Archive for the 'groundwater' Category

Water Politics and Immigration Debate Collide

Photo retrieved from: www.palmspringslife.com

“With California in the throes of a historic drought, those issues are converging here in the Coachella Valley, a place best known for its lush resorts and the Coachella Music Festival, but also home to a $600 million dollar agriculture industry.

Many of the farm workers here live off the grid in makeshift mobile home parks that are not connected to the water and sewer systems most Americans take for granted.

Water shortages across California have put a greater strain on groundwater resources in these communities — increasing the concentration of contaminants in the well water that they depend on. But the politics of piping clean water to these homes, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars, are complicated. Many of the families are of mixed status, some legal and some not, sparking debate over the amount of taxpayer funds that should be spent.

Congressman Raul Ruiz, who grew up in this valley as the son of farm workers and became a doctor, said there are serious health issues at stake within these communities, which he and other activists describe as a cornerstone of the U.S. economy.

In the midst of the drought, he said, many of the farm workers who live here must pull more water from the wells: “and these wells already have arsenic, chromium, selenium and other contaminants in the water. What you’re doing is you’re increasing the concentration of these contaminants in the well water that humans are consuming.”

“They live in a completely different reality of water issues than the rest of the state,” Ruiz said. In some areas, he said, “we have six times more than the limit of arsenic that is considered safe for human consumption.”

The congressman and non-profit groups have advocated for public and private dollars to be put toward cleaning up the water in the mobile home parks throughout the Valley. Last year, Ruiz secured more than $7 million worth of U.S. Department of Agriculture grants to help deal with the issue. But he argues it deserves far more attention — which is not a simple matter in the midst of roiling immigration debate.”

Read more: CNN

 

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 Right to Water in Gaza

Photo retrieved from: www.commondreams.org

“After almost three weeks of bombing, the death toll in Gaza rose to more than 1,030 on Sunday. The Palestinian poet Jehan Bseiso writes, “There’s more blood than water today in Gaza.”

Haaretz notes, “After two and a half weeks of bombardments from the air and ground, roughly two-thirds of the Gaza Strip’s inhabitants — 1.2 million people — are suffering from severe disruptions to the water and sewage systems, according to Emergency Water Sanitation and Hygiene, a coalition of around 40 humanitarian groups operating in the occupied territories. In addition to the damage of the central pipeline and the reservoirs — which affects cities and villages throughout Gaza — home pipes and water containers on roofs have been damaged by the bombardments.”

Beyond water shortages, Gazans are now paying more to get what scarce water there is.

The Associated Press reports, “Electricity and water have become luxury items [in Gaza]. …Gaza gets its electricity from Israeli and Egyptian lines — for payment — and from a power plant in Gaza. The Israeli lines have been damaged in the fighting, leaving only supplies from Egypt and the power plant, says the local electricity distribution company’s official, Jamal al-Dardasawi. …Without power to run pumps, there is no water, especially in Gaza’s high-rise buildings. Rawan Taha, a 39-year-old housewife, lives in such an apartment tower. She says she last showered three days ago. When the water is on, she fills her bathtub, pots and empty bottles. Gaza’s tap water is not drinkable, and her family pays 20 shekels ($6) each day for drinking water.”

Al Jazeera adds, “In Khan Younis, a burned-out crater leaves a gaping hole on the main road, the aftermath of an Israeli F16 missile strike. The residents of nearby Khuzaa, which was under heavy Israeli bombardment, are sleeping on the streets. Access to water is extremely difficult; a man who generally sells water tanks for $4 is now asking for $29.”

And there is another water crisis just around the corner.

The Haaretz article highlights, “Gaza’s water supply was in crisis even before the current conflict. According to the United Nations, the section of coastal aquifer that serves Gaza will be unusable in 2016 because of the overpumping of groundwater.”

Read more: Common Dreams

 

California Halts Injection of Fracking Waste, Warning it May Be Contaminating Aquifers

Photo retrieve from: www.alternet.org

“California officials have ordered an emergency shut-down of 11 oil and gas waste injection sites and a review more than 100 others in the state’s drought-wracked Central Valley out of fear that companies may have been pumping fracking fluids and other toxic waste into drinking water aquifers there.

The state’s Division of Oil and Gas and Geothermal Resources on July 7 issued cease and desist orders to seven energy companies warning that they may be injecting their waste into aquifers that could be a source of drinking water, and stating that their waste disposal “poses danger to life, health, property, and natural resources.” The orders were first reported by the Bakersfield Californian, and the state has confirmed with ProPublica that its investigation is expanding to look at additional wells.

