Saturday, March 15, 2014

It's summer time in San Francisco Bay

High of 79 today, 81 tomorrow. California's had the warmest winter in its record. As evidence of global climate change goes it's pretty weak - a tiny piece of the planet and a relatively short time period - although it still beats the "hey why's it snowing in February" argument that denialists toss out.

The main point though isn't a tedious argument about detection but whether climate change has made our historic drought worse. Warmer weather during the drought means more evaporation and transpiration, only some of which precipitates back. If Gort could be bothered to push the button and remove all excess GHGs from the atmosphere, the temps would drop slightly and we'd be slightly better off.

I've been pretty silent on our local water district and the drought lately, but we've been busy, very busy. I even had the chance to represent the district and meet Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to discuss it (and then stopped to talk with the protestors outside who hate the Bay-Delta tunnel proposal).

Our problem is that after the last big drought that ended in 1992 we've stored an additional year's worth of water outside the county in Central Valley, but we can't get it. The water's stored in south Central Valley - it flows downhill there from  the Sacramento Bay Delta. The plan never was to withdraw those specific water molecules - instead, we'd take water deliveries they'd otherwise receive from the Bay Delta, and they'd use the water we stored there instead. Now, for the first time in the 54-year history of the State Water Project, they're planning zero water deliveries, so we can't make this trade. The federal system operated by the Secretary of the Interior is still running somewhat, so maybe we can make it work.

Meanwhile we're calling for a 20% reduction in water use locally. That will still eat into our storage but still leave a fair amount stored in case next winter is also bad. I've been arguing that we should use this as opportunity to be in better shape for next time - massively increase conservation, recognize that lawns are like junk food (okay in small quantities only), and to tap into the massive river that is wastewater and start direct potable reuse of that water, just like they do on the Space Station. We'll see what happens!


Anonymous said...

So, if there really is more subsurface water than in all the oceans available, water issues would pass - except for raising sea levels by people using as much water as they wanted to.


How very good of Anon to volunteer to be the first to mine our unlimited Ringwoodite water supply!

After digging up all the tar sand in Athabasca, Anon has only to continue downward into the infernal regions a further 500 kilometers, and snuffle about until he finds enough diamonds to yield a spitoon full of ringwoodite inclusions if properly chewed.

By repeating the process a few billion times and delivering the results to his local distillery, he will have enough water to raise an entire acre of artichokes, which I hope will give him joy.

Lionel A said...

'...recognize that lawns are like junk food (okay in small quantities only)...'

Maybe so, but there is nothing small about golf courses when it comes to grass and water - pesticides and herbicides too.

Hank Roberts said...

Useful details here on Ca. drought: