"There would be five or six wet and wonderful years when there might be nineteen to twenty-five inches of rain, and the land would shout with grass. Then would come six or seven pretty good years of twelve to sixteen inches of rain. And then the dry years would come, and sometimes there would be only seven or eight inches of rain. The land dried up and the grasses headed out miserably a few inches high and great bare scabby places appeared in the valley."
"And it never failed that during the dry years the people forgot about the rich years, and during the wet years they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way."
Being able to hang out down near the ocean and see the San Gabriel mountains just decked out in snow is surreal: https://i.redd.it/kueaye5p6si21.jpg
Another photo: https://i.redd.it/vy7dlavrh0f21.jpg
Anaheim hills, an area that rarely gets snowed on: https://i.redd.it/trbf198kb6i21.jpg
Then we roll right into the poppy/wildflower superbloom which has been bonkers: https://weather.com/travel/news/2019-03-13-super-bloom-flowe...
The blackstar canyon waterfall is LIT! https://i.redd.it/4bq8v71ff7j21.jpg
Last but not least we are smack dab in the middle of an epic butterfly migration, https://www.pasadenastarnews.com/2019/03/08/why-are-there-so...
Driving down the 73 toll road yesterday I think I drove through about 300 butterflies, at least. They just kinda flop over the car, none of them hit me. It was like driving through a butterfly hail storm.
This place sucks a lot of the time with all of the congestion and traffic, heat, smog, high cost of living etc... but times like this really make you stop and appreciate how beautiful it is.
That's how I feel every day here
Can confirm, don't need much AC or Heat year round.
As long as you locate to the area that most closely approximates your personal definition of 'best' you win.
If you think cool temperatures are more comfortable, then San Francisco is great.
Later this summer I’ll be hiking Mt. Whitney, and will swing through Death Valley on the way home. 15k altitude change in a few hours.
At the same time, in areas with a flat rate, people use way too much water. When Sacramento had a flat rate, you'd see people turn on their hose as they left for work and let it flood their lawn all day, running into the street, to keep their lush green lawns in 105F weather. As soon as they introduced water meters, the lawns went brown and the bills went up.
I think the billing needs to be a flat rate for everyone that is high enough to cover all water delivery costs, based on size of property, and then you get a credit if your usage is below median for similar families/farms/industries and you get an equal surcharge if you're above that. Then you'd be encouraged to use less water than your neighbors, but all the costs would even out since 1/2 the people by definition would pay extra, so they wouldn't have to raise the flat rate part so quickly, only slowly as the overall cost of the water system increases. It would put the consumer in much more control of their water costs.
My family for example gets hit with a huge surcharge because we added two people to our family since they started tracking, so we aren't "conserving" anymore. We're conserving more than before, we just have double the people!
But we have to address agriculture and stop externalizing the true cost to the environment. What agriculture has accomplished is astonishing, but it’s just not sustainable in any number of dimensions.
Step two is to significantly beef up our reservoir system. We should be able to capture way more of our winter rainfall than we currently do. That'll be a pretty big help to farms and cities further south (i.e. in the more arid half of California).
Step three is to stop pussyfooting around building desalination plants. If Israel can go from being constantly on the verge of drought to having a giant water surplus, then there's no reason we can't do the same with California (especially since we have way more room to build 'em :) ). California's adjacent to the single largest body of water in the world; it's ridiculous that we ain't taking advantage of that.
The main reason we don't have desalination plants is that the water is more expensive than other sources, they're expensive to run, consume a lot of power, and you have to deal with the brine effluent.
Imported water and even purified recycled wastewater(potable reuse) are cheaper. In the case of the desalination plant in Carlsbad, desalinated water is about $2.1-2.4k per acre-foot whereas imported water is ~$1k and potable reuse had an estimate of $1.7-1.9k per acre-foot for the San Diego region(OC's potable reuse is cheaper at ~$800 per acre-foot, but trying to keep similar comparisons).
Power comprises most of the cost of desalination for the high pressures required for the membranes to work. I think it's 5 megawatt hours per acre-foot, but those were somewhat dated figures.
