AMERICAS

Water Politics and Immigration Debate Collide

Last modified on 2015-08-13 16:22:56 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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

 

California Farmers Fight for Century-Old Claims to Water

Last modified on 2015-07-17 15:56:17 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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“The California State Water Resources Control Board in June told holders of claims staked more than a century ago to turn off the spigots or face daily fines of as much as $1,000 and $2,500 per acre-foot. The agency then was hit by at least five lawsuits.

The warnings came as a four-year, record-setting drought squeezed California’s $43 billion agricultural industry and led to mandatory, statewide water restrictions for the first time. Cattle rancher Mario Arnaudo lost the main supply he used to irrigate 700 acres (280 hectares) of alfalfa and pasture grass when his district, which held water rights more than a century old, cut him off after getting a notice.

“That’s all our income,” said Arnaudo, 21, whose family has owned his ranch east of San Francisco since the 1960s. “If this continues, we’ll have to sell off a lot of our herd and start laying off our employees.”

There are about 14,620 so-called senior water right claims, according to Timothy Moran, a water board spokesman. Some predate 1914, when permitting laws were established.

The state has sent notices to holders of about 300 of those claims for whom there’s no water to accommodate them. Fifty-five percent have agreed to comply, Moran said.

Stratified System

California’s hierarchical system for doling out water favors those who hold rights older than 1914. Those with claims after 1914 are typically the first and only group to face curbs in a shortage. They began getting notices in April.

“It does point to the severity of the drought and the fact that we need to get to the next level of water-rights users,” said Doug Parker, director of the California Institute for Water Resources at the University of California. “Some of it’s posturing and putting up a fight and saying, ‘Look, we’re not going to take this easily.”

For Jeff Shields, general manager of the South San Joaquin Irrigation District in Manteca, it seems wrong that the state has told farmers they can no longer take water to which they’ve had access since Millard Fillmore was president. The agency is suing the state.”

Read more: Bloomberg

 

$1.3 Billion L.A. River Habitat Restoration Plan Unanimously Approved in D.C.

Last modified on 2015-07-17 15:45:53 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.inhabit.com

“The ongoing efforts to revitalize the L.A. River reached another milestone today, as the $1.3 billion river habitat restoration plan outlined by the city was unanimously approved this morning by the Civil Works Review Board of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Washington D.C.

“Today is the culmination of more than a decade of work and marks an important milestone in our efforts to restore the Los Angeles River,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti in a press release. “Because the Army Corps of Engineers has now given its official blessing, we have an opportunity to transform both the river’s aquatic riparian ecosystem and our city.”

A year ago, the plan, known as Alternative 20 of the Los Angeles River Ecosystem Feasibility Study, had been recommended for approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after intense lobbying by Mayor Garcetti, including a conversation with President Obama at the White House. “I think we’re on track for the L.A. River,” the president told the mayor at the time, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The $9.71-million Feasibility Study was initiated in 2006 at the behest of the U.S. Congress. The study initially looked into the 32-mile stretch of the river between San Fernando Valley and the City of Vernon, but its scope is now focused on the 11-mile portion that connects Griffith Park to downtown Los Angeles. Soft-bottomed in some sections, it is the area the Army Corps has determined to have the greatest potential for eco-system restoration.

Alternative 20 is the most comprehensive of all options outlined in the study. It will restore approximately 719 acres of habitat, including adding a side channel behind Ferraro Fields, widening of over 300 feet in Taylor Yard, and tributary restoration on the east side of the Arroyo Seco watershed, extensive work on the Piggyback Yard, restoration of the Verdugo Wash, and the wetlands of the Los Angeles State Historic Park. It is projected to cost $1.3 billion, after a cost increase from the original $1.03 billion.

The project will now be sent to the Army Corps’ chief of engineer for approval by November. If approved, it will then be sent to Congress for authorization and appropriation of funds, after which the city and the Army Corps can begin construction.”

Read more: kcet.org

 

Las Vegas Completing Last Straw to Draw Lake Mead Water

Last modified on 2015-07-10 17:02:13 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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

 

Environment takes big hit from water-intensive marijuana cultivation

Last modified on 2015-07-10 16:21:35 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.news.berkeley.edu

“Led by researchers from the Nature Conservancy, the study included significant UC Berkeley contributions from freshwater fish ecologist Stephanie Carlson, an associate professor of environmental sciences, policy and management; stream ecologist Mary Power, a professor of integrative biology; ecohydrologist Sally Thompson, an assistant professor of environmental engineering; and applied mathematician David Dralle, a Ph.D. student in environmental engineering.

“The environmental harm caused by marijuana cultivation has largely been ignored, but this is a mistake,” said Carlson. “Marijuana is a thirsty crop that often relies on surface water diversions during California’s summer dry season. While many of our native aquatic organisms are adapted to California’s Mediterranean seasonality, the combination of our current drought and summer water diversions for marijuana could be a one-two punch that drives declines in several sensitive populations.”

Marijuana “green rush”

Much of the work by the UC Berkeley researchers has been conducted in Northern California’s Eel River watershed, which is on the brink of recovery from the damaging effects of half a century of logging and soil erosion.

“The sad fact is that the Eel and coastal rivers like it are on a knife edge,” said Power, who studies food webs in rivers and their tributaries. “All of these wonderful native fishes are on the brink of coming back, and it is very frustrating that their recovery – which has taken 50 years and is actually a fairly encouraging recovery for the fish and for the older Eel habitat – is being derailed by the marijuana ‘green rush’.”

According to government figures, California produces an estimated 60 percent of the marijuana consumed in the United States. In this state, marijuana is primarily grown outdoors in remote forested watersheds. In the state’s north coast region, about 22 liters of water or more per plant per day is used during the growing season, which lasts from June through October.”

Read more: UC Berkeley News Center

 

Research Confirms Hydroelectric Dams Not Environmentally Friendly After All

Last modified on 2015-07-09 15:44:35 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.commondreams.org

“A new study by University of East Anglia researchers confirms what numerous Indigenous communities have long charged: gigantic hydroelectric dam construction projects are not environmentally friendly, as proponents claim, but in fact pose a profound threat to biodiversity and life in the Amazon.

Widespread Forest Vertebrate Extinctions Induced by a Mega Hydroelectric Dam in Lowland Amazonia was published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE. The paper examines the environmental impact of Brazil’s Balbina Dam—which is located near the city of Manaus in the Amazonas state and is one of the largest hydroelectric dams in the world.

The construction of the dam in the 1980s transformed what used to be a lush rainforest forest landscape into an “artificial archipelago of 3,546 islands,” explains a summary of the research.

Not surprisingly, when hundreds of square miles of jungle were flooded with water, the wildlife who called that forest home—including mammals, birds, and tortoises—suffered dramatic population loss, with large vertebrates completely disappearing from almost all of the artificial islands, the report concludes.”

Furthermore, the summary explains, “Of the 3,546 islands created, only 25 are now likely to harbour at least four fifths of all 35 target species surveyed in the study.”

“Hydroelectric dams have been thought to be an environmentally friendly source of renewable power—and in recent years they have been built to supply the burgeoning energy demands of emergent tropical countries,” lead author Dr. Maíra Benchimol said in a press statement. “Our research adds evidence that forest biodiversity also pays a heavy price when large dams are built.”

