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About the Drought
Old 10-05-2014, 05:05 PM   #1
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About the Drought

Between politics, war, disease and the latest financial headline comes the Drought.
I was in So. California in the years 1985 and 1986, and can recall a semi-panic situation, even though it got worse later on. The low level reservoirs were scary, even then.
In today's news there was a note about a California town of 500 people that has not had water for some time, with no hope of change in the future. No water to cook, wash, flush, or even to drink, except for bottled water. Property values nil, and residents in a dire situation... jobs, businesses and everything that we come to expect in a community in a rapid decline.

So what to think about the future?
The number of news stories is growing daily. The worries are difficult to quantify, as every story seems worse than the previous one. Whether drinking water, crops, recreation, business, health, or the total economic effect, there is much worry, but... as far as I can see, few bright spots or solutions.

For those who live in California, or the other drought stricken states... How do you see the problem? Serious or a passing bad time, that the people will eventually take in stride, and to which there will always be an adjustment?

Will the government and the private sector come up with solutions? Is it reasonable to think that desalination plants or fresh water diversion can equalize the ravages of nature?

As always, with problems, there come opportunities. What will they be?

Here in the midwest, nature's problems, while always serious have been coming in smaller disasters, as with the Asian carp invasion of the rivers. The attention to tornadoes and storms that comes and goes, always seems to fade into the background in a matter of months or a few years. Is this drought just a part of a cycle that has been seen before, and from which those who are affected eventually recover?

I have earned a reputation as a gloom/doom worrier... and in most cases am learning to not be scaremonger or the boy who called "wolf"... but I can't help but wonder at the seeming lack of concern that pushes the drought off the front page.

I don't see this as being a matter of politics, but as a matter that may needs be part of planning for the retirement years. Not just as a place to live, but whether this could be a geographical/economic concern in the future.
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Old 10-05-2014, 05:36 PM   #2
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As more people move to areas that don't have abundant water the problem will continue to grow. Look at how much the population has increased in Vegas and Phoenix over the years.
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Old 10-05-2014, 05:50 PM   #3
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The solution is desalinization. One problem is that desalinization takes lots of energy and California is trying to move toward a low-energy economy.

Some people are trying. There's a $1B plant being built in Carlsbad (35 miles north of San Diego) that should start producing almost 50 million gallons a day in 2016.
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Old 10-05-2014, 06:22 PM   #4
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It's serious. Yet my neighbors still have green lawns that run off water when they overwater them. I heard that 70% of potable water in the San Diego metropolitan water district is used for yards and pools. That's just wrong.

We've been switching our landscape to drip irrigation, using greywater from laundry and an outdoor shower. We choose drought tolerant plants as much as possible.

It's effecting the agriculture in the central valley big time. That effects everyone's produce prices.

It's a problem.
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Old 10-05-2014, 06:32 PM   #5
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I don't know anything about the drought areas but often wonder about what restrictions are in place. Do they have drought cycles? Can you have landscaping? Do you use gray water?
Regarding the desalinization plants, wonder about wave technology (know of a company that is using ocean waves to generate electricity) to power the plants.
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Old 10-05-2014, 06:32 PM   #6
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Plenty of water here in Minnesota, all you have to do is thaw it out.
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Old 10-05-2014, 06:36 PM   #7
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If California will ship us some 75 degree sunshine in December (Washington) we will send them as much water as they need.
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Old 10-05-2014, 07:57 PM   #8
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The cost of water may be the most confusing part of any understanding of the situation. Since the numbers that are used to correlate the costs are usually expressed in terms of cubic meters, most of us are not aware of just how much we pay, or how much we use. Water is as close to being "free" as any commodity we use, so most of the comparisons end up being "Greek", and not worth our getting involved.

A cubic meter is roughly 220 gallons, and depending on the scarcity can cost somewhere between $.10 and $15.00.

The largest Desalination Plant in the world is in Saudi Arabia. It went on line in 2013, and cost nearly $3 Billion... (that does not include cost of operation).The capacity is approximately 170 million gallons/day, just short of the current needs of San Diego (195 million gallons/day).

We've been reading about homes that have no running water because of the drought, and have been using bottled water.

The average US use per person is about 100 gallons per day. To put this into perspective, consider this:

Quote:
"The [bottled water] industry grossed a total of $11.8 billion on those 9.7 billion gallons in 2012, making bottled water about $1.22/gallon nationwide and 300x the cost of a gallon of tap water," Colas says. "If we take into account the fact that almost 2/3 of all bottled water sales are single 16.9oz (500 mL) bottles, though, this cost is much, much higher: about $7.50 per gallon, according to the American Water Works Association. That’s almost 2,000x the cost of a gallon of tap water and twice the cost of a gallon of regular gasoline."

Read more: Bottled Water Costs 2000x More Than Tap - Business Insider
The largest Desalination Plant in the world is in Saudi Arabia. It went on line in 2013, and cost nearly $3 Billion... (that does not include cost of operation).The capacity is approximately 170 million gallons/day, just short of the current needs of San Diego (195 million gallons/day).

On the statistics, YMMV... It's all over the lot on different "factual" websites, which says that the newsmakers and statisticians don't understand this either.

