21.01.2014 Stay Informed! No Comments

Beware the Drought

Here’s a couple of “big picture” thoughts from Joe Geever;
– water supply managers often plan around an “average” rainfall. But our rainfall pattern is such that, if you take almost any 10 year period, eight of the ten years will be below average (hence the lyrics, “it never rains in California, but man it pours”). Predicting supply and demand on an “average rainfall” is a total misunderstanding of what “averages” represent — it’s a mathematical error.
– wet and dry periods in the West are as predictable as the sun coming up. If we don’t properly plan for dry periods, then a drought is a “man-made disaster.” We should have learned that during the “Dust Bowl” — arguably this country’s worst “natural disaster.” (And not the same circumstance as we have now). But we didn’t. We learned to pump groundwater — and we’ve nearly destroyed the Ogalalla Aquifer by continuing to irrigate “farmland” in what is really a dry “grassland” — a place once known as “No Man’s Land.”
– this weather pattern will get more dramatic as the climate changes.
– natural watersheds once evened out the wet and dry periods. Watersheds capture rain and let it percolate into the ground. This natural process recharges groundwater basins, mitigates floods, and maintains in-stream flows even when it gets dry. But natural watersheds in this region have been dramatically altered by impervious surfaces.

So, given these pretty indisputable facts, is OCWD engaged in proper planning for the long-term?

1. conservation (demand reduction) should be the number one priority.
OCWD grade: C-

2. landscape retrofits can include simple design elements to capture rain water on-site — and “green streets”, constructed wetlands, etc will actually mimic natural watersheds even in built-out urban areas. Any financial incentive to businesses and homeowners should require rainwater detention.
OCWD grade: F

3. land use plans should require “groundwater recharge basins” to ensure groundwater maintenance. But I think OCWD just sold a recharge basin in Anaheim to a developer who wants to build a power plant.
OCWD grade: F

4. forcing treated wastewater (and rain water) off the land and into the ocean, then pumping it back out to waste electricity getting the salt out (and selling your recharge basin to build more electricity generation) is insane.
OCWD grade: F

Ocean desal is probably the stupidest plan OCWD could ever come up with. But it’s not the only stupid thing they’re doing. Actually, any support for ocean desal is the result of the other stupid things they’re doing.

Anyway, just a couple thoughts. Maybe the one thing we should be grateful for is that Poseidon has driven a lot of interest in re-thinking how we manage (or mis-manage) water. We definitely need to change — and ocean desal is definitely not the first change to make.

Comments are closed.