Read more: Common Dreams

WINNEMEM WINTU AND ALLIES TO PROTEST EXCLUSION OF CALIFORNIA INDIANS FROM GOV. BROWN’S CALIFORNIA WATER SUMMIT

Last modified on 2015-07-01 18:30:47 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.nativenewsonline.net

“The Winnemem Wintu tribe, allies and other tribal representatives will be rallying and waving signs outside the 2nd California Water Summit this Monday, June 29, at the Westin Sacramento to protest Gov. Jerry Brown’s efforts to exclude California tribes, environmentalists and other important stakeholders in this public meeting about massive state water infrastructure projects.

The summit is being advertised by the Brown administration as a conference to discuss the “latest developments including project selection for the $7.5 billion water bond” that is now available after the passage of the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Act of 2014.

Registration for the summit is nearly an astounding $1,500 per person, and there have been no efforts to include tribal representatives, environmentalists or anyone who is advocating for sound water policy that will benefit future generations, local ecosystems and salmon and other fisheries.

No mention of tribal water rights is listed on the agenda, and it seems the only people attending will be water districts’ staff, government scientists, corporate representatives and other advocates for Governor Brown’s pet water projects like the Shasta Dam raise and the twin Delta Tunnels, both of which would be devastating for salmon and tribal cultural resources and sacred sites.”

“MOST OF THE CALIFORNIA INDIANS WHO ARE WORKING ON TRIBAL WATER RIGHTS AND FOR HEALTHIER RIVERS CAN’T AFFORD A $1,500 REGISTRATION FEE,” SAID WINNEMEM WINTU CHIEF AND SPIRITUAL LEADER CALEEN SISK.  “THIS IS CLEARLY AN EFFORT BY GOVERNOR BROWN TO EXCLUDE THE TRIBAL VOICE, SHOVE OUT ANYONE WHO DISAGREES WITH HIS DESTRUCTIVE WATER PLANS AND PROVIDE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR GOVERNMENT AND THE BIG WATER POWER BROKERS TO COLLUDE BEHIND CLOSED DOORS.”

Read more: Native News Online

 

No, California won’t run out of water in a year

Last modified on 2015-03-26 01:43:35 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Cattle ranch

Retrieved from LA Times

“State water managers and other experts said Thursday that California is in no danger of running out of water in the next two years, even after an extremely dry January and paltry snowpack. Reservoirs will be replenished by additional snow and rainfall between now and the next rainy season, they said. The state can also draw from other sources, including groundwater supplies, while imposing tougher conservation measures.

“We have been in multiyear droughts and extended dry periods a number of times in the past, and we will be in the future,” said Ted Thomas, a spokesman for the California Department of Water Resources. “In periods like this there will be shortages, of course, but the state as a whole is not going to run dry in a year or two years.”

Read more: LA Times

The Price of Thirst: How Millionaires Buy Up Farmland And Hoard All Our Water

Last modified on 2015-01-16 19:22:01 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.alternet.org

“Where I grew up, the city of Los Angeles diverted water away from Owens Lake, slowly draining it starting in 1913. It took more than ten years for the lake to dry up and turn into a toxic dust bowl, when naturally occurring heavy metals like aluminum and cadmium that had concentrated in the salt lake over centuries became airborne. This dust has been shown to cause cancer and respiratory failure, among other ailments. I grew up experiencing water inequity in my own body.

So when I saw Sean Hannity on Fox News broadcasting from another California valley allegedly drained of its water, I must admit I became curious. In September 2009, Hannity broadcast from Huron, California, in a weeklong special titled “The Valley Hope Forgot.” He was broadcasting from the poorest congressional district in the nation, in California’s San Joaquin Valley. According to the 2009 U.S. Census, 39 percent of Huron’s close to eight thousand residents live below the poverty line. It is a migrant labor town, a cotton-picker town, and is 98.6 percent Latino/a. Huron has no medical services, no high school, and no voting booth during elections, because most of the residents are undocumented. Some 80 percent of Huron residents have not finished high school, and children who are born there have more birth defects than children anywhere else in the country—most likely due to pesticide exposure.

One resident of Huron said she shut the windows when the wind blew. “What good is the wind?” she asked. “It’s all poison.” The water quality is no better, ranking 490 out of 502 cities in California, with fecal coliform bacteria, E. coli, and nitrates found in dangerous levels. The water system is built and run by Tri-City Engineering and owned by a former manager of Bechtel.

I could certainly see why Hannity would call it “The Valley Hope Forgot.” Ironically, these were not the problems that Hannity had come to discuss. According to Fox News, Huron had only one problem: “environmental extremists” had turned off the water to save a “two-inch fish” in the Bay Area. According to Hannity, both the winter-run Chinook salmon and the delta smelt had been listed as endangered species in 1994, an event that wreaked havoc on local farms. It had been determined that water pumped for farming in the San Joaquin Valley was destroying the fishes’ habitat up north. In an area known simply as “the Delta,” an ecologically unique inland estuary exists between San Francisco and Sacramento. Through this Delta, much of the state’s water supply passes, as do its endangered fish species. It turned out they were all competing for water.”

Read more: AlterNet

 

LOS ANGELES MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI URGES CONSERVATION IN DROUGHT

Last modified on 2014-10-15 18:44:51 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.latimes.com

“Use less water and spend less for the water that is used. That’s the gist of a new directive from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Standing outside the Department of Water and Power’s downtown headquarters, the mayor signed the executive directive Tuesday, calling for big changes in water use. He says he wants the city to lead by example.

“The ongoing drought has created a water crisis second to none,” Garcetti said. “We need bold action, and that is what I am delivering today.”

The mayor wants the city to cut its water use by 20 percent over five years, ordering city departments to cut lawn watering to two days a week.

He also wants more drought tolerant plants. The DWP will now pay $3.75 a square foot to remove your lawn. DWP’s headquarters in downtown L.A. is having new water friendly landscaping installed.

“You can replace turf, if you can install appliances, water saving devices in your home, please reach out and have that discussion with us,” Marcie Edwards of the LADWP said. “The more money we save, it frees up money for us to put into our infrastructure, which is another critical priority.”

The mayor also wants a 50 percent cut in the amount of imported water purchased by the DWP. With the drought, Los Angeles is importing about 80 percent of its water, much which comes from Northern California.

He says, if there is an earthquake, that supply could be cut off for years. He wants to build the city’s local water supply, including treating groundwater, capturing and storing storm water and using recycled water.”

Read more: abc7

The Most Ambitious Environmental Lawsuit Ever

Last modified on 2014-10-05 15:40:32 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.nytimes.com

“In Louisiana, the most common way to visualize the state’s existential crisis is through the metaphor of football fields. The formulation, repeated in nearly every local newspaper article about the subject, goes like this: Each hour, Louisiana loses about a football field’s worth of land. Each day, the state loses nearly the accumulated acreage of every football stadium in the N.F.L. Were this rate of land loss applied to New York, Central Park would disappear in a month. Manhattan would vanish within a year and a half. The last of Brooklyn would dissolve four years later. New Yorkers would notice this kind of land loss. The world would notice this kind of land loss. But the hemorrhaging of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands has gone largely unremarked upon beyond state borders. This is surprising, because the wetlands, apart from their unique ecological significance and astounding beauty, buffer the impact of hurricanes that threaten not just New Orleans but also the port of South Louisiana, the nation’s largest; just under 10 percent of the country’s oil reserves; a quarter of its natural-gas supply; a fifth of its oil-refining capacity; and the gateway to its internal waterway system. The attenuation of Louisiana, like any environmental disaster carried beyond a certain point, is a national-security threat.