While one could deal with blending the brine with wastewater treatment plant effluent or power plant cooling water, the greater reclamation of wastewater and the California Coastal Commission cracking down harder on the discharge of power plant cooling water is complicating things.
Desalination is an expensive commitment that produces at a slower rate than other sources. If you have a wet year, you're still stuck with the production commitment. It's great for water security though.
The main reason there aren't more desal plants is because ejecting the leftover brine into the ocean is an environmental concern.
That's exactly the problem.
There might be ways around it, though:
* Build 'em adjacent to (or as part of) existing "ugly" structures, like coastal power plants (which already use seawater for cooling/steam; I'd assume it should be possible to clean/desalinate the used water instead of letting it flow back into the ocean)
* Pipe the water further inland; the pipes should be easier to conceal and should require a smaller land purchase (at least in terms of meters of coastline), and could run to a desalination plant in cheaper, more-inland real estate
* Extend a well-deserved middle finger to those NIMBYs in the form of eminent domain. Of course, given that those same NIMBYs are the ones who have the means to bribe California's government every which way, that'll probably never happen... unless we the people make it a Proposition, of course, and force their hands by literally rewriting California's constitution to prioritize water for millions of people over ocean views for dozens.
The issue is that 99 percent of the time, you can get water a lot cheaper from another source. Due to the mechanics of reverse osmosis, desalination plants have to run all the time to keep the membranes from being damaged, so you end up paying for expensive water in the midst of the rainy season.
So no, nimbyism has nothing to do with it.
This will never happen.
Instead we have the most arcane and bizarre un-system imaginable, with enormous amounts of water given for free to people who don't need it, and other water being very expensive for people in dire need. And everything you can and can't imagine in between.
To be fair, there were a few desperately needed reforms during the drought years, but my perhaps overly cranky estimate is that 80% of the madness remain.
Happy to be proven wrong :)
Either way, it has the same basic properties of "cost is flat over time if you continue to conserve" and "you'll pay more than your neighbours if you use more than them."
Also, just conserving wouldn't be enough to keep your bill down -- you'd have to conserve better than your neighbors. If you keep doing the same thing your bill will slowly go up as you get "out-conserved".
Are you suggesting there should be some sort of sliding scale rate per gallon of water? Kind of like how income tax has tax brackets?
So the first bit of water you use is cheap and after that it gets expensive?
Or do you literally mean that you paid one flat fee per month for water?
My water bill is something along the lines of:
Flat fee + X $/gallon * gallons used.
Usually my water bill (includes water delivery and waste treatment) runs about $100/month.
Edit: We use roughly 5500 gallons / month btw
Based on your anecdote, it sounds like it also ought to factor in (i.e. raise/lower the threshold based on) the number of residents at the property. Of course, that would introduce extra complexity in calculating the median, but I’m sure the formula’s derivation is straightforward given property, residence, and usage data.
Can someone help explain this? How would higher costs disincentivize conservation?
I'm curious about what this entails or means.
Retaining walls? (re)Injecting soil life like worms and microbes and related nutrients? Tossing around compost for likewise?
Some of the plants will have very good root depth, but all plants together will foster macro and microbiology, especially fungi, which will hold the soil together and at the same time spongify the soil, so that much more water will be absorbed than bare soil.
See the slake and water infiltration test, for a demonstration of bad vs good soil.:
If your soil falls apart in the presence of water AND doesn't allow fast infiltration, you've got landslide and flood conditions. If your soil holds together and absorbs OR drains water, you've got prime agricultural conditions instead.
Further, cheap water storage results in increased evaporation, it’s a net loss over time.
And what happens to that lost evaporated water?
Just have to deal with the extra salt from letting those reservoirs slowly evaporate.
Instead they choose to spend some water having a river.
If they stored that water in reservoirs, they wouldn’t need to get so much of their water from the various aqueduct systems used today.
Such a system could effectively buffer the negative impact of droughts, while still serving the purpose of flood prevention during wet years.
There is a comment from Charles Bowden the rings to true to me. Talking about the Civilization in the Arizona Desert; the desert will win eventually because you can't take what it doesn't have. With California the real question is how much damage will we do while losing the battle.
