglietti with UC Irvine says in some places water will disappear in a matter of decades.

“The water losses over the past couple of years have been particularly profound,” says Famiglietti. ”They are roughly equal to 12 and a half cubic kilometers per year which is on annual basis more water than all human water use domestic, municipal, urban water use for all Californians.”

“Governor Jerry Brown’s budget proposes almost five million dollars to hire more people to identify, monitor and potentially regulate groundwater basins that are in danger of permanent damage.
You can view the LAO’s report here.

 

 

 

American Aqueduct: The Great California Water Saga


Photo retrieved from: The Atlantic

“Hood, California, is a farming town of 200 souls, crammed up against a levee that protects it from the Sacramento River. The eastern approach from I-5 and the Sacramento suburb of Elk Grove is bucolic. Cows graze. An abandoned railroad track sits atop a narrow embankment. Cross it, and the town comes into view: a fire station, five streets, a tiny park. The last three utility poles on Hood-Franklin Road before it dead-ends into town bear American flags.

“I’ve come here because this little patch of land is the key location in Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed $25 billion plan to fix California’s troubled water transport system. Hood sits at the northern tip of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a network of manmade islands and channels constructed on the ruins of the largest estuary from Patagonia to Alaska. Since the 1950s, the Delta has served as the great hydraulic tie between northern and southern California: a network of rivers, tributaries, and canals deliver runoff from the Sierra Mountain Range’s snowpack to massive pumps at the southern end of the Delta. From there, the water travels through aqueducts to the great farms of the San Joaquin Valley and to the massive coastal cities. The Delta, then, is not only a 700,000-acre place where people live and work, but some of the most important plumbing in the world. Without this crucial nexus point, the current level of agricultural production in the southern San Joaquin Valley could not be sustained, and many cities, including the three largest on the West Coast—Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose—would have to come up with radical new water-supply solutions.”

Ream more: The Atlantic

 

Uprising Grows Against Fracking in a Surprising Part of Europe

“Do you think they’re about to have sex?”, one of the group whispers. I’m in Transylvania, crouched in the bushes with a bunch of activists in balaclavas, taking turns to speculate why a car has crept to a halt close to where we are hiding out. “No, it must be the cops, you can see the light from the mobile phone”, another one says. Time to move on.

It has been over an hour since the group started trashing equipment owned by the gas exploration company Prospectiuni, playing an edgy game of cat and mouse as we struggle to stay one step ahead of the security teams and police vehicles that are now sweeping the hilltops looking for us.

Another light tears round the bend on the road and the shout goes through the team to hide. I throw myself down, stretched out once again in the cool damp grass of a Transylvanian meadow. It’s going to be a long night.

In recent weeks the sleepy Saxon communities and protected forests of Sibiu county in Transylvania, have become an unlikely front for a new battleground, pitting gas exploration companies, the Romanian government and international investment firms, against a small band of environmental activists from across Romania, who are working side by side with local farmers to resist gas and oil exploration that they claim is taking place illegally on their land.

Read More: Alternet

 

Noam Chomsky slams Canada’s shale gas energy plans

Canada’s rush to exploit its tar sands and shale gas resources will destroy the environment “as fast as possible”, according to Noam Chomsky.

In an interview with the Guardian, the linguist and author criticized the energy policies of the Canadian government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

He said: “It means taking every drop of hydrocarbon out of the ground, whether it’s shale gas in New Brunswick or tar sands in Alberta and trying to destroy the environment as fast as possible, with barely a question raised about what the world will look like as a result.”

But indigenous peoples in Canada blocking fossil fuel developments are taking the lead in combatting climate change, he said. Chomsky highlighted indigenous opposition to the Alberta tar sands, the oil deposit that is Canada’s fastest growing source of carbon emissions and is slated for massive expansion despite attracting international criticism and protest.

Read More: The Guardian

 

Argentina Blindly Exploiting Groundwater

Photo retrieved from: www.ipsnews.net

“According to the Environmental Atlas of Buenos Aires, the depth of the Puelches aquifer ranges from 40 to 120 metres, and it supplies 9,900 cubic metres of water a day. It is located between the Pampeano aquifer, which is closer to the surface, and the deeper Paraná aquifer, whose water is salty and used primarily by industry.

In the eastern region of the country are the Ituzaingó, Salto and Salto Chico aquifers. And in the province of Neuquén, in the western part of the southern region of Patagonia, groundwater reserves provide water for the oil, gas and mining industries, explained Mario Hernández, a hydrogeologist from the National University of La Plata.

There are also aquifers in the southern province of Santa Cruz. And in the northwest, an arid region with little rainfall, these groundwater deposits are recharged by river water.

In the western provinces of Mendoza and San Juan, water is supplied primarily by underground reserves. As a result, the aquifers here are studied and protected, and subject to regular monitoring, because the local wine industry depends on the water they provide.

“Groundwater resources play a key role in arid and semi-arid regions. If it weren’t for the aquifers, massive engineering works would be needed to supply water for irrigation or residential use,” Tujchneider told Tierramérica.”

Read more: IPS