Here's a comparison of water costs by major cities in the US (see the "Water Pricing Survey chart" ).
http://www.circleofblue.org/waternew...se-since-2010/

(Note that the current annual cost of water in San Diego is already more than double the price in Chicago. Per family, $1100 vs $480)

Maybe not to worry, but something to watch.
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Old 10-05-2014, 08:25 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by imoldernu View Post
... I have earned a reputation as a gloom/doom worrier...
While I do think there is a lot of hyperbolic fatalism in the news and these things usually blow by (killer bees, the next ice age, and on and on), I think the drought issue is very real and getting worse.

I've read some scary stuff about the aquifer that feeds much of the irrigation in the Colorado region, ahhh, wiki to the rescue:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogallala_Aquifer

Quote:
About 27 percent of the irrigated land in the United States overlies the aquifer, which yields about 30 percent of the ground water used for irrigation in the United States. Since 1950, agricultural irrigation has reduced the saturated volume of the aquifer by an estimated 9%. Depletion is accelerating, with 2% lost between 2001 and 2009[2][not in citation given] alone. Certain aquifer zones are now empty;[3] these areas will take over 6,000 years to replenish naturally through rainfall.[4]
Wasn't Atlanta big news a few years ago, with reservoirs depleted? What happened? Probably a short term fix of increased rainfall, but I doubt much was done long term.

It's easy to take water for granted until you don't have it (I know, we are on a private well).

-ERD50
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Old 10-06-2014, 11:36 AM   #10
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The drought is very serious here. Another dry winter will be very bad. The largest users of water in Calif is agriculture and while they have become much more efficient they still use a lot. The situation was not as bad because many started using groundwater but that is not a long term solution and may cause more problems than it solves. Desal plants will address city concerns but not the rural areas. And they are very expensive and could have their own environmental issues (not really sure about what happens to the excess salt for one)

I'd gladly trade the 95+ days we are having from some cool wet weather...actually I'd trade all of it :P
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Old 10-06-2014, 11:55 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by mpeirce View Post
The solution is desalinization. One problem is that desalinization takes lots of energy and California is trying to move toward a low-energy economy.

Some people are trying. There's a $1B plant being built in Carlsbad (35 miles north of San Diego) that should start producing almost 50 million gallons a day in 2016.
+1 And that plant is privately developed. So there is plenty of money to be made by companies in that want to build these plants, and provide the solar or wind power to them (downside is bird 'streamers' and whatever sea life the water intakes kill). It does not matter how expensive, because the price of water only matters if there is water to sell.
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Old 10-06-2014, 12:30 PM   #12
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In San Diego, you wouldn't really know we're in a drought. The only impact I've seen is restaurants won't bring you water unless you ask for it.

Meanwhile, my cousin in No Cal can't get her water tank filled up, cause there's not enough water coming out of her well.

We're planning on taking out our grass in the next year or so, and we've let it mostly die out already, but only about 20% of our neighbors are doing the same.

I think in general we're sticking our heads in the sand and hoping for some rain. I'm glad the desal plant went in for Carlsbad, it seems like it's really the best solution going forward. SoCal needs it's own supply of water, and can't depend on Sierra Nevada runoff, cause NoCal needs that water more.

It seems like just when we were starting to get serious about making some water changes in SoCal about 5-10 years ago, we suddenly had a couple of good years of rain and the drought actually ended for a while. Of course now it's way worse, but we've lived under the threat of drought for so long, and it's never actually caused us problems, I think we're all a bit jaded.
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Old 10-06-2014, 01:31 PM   #13
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We are on a private well...so far so good. We also receive irrigation water for our 10 acres. I can't really be smug, because the drought issue has become scary. Many people have had their wells run dry, especially higher up into the foothills toward Lake Tahoe. Luckily in 2010 we built a small energy-efficient home. We do conserve water, and our power bills are nil.
A problem around here has to do with the pot grown by the cartels and out-of-towners. Marijuana takes quite a bit of water, and much that is grown, is in illegal plots. The growers run hoses from the waterways to their "grows" and use pesticides - which then run down into the rivers and streams.
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Old 10-06-2014, 02:41 PM   #14
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I don't know anything about the drought areas but often wonder about what restrictions are in place. Do they have drought cycles? Can you have landscaping? Do you use gray water?
Yes there are statewide restrictions on (outdoor) water usage but I'd bet mostly nobody knows what they are or cares much if they do. It's easy enough to find out what they are using a search engine so I won't waste space doing it. Needless to say, agriculture is exempted. And since this is where the bulk of CA's water is wasted used, telling me I have to limit watering outside to certain morning or evening hours is putting a band-aid on it. I have a nursery I lease to in the back of my property. They can waste as much as they want or afford.

Yes there are drought cycles. We may be in for a moderate El Nino year which could help, but we are so in the hole it probably will not catch us up over a single winter. Two or three wet winters would help get us right.

There certainly are attempts where it spreads and recharges the aquifer here where I live. I pity the poor beaches where I surf. The erosion and loss of beach is evident where I surf. All the sand is upstream, no good flow to resupply the coast.
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