Wednesday, October 21, 2009

California Tries to Solve Water Woes

Earth, also called Blue Planet cause of the huge amount of water it has. Even if we want to see it or not it is becoming less and less blue every day. Depending on the part of the planet this is becoming a small, normal, big or huge problem.
In this case we do not need to look very far to find one of those problems, right here in the state of California. It should be a reason to worry about, but as usual it is turning into political stuff, the typical argument between Republicans and Democrats, but in this case both supporting the same goal, to solve the problem about the water supply.
The main idea is to repair the state’s fragile water ecosystem, to unleash new water supplies and to increase water conservation throughout the state. More specifically, negotiators hope to seal a deal that would make equal the goals of restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta ( a collection of channels, natural habitats and islands at the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers that is a major source of the state’s drinking water) and increasing the supply of water to residents, businesses and farms. Being the first one the largest environmental restoration project ever in the United States.
The discussion over how to distribute the water in California is decades old, but when it comes to water legislation, close to done never means done. There are many consequences cause of this problem with water, like water restrictions and increased prices for water, a federal order last year forcing water authorities to curtail the use of large pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to help preserve dying smelt has reduced water flows to agriculture, environmental problems in the Sacramento River have resulted in a collapse of the Chinook salmon population…
Of course there are some proposals to fix this. The construction of at least one dam is included in the plan, as well as a peripheral canal that would transport water from the Sacramento River around the delta to federal and state aqueducts for use in urban and agricultural areas.
One thing is clear, without water we can’t live. It’s necessary for us to survive, it’s a resource of energy we use continuously and it’s part of the nature where we live. It’s time to fix the damage we have caused during ages.


The Archreactor said...

According to the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), much of California's water supply problems relate to 3 conflicts: climate change, sttewide capacity for trasporting water is falling behind demand, and deteriating levees around the Sacramento and San Joaquin Delta.
The first conflict, climate change is affecting things such as snow pack and melting seasons as the drier warmer seasons last longer through the year. This also accounts for droughts in the region which affect both the delta and the agricultural districts in Califonia as no water from melt is being provided to the region.
The statewide transportation system to supply water is also falling behind the demand for fresh water. The delta provides approximately 2/3 of califonians with their water supply and recently a cutback of over 25 million people had to be established in order to regulate the delta's water supply more effeciently. Because of this other regions water supply have to compensate for those being blocked from Delta water.
The "deteriorating" levees are also causing concern. If the levees were to fail the delta area would collapse and be "unusable" for more than 2 years. The levees are under stress due to earthquake damage and ecosystem malfunctions due to climate change. According to reports done through the California society of tectonics and seismic activity there is a 75%chance that an earthquake ranking above 6.5 will occur within 30 years causing the delta to be destroyed if it remains in its current state.
In response to these conflicts there has been a cutback on water supply ranging from 20-30% to conserve and retain the valuable delta resource and ecosystem. This however doesn't bode well with the agricultural district as they are fisrt to feel the cutback's impact. With 20-30% of their irrigation supply gone in already abnormally dry conditions the farmers in the region are feeling hard pressed to produce the country's needed for produce.

The relation of water supply and regional success is evident in the case of California's Sacramento and San Joaquin Delta. As the region's water becomes strained the success and effeciency of the state becomes lower. This shows one way in which water is vital to a region and even civilization. as discussed in class lecture the fall of many great socities and civilizations resuted from a misused or strained water supply.

Borja JR said...

We all read Dr.Webber's pamphlet on earth and water, and realized just how important water really is. The main problem that exists right now is that not enough of us have any idea as to how hard it is to provide clean water to homes all over the nation. The fact it covers most of our planet gives us a deceiving sense of comfort.
The fact of the matter is that water is more essential to life than any other material, fluid, solid or product on our earth. Without water there is no life. So it seems like we have to take water policy very seriously.
The major water consumers are of course nuclear power plants and other industrial processes. Large amounts of water are used and then returned in a state that is toxic to both us and fauna.
One interesting area, apart from california where water policy is vital is in Alberta, Canada. Fort McMurray is an area in Athabasca, where tar sands are mined. Essentially the method used to mine these tar sands are in-situ methods. What happens is steam is pumped through pipes down below to increase fluidity of bitumen in the sands. The amount of water being used is so high that the flow of the river is being seriously affected. 349 million m3 of water are diverted from the Athabascan river every year, which to put things into perspective is twice the amount needed by the city of Calgary. The water used for the mining process ends up in tailing ponds. 90% of the water is toxic and is no longer useful in that state. So much of it is in this form that tailing ponds cover 50km2 and can be seen from space.
Lake Athabasca is of great concern due to the quality of the inflowing water from the river. The main problem comes from the chemicals released into the water. Naphthenic acids, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, mercury, arsenic are just some of the most toxic. The polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are actually a group of more than 100 different chemicals formed during incomplete combustion process. The main problem with these is that at the moment there are no official Canadian guidelines as to sedimentation concentration for total amounts of PAH. Studies have indicated that current levels of PAH in forms of sediment in the Athabasca Delta are double the amount known to cause liver cancer in fish. This is a major blow to the fishing industry and consequently the regional diet.
The interesting thing about the monitoring scheme is that unsurprisingly the industry sponsored programs seem to give more optimistic results than the independent groups. However as there is no certain answer those given by independent groups should in my opinion be the ones that are analyzed as it is better to be safe than sorry. If therefore we look at in-situ mining we find that 0.9 barrels of water are used to produce 1 barrel of oil. The water needed in conventional oil is only about 0.2 barrels. So this shows us just how much more water is needed for tar sands.
It seems pretty clear that its not just california or canada that needs to think about how it controls and regulates water, but every state and every nation in the world is going to find itself with problems if no action is taken