Monday, January 13, 2014

Drought and polar vortex from KPBS

It's been less than a week since Drought news from KPBS in California, but there have been more developments in the story of drought in California, which just finished its driest year ever and isn't likely to get any relief.  This week, it got covered in conjunction with the other big weather story, the polar vortex.  KPBS demonstrates in  The Connection Between Dry Weather In San Diego And The Polar Vortex.

Extreme weather is freezing the midwest and leaving San Diego high and dry.
The story by Megan Burke, Maureen Cavanaugh, and Peggy Pico on Wednesday, January 8, 2014, explains more.
Extreme winter weather has been dominating the national headlines for days, but it seems that here in San Diego we've been living in a land that winter weather forgot.

So is there any connection between the below-freezing temperatures in the east and midwest and our mild and very dry weather? When can we expect our winter rains to start? And what, if anything, does all this have to do with climate change?
Also, it looks like California's governor is about to do something official, as Amy Quinton of Capital Public Radio explained on Thursday, January 9, 2014 in Gov. Jerry Brown Addresses California Drought.
Gov. Jerry Brown said he’ll take whatever steps he can to help California’s farmers deal with the water shortage.

Brown has yet to issue a drought proclamation. However, he said a paper from the governor’s office won’t affect the rain.
Follow over the jump for more news about water from California.

The next two items will work very well as examples of the issues involved in increasing water supply in California, which is something I lecture about every semester.  First, Amy Quinton of Capital Public Radio on Thursday, January 9, 2014 reported California Budget Increases Spending On Groundwater.
Eighty-percent of Californians rely, at least in part, on groundwater. Some environmentalists have said groudwater management has not been a top priority for the state. However, they’re pleased that Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget recognizes the need to manage it better.

As water levels in California’s rivers and reservoirs drop, farmers increasingly rely on groundwater, causing land to sink in the San Joaquin Valley. The state’s reliance on groundwater is likely to grow in the coming years.
Brown’s budget would fund more staff and spend almost $8 million on managing and monitoring groundwater use.
It's about time.  The San Joaquin Valley has been subsiding for almost a century because of groundwater withdrawals.

Finally, KPBS wrote about the most high-tech way to increase water supplies in Carlsbad Desalination Plant Construction On Track To Meet 2016 Goal by City News Service on Wednesday, January 8, 2014.
The $1 billion water desalination plant being built in Carlsbad is 25 percent complete after one year of construction, and is on time and within budget, area water officials said Wednesday.

When complete in 2016, the plant will be the largest of its kind in the western hemisphere, converting enough ocean water into drinking water for 112,000 households annually, according to Poseidon Water, the project developer.

The plant is one of several steps the San Diego County Water Authority is taking to reducing reliance on imported water. The SDCWA is also enlarging the San Vicente Reservoir.
I've been wondering when a big desalination plant would be build in southern California.  In Tunnel in the Sky, published early 60 years ago, Robert Heinlein expected that southern California would become dependent on desalination plants to supply freshwater.  That future is a long way off, if it ever comes true, but I'm still surprised that it took this long to even begin to happen.

I'll be monitoring KPBS closely for at least another month, so expect more drought and water news from California.

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