Where does it go, this vanishing land? It sinks into the sea. The Gulf of Mexico is encroaching northward, while the marshes are deteriorating from within, starved by a lack of river sediment and poisoned by seawater. Since 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has delisted more than 30 place names from Plaquemines Parish alone. English Bay, Bay Jacquin, Cyprien Bay, Skipjack Bay and Bay Crapaud have merged like soap bubbles into a single amorphous body of water. The lowest section of the Mississippi River Delta looks like a maple leaf that has been devoured down to its veins by insects. The sea is rising along the southeast coast of Louisiana faster than it is anywhere else in the world.

The land loss is swiftly reversing the process by which the state was built. As the Mississippi shifted its course over the millenniums, spraying like a loose garden hose, it deposited sand and silt in a wide arc. This sediment first settled into marsh and later thickened into solid land. But what took 7,000 years to create has been nearly destroyed in the last 85. Dams built on the tributaries of the Mississippi, as far north as Montana, have reduced the sediment load by half. Levees penned the river in place, preventing the floods that are necessary to disperse sediment across the delta. The dredging of two major shipping routes, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, invited saltwater into the wetlands’ atrophied heart.”

Read more: The New York Times

 

Amid crippling drought, California voters see no relief at the polls

Last modified on 2014-10-02 13:10:30 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.ecowatch.com

“LOS ANGELES — California residents face stiff fines if they use too much water. Wells in some communities are running dry. Farmers are drilling deeper and deeper in search of what has become liquid gold.

Yet in a state that is suffering a drought of historic proportions, water is not playing a paramount role in next month’s midterm elections.

It’s not that Californians are unconcerned about water shortages. In a recent Public Policy Institute of California survey, 72 percent of likely voters said the water supply in their part of the state is a problem. “Water and the drought are definitely on people’s minds,” said Dean Bonner, an associate survey director for the institute, a nonpartisan research group. “We found that 29 percent of likely voters named drought or water as a top issue for the state [second only to jobs and the economy]. Last September it was 2 percent.”

So why is it that drought rarely comes up in candidate forums or campaign ads?

“I don’t know if it’s because Californians are accustomed to the drought or because there’s no easy solution to it,” said Roger Salazar, Democratic political consultant. “It’s very much at the top on the mind of voters, but there isn’t anybody to take it out on.”

It may simply be tough to hold politicians accountable for a natural disaster. Whether or not the drought is a result of global warming, human intervention cannot reverse this year’s crippling drought. As a result, there is not one villain to boot out of office, and there is not one solution to the problem. “We’re all in this drought together,” Salazar said. “Now, if we could say, ‘Such and such has the solution,’ but no, we’re all in the same dry-docked boat together.”

Hard-hit farmers in the Central Valley and water conservationists statewide complain about the state’s history of disastrous water policies, but that does little to solve the problem now. Democrats have traditionally been more supportive of environmental measures, and any link between drought and climate change could bolster their positions. More Republicans are skeptical about global warming, but the number of doubters is shrinking, according to Gallup polls.”

Read more: Aljazeera

 

Drought Takes Hold as Amazon’s ‘Flying Rivers’ Dry Up

Last modified on 2014-09-28 16:21:40 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.climatecentral.org

“The unprecedented drought now affecting São Paulo, South America’s giant metropolis, is believed to be caused by the absence of the “flying rivers” − the vapor clouds from the Amazon that normally bring rain to the center and south of Brazil.

Some Brazilian scientists say the absence of rain that has dried up rivers and reservoirs in central and southeast Brazil is not just a quirk of nature, but a change brought about by a combination of the continuing deforestation of the Amazon and global warming.

This combination, they say, is reducing the role of the Amazon rainforest as a giant “water pump,” releasing billions of liters of humidity from the trees into the air in the form of vapor.

Meteorologist Jose Marengo, a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, first coined the phrase “flying rivers” to describe these massive volumes of vapor that rise from the rainforest, travel west, and then − blocked by the Andes − turn south.

Satellite images from the Centre for Weather Forecasts and Climate Research of Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE) clearly show that, during January and February this year, the flying rivers failed to arrive, unlike the previous five years.

Alarming Proportions

Deforestation all over Brazil has reached alarming proportions: 22 percent of the Amazon rainforest (an area larger than Portugal, Italy and Germany combined), 47 percent of the Cerrado in central Brazil, and 91.5 percent of the Atlantic forest that used to cover the entire length of the coastal area.”

Read more: Climate Central

 

Climate Change Could Wreak Havoc on Drought-Plagued California

Last modified on 2014-09-17 15:09:30 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.alternet.org

“Michael Goulden, associate professor of earth system science at the  University of California Irvine, and Roger Bales, director of the  Sierra Nevada Research Institute at the University of California Merced, publish their alarming findings in the  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Their research looked not at the long-term projections for precipitation in the US south-west, but simply at the  effect of higher average temperatures on plant growth.

Mountains in many ways mimic hemispheres: just as trees become more stunted at higher latitudes, so they get smaller and less frequent at higher altitudes. Temperature ultimately controls plant growth.

But a projected warming of 4.1°C by 2100 would make a big difference to plant growth in the Arctic tundra and around the present alpine treeline everywhere in the world.

The scientists contemplated snow and rain conditions in the King’s River Basin in the Sierra Nevada range. They looked at how much flows downstream to local communities, and how much goes back into the atmosphere as water vapour. Then they did their sums.

They calculated that the 4.1°C temperature rise in the region would increase the density of vegetation at high elevations, with a 28% increase in evapotranspiration − the process that draws water up through the roots to the leaves, and then releases it as vapour through the pores. And what was true for one river basin, they thought, should be true for the whole area. River run-off could drop by 26%.”

Read more: AlterNet

 

 

The Water Wars: Conflicts Over Water Sources Continue To Grow

Last modified on 2014-09-09 17:29:54 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.ca.news.yahoo.com

“Water wars are definitely more likely. Even on a weak definition – one country upsetting another country with its water policies – we can say that there are more water wars (many) than nuclear wars (none). Mexico is upset with the way the United States drains the Colorado River, and Americans are upset with the way Mexico drains the Rio Grande. Chinese and Laotian dams on the Mekong threaten food security in Cambodia and Vietnam. The Palestinians suffer from Israeli control of their water resources and infrastructure. In each example, we see one country upset and frustrated with another’s behavior.

But wait. Don’t people die in wars? Oh yes, but they do not have to die of bullets and bombs. It’s fairly certain that dead ecosystems have harmed Mexicans, that Mekong dams will leave Cambodians and Vietnamese hungry, and that Israeli irrigation has left Palestinian children thirsty. It doesn’t take too much hunger, thirst and ecological stress before one starts to see bodies. Water wars are out there, but not in the hot-lead-in-the-belly sense that reporters with flak jackets love. Water wars come, slow as molasses, to suffocate us.

