Tag Archive for 'drought'

Megadrought in US Southwest: A Bad Omen for Forests Globally

Photo retrieved from: www.commondreams.org

“Across the West, “megafires” have become the norm. With climbing temperatures, after a century of fire suppression, the total area burned has tripled since the 1970s, and the average annual number of fires over 10,000 acres is seven times what it was then. Fighting and suppressing fires costs more than $3 billion a year, not to mention lives lost. So understanding what, if anything, can be done to reduce intense forest fires has assumed an urgent priority.

Currently suffering the worst drought in the U.S., New Mexico has emerged as a “natural experiment” in megadrought, a laboratory for understanding drought’s deep history in the region — and what might lay in store in an era of rapid, human-caused warming.

With a highly variable climate, the Southwest boasts perhaps the best-studied megadrought history in the world. It’s the home of dendrology, the science of studying tree-rings, first developed at the University of Arizona. The pronounced seasonality of hot summers followed by cold winters produces well-defined rings, while archaeological fascination with Southwestern cultures — Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, and other sites where ancient peoples flourished and disappeared — has supported the collection and study of centuries of tree-ring data. Temperate-zone trees lay down wider rings in wet years, which narrow or vanish during drought. What’s more, rings can be precisely dated, with sets matched against each other, revealing burn scars and patterns of climate, precipitation, drought stress, and tree mortality.”

Read more: Common Dreams


Lake Mead to receive extra water from feds

Photo retrieved from: hikearizona.com

“The federal government will release enough extra water into drought-stricken Lake Mead in the coming months to avoid shortages on the lower Colorado River for as long as five years.

“The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said Friday that runoff from snow in the mountains of Wyoming and Colorado is expected to increase storage on the river enough to adjust water levels at two key reservoirs and avert drought restrictions.

“The decision comes just six months after Lake Mead dropped to within 7 feet of a level that would have triggered drought restrictions. Under those restrictions, Arizona would have lost about 11 percent of its allocation for at least one year.

“Arizona officials had prepared contingency plans that included forfeiting a small amount of the state’s allocation as a hedge against larger losses. Those plans are no longer necessary.

“”We still want to be somewhat cautious,” said Tom McCann, assistant general manager of the Central Arizona Project, which delivers Colorado River water to Phoenix and Tucson. “We’ve been in drought for 11 years. We’ve had a good year, and that’s very helpful. It pushes us further away from shortages, but it doesn’t mean the drought is over.”

Read more: AZ Central

Water managers brace for more dry times


Photo retrieved from: alhann.com

“His boots dusty from walking along the banks of the Rio Grande, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor scanned the water’s edge and watched a flush of ducks pass before listening to a detailed explanation of the recent work that went into revitalizing this stretch of river in central New Mexico.

“The ground remained bare where earth was moved to lower the banks to a more natural state. The dry skeletons of cottonwood trees were place in the river to provide cover for endangered fish. And behind Connor, the thinned forest of cottonwoods and willows showed signs of recovery after a few years of not having to compete with invasive nonnative vegetation.

“The restoration work along Sandia Pueblo’s section of the Rio Grande is just the latest effort by tribal, state and federal water managers as they grapple with persistent drought across the West, the uncertainties of climate change, endangered species concerns and growing demand for a limited resource.”

Read more: SF Gate

Aztec, Bloomfield oppose water rights settlement

Photo retrieved from: tripwow.tripadvisor.com

“Fearful of losing water rights to the Navajo Nation, Aztec and Bloomfield have joined forces to oppose sections of the San Juan Navajo Water Rights Settlement before it is brought to the 11th District Judicial Court.

“The two cities are expected to be joined in their litigation by thousands of San Juan County residents, all of whom hope to modify the amount of water granted to the Navajo Nation in a settlement which has been battled since the 1960s.

“”Bloomfield and Aztec aren’t opposed to the settlement. They just want to make sure the settlement amount of water proposed is fair,” said Richard B. Cole, attorney for the cities of Aztec, Bloomfield and Farmington.

“The settlement, which was signed in December by former Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr. and Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, has been resolved between the state, the United States and the Navajo Nation. It grants approximately 600,000 acre-feet of diversions and 325,670 acre-feet of depletions from the San Juan River to the Navajo Nation. One acre-foot is approximately 43,560 cubic feet.