And here's a time series:
Fix that, or resort to fractional measures that just paper over the underlying dysfunction.
A less radical option would be to keep the system of water rights we have today and simply allow the water to be bought and sold. Currently if you sell it, someone can take you to court & say "well you didn't use it, so you should lose your water rights" (because California follows the doctrine of first use). Would run the risk of creating wealthy water czars overnight, but less radical.
I have no idea how first use could work for water, would be happy to read more if you link me to something about it. A quick googling returned nothing.
The last one requires a lot more specifics to talk about meaningfully, but I'll bet that most of the free marketers wouldn't consider it a free market.
So one way of looking at the whole problem is to ask why transaction costs are too high to make this feasible. And the obvious answer is politics.
California is both an example of how markets can't handle water, and has also never had markets in water.
To put it another way: if the users being asked to conserve water could just pay farmers to use their water, both would come out ahead. The farmers would get more value than from using it for farming, and the other consumers would get more water for a lower price than from alternatives.
In any case, it's bizarre you cringe at the word "markets". Societies that try to avoid markets are horror shows. Markets are an utterly essential social technology for the modern world.
The water issues in California could be addressed by trading (say) half the water currently going to agriculture. Everyone would be better off, including those poor you pretend to care about.
So your idea is that the government will decide and enforce that roughly half the water is not allowed for agriculture?
IDK, I actually enjoy consuming agricultural products...
By definition, no. Though being drought free is enabling some parts of the state to actively pump water into aquifers beyond natural recovery, so they aren't unrelated.
EDIT: Sorry, you're referring to aquifers, not reservoirs.
It isn't like water in a stream because it stays where it is. It isn't like a reservoir or aquifer because the water isn't trivially dispatchable.
I suppose it depends where the snow is, some could be 'permanent', some seasonal melt, some gone by next week.
So really we should be differentiating the different types of snow?
SWE is monitored by satellites, aircraft, and by in situ measurements like from snow pillows. In California, the state DWR tracks SWE to estimate reservoir influx.
I trust that the experts know the difference between permanent snow and annual melting. They use satellite pictures to determine how much water will be available after it melts.
Edit: If someone knows more about the planning process than I do, please chime in.
You say "It all melts", and then "I trust that the experts know the difference between permanent snow....".
I hypothesised satellite photos, I'm not sure if depth of snow is relevant for more than just volume, and whether you could get good estimates of depth (and density???) from a satellite.
Don't forget that modern satellites are topographical with a high degree of accuracy. We can use satellites to learn snowpack depth.
This is how we know that the aquifers are depleted because the satellites measure elevation above the aquifer.
The water company asked us to reduce, reuse and recycle. We complied.
We did such a great job, that they increased rates because we weren't using enough water and they weren't making enough money.
...but then that leads to the idea that you can use any amount of water and it's fine so they have a punitive use charge to change user behavior.
But because of the extra revenue, they can lower the flat rate. ...but that gets you in trouble if the punitive charges decrease.
So you have to adjust to a relative usage surcharge which is basically where we're at but it just looks like "why lower if they raise the rates?". ...well because it's relative to everyone else's usage.
I doubt the dip in water use was enough to offset the wear on infra that needs to be dealt with. Or the labor costs to do that maintenance which go up each year.
Oh sure some of the revenue may be useless but you can’t expect something like a water utility to behave like a social media company. Facebook could go tits up and people are out of jobs.
What happens when a water utility folds?
I'm very skeptical that "drought" prices are more related to encouraging environmentally friendly behavior than they are about disguising greed.
That's a funny way of saying "we didn't want to dry up the rivers", isn't it?
Isn't it really just a "feel good" thing?
No one is arguing about wet years either. Look at the dry year example. 36% environmental. 62% agriculture. 13% urban.
Edit: also notice the chart - the delta is only about half of those environmental percentages (on average, unfortunately they don't split it out for dry years). The other half comes from "North Coast" which seems likely to be more difficult to take advantage of - at least I haven't heard any controversy over trying to use that water. We don't know what the exact percentage would be in a dry year, but it would still be below 36%.