Most of you will not experience these wars directly. You live in a place where water bills represent a good value because they cover the cost of delivering abundant, clean water. The same is not true elsewhere. The United Nations says that less than one billion people “lack access to an improved water source” but this number – mostly in cities – includes people who can “access” a source that may or may not deliver drinkable water. Non-UN sources say about 3 billion people lack access to safe drinking water. Nearly half the world’s population labors under this burden and the attendant threats to their life, liberty and happiness. Should we assume that matters will improve for these people? Not necessarily for them or us. The recent loss of drinking water in Toledo, Ohio, remind us that nobody is safe when the system fails.”

Read more: Yahoo News

 

‘Worse Than Anything Seen in 2,000 Years’ as Megadrought Threatens Western States

Last modified on 2014-09-04 16:41:35 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.commondreams.org

“A new study warns that the chances of western states in the U.S. experiencing a multi-decade ‘megadrought’—not seen in historical climate records in over 2,000 years—has a much higher chance of occurring in the decades ahead than previously realized. In fact, scientists are warning, the drought now being experienced in California and elsewhere could be just the beginning of an unprecedented water crisis across the west and southwest regions of the country.

The research—a project between scientists at Cornell University, the University of Arizona, and the U.S. Geological Survey—shows that chances for a decade-long drought this century is now at fifty-fifty, and that a drought lasting as long as 35 years—defined as a “megadrought”—has a twenty- to fifty-percent chance of occurring.

“For the southwestern U.S., I’m not optimistic about avoiding real megadroughts,” Toby Ault, Cornell assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and lead author of the paper, told the Cornell Chronicle. “As we add greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – and we haven’t put the brakes on stopping this – we are weighting the dice for megadrought.”

And if such a megadrought does occur, warned Ault, “This will be worse than anything seen during the last 2,000 years.”

And as USA Today notes, “The difference now, of course, is the Western USA is home to more than 70 million people who weren’t here for previous megadroughts. The implications are far more daunting.”

The study—entitled Assessing the Risk of Persistent Drought Using Climate Model Simulations and Paleoclimate Data—used both “climate model projections as well as observational (paleoclimate) information” as it looked back over the historic records of drought in the region while also looking forward by using advanced predictive techniques used to measure the possible impacts of current and future global warming.”

Read more: Common Dreams

 

‘State of the World’s Rivers’ Project Documents Decline in Rivers From Dams

Last modified on 2014-08-29 17:03:10 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.internationalrivers.org

“Many of the world’s great river basins have been dammed to the point of serious decline, including the Mississippi, Yangtze, Paraná and Danube.

“The evidence we’ve compiled of planetary-scale impacts from river change is strong enough to warrant a major international focus on understanding the thresholds for ‘river change’ in the world’s major basins, and for the planet as a whole system,” said Jason Rainey, Executive Director of International Rivers.

For example, in the Middle East, decades of dam building in the Tigris-Euphrates basin have made it one of the most fragmented basins in the world. As a result, the basin’s flooded grassland marshes have significantly decreased, leading to the disappearance of salt-tolerant vegetation that helped protect coastal areas, and a reduction in the plankton-rich waters that fertilize surrounding soils. Habitat has decreased for 52 native fish species, migratory bird species, and mammals such as the water buffalo, antelopes and gazelles, and the jerboa.

Meanwhile, some of the lesser-dammed basins, which are still relatively healthy at this point, are being targeted for major damming. For example, the most biodiverse basin in the world, the Amazon, still provides habitat for roughly 14,000 species of mammals, 2,200 fish species, 1,500 bird species, and more than 1,000 amphibian species, like the Amazon River Dolphin, the Amazonian Manatee, and the Giant Otter.

When all dam sizes are counted, an astonishing 412 dams are planned or under construction in the Paraná basin, and 254 in the Amazon basin. In Asia, China plans to continue to dam the Yangtze basin with at least another 94 planned large dams, while an additional 73 are under construction. At least 153 more dams are planned or already being built in the Mekong basin.”

Read more: International Rivers

 

California drought: San Jose declares water shortage, but won’t fine wasters

Last modified on 2014-08-29 16:44:35 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.californiareport.org

“More than seven months into the California drought, San Jose has officially declared a citywide water shortage, asking the city’s 1 million residents to cut their water use by 20 percent — but there will be no new consequences for those who don’t.

The drought declaration, which the San Jose City Council unanimously approved Tuesday, makes it illegal for property owners to use potable water to irrigate their lawns or landscaping between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. through April 2015. It comes on top of several state and regional rules already in effect, such as bans on cleaning vehicles without a hose shut-off nozzle and filling non-recirculating decorative fountains with potable water.

In addition, the council moved to work with regional water officials to explore a new recycled water facility, create a new program to reward water savers and hire teens for a new campaign to aid property owners.

With California enduring its worst drought in four decades, state rules passed last month require water agencies to limit water use and allow them to punish offenders with fines up to $500.

But San Jose will not be enforcing its new rules independently. Instead, it will rely on the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which is already hiring 10 “water cops” to crack down on those who abuse drought restrictions starting next month.

San Jose is not ready to fine water wasters, unlike a small number of California cities, such as Sacramento, Pleasanton and Santa Cruz. Instead, San Jose is focusing on education, hoping residents voluntarily follow the new rules after a fresh round of outreach on what they can do to cut water use. “A lot of times the community is just unaware,” said Kerrie Romanow, the city’s environmental services director.

San Jose residents have reduced water use by about 14 percent this year. The state, the water district — and now, the city — are asking for a 20 percent reduction.”

Read more: San Jose Mercury News

13 Things You Probably Don’t Know About the U.S. Water System (But Should)

Last modified on 2014-08-24 04:23:55 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.nationalgeographic.com

“Two U.S. cities (Charleston, West Virginia, and Toledo, Ohio) have gone for days with no safe water service. The nation’s largest reservoir is lower than it’s ever been. The nation’s largest state is in the worst drought ever recorded.

Here are some statistics that sum up the condition of the U.S. water system, which in a word are not good.

• The U.S. has 1.2 million miles of water supply mains — 26 miles of water mains for every mile of interstate highway.

• The U.S. water system has become so old that, on average, every mile of water pipe suffers a break every six years.

• U.S. water pipes leak one full day’s water for every seven days. That is, U.S. water utilities lose one out of seven gallons of drinking water they supply before it arrives at a customer.

• Many cities have centuries-long replacement cycles for their water pipes. Los Angeles and Philadelphia both have a 300-year replacement cycle. Washington, D.C. has a 200-year water pipe replacement cycle.

• The water system is often out-of-date in surprising ways. In Sacramento, California’s capital, half the water customers have no water meters, so in the midst of the state’s worst drought in history, they pay a flat fee no matter how much water they use. In New York, the city’s largest apartment complex, Peter Cooper Village/Stuyvesant Town, has 11,232 units — and no water meters.”