The action comes as California’s agriculture industry copes with a drought crisis that has emptied reservoirs and cost the state $2.2 billion this year alone. The lack of water has forced farmers across the state to supplement their water supply from underground aquifers, according to a study released this week by the University of California Davis.”

Read more: Alternet

 

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

 

Rain Holds Key to Thirsty Summers

Photo retrieved from: www.gsmroofing.com

“BANGALORE: Rainwater harvesting is a win-win situation for all – borewells are full, the quality of water is better and the city gains, declares David Saldanha, a resident of Residency Road.

Faced with dipping water level in the two borewells in the area in 2010, Saldanha did not throw up his hands. Instead, he opted for rainwater harvesting to recharge the borewells. Estimating the annual rainfall in Bangalore at 1,000 mm, he says he is able to harvest 1 million litres of rainwater annually and also breathe life back into the borewells.

“The water level in the two borewells ran lower than 100 metres deep, and the yield was low. The advantage is continuous water supply and les power consumption to pump up water. I’m thrilled with the result. The water yield has gone up and its quality is much better too,” says Saldanha.

Saldanha’s success story deserves to be emulated across the city, especially with the monsoon around the corner. Experts say one-third of the city’s water demand can be met through RWH.

Experts term rainwater harvesting one of the best ways of conservation, more so at a time when Bangalore faces acute water scarcity. Harvesting in urban areas is the process of collecting, filtering and using rainwater which falls on roofs and on porticos, and is channeled in three ways: recharging borewells, replenishing groundwater and collecting rainwater for re-use later.”

Read more: Times of India

Depletion of Central Valley’s groundwater may be causing earthquakes

Photo retrieved from: www.latimes.com

“On Wednesday, a group of scientists offered a new, intriguing theory: The quakes are triggered in part by the pumping of groundwater in the Central Valley, which produces crops that feed the nation.

“These results suggest that human activity may give rise to a gradual increase in the rate of earthquake occurrence,” said the study published in the journal Nature.

Using new GPS data, the scientists found that mountains closest to California’s thirsty Central Valley were growing at a faster-than-expected rate compared to nearby ranges. The growth spurt — about 1 to 3 millimeters a year — was enough to lift them by half a foot over the last 150 years.

Groundwater is very heavy, and its weight depresses the Earth’s upper crust. Remove the weight, and the crust springs upward — and that change in pressure can trigger more small earthquakes, the researchers said.

“It reduces the forces that are keeping the fault clamped together — leading to more small earthquakes during dry periods of time,” said Colin B. Amos, assistant professor of geology at Western Washington University, the study’s lead author.

Other scientists studying a seismically active area of southern Monterey County near Parkfield observed that there tend to be more earthquakes during dry months than during wet months. The number of earthquakes there every year has roughly doubled between 1984 and 2005.

“During wet periods of time when the fault is loaded down, the forces that are keeping the fault clamped down are greater. It inhibits the sliding of the fault,” Amos said.”

Read more: Los Angeles Times

 

Fracking, Seismic Activity Grow Hand in Hand in Mexico

Photo retrieved from: www.ipsnews.net

“Scientists warn that large-scale fracking for shale gas planned by Mexico’s oil company Pemex will cause a surge in seismic activity in northern Mexico, an area already prone to quakes.

Experts link a 2013 swarm of earthquakes in the northern states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo León to hydraulic fracturing or fracking in the Burgos and Eagle Ford shale deposits – the latter of which is shared with the U.S. state of Texas.

Researcher Ruperto de la Garza found a link between seismic activity and fracking, a technique that involves pumping water, chemicals and sand at high pressure into the well, opening and extending fractures in the shale rock to release the natural gas.

“The final result is the dislocation of the geological structure which, when it is pulverised, allows the trapped gas to escape,” the expert with the environmental and risk consultancy Gestoría Ambiental y de Riesgos told IPS from Saltillo, the capital of the northern state of Coahuila.

When the chemicals are injected “and the lutite particles [sedimentary rock] break down, the earth shifts,” he said. “It’s not surprising that the earth has been settling.”

De la Garza drew up an exhaustive map of the seismic movements in 2013 and the gas-producing areas.

His findings, published on Mar. 22, indicated a correlation between the seismic activity and fracking.

Statistics from Mexico’s National Seismological Service show an increase in intensity and frequency of seismic activity in Nuevo León, where at least 31 quakes between 3.1 and 4.3 on the Richter scale were registered.

Most of the quakes occurred in 2013. Of the ones registered this year, the highest intensity took place on Mar. 2-3, according to official records.”

Read more: IPS

 

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.