California needs to tackle water usage. There are reasonable changes that can be made in homes and towns - swapping to drought-resistant gardens instead of lawns, rain barrels to catch run-off, absorbent parking lots that don't drain out to the sewers, etc.
Agriculture also needs to be tackled, sure. That doesn't mean saving a percent here and there is of no use.
What really matters is the amount of water that can be channeled to your place of living today.
And then having small changes like non-flushed toilets help increase awareness about water shortage. If that ultimately makes people replace their lawn with desert plants, I think it's a win.
The drought surcharges are complete and utter bullshit.
Revenue streams never go away. Government becomes dependent on that revenue and continuing to collect is it easier than re-shuffling other revenue around or choosing what to de-fund so the revenue gets kept.
Get used to your drought surcharge. It's not going anywhere.
Edit: Based on the popularity of this comment one would think government revenue streams go poof all the time. If anybody has evidence of this I would like to know more about is to I can advocate for replicating those circumstance in my state.
Edit: Is this interpretation incorrect or just inconvenient?
I see what you did there.
Was there a drought 10 years ago though? I don't recall.
now I'd like to see which model predicted the end of the drought and see when those predicts its return.
Glad to see we are heading out of a drought (this year) - enjoy it!
Drought = desert
rain = climate change?
What is California
My uber driver today said the extra memory in phones is making us all sick, but computer screens were safe, so why would you even mention it was your uber driver?
Almonds are exceptionally water intensive, which is why the almond king has been spending so much on Sacramento lobbyists to tilt water rights. California is on it’s way to Arizona so maybe depending on water intensive crops is not the way to go. I don’t care much for baitfish but there should be room for ecology in the overall water plan. Otherwise there won’t be a drop left downstream. Heck maybe we should just let the tree farmers have all the water, after all they’re closer to the main sources!
*I don't agree, but let's go with it
That said, the problem you outline is very much real. My mother runs a small rural water district in the central valley. The drought crisis was very real to the water district as their wells began to fail due to lowering of the water tables. Getting someone to dig a new and deeper well cost money the district did not have, and moreover, well diggers were in such demand that you couldn't get a new well dug for months. That said, they applied and acquired a water grant from California to improve the districts infrastructure, so new wells are being dug thanks to California grants.
The California aquifers, irrespective of current drought status, should be considered a valuable and scarce resource for many years now, as it will take a long time to restore the water table after decades of abuse. New sources of water and water storage absolutely need to be developed, and should be a top priority.
Bargaining rights are... Bad?
Jerry Brown’s one big accomplishment was restraining the more idiotic impulses of his own caucus yet the political and media classes hail him as some sort of superlative political leader. His budget surplus is due to reneging on the “temporary” top marginal tax increase in boom times. Nothing more.
We don't need more people spouting the same shit. Central valley farmers know the situation is bad too - it's just that their dialogue and that of suburban/urban voters are completely decoupled. There is no conversation. Any proposals from one group are wholly ignorant of and rejected by the other.
Jerry Brown's accomplishment is holding us steady, because even that is a challenge in the face of California's collective incompetence at being a society.
It's a big problem, but we can't blame our representatives for it. Like a marriage, everyone has to put in a little work. I try to do my part by supporting smaller grass-roots organizations, and canvassing for what I see as pragmatic bridge-builders...
Look around and see what we have to compare him to. The bar is pretty low in general nowadays.
the same thing happened in Syria. The war there didn't really impact Europe directly but the refugees certainly did.
Of course, not quite more than a year later those reservoirs and such were once again full to overflowing, and too much water was the new problem. So yeah, whenever a "climate expert" tells you that something is the "new normal", or that you are now in a "permanent state of drought", or whatever, then you can pretty much just safely assume that they're full of it!
In my late teens my normally wet-and-green area got hit hard by a drought. Rivers and reservoirs started drying up, wildfires (small ones, at least) became common occurrences, and temperatures peaked so high at times that roads started buckling and the interiors of cars started melting and so on.