Read more: National Geographic

 

Young Farmers in the Western U. S. Adapt to a Water-Scarce Future

Last modified on 2014-08-24 04:14:41 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieve from: www.nationalgeographic.com

“The Colorado Basin alone irrigates some 15% of US produce overall and 80% of winter vegetables.  So we all, to some degree, “eat” the Colorado – and thus have a stake in how well farmers can adapt to the drought-prone, water-stressed world now upon us.

Though the farmers profiled differ in their approaches to building resilience on their land and in their operations, and they represent a small, non-random sample, a few important themes jump out.

First, restoring health to soils is key.  Heavily compacted, nutrient poor, exposed soils do not store water well.  So enhancing the capacity of soils to hold moisture is crucial for every western farmer interested in weathering dry spells and reduced water allocations.

For Brendon Rockey, a 36-year-old farmer in southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley, a groundwater-dependent region in the headwaters of the Rio Grande, the solution came in the form of an age-old practice: planting “green manure” cover crops.  Instead of rotating in barley after potatoes, Rockey eliminated the barley in favor of a strategic mix of ten different cover crops that kept the soil protected from wind and evaporation losses, fixed nitrogen and thus naturally fertilized the soil, and produced flowers that brought predatory insects that kept the non-beneficial bugs at bay.

The cover crops not only reduced Rockey’s groundwater use (and pumping costs), they helped improve the quality of his potato harvest and lowered fertilizer and pesticide costs.

“Farmers need to become biologists again,” Rockey told the NYFC.

Second, farmers just starting out often do not have the capital to purchase water-saving equipment or implement conservation methods, so support for irrigation technology upgrades can be a big help.”

Read more: National Geographic

 

Water too precious to waste on charity’s campaign, Californian says

Last modified on 2014-08-23 03:31:20 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.chicagotribune.com

“The Golden State is experiencing one of its worst droughts on record. Water is like gold out there — it’s extremely valuable and it’s getting more difficult to find.

Nearly 100 percent of California remains in a “severe” drought, the third-harshest on a five-level scale, according to a recent U.S. Drought Monitor report. “Water cops” have begun patrolling the streets in some cities to cite and even fine water wasters up to $500. Wells are drying up and farmers are losing their crops.

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If I, a California native, didn’t feel comfortable asking friends or family there to waste a bucket of water on a viral campaign, then why should I ask anyone else to do it? Why should any of us do it?

Every once in a while we see charities come up with clever campaigns that capture the hearts and checkbooks of people around the country. And you have to commend the minds behind the Ice Bucket Challenge for the idea.

As of Wednesday, the ALS Association had received $31.5 million in donations since July 29, compared with $1.9 million during the same period last year.”

Read more: Chicago Tribune

Water-conservation tools: Shame, higher prices

Last modified on 2014-08-23 03:14:26 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.ocregister.com

“The water ninjas are prowling the streets. Mocking. Undercover. Often anonymous. They are watching you, snapping pictures of your wastefulness with their cellphones, then uploading the evidence for all the world – and your newly empowered local water agency – to see.

“Congratulations for watering the pavement,” sneered one self-appointed water warrior in Costa Mesa, posting a photo online of runoff pooling curbside off Parsons Street.

“Shame on you USC!! We are in a flipping 100-year drought! Use a damn broom!” scolded Jenna Cavelle, capturing a worker in rubber boots power-hosing a campus sidewalk.

A. Duran’s shot depicts a bald man in dark sunglasses soaking his roses in East Los Angeles. “This guy has been doing this daily since the drought began,” Duran chided.

Public shaming has become a tool of choice for resident watchdogs on sites such as neighborhood-watch app VizSAFE (“drought channel”), H2O Tracker (“report water waste”) and, of course, Twitter (#droughtshaming, #watershaming, #waterwaste, etc.), as California’s historic drought takes a dark, dusty turn.

Be warned: You may well end up paying more for your water, even as you use less of it. More on that in a minute.

CRACKING DOWN

Earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown beseeched Californians to reduce water use by 20 percent. The State Water Resources Board put some muscle behind that last month, embracing emergency regulations making water waste a crime and empowering local agencies to prosecute offenders and fine them up to $500 a day.

That means no hosing down sidewalks and driveways. No landscape watering that dribbles into the street. No washing cars unless there’s a shut-off nozzle on the hose. No fresh water splashing in pretty fountains unless the fountains recirculate the water.”

Read more: OC Register

Cali water cops: What you gonna do when they come for you?

Last modified on 2014-07-29 15:29:33 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.aljazeera.com

“LOS ANGELES — The trail of evidence streamed down a driveway and trickled down a street in the hilly Silver Lake neighborhood.

It’s 10:30 a.m. on a scorching July day, and Rick Silva is on the case. Wearing a fluorescent yellow vest, he charged up the hill — clipboard, notebook and pamphlets in hand — and knocked on the door. The culprit is quickly found: Sprinklers are dousing a steep slope in the back, sending a stream of precious water down the street.

The resident is a tenant who promises to alert his landlord.

Call Silva a drought buster, conservation expert or water cop (not a favored term). Whatever the title, his job is to educate Angelenos to save water and fine them if they don’t during a historic drought blanketing California.

“We go in the field to investigate complaints,” said Silva, who has become a rock star of sorts as media clamor for ride-alongs with the man who, at least until next week, was the only one to police water use by the 3.8 million people serviced by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). Even late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel wants to do a skit with him.

“Before, we’d get 50 complaints a week,” said Silva, of calls flooding a complaint hotline. “Since last Tuesday, we get 50 a day.”

Sprinkler busters in demand

The sudden burst of interest was sparked after the decision by the California Water Resources Control Board on July 15 to approve fines of up to $500 a day for people who waste water outdoors — running sprinklers daily and during the hottest daytime hours, washing cars without a shutoff nozzle and hosing down sidewalks and driveways.”

Read more: Aljazeera

 

Big Step In Restoring Tribal Pupfish Habitat

Last modified on 2014-07-22 16:05:49 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.kcet.org

“A Native tribe based in the Owens Valley is applying for a permit to move an endangered desert fish to a specially prepared refuge on the tribe’s land, in an effort to restore a species that was once vital to the tribe’s survival.

The Bishop Paiute Tribe, whose 2,000 or so enrolled members live on and near the tribe’s 875-acre reservation in Bishop, has been working to restore the federally endangered Owens pupfish along with other native fish species on the reservation’s Native Fish Refuge. A pair of ponds at the Refuge have been ready to receive the fish since 2012, when the conservation area formally opened. But these days you can’t just toss an endangered fish in a bucket and move it to a new pond. That would put the Tribe in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act.

So for the last couple of years, the Tribe has been working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to craft a permit that would allow moving the pupfish to their new home. And members of the public will have an opportunity to comment on that permit starting Thursday.

The Owens pupfish, Cyprinodon radiosus, is the largest of the pupfish species native to the California desert, reaching up to two inches in length. Once widespread up and down the Owens Valley in the network of ponds and sloughs that make up the Owens River watershed, the Owens pupfish was once a staple food item for the local Paiute, who caught fish by the hundreds and dried them for storage and later eating.