“The amount of water that Aztec and Bloomfield will contest is undecided, but the goal is to secure the cities’ surplus storage usually used in drought years.”

Read more: The Daily Times

Lingering drought may cut water supply in east China province

Photo retrieved from: seawayblog.blogspot.com

“Water supplies to nearly one million people will cease if a drought in east China’s Shandong Province lasts until the end of March, disaster prevention officials warned Thursday, as much of China’s northern region continued to experience less than average rainfall, which started months ago.

“The drought is the worst in six decades, said Yang Zhendong, director of the provincial flood and drought control office.

“Little rain has fallen in the province since September, with only 12 millimeters since September 23, about 15 percent of the normal level, he said.

“Officials said some 3.2 million people across the province have been affected by the shortage.”

Read more: People’s Daily Online

California water wars focus on Salton Sea, Colorado River pact

“The evaporating Salton Sea is the flashpoint for the latest dispute in California’s water wars, testing an uneasy alliance of farmers and city dwellers to wean the state from reliance on Colorado River water.

“California officials agreed in 2003 to stop taking more than its share from the Colorado, ensuring that Arizona and Nevada don’t get shortchanged. The plan’s centerpiece called for shifting enough water from the agricultural Imperial Valley to serve nearly 600,000 San Diego area homes.

“The huge farm-to-city water transfer threatened California’s largest lake . More than 200 feet below sea level, the Salton Sea survives on water that seeps through the soil of Imperial Valley farms.

“For seven years, the solution has been to pump enough water into the Salton Sea to offset what was lost to San Diego. The 350-square-mile lake is evaporating at a rate of roughly 450 million gallons a year, but the thinking was to prevent the San Diego transfer from hastening its demise.”

Read more: The Las Vegas Review-Journal

PAKISTAN: Harvesting rain, restoring dignity

“Tharparker District in Sindh Province, southern Pakistan, is among the most arid regions in the country. Limited rainfall, brackish underground water and the private ownership of wells by an elite minority have made access to potable water very difficult for much of the district’s 900,000 mostly rural inhabitants.

“However, an innovative project by local NGO Thardeep Rural Development Programme (TRDP) in conjunction with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Government of Sindh is helping alleviate Tharparker’s drought problems.”

read more: AlterNet

China rejects Mekong drying blame

“While nations around the Mekong meet in Thailand to discuss the drying up of the river, China insists the current problems emanate from an act of nature.

“Millions of dollars worth of Chinese cargo are stranded in barges along the Mekong, due to the low water levels.

“Chinese dams along the Mekong have been blamed for disrupting the water supply, but the Chinese foreign ministry blames drought for water scarcity in the Mekong region.

“China has built, or is planning to build, eight dams along the river. The Southeast Asian countries that blame Chinese construction have eleven dams of their own.

“Al Jazeera’s Melissa Chan reports from Yunnan province in China.”

Cambodians hit as Mekong dries up

“Nations around the Mekong are meeting in Thailand to discuss the vital river’s low water levels. The once mighty Mekong is at a 50-year low in parts of Thailand and Laos.

“Chinese companies have started construction on two hydroelectric dams in Cambodia, one on a tributary of the river.

“However, the Cambodia government has much to lose by being too critical of China, which continues to pump billions of dollars into the country’s infrastructure.

“Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay reports from northern Cambodia, where the lack of water is affecting people’s livelihoods.”

Santa Cruz City Council supports next step in desal plant

“In a nod to naysayers, Mayor Mike Rotkin sought to remind the public that removing salt from seawater for use in the city’s water system is designed to address rainwater shortages and saltwater intrusion, not support future growth at UC Santa Cruz or elsewhere. “It’s really about drought protection,” he said.

“Rotkin threatened to have arrested an unidentified man who repeatedly shouted at council members. The man told council members they should support solar desalination because of the electricity required to run the proposed plant.

“Opponents also argue greater conservation could better address water shortages and desalination could harm marine life. But supporters say conservation measures aren’t enough to backfill shortages in severe drought years.”

read more: Santa Cruz Sentinel