Any of that sound familiar? Well, this all happened in my area circa 1980, but before long conditions returned to normal, where occasional flooding was a far more recurrent issue than anything like a drought was. Nobody was trying to blame climate change at the time, either; it was just "drought".
What drought.gov calls abnormally-dry is not actually abnormal. What they really mean is "its non-ideal", as if the climate was always ideal pre-2011.
Anything that is lower than D2 ("severe drought") is normal, and of course its better to thrive toward ideal and maintaining better conditions. But it doesn't mean that somehow weather was ideal all the time before 2011 and now its never good enough.
Let the downvotes flow...
Depending on where you sit, this is either evidence that global warming is a massive hoax and not happening at all OR evidence that news sources sometimes get a little carried away trying to publish the most alarmist and exotic things that they can find, but that the underlying science of global warming is valid and with uncertain impacts.
California has been trending hotter, and drier. The link you point to has a scale of different levels of dryness.
Where exactly is the sinister doublespeak in this?
* Short-term dryness slowing planting, growth of crops
* Some lingering water deficits
* Pastures or crops not fully recovered
As usual such technical views ignore the on-the-ground experience for people to provide context for the language you’re criticizing.
Yes, to the ecosystem itself, in a vacuum, it’s not bad.
To human existence there it’s been problematic. Emotions are up over it. Perhaps that’s an alternative argument you’re not considering?
This is like telling people dealing with cancer “We all die some day.”
Damn those humans and their generalizing to maintain social connection. We should all just stick to highly technical interpretations (even though not all of us want to!)
Also, most people apparently don't understand the distinction between "wildfire" and "firestorm". Since upwards of 97% of wildfires are actually human-caused these days, of course a human has to be present for that to happen. No humans means far fewer wildfires.
But a lot of what we've been seeing lately are actually firestorms, where a single structure catches fire and then that spreads uncontrollably to the next structure and so on until everything flammable is basically burned out. Firestorms happen because there are few if any resources available to put the fire out while it's still small. So while the original source of ignition may very well have come from a wildfire, the firestorm can keep burning and spreading long after the wildfire itself has basically played out, at least in that immediate area.
And no, climate change has little or nothing to do with this.
I agree - controlled burns are effective at keeping brush at manageable levels, and fire is a natural part of the forest ecosystem. And part of California’s climate. Developing too close to the wilderness edge is putting more human lives at risk. (I own farm and forest land, and am involved in conservation and restoration; I’m familiar with the challenges.)
But Climate Change is rapidly becoming the dominate factor for one simple reason: hot, dry, things burn. And Climate Change is making things hotter and drier.
Physical wetness, though, may make quite a bit of difference, especially when it comes to a fire actually igniting to begin with. But even that may not matter so much when it comes to things like lightning strikes, which may be in the tens of thousands of degrees.
So, for example, if the temperature might normally be 70F but instead is closer to 100F, that small difference is minimal compared to the temperature of any flames. But it might make a huge difference to someone fighting those flames, unless maybe they are right in the thick of them.
Which means we don't have the basis for saying that what's been happening in California over the past couple of decades is an emergency. It might just be part of the long term cost of choosing to live in California.
Yes, climate fluctuates. Yes, there have plausibly been years of drought and fire in centuries past that would rival recent years. But absent the specific data you say is lacking, if you believe that climate science is generally correct, then more drought, more warming, more fire is the obvious trend. Not just California, but the entire world.
Regardless of whether similar events have happened in the past, there’s an obvious reason for the dramatic uptick between the 1970s and today: CO2 in the atmosphere, put there by humans.
The fact that this reason is "obvious" doesn't mean it's correct. Climate models based on the assumption that human CO2 emissions are the primary cause of warming have been significantly over-predicting warming. So I don't think we can say human CO2 emissions are the primary cause. We are still too uncertain about how the climate works for that.
...or it could be because the forests are so out of balance because they need fire to thrive that smaller events have oversized effects.
Before people started blaming severe forest fires on climate change they blamed the fires on the policy of systematically putting out all fires which allowed fuel to pile up on the forest floor allowing them to burn much hotter resulting in the trees dying. Before this policy the fires would just burn through the underbrush and the trees would survive as this is how they evolved.