That bounty ended with the advent of European settlement and resource exploitation. Water diversions and introduced predatory fish such as largemouth bass depleted the Owens pupfish’s numbers to the point where it was actually considered extinct by the mid-1940s.

Fortunately for the pupfish, a small group held on in a series of pools in Fish Slough, north of Bishop. Rediscovered in 1964, the fish were listed in 1967 as Endangered under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, a precursor to the current Endangered Species Act.”

Read more: KCET

 

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

Last modified on 2014-07-20 15:18:37 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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

 

Arizona Enlists a Beetle in Its Campaign for Water

Last modified on 2014-07-15 13:51:45 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.nytimes.com

“For miles along the banks of the Colorado River, hundreds of once hardy tamarisk trees — also known as salt cedars — are gray and withered. Their parched branches look like victims of fire or drought.

But this is not the story of beloved trees being ravaged by an invasive pest — quite the opposite. Farmers, ranchers and the water authorities here are eager to get rid of the tamarisk trees, which are not native to Arizona and which they say suck too much water.

They have welcomed the beetles, which have made their way from Colorado and Utah over the last decade, and have watched with delight as the centimeter-long workhorses have damaged the trees by eating their spindly leaves. The hope is that the beetles will now rid Arizona of the trees.

“We view the tamarisk as a pest,” said Joseph Sigg, the government relations director at the Arizona Farm Bureau. “Water is an expensive input, and to the extent that we can lower it, the beetle can help.”

But scientists say that nature is rarely a zero-sum game, and that removing the deep-rooted tamarisks — which the authorities have tried with bulldozers, chain saws and now beetles — will not produce more water. New tamarisks or other trees will replace the fallen ones, the scientists say, and the birds that live in the tamarisks, like the endangered Southwestern willow flycatcher, will be harmed. Plus, once the beetles are done eating tamarisk leaves, they are likely to feed on other trees.”

Read more: The New York Times

How Do We Avert A Thirsty Future?

Last modified on 2014-07-15 13:38:56 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.energydigital.com

“Adequate availability of water, food and energy is critical to global security. Water – the sustainer of life and livelihoods – is already the world’s most exploited natural resource. With nature’s capacity for providing renewable freshwater lagging behind humanity’s current rate of utilization, tomorrow’s water is being used to meet today’s need.

Consequently, the resources of shared rivers, aquifers and lakes have become the target of rival appropriation plans. Canada, which is the Saudi Arabia of the freshwater world, is fortunate to be blessed with exceptional water wealth. But more than half of the global population lives in conditions of water distress.

The struggle for water is exacerbating effects on the earth’s ecosystems. Groundwater depletion, for its part, is affecting natural stream flows, groundwater-fed wetlands and lakes, and related ecosystems.

If resources like water are degraded and depleted, environmental refugees will follow. Sanaa in Yemen risks becoming the first capital city to run out of water. If Bangladesh bears the main impact of China’s damming of River Brahmaputra, the resulting exodus of thirsty refugees will compound India’s security challenges.

Silent water wars between states, meanwhile, are already being waged in several regions, including by building dams on international rivers and by resorting to coercive diplomacy to prevent such construction. Examples include China’s frenetic upstream dam building in its borderlands and downriver Egypt’s threats of military reprisals against the ongoing Ethiopian construction of a large dam on the Blue Nile.”

Read more: The Globe and Mail

 

‘Escalating Resistance’ in Detroit as Residents Block Water Shut-Offs

Last modified on 2014-07-11 14:50:49 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.commondreams.org

“Detroit residents on Thursday launched a direct action to halt the city’s mass shut-off of water to thousands of households, physically blocking a private corporation from turning off the tap.

Carrying a banner that read “Stop the Water Shut-offs,” ten city residents nonviolently obstructed the entrance to Homrich Inc.—the private company that was handed a $5.6 million deal from the city to shut off water services to residences that are behind on their bills, according to the protest organizers. They were surrounded during the civil disobedience by a crowd of over 40 supporters chanting “If the water don’t flow, the trucks don’t go.”

The protesters held the entrance for more than an hour and a half before all ten were arrested, Bill Wylie-Kellermann, a Detroit pastor who was among the arrestees, toldCommon Dreams. “We feel that it’s really time to intensify and escalate the resistance to the water shutoffs and emergency management,” Wylie-Kellermann declared.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) announced in June that it is escalating its disconnections of water services to residences that have fallen behind on their bills to 3,000 a month. In a city devastated by unemployment and foreclosure crises, nearly half of all residents are unable to pay, and the city’s continual increase in water rates is not helping. Thousands of people have already had their water turned off, including many who were disconnected long before this June escalation, and tens of thousands more are next.”

Read more: Common Dreams

 

Saving Water in California

Last modified on 2014-07-11 14:45:55 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

 

Photo retrieved from: www.huffingtonpost.com

“California is in the third year of its worst drought in decades. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at how much water the state’s residents and businesses are using. According to a recent state survey, Californians cut the amount of water they used in the first five months of the year by just 5 percent, far short of the 20 percent reduction Gov. Jerry Brown called for in January. In some parts of the state, like the San Diego area, water use has actually increased from 2013.

Without much stronger conservation measures, the state, much of which is arid or semiarid, could face severe water shortages if the drought does not break next year. Los Angeles recently recorded its lowest rainfall for two consecutive years, and climate change will likely make drought a persistent condition, according to the National Climate Assessment report published in May.

Yet, even now, 70 percent of water districts have not imposed reasonable mandatory restrictions on watering lawns and keeping backyard pools filled. The State Water Resources Control Board is to consider placingrestrictions on some outdoor water uses like washing paved surfaces at a meeting on July 15.

California’s agriculture sector is the largest in the country, and it accounts for about 80 percent of the state’s water use. Even a small percentage reduction in the fields could have a sizable effect on total water consumption.”

Read more: The New York Times

 

 

Politics, profits delay action on arsenic in drinking water

Last modified on 2014-07-06 15:38:07 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.scpr.org

“Arsenic is nearly synonymous with poison. But most people don’t realize that they consume small amounts of it in the food they eat and the water they drink.

Recent research suggests even small levels of arsenic may be harmful. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been prepared to say since 2008 that arsenic is 17 times more toxic as a carcinogen than the agency now reports.

Women are especially vulnerable. EPA scientists have concluded that if 100,000 women consumed the legal limit of arsenic each day, 730 of them eventually would get lung or bladder cancer.

The EPA, however, hasn’t been able to make its findings official, an action that could trigger stricter drinking water standards. The roadblock: a single paragraph inserted into a committee report by a member of Congress, an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found. The paragraph essentially ordered the EPA to halt its evaluation of arsenic and hand over its work to the National Academy of Sciences.

The congressman, Mike Simpson, an Idaho Republican, said he was concerned that small communities couldn’t meet tougher drinking water standards and questioned the EPA’s ability to do science. But a lobbyist for two pesticide companies acknowledged to CPI that he was among those who asked for the delay. As a direct result of the delay, a weed killer the EPA was going to ban at the end of 2013 remains on the market.”

Read more: Southern California Public Radio

 

In dry California, water fetching record prices

Last modified on 2014-07-06 15:28:51 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.apnews.com

“Throughout California’s desperately dry Central Valley, those with water to spare are cashing in.

As a third parched summer forces farmers to fallow fields and lay off workers, two water districts and a pair of landowners in the heart of the state’s farmland are making millions of dollars by auctioning off their private caches.

Nearly 40 others also are seeking to sell their surplus water this year, according to state and federal records.

Economists say it’s been decades since the water market has been this hot. In the last five years alone, the price has grown tenfold to as much as $2,200 an acre-foot – enough to cover a football field with a foot of water.

Unlike the previous drought in 2009, the state has been hands-off, letting the market set the price even though severe shortages prompted a statewide drought emergency declaration this year.”

Read more: AP News

 

Oklahoma nearly doubles earthquake count of California

Last modified on 2014-06-28 14:55:48 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.america.aljazeera.com

“Oklahoma has had nearly double the number of earthquakes as California, local news reported after five earthquakes on Thursday morning rattled an area of the state where oil and gas drilling is prevalent.

While California recorded 88 earthquakes of a magnitude 3.0 or greater this year, 174 of the same intensity have shaken Oklahoma. On Thursday, the region was hit by five quakes with magnitudes higher than 3.0 — the magnitude at which tremors can easily be felt, Oklahoma City’s KOCO news reported.

Whereas California’s quakes are spread throughout the state, seismic activity in Oklahoma is concentrated in the central and northern part of the state — areas where oil and gas drilling, otherwise known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking, has increased in recent years. In Oklahoma as a whole, drilling doubled between 2009 and 2012.

The rise in oil and gas drilling in the state has paralleled increasing earthquake activity. Previously, the state averaged about one quake per year, but that has increased to at least one a day, KOCO reported.

Seismologists have concluded that fracking — a process where water, sand and chemicals are shot underground at high pressure to release trapped oil and gas deposits — can cause small earthquakes.

At the Seismological Society of America’s annual meeting in May, scientists said that underground disposal of vast amounts of wastewater generated by fracking likely induce earthquakes by changing the state of stress on existing faults.”

Read more: Aljazeera America

 

 

AMERICA IS RUNNING OUT OF WATER

Last modified on 2014-06-24 16:11:16 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.vice.com

“Although most Americans believe water scarcity occurs only in countries where Angelina Jolie campaigns for peace, two of the world’s most overexerted rivers are right here in the United States. According to the World Resource Institute, both the Colorado and Rio Grande suffer from extremely high stress, meaning that we annually withdraw more than 80 percent of each river’s renewable water supply, and at least a third of the US exhibits medium to high water stress or greater.

Take Lake Mead. Located outside Las Vegas, the lake has experienced an alarming decline in elevation. The US Bureau of Reclamation commissioned the Hoover Dam in 1931 to protect the water needs of the area, but according to the Las Vegas Sun, experts predict that Lake Mead could run dry by 2050, with declining power generation possibly occurring in as little as a year. According to the Sun, the Colorado River “provides drinking water for 36 million Americans, supplies irrigation for 15 percent of the nation’s crops, and supports a $26 billion recreation economy that employs 250,000 people.” In other words, if Lake Mead dries out, we’re fucked.

What should we do to fix this and other water problems? Glen MacDonald, a UCLA distinguished professor, a UC presidential chair, and the director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, believes he has the answers. I emailed him to discuss America’s water problem, the issues in the Southwest, and what the government can do to save our water supply.”

Read more: Vice

 

Arizona Cities Could Face Cutbacks in Water From Colorado River, Officials Say

Last modified on 2014-06-19 15:37:00 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

 

Photo retrieved from: www.theflyfishingdaily.com

“Arizona could be forced to cut water deliveries to its two largest cities unless states that tap the dwindling Colorado River find ways to reduce water consumption and deal with a crippling drought, officials of the state’s canal network said Tuesday.

The warning comes as the federal Bureau of Reclamation forecasts that Lake Mead, a Colorado River reservoir that is the network’s sole water source, will fall next month to a level not seen since the lake was first filled in 1938.

Officials of the Central Arizona Project, which manages the 336-mile water system, say the two cities, Phoenix and Tucson, could replace the lost water, at least in the short term, by tapping groundwater supplies, lakes and rivers.

If they do not reduce consumption, the cuts could be necessary by as early as 2019, according to an analysis by the water project, and officials said that depending on drought conditions, the chances of water cutbacks by 2026 could be as high as 29 percent.

Although experts have been aware for years that shortages would eventually occur, the analysis represents a marked turnabout in officials’ thinking.

“We’re dealing with a very serious issue, and people need to pay attention to it,” Sharon Megdal, a University of Arizona water expert and board member of the Central Arizona Project, said in an interview. “The possibility of cutbacks of water deliveries to municipalities is higher than we’ve ever thought it was going to be.”

The mere prospect of a shortage in Arizona cities, now raised publicly for the first time, is but a proxy for the rising concern among many experts over a longer-term water crisis across the entire Southwest. States along the lower Colorado River use much more water than flows into the lake in an average year, a deficit that upstream states shouldered for decades by opening their reservoir sluices to release more water.”

Read more: The New York Times

 

Santa Cruz: Soquel Creek Water District water emergencies declared

Last modified on 2014-06-19 15:28:13 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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

 

New York Assembly Overwhelmingly Passes Fracking Moratorium

Last modified on 2014-06-19 15:15:14 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.ecowatch.com

“Full passage of the moratorium now depends on the New York State Senate and, ultimately, Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The Associated Press reports that the Senate is unlikely to address the issue before adjournment later this week.

“We thank the Assembly for listening to the medical experts by overwhelmingly passing a moratorium on fracking to protect New Yorkers from the devastating health and environmental impacts,” Alex Beauchamp of Food & Water Watch and New Yorkers Against Fracking said in a statement. “Now, we’re urging Gov. Cuomo and the State Senate to stand up against the out-of-state oil and gas industry, and stand up for our state’s health, environment and long-term economy by rejecting fracking.”

Some environmental groups might not agree that more time is needed to study fracking, but they are glad their voices, as well as those of medical professionals, have been heard. In May, a lengthy list of doctors and groups like the American Lung Association in New York wrote a letter to Cuomo stressing the impact fracking has on nearby states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

“Oil and gas development utilizing HVHF [High volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing] involves the use and/or production of numerous toxic and hazardous air and water contaminants, a number of them known or suspected carcinogens,” the legislation reads. “Oil and gas development utilizing HVHF has also been associated with a range of adverse environmental impacts, including impacts to water and air quality, land and habitat, and community character.”

Dr. Sheila Bushkin of the Concerned Health Professionals of New York echoed the cautious optimism in the state that the moratorium will continue beyond next May.”

Read more: Ecowatch

 

Should California use taxpayer dollars to build more dams?

Last modified on 2014-06-02 18:31:02 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.sacbee.com

“As California struggles through a third year of drought, elected officials from both parties are proposing to spend billions of dollars in public money on new dams and reservoirs. Seven different bills are pending in the Legislature that would use varying amounts of state bond funding to launch a new era of dam construction with the aim of increasing the state’s capacity to store precious mountain snowmelt.

The surge of proposals has stoked familiar arguments in California’s historic battles over limited water supplies: Water users in many cities and throughout the state’s arid central farm belt say new reservoirs are vital to capture snowmelt that would otherwise flow “wasted” to the sea. Environmental groups counter that habitat and wildlife need that water, and call for more sweeping conservation measures and water recycling instead.

But this year, as California faces long-term supply shortages, some water policy experts are raising deeper questions: Is there enough water left in California to justify the cost of dams? If taxpayers do front some money, what are they really buying? Are they propping up a project with shaky economics, or buying something with real public value?

The bills before the Legislature aim to place a bond measure on the November ballot. All propose significant taxpayer subsidies for new reservoirs, ranging from $1 billion to $6 billion. The money would be paid back over decades by taxpayers at large via the state general fund. Additional money for each project is expected to come from the water users who benefit.”

 

 

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

Last modified on 2014-05-29 18:56:56 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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

 

California Gov. On Drought, Wildfires: ‘Humanity Is On A Collision Course With Nature’

Last modified on 2014-05-19 17:29:01 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.thinkprogress.org

“California Governor Jerry Brown linked his state’s severe drought and wildfires to climate change on Sunday, saying California was “on the front lines” of the warming problem.

Brown said on ABC’s This Week that though California’s wildfires are relatively under control right now, the state is “in a very serious fire season” — one that’s seen about twice as many fires this year as the average — and future control of the fires depends largely on the weather. He said that as the climate changes in California, the state will need thousands more firefighters and California residents will have to be more careful about where and how they build.

“As we send billions and billions of tons of heat-trapping gases, we get heat and we get fires and we get what we’re seeing,” he said. “So, we’ve got to gear up. We’re going to deal with nature as best we can, but humanity is on a collision course with nature and we’re just going to have to adapt to it in the best way we can.”

Brown also lambasted those in Congress who deny that climate change is occurring or is caused by humans, saying in California, there’s no question climate is changing.

“It is true that there’s virtually no Republican who accepts the science that virtually is unanimous,” he said. “There is no scientific question — there’s just political denial for various reasons, best known to those people who are in denial.”

Right now, the entire state of California is in the severest rankings of drought, conditions which, as Joe Romm points out, have created a soil moisture level reminiscent of the Dust Bowl. Last week, more than 20,000 residents were forced to flee their homes as heat and strong Santa Ana winds created conditions ripe for fires that spread through San Diego County.”

Read more: Climate Progress

 

UN Decries Water as Weapon of War in Military Conflicts

Last modified on 2014-05-19 17:21:17 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.commondreams.org

“The United Nations, which is trying to help resolve the widespread shortage of water in the developing world, is faced with a growing new problem: the use of water as a weapon of war in ongoing conflicts.

The most recent examples are largely in the Middle East and Africa, including Iraq, Egypt, Israel (where supplies to the occupied territories have been shut off) and Botswana.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week expressed concern over reports that water supplies in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo were deliberately cut off by armed groups for eight days, depriving at least 2.5 million people of access to safe water for drinking and sanitation.

“Preventing people’s access to safe water is a denial of a fundamental human right,” he warned, pointing out that “deliberate targeting of civilians and depriving them of essential supplies is a clear breach of international humanitarian and human rights law.”

In the four-year Syrian civil war, water is being used as a weapon by all parties to the conflict, including the government of President Bashar al-Assad and the multiple rebel groups fighting to oust him from power.

The conflict has claimed the lives of over 150,000 people and displaced nearly nine million Syrians.

The violation of international humanitarian law in Syria includes torture and deprivation of food and water.”

Read more: Common Dreams

 

Depletion of Central Valley’s groundwater may be causing earthquakes

Last modified on 2014-05-15 17:43:24 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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

 

California Snowpack Measure Could Reveal Future of Drought

Last modified on 2014-05-08 14:14:58 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

 

Photo retrieved from: www.nationalgeographic.com

“A critical measure of a precious resource, April’s survey will influence whether the state’s water officials declare that the drought is easing or that it persists. At stake is the fate of summer water deliveries to farms and cities. (Related: “Could California’s Drought Last 200 Years?“)

Trailed by news media, surveyors will traverse a granite ridge on Lake Tahoe’s 6,800-foot-high (2,073-meter-high) Echo Summit—dense with fragrant pine, fir, and cedar—then drive about ten aluminum tubes into the snow to measure depth. They weigh the samples to gauge water content.

Dozens of other surveyors will be visiting more remote sites in the Sierra. Some may ski 10 to 15 miles (16 to 24 kilometers) and climb more than 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) in a single day.

The skiers, who travel in teams for the sake of safety, take turns breaking trail to conserve their strength, sometimes enlisting help from snowmobiles or helicopters.

Throughout every winter, these spots are revisited monthly to record changing conditions—but findings from the April trip are the most closely watched because that’s when snow is deepest.

April’s test is considered the most accurate snapshot of how much water is hidden within snowflakes for future use.”

Read more: National Geographic

 

 

Drought — and neighbors — press Las Vegas to conserve water

Last modified on 2014-04-21 18:11:59 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.nbcnews.com

“An ongoing drought and the Colorado River’s stunted flow have shrunk Lake Mead to its lowest level in generations. The reservoir, which supplies 90% of Las Vegas’ water, is ebbing as though a plug had been pulled from a bathtub drain. By mid-April, Lake Mead’s water level measured just 48 feet above the system’s topmost intake straw.

Future droughts and a warming climate change could spell trouble for the city’s 2 million residents — and its 40 million annual visitors. Those people “better hope nothing goes wrong with the last intake,” said water authority spokesman J.C. Davis.

“But if something does go wrong,” he added, “we’re in the business of making contingency plans.”

For officials here, the scenario signifies a formidable job: providing water for the nation’s driest city. Las Vegas uses more water per capita than most communities in America — 219 gallons of water per person every day — and charges less for it than many communities.

Summer temperatures top 115 degrees in a scorched environment that in a banner year receives a paltry four inches of rain. The inhospitable conditions have pushed officials to develop water conservation programs considered models worldwide.”

Read more: LA Times

 

Fracking, Seismic Activity Grow Hand in Hand in Mexico

Last modified on 2014-04-03 17:29:14 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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

 

Who should get water deliveries divides California lawmakers

Last modified on 2014-04-03 17:22:56 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo retrieved from: www.bellinghamherald.com

“WASHINGTON — Seasonal storms have exposed once more some perennial political divisions over California water.

Citing the latest rainfall, seven of the state’s lawmakers are urging the Obama administration to free up more irrigation deliveries for San Joaquin Valley farms. The muscular Capitol Hill lineup is noticeable both for who’s on it and who’s not.

In a telling alliance, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein joined with House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield and four other House Republicans, as well as one House Democrat, in calling for increased deliveries.

“Based on historical weather patterns, these storms could be our last chance this year to receive, capture, and move a sizable amount of water to those farms and communities that desperately need it for public health and safety and for their livelihoods that are under severe threat,” the lawmakers wrote Thursday.

Pointedly, they cited “a significant imbalance of regulatory burdens” in declaring that “there is clearly no imminent threat” to federally protected fish species.

Those not signing the letter to the Interior and Commerce departments were equally telling.”

Read more here: The Bellingham Herald

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